The Vault Regulars

Thursday, July 24, 2014

That Friday! SH 69081357 to Arthog Camp site.

 Friday 18th July.
All was fine until Friday came, and i mean roughly 1 minute passed midnight. The wind suddenly gusted and shook the tent violently. We went from calm to gale force in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, fitting the cross over pole to the TT Moment when i was told a storm was imminent proved not to be overkill. However, by 2.30am we were getting battered. Inevitably i was hit in the face with the tent fabric and started to have thoughts that a bale out off the tops may be on the cards. I dug out my head torch and dropped a few of the more expensive or smaller items into my sack. Camera, GPS, stove, pan, phone.

 The tent was flapping wildly and i found that one of the  two main pegs had been violently shaken out of the ground and that’s what caused the problem. Repositioning the peg and putting a stone on top of it made a big difference and i went back to sleep with cotton wool in my ears to try and reduce the tremendous noise of the wind and the cacophony of flapping nylon from the other tents.
I must have dozed off because next time i woke it was 4.30am and was getting light. I could hear voices above the wind but i wasn’t surprised folk were awake.

 Numerous times the wind literally lifted me horizontally off the ground. I felt as though i was in a train which was rocking side to side or a small yacht in a large rough sea. I must have dozed off again because the next thing i heard was Mike and Laura saying that we should get off the top and move to lower ground where we could find shelter and have some breakfast.

I later found out that Dawns tent had collapsed at one point and that it was taken down to avoid damage, Richard and Tegs tent had had a minor collapse when one of the two hoop poles had come out of its socket.
It had rained a few times during the night and hail stoned too so i was told by Laura who had spent most of the hours holding onto her MSR Hubba as thunder and lightening was mixed in for good measure. I missed it all!

The electrical storm could now been seen across the other side of the estuary in the Rhinogs.

So we carefully helped each other pack up, all except JJ who decided to carry on listening to his radio with ear phones in and was oblivious to the fact that the rest of the rabble were ready to leave.
Then we headed down the pony track to the protection of a sheep fold where we had breakfast.

When we hit the minor road near Tynyceunant (say that when your drunk), we had a parting of the ways with Mike who decided that he wanted to go up a Marilyn instead of heading back. The rest of us had a leisurely and pleasant stroll passed llynnau Creggenan.
Two stops were had, first just watching the top inch of the Llyn being whipped up by the wind and deposited yards further on and secondly at the far side of the Llyn in a slightly sheltered spot for a brew and second breakfast.

The lovely Llyn Creggenan and the ridge we should have been on.

Just prior to dropping down to Arthog we passed the plaqued home of Henry Lloyd who it seems was a well regarded local poet or madman perhaps if he had spent a night on Cadair Idris.

Back at our site on the south side of the estuary Richard and Teg set off back home whereas Judith and I stayed over until Saturday. The rest went back over the walkway to the North side and we arranged to meet up later in the Last Inn for a farewell meal and a few pints of Sunbeam bitter.

So although we missed the last bit of the ridge walk that would have taken us to Pen Y Garn it had been a good outing. Looking on the bright side, if you don’t experience bad weather then you never find out just what your gear will stand up to and if you need to make some changes.

I now know what modifications i need to make to the Moment and the mods i made to my Mammut Creon Lite rucksack prior to the outing worked exceptionally well. I think JJ may well copy the mods onto his Osprey Exos 58

So i was pleased to have been invited along. Thanks again Mike, see you next time.

 View across the estuary to Barmouth and the direction of the storm.
 A wooly watcher
 Dr Livingstone i presume? (Laura and Dawn)
 Dawn at the bridge and fords near Bron llety-ifan
 The high point here is the SW end of Pared y cefn hir ridge. Looks one for next time i think.
 A 4wd Zetor 5245 from the old Czechoslovakia, around 1992. A 2.7L 3 cylinder engine. Zetor is a young company in tractor terms. It started life in 1945 at the end of the 2nd world war when it utilised the ZET arms buildings and then adding “OR” from tractor to complete the name.

The last 100 metres to Arthog.

Route Day 4.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wales day 3. Dolgellau to SH 69081357

Thursday 17th July. Sunrise to Sunset.

