On the horizon. 4 years at Phonak, Birthday, Cuba.
April normally marks the start of the UK adventure season for me.
Its the time to go through my post AS check-list and maintain/replace all of my outdoor gear.
I normally travel overseas before March and after September, as its the cheapest time to fly (unusually this year, I’m spending 17 days in Cuba). In between then, I get into the great British outdoors as often as I can.
As you can probably guess, I have it all written up in my yearly mind map (I’m at year 12 now, I have each one in a binder on my desk at home).
I also have it written up on a whiteboard on my upstairs landing. The bathroom is normally the first room I see each morning after I get out of bed, and its always exciting to see the list on the white board.
The first weekend adventure I’m going to write about, is an accent of Snowdon.
I’ve done it several times, from Llanberis and the Miners track, but I was determined to try something new.
The walking group itinerary had a gap in it, so instead of going on my own, I put it on as an activity for the group.
From the opposite side of Llanberis, there is a walk called Ryd Dhu. Another walk (The Snowdon Ranger) starts about 1.5 miles away.
Its possible therefore, to walk up one, come back down the other and then walk to your original starting point, making it a circular walk (which are far more popular with car drivers).
I never miss a chance to turn a day outdoors into a weekend outdoors.
The walks we normally do on a Sunday, usually take about 40 mins to drive to. In this case it would be an hour and 40, so we decided to go over the day before and try out some camping equipment in advance of Easter the following weekend.
We found a pub in the area with a camp site (which on closer inspection was actually a mile away from the pub).
No matter, the camp-site was superb. They had grates for fires, and no cars were allowed on the grass, which made ideal for pitching. Behind me you can see a board-walk platform.
They have free trolleys, so you can transport your gear to your pitch.
I got Nikki set up on a camp chair with a glass of wine, and set to work with the tent. I decided not to use my ultra light (and coffin sized) tent and instead used a 3 person tent I bought from Blacks in Keswick some years ago.
We were keen to try out some new equipment, so we inflated the double air bed and laid everything out in the tent ready. We had far more gear than we needed, but that was the idea. See what works, see what’s useless and then we’d know what to take for next time.
With everything set up, we wandered over to the pub, for some drinks and dinner (as you can see from this picture, the weather was overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining).
The Cwellyn Arms is relatively small, considering its the only pub in the area, and everyone in their rooms, bunkhouse and massive campsite all congregate there.
They make up for this, with their superb organisation. We hung around the busy bar, enjoyed some nice drinks, and then were shown to our table at 7pm.
Steak Pie for me, Chicken for Nikki. Delicious.
After this, a few more drinks, then off to bed.
In the morning we wake up early (well hard not to when camping, although the other campers were well behaved, and the site wasn’t noisy at all).
Get cleaned up in the spotless shower block, and then wander back to the Cwellyn Arms for breakfast. It being a day on the hill, its a full English for me.
Walks with the CDWG are graded using a 3 star system. This was a 3 star walk, and considered hard. I wasn’t surprised, when we only had a small group (Trig, Astrid and a guy called Ray from the Wirral (not to be confused with weedy Ray from Wrexham) and obviously the lovely Nikki and myself.
I was happy, as I knew the people there would get to the top without much trouble (although not so sure about myself !).
We meet up in the car park at the foot of Ryd Du and head off. Along the way, we got briefly lost, but soon found the track again.
It was hard going. There wasn’t any rain, but you can see from this picture, there wasn’t much of a view as we were walking up.
We get to the top, and there’s this view down the Snowdon Ranger path from the Snowdon Railway platform.
The summer season had begun in Snowdon, so obviously the sherpa buses run far more regularly, and the train to the top starts running again.
Well kind of. If the weathers bad, the train doesn’t run. If the train doesn’t run, they don’t open the visitor centre on the top.
After 2 plus hours walking up hill in the cold thinking of a warm cup of coffee, we find the doors locked and literaly hundreds of walkers, cowering behind rocks and walls eating their sandwiches and crisps.
Worse, the lights were on inside the visitor centre/cafe and people were moving around in there.
Good news is, its cold. We don’t hang around, get something to eat and then head down the hill.
Halfway down the Snowdon Ranger path, it occurs to me, that the ultra organised people at the Cwellyn Arms had left a recommended walk sheet on the table, which I’d picked up.
It showed a variation to our route. Instead of walking back down to the road, then walking along a road for a mile and a half to the cars, we could cut across a quarry.
It would save time and make for a more interesting walk.
We wander along through the quarry on the way back (I always find quarry’s exciting, they remind me of early Dr Who episodes).
Trig (pictured) and Ray (non weedy) were talking about football. Ray explained that it was probably the most important game for Liverpool in 25 years.
He’d really wanted to watch it, but didn’t want to miss the chance to do Snowdon. I had to salute that level of dedication.
Back to the cars, and we head home. Another amazing weekend. I organised it, and I was the walk leader, but couldn’t have done it, and it wouldn’t have been half as much fun without Trig, Astrid and Ray and obviously, the lovely Nikki.
Get home, put the hot water on, 2 pints in the Mill, then bath and bed.
Following day at work as usual, but on the train, on the way home something incredible happens.
There, on the train just across from me, is the famous Tom from Corks Out.
He looked deep in thought, so I discreetly took this shot so as not to disturb him.
Funniest thing, is the girl sat across from him, who obviously thinks I’m trying to photograph her.
Your reasonably pretty love, but Tom is a legend here at johnsunter.com so get over yourself.
