After last week’s excessively detailed planning list, it was time to stop talking and get walking. I threw a few things in a rucksack….. well, sort of. I threw a few things in a rucksack on Friday night then tipped them all out on Saturday morning and replaced them with a few other things….. then I walked to the railway station (approx 4 miles) and caught the train to Wrexham. Not a place which is high on most people’s holiday destination list but there are some great hills within walking distance to the West and I just wanted somewhere that was far enough to have a night’s camping and feel that I’d been somewhere.
My train arrived in Wrexham at just after half past five, so I knew I had about two and a half hours of walking before I needed to find somewhere to camp. As usual, finding the way out of the town was harder than any hillside navigation but I was soon passing through suburbs then farmland then onto the hill. Minera Mountain has the feel of a “local” hill. I should imagine that on a summer Sunday afternoon it is busy with dog-walkers and young families, but at half-past seven on an April Saturday night it was deserted.
I’ve camped on this hill before (or maybe on the neighbouring Esclusham Mountain), so knew that I’d be able to find somewhere for my bivi tent, but I’d deliberately taken a more southerly route this time and was disappointed to find the hill covered in thick bracken and heather. The few clearings were either boggy or where the plants had been deliberately cut back or burnt so were now sharp and scratchy and not suitable for a small tent with a thin groundsheet.
Thankfully, the Vaude bivi 1P has a small footprint and I eventually found a Judith-sized patch of flattish ground covered in dried bracken which I could trample down. The light was fading but the sky was clear and I knew that once I had the tent up I could make my dinner in the dark if necessary.
The wind was strong and cold. After a lot of faffing with the poles at the head of the Vaude bivi [I should have re-read the instructions before I left home], I pitched the tent to provide as much shelter as possible for my stove. However, I had brought a nearly empty gas cannister with the intention of finishing it off. The combination of low gas pressure and strong winds meant that it took AGES before my cup of tea was ready and I was now starting to get cold. Switching to my fuller gas cannister for my dinner was a good idea – but I had to give the stove my full attention in case it blew out or over, and I got colder and colder whilst doing so.
Once the pan of couscous was in the pan cosy I could get changed into my sleeping clothes and start to make myself comfortable. I’d not really noticed how dark it had got but I could now see several bright objects in the sky. I didn’t see any moon, so it must have been behind the patches of cloud, but there was one very bright twinkly thing that could have been a star but I suspect may have been Venus or maybe Jupiter?
I ate my dinner in the dark. There was a very brief rain shower – only for a minute or so – and it was good to have a clear view of the stars and the multi-coloured lights of Wrexham down the hill to the East.
With the weather forecast predicting night temperatures of 5 degrees C, I had decided not to take my lightest synthetic sleeping bag but, instead, took my down Rab Quantum 400 and my Terra Nova Moonlite sleeping bag cover to keep any condensation off the sleeping bag. I awoke feeling slightly cold a couple of times during the night but I think that was mainly due to the bitter wind pressing the bivi onto my legs. Most of the time I was cosy and didn’t need to improvise any additional insulation. I’d brought my micro-tarp with me, in case it had been pouring down when I was trying to camp, and I had considered wrapping that round my sleeping bag if I’d been cold but there was no need to.
The wind had dropped quite a bit this morning and I also remembered that I did actually have my home-made windshield in my rucksack. Doh! That would’ve been handy last night. What I did not have was the right sized tent-pegs to secure the windshield to the ground but I held it in place for the few minutes it took to make my coffee and porridge.
Packing up a bivi doesn’t take long – partly because there isn’t the room to spend procrastinating about reasons why you shouldn’t start walking yet. I knew I had nearly three hours before my train, so that gave me plenty of time to take a different route back to the station. I packed up and headed North-Eastish, looking forward to a leisurely bimble on a pleasantly overcast morning. I idly checked my printed railway timetable to see what my options were and realised I was completely wrong about having three hours…. I actually only had TWO! The train after that was 2.5 hours later and I didn’t really want to spend 2 hours shopping in Wrexham so it was time to get a wiggle on.
I couldn’t walk quickly over the rough ground – and tripped and slightly twisted my ankle when trying to dash – but I jogged the first half a mile on the road. Yes, I ran. No, I can’t believe it myself either but it was actually quite good fun! I checked my speed on my GPS; 8kmph; yes, the whopping speed of 5mph.
I knew that I could cover the distance in the time available but was worried I would get lost in the town. Thankfully this didn’t happen and I arrived at Wrexham Central Station with enough time to buy some gas, crisps and pop from the neighbouring Wilkos.
Unfortunately, my ridiculous turn of speed – coupled with 50 minutes in a cramped seat on the train – meant that I was now half-crippled and had to hobble the 4 miles home from the station. I don’t think I’m quite up to my required TGO Challenge level of fitness, but I have reminded myself that I’m built for comfort not for speed and I’ll be fine if I just keep plodding.
I needed regular doses of ibuprofen during the 2014 TGO Challenge due to severe pain in my left foot. In June last year I saw my GP and was referred to a podiatrist and eventually got an appointment in November. I was given insoles with very high arch support and I’ve been wearing them in all my footwear since then. In February I returned to the podiatrist as I wasn’t convinced that the insoles were easing the pain (or solving the problem) as much as they should have been. He measured me for some custom insoles but warned me that there would be a long wait for them. I got them on Friday. I wore them for the first 4 miles of this walk and they are SO uncomfortable. I changed back to my old insoles as I was getting a hotspot on the sole of my right foot. I didn’t check my foot at the time, as the old insoles were instantly comfortable, but I can now see I have an inch long red blister where the hotspot was.
More worryingly, I have a blood-blister on the left foot where I hadn’t even noticed any pain. I hope that it was the new insoles that caused this second blister as I have walked quite a few miles of day-walks with the first pair of insoles and had no trouble – so I hope that carrying a heavy pack hasn’t contributed to the rubbing.
So my choices appear to be internal pain or external blisters. Hopefully, once these two blisters have healed, I can do some load-bearing walks with the older insoles and (fingers crossed) head off to Scotland with the confidence that I’ll not suffer too much during the TGO Challenge.