Bronze Qualifying 2017-B

22 – 26°C, hot and close, thunder threatened but didn’t materialise. 

Qualifying Expedition:

Day 1: very warm and (almost) inevitably, most groups struggled.
I manned the checkpoint at Weag’s Bridge. Emma and I headed south to intercept and hid near a dry sites crossing. One group went by oblivious to us. We then snuck up on the next group having a sit-down rest. The last group didn’t arrive for ages. We sat by a big tree while we waited. From there, we could see their approach from about 1 kilometer. Eventually, they appeared on the horizon. They didn’t seem to see me sitting in the grass by the side of the track. Even when they stopped for a moment, two of them facing my way. They still didn’t notice me smirking at them.
I picked up 3 groups in the minibus. We saw some rather poor navigation decisions during this day. One group circled Wetton village unable to find their route. Problem is, they did their orbits on the road. Overall. The performance this day was quite poor.
Day Two, a Tuesday. Much better, some groups finished quite early and no minibus rescues were needed.BronQual17

Day 2: Better, no serious mistakes were made and they completed in reasonable time.
To celebrate, in the early evening we got the fire-pit going and let the kids toast marsh-mellows (sandwiched between chocolate biscuits things).

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The dark and angry cottage.

21°C, white cloud.

This summer’s expedition didn’t require any rescues but one group said they’d lost their walkie-talkie. We drove into the village and parked for near the footpath for a short time.​

A grumpy note! I accept that it was possible to leave the minibus in a carpark. My only problem with this note is the opening childish sarcastic content. If you want my sympathy, don’t throw away any respect with that stupid suggestion about my abilities. Besides, why would anybody need a map, there is a big sign to the carpark across the road. You don’t have exclusive rights to the road outside your house, that’s not how the law works in this country.
A different approach would have easily won my sympathy and probably, an apology. But if you’d come out from hiding in your house, I would have nothing to say to you. Your choice.

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Bronze Qualifying 2017- A

from 17 to 26°C, not much rain, some hot and close days.

Group A; This group had really hot weather on their practice expedition.  On those days, they really struggled. Their stamina and concentration was really low. On Monday and Tuesday, they were problem free which supports my idea that it’s hot weather that really gets these kids. They become really slow and make mistakes with navigation.bronzeQual_1

Wednesday; it took three trips in the minibus to ferry the kids to Ilam for the pickup. The coach arrived on-time carrying the second half of the year-group who were ready to start their expedition. As you can imagine, there was much faffing about organising bags and the loan of boots to those who arrived in unsuitable footwear. Many more had decent boots on but wore trainer socks. Chris bought socks later to lend out.


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Mixed canal and road.

Bright sun and westerly wind. 19°C.

I rode the Kona Jake with MapMyRide+! Distance: 77.83km, time: 03:51:47, pace: 2:59min/km, speed: 20.15km/h.

Today, I broke the saddle. It’s the same break that they always have- immediately behind the clamp on one rail. I never really liked that seat anyway. Later, I rode along a canal from Rufford to join the Leeds-Liverpool canal.​

Another fault has developed recently, the gear change is worse and adjustment makes no difference. The barrel adjuster is at its limit. In fact, it’s beyond. The adjuster is screwed out entirely. Unfortunately, it won’t screw back in. Perhaps the thread is damaged.

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Bronze practice (B).

Warm, windy with heavy rain. 12°C, and 16 in sunny spells.

In stark contrast to the previous expedition, we had terrible weather, probably the works DofE weather we’ve ever had. The kids took it on well; in fact better that the A group did on their warm, sunny days. This trip’s whingeing and moaning was conspicuous by its absence. Perhaps the participants’ ability to cope with heat is worse than rain. Since it’s summer, the rain was never cold so those who neglected to bring water-proof trousers got away with it. Practice is a time to find out what to bring and what to leave behind. Only 1 girl was carrying more than 15kg in her bag. It wasn’t obvious what the excess load was but other groups have taken too much or unsuitable food (tins, bottles or liquid food. I suggested that keep one liquid food meal and leave the others in the minibus to take back afterwards.steppingStones

The weather wasn’t just wet, a storm was passing north-east in the Atlantic and that drove strong winds our way. Gusts peaked at 40mph+ threatening our tents. Once we got to camp, I told them to pitch tents with the pointy end facing the wind (west) and be extra-careful with pegs. The ground here is difficult to drive pegs into, there are thousands of round pebbles under the grass and pegs often hit them. If you can manoeuvre the peg round  these obstacles, the grip is quite good. once all the groups had finished supper and climbed into their tents to keep dry, I toured round with a rubber hammer.
As I drove pegs in, Dr. D brought me a cup of tea so that I held a cup in one hand and hammered with the other. all this time, heavy rain roared down diagonally across the site. However, it wasn’t cold and I wore full waterproofs.

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Rhynogydd walk-out

Dense hill fog to start 11°C. Later nice sunshine with a chilly wind.

Woke at 7am, all nice and warm in the bag. I didn’t want t get up, especially now that thick hill fog had set in.
After a failed search for water, the descent near “The Clip” was easy to find. It is named Bwlch Gwynlio which takes you to the path down west to Cwm Bychan. Co-incidentally, I found water here too so turned it onto a coffee stop.


My bed for the night.

Once refreshed, turn right and drop down towards Cwm Bychan, some of the route is overgrown with bracken. Annoyingly, I lost the path and strayed down from the ‘correct’ route.

