07:36 Thursday AM
I’m sat here in my mustard yellow bobble hat and cycling shoes with a lukewarm cup of coffee shovelling plum bread and cheese into my mouth. This is breakfast in the Lluest Cwm Bach bothy. It’s a cold and damp morning, and the door is only open to let in some light. To be honest the gap under the door is so huge it didn’t really make a difference to the air temperature to have the door closed last night.
After thinking I would be alone last night, a visitor arrived at around 1am. He was the noisiest visitor you could ever imagine. A visitor with a penchant for maple syrup waffles. Mr Mouse. My god how much noise can such a tiny animal make?! I knew he was going to come after reading the entries in the bothy book. I had been warned and had duly sealed and bagged all my food, but there is always something to find if you are as clever as a mouse.
Mr Mouse woke me up nearly every hour. Attempts to scare him off by shining my torch and making a loud noise were futile. He just looked at me and continued with what he was doing. So I continued with what I was doing and tried to put all thoughts of Mr Mouse coming into my sleeping bag for a cwtch to the back of my mind.
I’ll happily admit I slept with a small torch light on and some music last night. It did the trick. I did sleep, even through the cold, and at 5am just when all the bogey monsters have gone to bed and Mr Mouse was ripping into someone’s left over coffee I got brave enough to turn off the music and light. The fire was dead and the little window was starting to let in some grey light. Pulling on my bobble hat and shaking my cold legs a bit I was back asleep within minutes. It’s now 8am and although I’m feeling pretty tired and unsure which way I’m going to leave to reach the road. Neither way is ideal. Go down, and risk the reservoir shore which could get slippy and steep, or go up and battle the ferns and near 45 degree slopes, both options feature bogs. This is what makes this bothy incredibly special, it’s a pig to get to. In fact nearly every entry in the bothy book makes reference to it, and in one occasion a magical unicorn called Dave dropped the walkers in. Lucky them.
I’m looking forward to getting back to civilisation but equally I could easily lie back down quite contentedly on my raised plinth, back in my ridiculously thin bag to enjoy the peace and quiet for a few hours more.
So last night I questioned whether I should be doing this and that I might have had the answer in the morning. I actually don’t think I have the answer (maybe that will come in time), but what I do know is that it has been a night worth doing, and a small part of me is pretty chuffed that I’ve done it by myself. Feeling a bit more legit with what I can achieve. Next time though for sure it’ll be with others. Although then I will have to share my food…hard one.
I chose the vertical route, 3 Peaks is coming after all, and well I needed warming up. 2.59km of pushing my loaded bike over the boggy uneven hillside. I recall once these tufts of ground being called ‘babies heads’. Pretty grim but fairly accurate. Behind me huge black clouds were gathering which kept me moving. I got some signal and wondered whether to keep my phone off for a bit longer.
Finally, through one final bog, I reached the road and had a little grin to myself. The clouds had finally caught up with me but all that was left to do was to clip in and roll down, all the way to the door of that tea shop I had spotted a few days previously. It didn’t disappoint, and with an omelette the size of my head and a huge mug of coffee I sat in my damp clothes feeling pretty, well, an overused word, but awesome I guess.
A man next to me commented on the size of my breakfast and I told him I had been out on the hill for two days and was pretty hungry. “Fair play”, was his response. In the typical Welsh fashion the curtain of rain that fell on the streets of Rhayader signalled the end of this tiny adventure if viewed by hours, but yet somehow was the biggest out-of-your-comfort-zone adventure by miles. Sometimes, in this current world of bigger is better and further and longer is way more impressive, sometimes you don’t need to look or go that far to find a true challenge, and very often for a lot of people the biggest challenges are those you have to deal with at home. It’s these challenges that should be the most respected, even though I don’t think the Instagram likes or the Facebook shares would be quite as high.
Usually I write about these adventures and share my photos because I hope it will encourage more people to go and try and find some head space and fresh air in their lives, in whatever format that comes. I don’t go to church, but I do go to Wild. That suits me just fine. I also like to write because it makes me sit down, and process stuff, and I find an intimate joy with words that nothing else can quite match. On this trip, I wrote because I felt that if people could share with my adventure then really I wasn’t that alone after all.
Below are some photos of the route I took between bothy 1 and bothy 2. It’s been stunning.
When I get back to London, on a crappy grey day I will write about my learnings from staying in a bothy. As always, get in touch if you want to share some tales.
As We say in Wales, all the best from Haverfordwest.