At 5.00am the sun was rising and the warmth in my sleeping bag was becoming a little unbearable. It had been a clear night and a bit of a chilly one. Plenty of condensation in and on the tent.
I had slept with the tent doors wide open, the sky was looking good for a couple of photo’s. I was still tired and didn’t get out of the tent but took the sunrise shots.
Just sticking my head out and looking around, the site was all quiet with dew sparkling on the grass.
I think the rest missed the Dawn.
Sunrise from my tent in Dolgellau.
7.00am and i was up and before breakfast tried to soak as much condensation as i could from the fabric so that the sun could do it's job of drying the tent. Others were stirring whilst i sat on a picnic bench and drank coffee.
 It was going to be a warm one and we knew water was going to be a problem once we passed the 400 metre mark. The Cadair ridge is boggy in parts but water courses are very few and probably dry.
Having filled my 2L water bottle and my 350ml bottle i was ready to go. The rucksack was heavy and  i was already dripping with sweat just from packing up.
Leaving the camp site we set off west passed the cemetery and then turned left on a side road signposted Tabor. We followed this very steep road come track to its end near a communications mast. The route follows a river on our right which sounded wonderful as it cascaded down and made us wonder if water was not going to be a problem after all.
Some of the rabble were struggling with the incline, the heat and the additional weight of the water. It was steep though.
Laura wondered what the temperature was and even this early it was 24C in the shade of the trees.

Gaining open ground the path is a little hit and miss as a new gas pipe has recently been laid. It’s quite easy to continue on the right of way and drop down into the next valley, however we needed to stay on high ground and spotted a stile across to the right over a field wall.
It is pleasant walking here and we also found water flowing clean and fast so i took the opportunity to refill my 350ml bottle which was now almost empty.
Mynydd Moel (high left) and Pen-Y Gadair at the back.
Once over the stile the obvious path is to go straight on following the contour but our route turned south immediately and followed the wall up, and up, and up. It’s relentless and in the full heat of the sun its energy sapping. When going steep up hill, i find it easier to go at your own pace and keep moving, stopping only to take water and of course jelly babies.

Just before the wall becomes a fence line we re-grouped as our little band was getting quite strung out.
To the right the constant view of the sheer face of Mynydd Moel and Pen-Y Gadair beyond was inspiring and above us and to the left the face of Gau Graig. Here we watched Peregine Falcons gliding and then stooping to speeds that can reach over 200mph. 

Following the fence to a stile on the ridge line, we crossed over and dropped the rucksacks. Mike went the extra 100 metres to the cairn on Gau Graig which we did on a previous visit. I wasn’t that bothered about going to the cairn but was surprised no others did as the views are great. 
 Approaching the stile
 What path?
 Up and Up to Gau Graig
 Almost at the ridge line
Mynydd Moel
A couple crossed the wobbly stile coming from Gau Graig and the chap fell off badly skinning his shin and cutting a finger. First aid was deployed by the rabble and on they went.

Once ready off we set again with the prospect that we could see how steep it was to gain the summit of Mynydd Moel. Getting to the end of the ridge fence it was another “Go For It” moment. A continuous lung busting pull where you just had to go at your own pace.
Mynydd Moel is a superb summit with a wind break and sheer cliffs to the northern edge. There is also a narrow but flat precipitous path which leads to the edge and into the void. 
It was a lovely day but carrying rucksacks laden with water takes it toll. We dropped sacks again and took time to dry out the sweat from our clothes.

Pen-Y-Gadair which is the summit of Cadair Idris containing the trig point could be seen high to our west and was our next target. Although another “up”, it was not quite as steep until you get to the last section. I skirted the edge of the northern crags gazing down the precipitous sides to view the attractive blue waters of Llyn Gafr, Llyn y Gadair and the Fox path away to the east.
Here we watched a couple of shepherds gathering sheep for a while as we sat atop our highest point of the trip at 893 metres. The trig point area was busy, so busy i only just managed to touch it. Lots of red faced day walkers with no gear at all had made the summit. I wondered if we looked as knackered as them.
 Pen-Y-Gadair from Mynydd Moel
Summit of Pen-Y-Gadair
 View of Craig Cau and Llyn Cau from the summit.
 View of The saddle and Llyn Y Gadair from just west of the summit
The rough plan was to pitch high tonight but the saying goes that if you spend the night on Cadair Idris you will leave in the morning either a Poet or a Madman. The very summit is a rocky exposed top and waterless, not a place to pitch a tent. It has fantastic views of Craig Cau and Llyn Cau.