Back to the familiar Cwm Bychan site. Disappointingly, nobody has taken over the campsite and it remains only a car-park for hikers.  The attraction for many casual hikers is the Roman Steps. Small family was starting out as I arrived and asked for directions. they had no map, but really, apart from the first part, they won’t need one if they stick to the slabs.
The excuse for this diversion was to find out whether the campsite has re-opened (it hasn’t). Then up the Roman Steps route which is familiar to me. The new bit is to drop down into the forest directly east. Navigation here was tricky because recent logging work has obliterated paths and their signs. I took a mixture of paths and foresters’ tracks to get to the extensive grasslands north. Every step was a ‘splosh’, hours and hours of welsh steppe. The walkout back to Trawsfynedd is very long; very long. These landscapes are heavenly.

While recovering back at camp something amazing happened. The family I met at Cwm Bychan pulled up in their car. They had my solar-battery pack. It had fallen off my backpack on the Roman steps. They felt that since I was so helpful that it was worth the slight detour to find me. I must have said where I was camping and there are only 2 sites near Trawsfynedd to try out. They had made their hike to the top of the Steps and appreciated the little arch bridge along the way. It’s a charming section which soon splits into two routes, the main path is clear enough all the way.  People are good.

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Rhinogydd Bivvy night.

17°C, fair breeze in fair weather.

It took all morning for the rain to clear so I waited patiently. It doesn’t matter because my plan was not to descend the mountain today. I will stay up there. After some experimentation with packing my 45 litre day bag, I decided to go ahead with the smaller bag.
My expedition pack in in for repair so can’t carry the little tent, even that won’t fit. However, the bivvy will. The sleeping bag and stuff fits inside a 45 litre pack with a tight squeeze. By lunchtime, that rain eased off.

The start was across a waterlogged farmland and onto the hill. My route took a glancing path aside the range and then onto a bwlch (col). Suddenly, the sun shone and two possible routes presented themselves. Since I am by myself, I took the safer looking ascent to the west. Once on the ridge, the unique Rhinogg landscape laid out before me. The Rhinoggydd is part of what geologists call The Harlech Dome. It’s an ancient, Pre-cambrian sedimentary deposit which has pushed up to the surface. The rocks are hard and well consolidated for sedimentary rock types, a product of their very great age. Erosion has left us with rounded terraces, ice shattered rocks and layers of mixed grain beds. It was on one of these terraces that I opened out my bivvy bag. One small bolder overhand slightly, ideal shelter for my boots should it rain (it didn’t)


Back to the sunset

As soon as the sun was down, the sky clouded over. The night was warm inside the bivvy and I carefully unzipped the bag to look out. Above was spread the twinkling universe and a planet that may have been Jupiter.

It took ages to get to sleep, and then ages to wake up in the morning. I was cosey in teh bed and dawn was thick hill-fog. Eventually, hunger for breakfast got me up at about 7 am.

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Foel Boethe warmup.

17°C, set fair with a brisk SW breeze

Medium pack walking in fine conditions. Footpaths are better signed this end of the range. The X-shelter on the map is literally a stone wall in the shape of an `X`. It`s in an odd place, I can`t see why there since there are summits nearby that may need shelter for mountain walkers. Perhaps it`s not for them. Perhaps it’s for the people who maintain the county boundary fences.34089312921_4a4f52d2bc_z

There was some faffing about on the descent, in one field, gorse overgrew a stile which was not visible until I had climbed over the fence. Relief that it was not my navigational error that hid the stile.

This was a very satisfying walk in easy conditions. The summits are not especially high but in a sea of rolling grasslands, the views were still very grand.

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DofE Bronze Practice (a)

22°C, light wind and very bright sun.

First expedition of the season. Managing it was saner this year because we split the groups so we took only 35 at a time. Last year, we had 95 kids and although there were more staff, we’re still only 4 leaders (the others are supervisors). There were several nights when we got to bed well after midnight. One well after 02.30am. Alarms were set for 6- that was hard. I grabbed a kip in the afternoon knowing another late one was coming.
Perfect weather and manageable numbers didn’t prevent the kids grumbling, however. Oh dear, never mind. Half of the walking was in a forest and the other- gravelly scrub.
Forest navigation is tricky for anybody, but the groups were ingenious when finding ways to get lost. Most often, they would head off and find themselves back at a previous checkpoint having created an unintended circular route.
You can see it happening, the shoulders sink and hands are thrown down in a gesture of hopelessness.

Cannock Chase is renowned for adders. Carl and I spotted one in the grass so I tried to photograph it. The first pictures missed so Carl blocked it’s path with a boot. It arched back like this and I got the shot. A split second later, it struck his boot with a bite. One angry snake. Good that it hit boot because they are capable to getting through trouser fabric. Carl has a few serious allergies, so it was good not to find another to add to his list. It would be typical that he didn’t have his epi pen.

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Theiving Peacocks.

11~17°C, sunny with SW brisk wind.
I rode Racelite with MapMyRide+! Distance: 105.83km, time: 04:42:49, pace: 2:40min/km, speed: 22.45km/h.

I still enjoy the thrill of getting onto the Racelite. It’s light and fairly nimble but somehow less so. In comparison to my two alloy bikes, it feels rather flexible. If I shake the handlebars as I ride, I can’t really feel it in the seat. The frame flexes. If my job prospects were better, I’d consider an upgrade to a stiff aluminium road racer. For now, it’s good for long distance rides since it’s comfortable.

Today’s pace was not blistering, last week’s cold has not entirely left. The peacocks were funny though.

Look at the cheek, they climb up onto the table and throw the food they want onto the floor. Plates go crashing and they don’t even blink. Peacocks have the minds of criminals.

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