When considering how to open this blog post, I had a quick look back at a previous post and realised I was going to say exactly the same thing: love sleeping outside ….. very busy …. no time for long trips … quick bivi will have to do blah blah blah…. so, if you’re strapped for time, just re-read Micro tarp bivi on Minera Mountain; and loads of kit observations and you’ll have a pretty good idea of where I went and what I did.
Packing my rucksack had been a complete faff. I settled on the fourth one I’d tried. I have no idea how I managed to fit everything into a 22 litre pack a few years ago. I must now be taking all sorts of stuff I don’t need, although the Osprey Exos 46 did feel really good with a lighter-than-usual load.
I caught the train to Hope this time, rather than Wrexham, but my shockingly bad navigation out of Hope meant I’d’ve been better starting at Caergwle …. if I could’ve pronounced it.
My GPS track shows that I went too far South to begin with, missing a path, then t00 far North missing another path and adding 1km to my route. I was now on a path alongside a minor road to the West of Hope and enjoying the tasty blackberries in the hedgerow. I must’ve been eating the early ones as the majority were still hard and green.
I’d left home with a litre of water and my water filter, confident that I’d be able to pick up water for camping along the way. However, the weather was quite warm and I wasn’t seeing much water that I’d fancy drinking, even filtered, so I bought a can of pop at Llanfynydd and planned to buy another drink at any other shop I came across.
Although it didn’t really matter where I camped, I had planned to spend the night on Esclusham Mountain as it’s handy for the train home from Wrexham in the morning. This meant heading South-ish and West a bit but I made up the route on the way. I knew that Esclusham Mountain was likely to be covered in thick, lush bracken at this time of year – so it was tempting to stop whenever I saw a patch of short, flat grass but I wanted to put a few miles in my legs so kept going.
I got a bit lost in the Nant Y Ffrith woods. As is often the case, I found it difficult to work out how the paths on the map matched what I could see on the ground. Eventually I realised that a path heading NE was never going to straighten out into the slightly SE one I was looking for. I retraced my steps and realised I’d turned less than a minute too early onto the very faint path also shown onto the map (but difficult to see in the dull forest light).
Bwlchgwyn was a disappointment. By this time I was focused on the exact types of drink I was going to buy in the next shop I found. I would buy a lightly sparking fruit drink, like one of those posh Sanpellegrino lemonades; and a flavoured spring water – maybe lime; and at least 750ml of water to carry to my camp. Unfortunately, either I took the wrong route through town or Bwlchgwyn does not have any shops.
I wasn’t yet short of water but I was beginning to realise I would be happier with an extra litre in my pack so that I did not have to consider a water source when picking somewhere to camp. With hindsight, I should have popped into the campsite just South of Bwlchgwyn and ask if I could fill my bottle ….. but I didn’t think.
Approaching the dismantled railway NW of the Minera Lead Mines and Country Park I made my biggest navigational c*ck-up of the day. I dropped down to the River Clywedog [Yay! It was still flowing, although it took ages to gather and filter a litre to carry away] then, thinking I was now on the dismantled railway, walked all the way to the Lead Mines and Pentre. I pretty much knew I was going wrong but it was now nearing 8pm and I didn’t fancy getting lost in fading light when I still didn’t know where I’d be spending the night. I went the long way round and joined the minor road running West from New Brighton to World’s End. As expected, the hillside was covered in thick bracken but I fancied I’d find a clearing if I kept going. Sure enough there were patches of nice, short grass but there were also some old lager cans and signs that the local hoodlums could disturb my peace on a Summer Friday night.
Following a path through the bracken I came out onto an open – but nettle and thistle covered – hillside. This looked promising. Heading as far away from the footpath as possible, I found a wedge of flat ground between two fences, dropped my pack to the floor and unrolled my mat. I’d found my pitch for the night and I was now in desparate need of a cup of tea.
I threw up my tarp as soon as my tea was brewed. The shower would probably pass, which it did, but I didn’t want to risk getting wet after such a dry day. I was going to sleep in a bivi bag but I didn’t want to be rained on while having my dinner.
Using the lifter in the middle of the tap created a lot of usable space under cover. I would have had to lower the front corner if the rain had been heavy and swirling but this worked well for the light shower I had in the evening and again in the morning. By the way, whilst I know that some readers may be interested in any photo of any shelter, I do like to use my blog as a diary and a reference guide to remind me of what I’ve tried in the past.
I drank my tea whilst watching and listening to the world. There was a busy road – probably the A525 – over my left shoulder. Off to my right there were children and dogs – probably in the nearby farm. There were lots of aeroplanes and a large helicopter which came from the North then headed back the same way a few minutes later.
The stove was nearly boiled again for my pasta when I heard a strange rumbling noise which caused me to peek out around the tarp. Three horses, which I’d been aware of but not paid any attention to, were now staring at me and had obviously just galloped the width of their field to have a closer look. They kept trotting round – like they couldn’t see me – then galloping towards the fence and just standing there watching me. It was funny …. but a little bit scary as I knew that a malevolent – or mischevious – horse could cause me a few problems in the night. I also knew that the fence was not continuous and that the horses could come round to my side if they wanted to. After a few minutes that’s what they did. In a slightly comical routine – which I wish I’d taken a photo of – they crept round the fence and peered around the corner. It looked like they were hiding – even though the fence was just a couple of strands of wire. Once they’d had a good look they trotted back to their field and I cooked my pasta. They got bolder when the light had faded and they came round into my little corner of the field, ate some grass then lost interest in me and wandered off.
This was the first trip in which I was relying on my Speedster 30ml methylated spirits stove and it worked well. I now know that I can get a cup of tea and a pan of pasta out of one full stove, but I needed to top it up for my second cup of tea. A full stove and a 100ml bottle should just about do me for a two night trip but I’d be wary of running out of fuel. It’s ideal for a simple overnight bivi – although I don’t really see the benefit compared with gas. I suppose there’s very little that could go wrong with meths – and I have suffered a gas stove failure on the TGO Challenge – but gas will always be my fuel of choice for controllability and ease of use.
I would like to have been a little warmer in the night but I wasn’t actually cold. As usual, it was my upper-most hip and thigh [I’m a side sleeper] which got cold so I put my smock over it inside my sleeping bag. I’d taken my lightest synthetic bag but I think down would’ve been better.
Although I woke up several times in the night I felt like I’d had a good night’s sleep; the psychological benefit of sleeping on the ground on the side of a hill, no doubt.
Back home again in the early afternoon I’d been away for about 26 hours and walked about 32 km which, for me, is at the upper end of my daily distance limit. Mentally I feel refreshed …. but my legs are suffering a bit!