Bike packing in Mid Wales…
A route had been planned, a date had been set, and before we knew it we were unloading the bikes out of the van next to Nant y Moch Reservoir. The weather was looking perfect and after weeks of miserable weather, this was a most welcome sight, a dusting of snow on high ground was just adding to our excitement.
Another reason for this trip was to test out gear, old and new. Some will know that recently I built up a Kinesis Sync Ti to my own spec, partly so I had a second bike, also so that I had a more appropriate bike for this kind of adventure. To add to my new kit list was some great bike packing accessories from Wildcat Gear. On previous trips I have loaded most of the weight onto my back, which is great for keeping the bike light but after a long ride this leaves you with unwelcome backache.
After leaving the reservoir we headed along the road and up into the forestry for a little investigation, the maps were showing some great single track that would take us away from the road for a while, this didn’t disappoint. With some technical riding through the trees we were thrown out on to some old double track that gave great views over the surrounding hills.
Back on the road, we rode until we reached the old outdoor pursuits centre, from there we headed along the track that skirts the base of Pumlumon Fawr. Once on this, we were treated unspoilt views, that in my opinion, are comparable to the Glens of Scotland with massive vistas and limited signs of man. With the dying colours of Autumn, the burnt oranges and dark browns just emphasise how spectacular, yet remote parts of Wales can feel.
This track follows the path of the Afon Heddgen until you reach the forestry of Mynydd Bychan, there, we headed East towards the Nature reserve and lake of Glaslyn and on to the road near Bryn Y Fedwyn. After navigating ourselves down the ice encrusted road, past the police trying to help a poor family that had sunk their car into a ditch and another that had failed to come the other way, we turned left of the road and past the view point. Before heading down a welcome decent, we stopped to change our socks and add a pair of sealskins to help ease the onslaught of frost bite. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad but it wasn’t pleasant)
Once feet were dry and a little fuel was taken onboard, we hurtled down the decent of many gates and popped out into the small village of Aberhosan. If truth be told, I was really hoping to be greeted with the welcoming sign of a pub with smoke rising invitingly from its chimney, this was not to be. Instead I was greeted with an uphill climb that Rich gleefully explained had a double arrow on the map. Oh yes, that double arrow hurt, but not as much as what was about to come a little further on. The road filters out onto a fire road that slowly winds itself past some remote farms and cottages until you finally come to what I can only describe as the mother of all climbs. Eventually we are back at the top of Mynydd Bychan and the light is closing in fast, luckily so is our pre-chosen spot for the night.
We arrived at our chosen spot in the dark of the night and soon realised that there was little water nearby. Luckily there was enough snow surrounding the small plantation to give us the confidence to stop and make camp. With a super quick erection of our tarps, we set about melting snow to cook dinner and make some much needed hot drinks. More dry socks were added and we soon shuffled into our sleeping bags, making final adjustments to our hotel rooms for the night. Rumours in the morning were quite distressing, apparently half way through one of Richard’s stories I fell asleep. Momentarily I felt repentant, but soon gloated in the fact I had slept for nearly 10 hours. Never have I had such a comfortable sleep whilst out wild camping, I must partly praise the Alpkit Numo sleeping mat, that on level ground is amazing.
Once packed down we headed back towards the van, this meant we only had a short ride, which was quite welcomed. Our route took us past Llyn Penrhaeadr and then New Pool, followed a nice decent down through the forestry and then across some open land and down onto the road past Llyn Nantycagl. The views were spectacular, with mist burning slowly from the trees and reflections in the water giving us a morning I will remember for a while.
A short spin along the road brought us back to the van, where we changed into clean, warm clothes, had a cup of coffee and reminisced about our brilliant mini adventure.
So, did all my kit work well? would I make any changes? Yes and yes… I will get a frame bag just to reduce some weight from my handle bars (not that it caused me any issues, just because I feel it would be sensible) Although my 10 year old Vango Venom sleeping bag kept me warm, it doesn’t perform as well as it used to, I would also benefit from something that has a little more insulation for these colder trips. Other than that I am rather happy with everything I have, and more importantly the Kinesis performed as I hoped, the additional weight didn’t stop me from enjoying the trails and it climbed faultlessly.
A big thanks to Wildcat and Kinesis for helping make this trip, and many more perfect.
All images here were taken on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 that I have on trial.