The Welsh leg started in a pretty brutal way, with a 71 mile cycle to take us out of Bristol to the town of Walton, near Shropshire. We've found that breaking these big days down into chunks of around 25 miles is the best way to keep sane, so our first stop for that day was the town of Monmouth, where we made it to within a few hours. I definitely struggled on this first leg, as a lot of the ground coming out of Bristol was either flat or slightly uphill, and I've found over the past week that my body is a lot more suited to long, steep hill climbs followed by downhills rather than endless flats - it just feels like cycling through treacle!
After some food in Monmouth we continued on our way, and arrived in Hereford at around 6pm. We had another quick stop, but had to grit our teeth and get back on the bikes for the last leg of the day without too much of an interlude, as time was once again ticking on. It was dark by the time we reached Walton, and I believe the first words out of Marc's mouth when we finally put the bikes down were "let's never do that again." Unfortunately this wish was not to be granted, as the agenda for the next day was to cover the remaining 56 miles between us and the edge of Snowdonia. It was going to be another hard stint, but the payoff would be that we would have covered a large percentage of the Welsh leg cycling in only two days. Yet another big ask - but surely worth it?
The first leg of the next day took us almost six hours. We cycled through the hills of Shropshire, and sweated up climb after gruelling climb with seemingly very little reward in terms of miles. Eventually we made it to Newtown, but the thought of the remaining 26 miles to the edge of the national park made us both want to die on the spot. For a while we considered trying to find a campsite earlier on and playing catch up with the miles again, but in the end knuckled down and made it to our intended destination by half eight (the terrain had mercifully improved!).
Day three didn't quite go to plan, but in retrospect this was perhaps a good thing, as 127 miles on touring bikes loaded to capacity is no mean feat. The weather was terrible, so we took a rest and planned to get a lot done the following day. The next morning started by cycling a short way down a beautiful Welsh valley to the base of Craig Cywarc, where we walked into and climbed the outlier for the Wales leg - Will o' The Wisp. I can't say that this one was 10/10 in terms of quality climbing, but the views did just about make up for that. From there we cycled 40 miles to Porthmadog, over a mountain pass that was an assault to the leg muscles. Upon arrival we continued into the famous climbing destination of Tremadog, and climbed Creagh Dhu Wall, which was a favourite so far for me in terms of climbing movement; starting up a tight groove then traversing airily over a huge flake that you can hang off like a monkey without your feet.
Things started to go slightly downhill again from there however. Having only brought along a short amount of rope, I realised that abseiling off Creagh Dhu Wall (as is usually done with most routes at Tremadog) was not going to be possible, and we had a bit of jungle bashing to do to make our way back down to the bikes again in the semi-darkness. It was pitch black by the time we found a campsite for the night, and we realised once again that we had been on the go for over 12 hours.
Right now I'm not sure how the next few days are going to pan out. We have a lot of climbing to do in the Ogwen Valley and Llanberis Pass, but the weather is looking pretty mixed, so we'll have to play it by ear. If all goes well we'll make it to the mountains and tick many, many routes of our to-do list, but right now we need a re-stock of food and a morning off cycling! Until next time…
The weather. It's the one thing you can't control, and throughout the past few days it's not been kind. My original plans of ticking off the Welsh routes in three or four days have been foiled by the copious amounts of water falling from the sky, and the phrase "we'll work with what we've got" has never been more appropriate.
Soloing is risky, I grant you. However I do a lot of it, and usually feel no danger whatsoever on grades below VS. Things changed on Milestone Buttress below Tryfan however, when having come to the end of my patience with the bad weather, I decided to just ignore the rain and climb the two routes we had to do anyway. It was actually a great experience, as the added care I had to take with the wet holds made the routes feel a lot more spicy than they would normally have done, and the two mini off-width chimneys at the top of each were certainly interesting with water pouring down them. Back in the Llanberis Pass, the two routes on Carreg Wastad were similarly damp and slimey, but fortunately passed without incident, as did the amazing Flying Buttress and Spiral Stairs on Dinas Cromlech. Big thanks to the parties on these last two who very kindly allowed me to pass them - it was very much appreciated. Hopefully the weather will give us a break soon so we can attack the main event of the Llanberis Pass - the 12 pitch wall of Avalanche at Lliwedd, but if not we'll have to do it anyway, and it will no doubt be a soggy and miserable affair! Fingers crossed.
You can read more about Anna's trip and follow her progress on the Berghaus website.