 We headed west following the ridge line and along the old pony track below The Saddle. Again the problem was water. We had hoped to find a running stream but alas, nothing. Richard eventually found a small spring which after clearing out a few small rocks we were able to get a cup into the pool. The water was crystal clear and very cold and was christened survival spring, all very dramatic but appropriate at the time. It was roughly at grid ref. SH695132 but that is without any great accuracy. 
Survival Spring
With bottles replenished it was now just a matter of finding a flat-ish spot to pitch tents. There was a suggestion that the old workings on Carnedd Lwyd may provide some flat sites but a suitable spot was found at the watershed. GR 69081357. The consensus was that the site was ok and we quickly pitched and got a brew going.
After a scout around no other drinking water was discovered. So what we had needed to last us.
Mike inadvertently knocked his stove over with a brew on the go and so was not happy. Squeezing out hand fulls of sphagnum moss he managed to filter enough for a brew. 

We had a pleasant evening with sharing whisky and sloe gin doing the rounds. We watched the sunset like Druids at a solstice. The weather forecast was not good however and Friday would bring electrical storms. We also heard of the dreadful shooting down of the Malaysian aircraft. What a dreadful world we live in and how bad is humanity.

We watched the last of the sun and then noticed behind us the swirling clouds above The Saddle. Like something you would see on Lord of the Rings. I was 9.30pm and bed was calling. Some had already turned in.
 Sunset at camp
 Glorious sky
The devil at work.
And then it started!

Todays Route, only 7.5 miles but tough.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wales day 2. The Mawddach trail. Barmouth to Dolgellau.

Wednesday 16th July.
We knew that the start of the day would be a slow one bit we didn't realise just how slow. True, it was only 9 miles and no contours so a short day was in prospect.
We had been informed the previous evening that Mike, JJ and Dawn would be visiting Rosie’s  cafe for a full breakfast at 8.30am. So as 11.00am approached and still no sign of them, I decided to "phone a friend". "We are just on our way" was the reply and so with that news we 3 on the south side of the estuary got the kettle out for a brew.
Another cafe worth a mention is a well know spot and its real name is the Carousal cafe but the C keeps getting stolen and now it doesn't get replaced. So it’s the arousal cafe.

Eventually the team was together and we got on our way along the trail.
The trail follows the route of the old railway line on the south side of the stunning Mawddach estuary.
The line was closed in 1964 due to flooding but was scheduled to close in ‘65 although it was very popular with visitors. Opened in 1869 by Great Western Railways.
JJ, Dawn, Mike, Rich and Teg.
Now walkers enjoy the superb mountain vistas and much bird life along the way.
Unfortunately for us the weather today was the opposite of yesterday. We now had low cloud and plenty of rain showers. The tops not visible.
During a dry spell we took advantage of a well positioned picnic bench for lunch. Great views both up and down the estuary, that was until Mike spotted that the western end of the estuary was disappearing rapidly into a grey murk. Heavy rain approaching.

The Mawddach trail
It was good to see Dawn again and chat about new gear and recent walks. It was also good to hear Mike is getting a new dog. Plenty of chatting about this, that and the other made for quick progress along the easy walkway.
As we passed the George III pub it was raining quite heavily and so had to go in and sample the beer.  Just the one you understand. Its quite a nice place to sit out and watch life go past but a downstairs bar would be handy.
Lots of railway items surround the pub with signals, the old station buildings and the signal box.

 Looking west to Barmouth and the bridge.
 The George III
Old Station Building and signal
The rain eased as we approached Dolgellau which we found to be quite busy. Its a nice place, quaint in some ways with narrow streets and old buildings.
Our destination was Tan-y-fron campsite, easily found just on the outskirts whereas the Co-oP was a bit harder to find. Its a very nice camp site and much good work has been done to give campers a flat pitch with good views. There was a Case excavator parked up and upon inspection i found it had been made in Manchester and i wouldn’t be surprised to find my finger prints on it somewhere.

Two other bloggers were expected to arrive here in the evening. Judith and Laura. Upon arrival Judith was asked if she was with "The Rabble"! Rabble indeed.
The Torrent Walk Hotel was our watering hole for the evening. More of a pub than a hotel, its a grade 2 listed building. Its a bit old fashioned but I quite like that, with a friendly bar and a couple of cask beers.
A Dutch couple who pitched behind the Rabble were being entertained by Mike. What they understood of Mikes tale of walking across Ireland in a Durham Irish accent remains to be seen. I'm sure they didn't understand much because we didn't either.
Still we all had a good day and some sharing whisky.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wales. Day 1. Barmouth.

