Monday, 12 August 2013

Carneddau Mountains camp & ride

Deb & I had the chance to get away for a couple of days last week so we decided to go to North Wales for some camping and an epic ride or two. I love North Wales and Snowdonia but don't get to go there nowhere near enough,  especially as it's only just a couple of hrs drive away. Snowdonia has got some of the best riding in the UK, road & offroad, but it was the offroad flavour Deb & I were after. We decided we didn't want to do the forest trail centre's but instead search out some adventure in the high mountains. With the summertime voluntary ban on cycles on Snowdon, Wales & England's highest mountain, which asks cyclists to not ride on the mountain between 9am & 5pm, we decided to do one of the hardest, remote and most technical rides in the Wales mtb guide book. The ride is in the Carneddau mountain range situated between the Snowdon mountain range and the Clwydian mountains to the east.

Llyn Colwyd Reservoir

Double track from the campsite in the Ogwyn Valley

Debs trophy shot after carrying her bike 300m up through the pass behind her

Somewhere up there is a pass

As you can see from the photo's the Carneddau is a beautiful place to ride which made up for the ride being anything but, in short the ride was brutal but the guide did warn us so we're not complaining as it was quite an adventure which was what we wanted and it was certainly what we got.

The ride started with a steep double track climb up from the campsite to a gate that was locked, so we threw our self's & bikes over and then for the next hour and half it was a case of pushing and carrying over marshes where there was no obvious trail which meant we went a bit off course and had to double back on ourselves which cost us about an hour.  This was also mentioned in the guide book so we stayed philosophical and trudged on, crossing streams and bridges made from big stone megalithic slabs. It was a relief when we finally got to the top of the hillside and the view of the Llyn Colwyd Reservoir opened up before us. After stopping for some photos & refreshments we pushed on, it would be rocky technical singletrack all the way alongside the reservoir but we didn't realise just how technical, with big drop offs,  step ups and loose jagged rocks just waiting to rip your tyres & legs to shreds. I must admit this was pushing the boundaries of my skills but poor Deb, who's confidence had been shaken recently by a couple of nasty falls was visibly nervous to say the least, and after all she is still a novice and this was graded a black route so she deserves a lot of credit for just being there.  I didn't want Deb trying to follow me and hurting herself especially as this was as remote as you can get in North Wales so I decided it was best to just walk the really tricky bits and ride where we could safely.

After the reservoir we had to climb what is probably one of the steepest road climbs I've ever seen and I'm proud to say I rode all the way to the top. The views from here were magnificent, it was just a shame our batteries on our phones were now running low so we couldn't take any photos.  The houses down in the valley looked tiny, it was like looking down from an airplane , in fact an RAF Herculies transport plane flew by in the valley and we were looking down on it, pretty cool stuff.  After the steep climb came an even steeper decent which took a good half hour with countless switchbacks and two stops to let my brakes cool after they started to fade.

A nice steady climb followed up to the Llyn Crafnant and a quick stop for some scones at the lakeside cafe.

It was a good time to refuel because what was to come can only be described as full on mountaineering or scrambling at least to reach a pass through the mountains.  I've got to say a few words about my amazing girlfriend here as I was blown away how she managed to push & carry her bike which is heavier than mine up the steep climbs, I wanted to push it for her but most of the time she wouldn't let me, she really is a tough little cookie. I was knackered by this point and she is tiny compared to me so I really want to give a big shout out to my mtb goddess of a girlfriend,  Chapeau Debs !

I just want to give Debs a plug, she has started a blog about her slide into cycling obsession that I've saddled her with, sorry Deb,and no pun intended either, anyway her blog is called Gearly Bird . It's a new blog so there isn't a lot of posts yet but she would love a follower or two so please be kind and follow.

When we got through the pass we were hoping the trail would be more rideable but if anything it was even more rocky and technical. We rode where we could and carried & pushed where we couldn't but we were on the last leg and it was now all downhill into Capel Curig. We were rewarded with a nice steady double track ride back to the campsite.

The guide book said 4-5hrs for fit & experienced riders, we came in at 7 1/2 hrs totally spent which is what we had wanted to be and isn't too shabby as we had quite a few stops along the way. Debs has said she wants to go back and do it again when she has mastered a few more skills and built some more confidence.

I can't wait.

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