I always feel that the responsibility of choosing then leading a group walk route is a heavy burden. Not because I doubt my own navigational skills, but simply because I’m often unsure whether my idea of fun aligns with everyone else’s! Fortunately last weekend went swimmingly, as it seems there are other people in the world who enjoy (or will at least tolerate) bog-trotting and hillock-stomping.
Glaslyn Nature Reserve was the start point for an elongated ascent of Plynlimon. A squeal of excitement escaped as we saw snow on the high ground, and we soon found ourselves on squeaky fresh powder when we left the main track.
A sometimes-reasonable trod towards Carnfachbugeilyn deposited us on the summit just as I was reaching the point where the lack of path was becoming disheartening. Fortunately by this point everyone else remained in good spirits, the only casualty being myself, disappearing into an unexpected and watery hole up to knee height.
The summit saw the first Bronze Age cairn of the day, following swiftly by the source of the River Severn after a further kilometre or so of more amenable cross-country bimbling. I’d been a few years ago, but on this occasion we had time to continue over Pen Pumlumon Arwystli (Hewitt: tick) and to the source of the Wye. Or the sources of the Wye. There are various grid references and accounts online claiming the source to be a rather sad little pond on the ridge line, or a gully further south, or anywhere in-between. We meandered all over the place to cover all options, eventually ending up at the wreck of a Lockheed Lightning which crashed in 1945.
From there we continued to the summit of Plynlimon. This year’s foot injury has meant I haven’t been on the hill much, so I enjoyed the short, sharp uphill blast and emerged on the summit to the usual spectacular views. Every time I’ve been up Plynlimon it’s been eventful: the first run with now-old friends; one where I was as close to hypothermic as I’ve possibly ever been; the mixed emotions of Dragon’s Back race day. I’m not a particularly emotional person, so I was quite surprised to be hijacked by all of these thoughts and memories as I crested the ridge and spent a few minutes alone at the trig point. Perhaps I’m getting soppy in my old age.
In a biting wind and with mighty-cold feet, we dropped height quickly as we headed north towards the Afon Hengwm. I knew the ground as far as the river, and OS maps show a bridleway running eastwards upstream from there, so I was foolish enough to be unconcerned about this section. As Suzie accurately pointed out between subsequent swamp, tussock, marsh and bog, such map lines mean a right of way and not necessarily traversable ground.
With sprained ankles and newly-replenished ice water in our shoes, we finally arrived at our campsite for the night. The day’s toils were quickly forgotten as everything worked out very well, with decent spots for tents, much merriment and mangling of “I spy” in the party tent, and some good photography potential under the clear sky. Aptly for halloween weekend, a couple of ghosts also made an appearance.
As ice formed on the tents from early evening, the only minor mishap was my improvised soft flask ‘hot water bottle’ spontaneously disgorging its 500ml of water throughout the inside of my down sleeping bag at 10PM. This left me lying in a cold bedraggled bag all night, with six tops and three pairs of trousers still failing to fend off the chilliness.
Hot chocolates at 2AM and 4AM saw me through, and we soon strode into the warming sunshine on the walk out the following morning.
An initial false start on what purported to be an old access track to one of the abandoned farmhouses in the area was corrected quickly, and we then made excellent time on good ground – a welcome contrast to the previous day’s efforts.
With our hankering for adventure sated and a safe return to the cars there was just time to call the authorities and tell the search teams to stand down, before retreating to Llanidloes for a cafe brunch.