On Saturday, I headed into Powys for a micro-adventure* with two of my mountain biking/fell running/music loving/whisky sipping** buddies; Jules Carter and Matt Morris. Outside of adventure racing stuff like the Polaris/OMM, surprisingly this was the first time the three of us had engaged in any mountain bike packing.
We were treated to a glorious sunny afternoon and hooked up near Abergwysn (North East of the beautiful Llyn Brianne reservoir), meeting the challenge of Mid Wales hills head on by going straight over the top and onto open moorland. If there was a weather report for ground conditions it would be ‘largely dry with outbreaks of muddy bog’. The going was difficult but enjoyable and relaxed. This was neither a race, nor a mission. Riding without the penalty of the clock is exceptionally liberating.
Liberation was in fact, the order of the day. Our ride had it all. The previously mentioned moorland. Hills. Quiet road sections. Virtually invisible bridle-paths. Fire roads. A superb circumnavigation of the Claerwen reservoir and its undulating, flinty, pot holed, single track road. That section must have been 45 minutes of grinding. Maybe more. Maybe less. Who knows? I didn’t have a clock on it. That was the entire point. It was at Claerwen that we suffered our only mechanical of the weekend; a puncture to Jules’ rear wheel. No hardship. Swop a tube, grab some food, gaze over the waters.
We carried on. The wind swung around, one minute in our face, the next gently pushing up the climbs. We passed small tarns under huge skies. We rode past the stunning remains of the 12th century Strata Florida abbey. We climbed forest track and fire roads, sapping the remains of our strength with long grinding climbs. This route defines diversity.
As the afternoon sun dropped beyond the Western horizon, the temperature dissipated. When Moel Prysgu bothy (our overnight accommodation) came into view after a short woodland descent, it was a welcome sight. A roof over our heads, running water in the form of a stream, a wood burner and food. And what food it was.
Matt, whom I previously would of described as a light travelling man of modest culinary needs, has undergone some kind of wholly unexpected, but soundly applauded transformation. Matt – henceforth known as ‘Matt the Deli’ – was packing…..Isle of Jura Whisky. Posh Green and Black chocolate. Olive Ciabata bread. A 200g bar of Wholenut chocolate. Y Fenni mustard cheese. Ham. Even more chocolate (dark). A box of shortbread. All this outside of the usual pasta and rice fare. Now that is the way to pack a rucksack. Matt the Deli, is our hero.
With a roaring fire, good food and whisky in our bellies and the laid back sounds of ‘Wish you were here’ by Pink Floyd filling the bothy, we were warm and content.
Sunday was more of the same. More Moor. More singletrack. More hidden bridlepaths. Another reservoir (Llyn Brianne) and the tremendous, wonderful, glorious (add further adjectives here), Doethie trail. The Doethie is around 7km of valley track the rises, falls and roils like the bubbling water in the river below. It is also green, secluded and silent, save for the whisper of Red Kite wings and the unmistakeable call of the cuckoo.
I could talk about the riding all day. The trails and the technicality. The high and low points. But the point of this trip is not to intimately record every detail, but to savour the time off grid. For this is where the real enjoyment lies – we were only 60 miles from home but many more miles away.
If you can work it into your diary, please do give this sort of trip a go. You don’t need much stuff, nor need to go far, but a little bit of preparation – in our case ably handled by Jules – and a rucksack full of scoff (Matt ‘the deli’) will reap enormous dividends. In roughly 11 hours of riding we saw one (yes, one) other mountain biker. I’ve not felt more relaxed or refreshed in an awfully long time.
More images below. A review of the kit used will follow. Huge thanks to Jules and Matt. Can’t wait for the next one.
*This is what the kids call ‘an outdoor bit of fun, not too far from home but a million miles away from the stresses and strains of modern life’. I guess they put it more succinctly.
** The whisky thing is new and made us feel like fireside cowboys.