I visited Corris hostel a few months ago and enjoyed it immensely. I had a free weekend recently, and as its only 90 minutes drive and £15 per night, I thought why not go back ?
Along for the ride, are Brian, a genius with a map (although his skills seem to conveniently desert him at times, more about that later) and Nikki veteran of several adventure trips and great fun (with an annoying habit, of thinking of things that never occurred to me).
We had all taken the Friday as holiday, to get there early. Brian picks me up from my house, and we drive over to pick up Nikki. Nikki provided us with detailed directions (so detailed in fact, that I think I could have defused a bomb with less concise instructions).
We pick up Nikki from her Victorian sized home and were on our way. In just a few minutes, we’ve left England, and are in Wales, nearing our destination.
We park at the bottom of an enormous hill, then walk back up with our gear (for some reason, there are shoes and parts from scalextric on the floor of the car park).
I’ve packed light as usual, and we’ll be spending both evening in the local pub, but I’ve also brought a bottle of wine (a must have item for hostel stays) and a pizza.
We are meeting Pete and Cath, on Saturday but for now we speak to the warden and get checked in.
Canolfan Corris is its usual friendly self, with tables and comfortable chairs. We make a cup of tea from the geezer (one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. a cup of tea, in under 60 seconds) and pore over the map.
Were introduced to a friendly American woman called Francine.
She is attending a course at CAT, but their accommodation is expensive, so she is staying in the hostel and walking to the course each day (along a fairly dangerous road, but she was still alive when we left).
After settling in, we head down the road to the Slaters arms.
I can never decide if its a really vibrant pub, or just a pub that’s so small, 3 people make every night feel like New Years Eve.
Anyway, a superb pub it is. Brian is fascinated, by this sort of ultra sonic vibrating thing, that does amazing things to Guinness.
But you can’t eat beer (and I know, because I’ve tried hundreds of times) so we order some food.
Steak pie, chips, gravy and peas for £7. Bargain, its delicious and the plate is loaded.
We get our usual corner table and talk about the usual things you discuss on a walking trip. The weather, possible variations on the planned walk and if your in a private room, which has no toilet but a sink, do you break with convention to answer a call of nature in the night.
The evening comes to a close around midnight, and we head back up the ridiculously steep hill to our bunks.
In the morning, I’m up, washed and dressed, as I stand outside with my cup of tea and breakfast bars. Everyone else faffs about making muesli with banana’s and other types of fruit.
As we head out, its raining a bit, but Brian sets a quick pace so were not cold.
We head along a forest path, cross the main road and then head up a hill.
I take a photograph next to a really square dry stone wall. Once we wander passed it, I realise that its part of an old cottage.
From here, things get a bit exciting. It was so wet, that I didn’t risk taking my phone out of its ortlieb bag (an essential piece of equipment on any: Brian-everything will be fine, adventure).
For several miles, we walk cross country, not following a path. Its been calculated that this requires 4 times more energy than path walking.
You don’t really notice while your walking, but when you stop for a rest or a drink, you realise just how fatigued you are.
After a while, we drop down, and there’s a stream to be crossed. Turns out, its a bit wider than indicated on the map, and we end up fording it, using walking poles and wading up to our thighs in water.
As I reached the bank of the river, I threw my daysack across to the other side. Reckless ? perhaps, but once I’d done that, I was committed and knew I was getting to the other side.
After this, we had to climb up a heavily subsided hill, on what must have been a 1 in 2 gradient. I found the simplest way was to grab handfuls of plant life, and pull myself up.
It must have taken an hour to climb about 140 metres and was exhausting.
It’s here, that opinions vary. Brian reckoned that he didn’t realise the hill would be that steep. I trust my friend, but I’m sceptical.
Thing is, I can read a map, and I know that the closer contour lines are together, the steeper the hill.
Brian is way beyond that level, and can literally look at a place on a map and in a virtual reality sort of way, see the countryside around him, although he’s not actually got there yet.
So I cant help wondering if Brian was doing a Tony Robbins, knew what we were really capable off, and kept the painful truth from us to “help” us rise to the challenge.
We reach the top of Graig Wen and my lungs are screaming.
I sit down to have my sandwiches and drink some water. Something catches the corner of my eye.
Turns out a sheep has become trapped in the fence. Despite my fatigue and need for rest, I jump to my feet to give assistance (to a creature which most Sunday evenings is an essential ingredient to my Rogan Josh) and rescue it.
Brian helps me, and within minutes, its free. It must have been very dehydrated, as it took of at a pace and seemed to drink its own body weight in water.
You can see the sheep in the top right of this photo.
I return to my resting place (Well, not my final one) and reflect. I have not been this soaking wet since the Borneo jungle.
But as so often, hill walking is a good metaphore for life. Ten minutes later and were walking down the other side of the hill. The sun comes out, and it feels like were in a different country.
We see the railway line at Tywyne. There is a race each year called race the train.
The title is pretty self explanitary, but if you havent got it yet, people run along at the side of a steam train and try to beat it. You can read more about it here.
We’ve arranged to get a lift back with Pete and Cath as all of the local buses that day are cancelled because of the race.
Big problem, there is practicaly no mobile signal.
We rest for a deserved drink at the Railway Inn, and the barmaid is good enough to let us use the pub phone.
A pickup has been arranged, so while we wait for rescue, theres time for a 2nd drink. Nikki is so uncomfortable with sodden feet that see takes of her boots and socks to dry them in the sunshine.
Both Brian and Nikki put on hats. I am unable to join their “hat club”, so I just enjoy the pleasure of the bright sunshine on my face.
Back to the hostel for a hot shower and a change of clothes.
Everyone heads for the pub, but I decide to heave an hour or 2 on my own.
I sit with my pizza and wine. Francine sits with me, and tells me all about the knife edge that the environment is balanced on…
I finish up quickly and head to the pub. I’ve saved a sheep earlier that day, but I don’t feel like saving any whales !.
In the morning, were exhausted from our adventures, so I have a 1hour lie in bed and treat myself to an 8am start.
The weather isn’t looking good, so we consider driving outside of the “rain zone”. For the first time, my laptop is useful, as we are able to plat the weather on a graph (the hostel has wi fi, but like most hostels, its patchy at best)
Realising, that there isn’t much in it, and were going to get wet wherever we go, we decide to go on a local walk around the hamlet of Corris.
We wander along by the river, and then head up a hill.
Brian is navigating. We find that a path on the map, simply no longer exists so we improvise an alternate route.
Heading uphill, we get this view back down towards Corris hostel.
We reach the top of the hill in high spirits.
There is a really friendly fell runner who tells us an interesting route back to the village.
An obnoxious woman see’s us on the path, and immediately walks in the opposite direction. Doesn’t she understand that were British. A lot of the time, when I see people on the trail and say good morning, I’m doing it out of politeness.
Did she think speaking to her was going to be the highlight of my day. If you want every path to yourself, buy your own island !.
The cool headed, relaxed manner of Pete, calms me down, and I’m back to normal again.
Wander back down hill to Corris steam railway. It goes about 100 yards, and by most reasonable standards, is an utter wast of time.
But every cloud has a silver lining and a shop there sells chocolate and cans off coke, at very competitive prices.
Back to the hostel, we say goodbye to the guy from Northern Island (I still cant remember his name, but he’s really nice), jump in the car, and we head for home.
The end of another weekend adventure, is complete with a cup of tea at Nikki’s house (which is big enough to be an orphanage (the house, not the tea !)).