Tuesday 15th July.
Having had a good journey to my campsite at Arthog I pitched my tent on an empty site. It was a glorious day, hot, humid, calm and very clear air. 
Camp site at Garth-Yfog Arthog, your eyes do not deceive you, it is a sloping site.

I was quickly greeted by a flock of free range chickens who investigated wherever they could and I had to shoo them away when they decided my sleeping bag was a comfy place to rest. Then a pure white moggy made itself at home and I ended up having to close up the tent.

It was my first time on this site so I had a wander around to get my bearings before I decided to walk the 2 miles into Barmouth.

Later in the evening the plan was to meet up with fellow bloggers Mike Knipe,Dawn Linney, JJ and Mrs JJ and also 2 friends of mine Richard and Teg at the Last Inn on the waterfront.

I had a quick walk around Barmouth which is quite a small resort and so it didn't take long. Its a nice place but I was surprised at how few eating places there were. Mikes suggestion of The Last Inn turned out to be a good choice. I called in to check out the menu and try the beer which proved excellent. Sunbeam bitter brewed in Wolverhampton. A blond beer with a hint of pineapple.

I then retraced my journey and went back to camp to await the arrival of Richard and Teg before meeting up all together at 7.00pm back in the Last Inn.

 On the way to Barmouth a Hercules Transport plane flew over.
And below are just a few shots of my walk over to Barmouth.

 The railway bridge and walkway over the estuary.

 The Last Inn Barmouth
Inside the pub.
The footbridge used to be a toll bridge but now it is free to cross.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fozzils flat pack camp kit review.

Backpackinglight. uk had these Fozzils plastic flat pack camp wares on special offer and so i ordered a pack. I’ve always had a bit of a glancing interest in them but always thought they were a little too expensive to buy on a whim, so i never bought them until now.

They include, as it says on the packaging above , a cup, a dish, a bowl and a spoon.

I’ve been using them at home to find out if i would backpack with them and here are my thoughts so far.
They are very easy to assemble using press studs to create the shapes. They can be assembled inside out or back to front but the instructions say that the fish bone design should be on the outside. The difference is not initially  obvious but the colour of the fishbone is deeper on the outside than on the inside.
Being made of a flexible plastic the shapes are easy to create and they wash very easily. Food doesn’t stick to them from my short experiences and therefore no scrubbing is required, just a wash under the tap.

The dish or plate as i call it.

I have found very little use for this item as its a bit of an "in between" if you get what i mean. Not much use for what foodstuffs i take when backpacking.

The Bowl.

I found the bowl to be a good size and very useful. It’s sturdy and well balanced. A definite would use piece of kit. Cannot find a fault with this.

The cup.

I found the cup to be rather disappointing considering that this item was the one i had most hopes for. The volume is ok at 300ml. Its a little unstable and with the cup tapering outwards and dish shaped its easy to spill liquids over the sides.
The biggest problem is hot liquids. The plastic is not very heat resistant and it also becomes more pliable the hotter it gets. Picking up a squidgy cup of hot coffee means you have to reduce the volume down to around 225ml to be on the safe side.
I made a handle for the cup (see photo below) using the plastic material from the packaging and it works a lot better.
Cup with MYOG flat pack handle. It adds 7 grams to the overall weight.

Although i am pleased with the result of the handle which allows the cup to be used easier and safer, i am not convinced that i would use it backpacking. A normal plastic camping cup works far better, mine is lighter and doesn’t take up that much room in a rucksack anyway. So i’m back to square one.

The Spoon.

The spoon is a really nice design and a good weight. The business end is a good size and its not sharp considering it’s plastic sheet material. The handle is way too short for use with backpacking dehydrated meal bags, which is a real shame. My own bamboo spoon with long handle weighs 10 grams and therefore i wouldn’t replace it with the Fozzils one.

Although the flat pack design is neat for storing in a rucksack and well made, the design is not that lightweight in comparison to my current kit and some items are in my view not that practical for backpacking.
Dish. wouldn’t use it.
Bowl. Good. Practical.
Cup. Poor. No Handle, not very heat resistant.
Spoon. Good but handle too short.

Score: 2 out of 5.

Anyone want to buy a cheap Fozzils set!

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