Well, its the run up to Easter weekend and I got 2 really nice eggs (and you can see that the Kenwood and the Smiths CD’s are still around).
The walking group have a regular camping trip to Llangollen each year. This would be my 3rd year, and I absolutely love it. Great walks in the daytime, beers and good food in the evening with good company.
Last year we couldn’t camp, as the whole area was covered in Snow. In recent times, I’ve become involved in organising it (I still offer advise to other campers, like putting the @rse of the tent into the wind…)
Nikki had enjoyed camping the previous week, but felt a larger tent would be more comfortable and since we’d be “car camping” why not.
I’ve always been a small tent kind of guy. I dont need a lounge I reason, as I usually find a pub for sitting around and stuff. If I’m in my tent, I’m usually sleeping, or cooking in the covered porch if the weather is bad.
However, I’d seen the tent at go outdoors in Warrington, and I was really impressed with the quality of the material and stitching, and I could see it would be nice to have a table and stuff in a porch, and a separate sleeping area.
My main concern was time. Was this thing going to take 2 hrs to put up. If it was, it was a no go for me.
I was delighted when the advertisement said it could be put up in 20 minutes (it went up solidly in 20 minutes, and next time I think I can do it in 10 !).
We were joined by Astrid, Alex (who cycled with all his gear from Chester), Sue and Aled.
Once the tent was up, we spent the rest of Friday day, wandering around the town, catching up with friends, trying out different pubs and outdoor shops and wandering along the bank of the Canal.
In the evening we met up and had dinner. I had reservations (and I mean literally) from my experiences the previous year.
We’d gone for dinner at an otherwise reputable place, waited 2 hrs to be served, food was cold, taken a way to be re-heated, then they couldn’t tell who’s food was who’s and it had bite marks in it. I was scarred.
Shouldn’t have been. Sue recommended Fouzi’s. They did really good food and wine at very reasonable prices, fitted us all on the same table, and we had a fantastic time.
We leave the restaurant and have a couple of drinks around the town.
With the beer flowing, we arrive at the Sun, where they have a band playing.
£3 on the door, puts me off, and I turn to leave. The landlady joins us outside the pub and greets us enthusiastically.
“You dont understand” she says. “These are the Worried Men. There really good and have travelled all the way from Bath to be here”.
The ale I’d drunk, and the good mood I was in, are the only explanation can think for me paying the money and entering.
I’d never heard of them, but as it was, they were pretty good. Just like usual with the Sun you walk in and there’s a couple of people there. Within 40 minutes its standing room only.
Next day, up for shower and breakfast at the Canal-side cafe (unusually disappointing scrambled eggs, but tea was nice).
I was leading a steam train walk. We’d done something similar the year before, this year we went right to the end of the line at Carrog.
We didn’t have a steam train, or the traditional carriages like last year (despite them being promised on the website).
Instead, we got to enjoy the memory of a 70’s diesel train, which was a lot more fun than it sounded.
A couple who joined us actually lived in Llangollen (more about that later).
On the right of the picture is Astrid. A good friend of myself and Nikki and a keen collector of outdoor gear.
I think Astrid is fab, although I’m still convinced she’s working undercover for Mossad, and only pretending to be French (perhaps I’ve played COD: Black Ops too often).
We arrive at Carrog bridge.
I’m the walk leader, but there are plenty of people with more experience than me, and our Chair, Graham takes the lead.
Its a long way, so we stick to country roads, to break the back of the journey (we’ve arranged to meet Sue and Aled who are cycling at the Sun pub at Rhewl for at 1:30pm so co-ordination is needed.
Along the way, we stop for elevenses.
Usual walking stuff. The conversation varies from “is there enough discipline in schools” to “how can my laptop run faster and everything in between. Tragically, a fortnight later, the first topic gains new relevance.
Time is ticking by and were going to miss our meet up with S&A. Best foot forward.
We make it to the pub, and Sue and Aled are waiting for us (the pub was packed, and I forgot to take a photo, so this is one from last year).
After this, we head back to Llangollen. As it turns out, a couple on the walk, live in Llangollen, and invite us back to their house for coffee.
Enjoying coffee and Jaffa cakes overlooking the canal, we a superb end to an excellent day.
Back to the camp-site, we get cleaned up, and decide what to do for the evening.
We decided to spend some time on our own and visit the Gallery. Steakhouse and Italian all under 1 roof. Brilliant atmosphere and food.
We finish the evening with a few drinks on the way home at the Cornmill.
Next morning, its just toast and tea this time (I make mistakes sometimes, but I try not to make them twice).
Today Sue is leading a walk and its one I’ve done before. A fantastic walk, but hard going. I’m back on the way to getting fit, so quietly optimistic.
First off, an ascent of Dina’s Bran.
We continue along across hill and dale with a great deal of the route across mount Ruabon.
Quite steep here, I struggled a bit.
But no problem, as refreshments are on the way.
A little tea shop we love visiting. I have hot chocolate (again, I didn’t take a picture at the time, so this is one I took on a sunny day previously).
Hot chocolate for me. Gaynor says ooh in typical Gaynor fashion, and Astrid and I compare first aid kits and emergency blankets.
Finish the walk and head for home. Dinner overlooking the River Dee at the Red House.
I had set aside some time on Monday (UK bank holiday) for DIY, but didn’t do any, and just just relaxed in the house.
Another adventure weekend complete. Life doesn’t get any better than this.
* The guy doing DIY in the picture above, isn’t actually me.