Welsh Extravaganza (Day 2) – 25th March

The Irfon Valley, stunning....

Everyone was awake pretty early and once one got up everyone else followed pretty soon. A quick check of the shoes next to the fire showed that they’d gone from wet last night to damp this morning. A breakfast of porridge for everyone else, an apple and two cans of cheap Morrisons Red Bull for me would have us set up for the day’s riding.

Bikes were propped up on the hedge and various attempts at daily maintenance were carried out in the shade as the edge of the shadow from the finger of Bryn Y Gorlan slowly crept towards us. Soon we were ready to go but Ivan had vanished (turned out he’d gone for a last minute crap) so we decided to head off down the hill and wait for him at the Doethie Fach crossing.

When he appeared he was motoring and went flat out through the ford and somehow I managed to get the camera on, get it set and catch the shot (It’s now the header photo on the blog). It was now a push/slog back over the top, with the promise of a stunning descent back down to Soar Y Mynydd.

The descent didn’t disappoint, a loose rocky twisting trail that we’d had a chance to reece on our way up the night before. Back on tarmac now we climbed up Bryn Mawr and over the top, with a high speed tarmac descent the other side. I hit 38.5 mph top speed, with everything tucked in. I’m sure 40+ would have been possible without the backpack.

We headed back along the East side of the Towy, up the valley and past the Dolgoch hostel, turning up The Devil’s Staircase, a punishing 25% climb that gains 132m (433ft) in just less than a mile, with a couple of slightly less steep sections (The steps of the staircase I guess) I headed off first, and stopped halfway to get some photo’s. Ivan was last up. I decided to push from there, as it was going to be another long day. As Ivan overtook me he commented “Why would anyone be stupid enough to build a road like this?” “Putting in the easier bits?” I asked…… “Exactly, it’s crazy” said Ivan, not really out of breath!

The decent the other side was manic, gradually getting steeper, then throwing in some steep switchbacks to make things interesting. Down through the tree line and out onto the valley floor. And what a valley, the views along the Irfon Valley were breath taking as we slowly skirted the side. Stopping for a break me and Ben climbed down onto a rocky outcrop out of the slight breeze but bathed in sun. Simply stunning!

Heading on down the valley through the trees at Coed Bron-gynnes, we got to the road junction at Abergwesyn and turned  left up to the Trail centre at Cwm Trallwm. We were hoping the cafe would be open, but it wasn’t, and looked like it was being redecorated. So it turned into a quick stop to remove layers, as it was now 11:30, and the sun was bursting through the trees. I granny ringed my way up the long fireroad climb with Steve, meeting the others at the top where the black trail centre route turned off.

Paul pointed out where we were heading, on the horizon, just visible was a cairn, this was Carnau and that would be the lunch stop. Unfortunately we had to decend out of the forest, before climbing back up on boggy marsh to our goal. Some places were rideable, but others it was easier to push. After crossing several gullies we rode a gradual climb to the top and a well earned break.

The grassy decent on the other side took us along the side of Nant Paradwys and down into the Rhiwnant Valley. It was a real ‘thinking’ trail, with several different options to choose from. Riding at 75% was better than 100% and to be honest was probably the fastest, as when really pushing it you’d end up not having enough time to choose the right line. Then you’d end up all over the place and have to slow down to get back onto the right line.

A bit of a navigational screw up had us going too far along the side of the hill, so we had to double back to get down to the road bridge at the end of Caban Coch Reservoir. We now skirted the Eastern shore riding in the strobe effect created by the large pines that clung to the hill below us. Over the bridge that splits Caban Coch and Garreg-Ddu we stopped for a break before riding up the Eastern shore of Garreg-Ddu and Pen-Y-Garreg. At Craig Coch Reservoir we skirted the hill before hitting the final big climb of the weekend, up and over the top of Esgair Perfedd, stopping for the final break on the mossy grass, the sun was scorching now and Red Kites circled above us. Putting the backpack on, it was good to think that the next time I took it off I wouldn’t have to put it back on!

A gradual traverse got us onto the mountain road, where a small road climb got us to the top of the “Links Golf” byway at Penrhiw-wen with a drop of 222m (730ft) in 3 miles a superb way to end the ride. I’d ridden this with Ben in 2011 so had a rough idea of what to expect 🙂 and it didn’t disappoint. The six of us flew down it, Ivan, who claims to be “Crap at downs” flew down behind me and Ben, although he did admit when we reached the bottom, that on one corner he expected to die!

To finish, a slow road ride back into Rhayader. Ben’s car was still there, and in one piece so that was a relief. A round of hand shakes with “great riding with you” and Steve, Jake and Paul headed off. We took off our backpacks, loaded the bikes, changed out of our smelly kit, and Ben pointed the car west……

Maybe it’s an overused term, but that was EPIC!

Total climbing – 1357m (4452ft)

Ride – #51     Bike – Gary Fisher Paragon 29’er

Miles – 33.4     Total 2012 miles – 1137.6

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