TwoLegsTwoWheels

A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad

Apr
15

The adventure begins…

114 km / 71 mi

So, this is the first entry about my three peaks trip; this blog’s raison d’etre. I’m writing it somewhat retrospectively, but if you can imagine me writing it at the end of each day’s travel, from now on I’ll pretend I’m writing it at the time; it makes it feel more real…

This morning I woke up early, excited that the day was finally here. I’ve been planning the trip for a while now; it’s the longest bike trip I’ve yet undertaken and by far the most ambitious. Ten days is the target, to cycle across the hilliest parts of Britain and climb the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland: Snowdon (1085m), Scafell Pike (978m) and Ben Nevis (1344m). My companions will be Polly and Simon, although due to work commitments Simon can only join us after we climb Snowdon.

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With my bags packed last night, all that I had to do this morning was have breakfast and get to the station in time for the train to Shrewsbury, from where I was to start my trip. I managed to make my first mistake before I’d even left the house: I left my cycling gloves lying by the door, since I’d taken them off to lock it and forgotten to put them back on. I realised this as I arrived at the station, about 10 minutes cycle from my house with about 15 minutes before my train. Oh well. The train ride to Shrewsbury was pretty uneventful, although I was brimming inside with excitement; I was on the way, and it looked like being perfect weather! There was one other cyclist heading my way on the train, a hardcore downhiller by the look of his bike and kit - full suspension, twin disc brakes, and he was sporting a kevlar/polycarbonate waistcoat. We eyed up each other’s bikes in silence, pretending to observe each other with disdain. I left the train at Shrewsbury as planned, and experienced a pang of surprise and disappointment as I left the station: I recognised the station, having caught a train from there before, on the way back from Wales. However, I soon got over that as I was out onto the road, with nothing but a 1:500000 map to guide me. This morning was not the best part of the day - the early part of my route took me along a fairly busy road, and although there was a cyclepath alongside it was for the most part hideously bumpy and overgrown. I alternated between cycling on the road (not particularly pleasant, with weekday traffic) and the cyclepath (also unpleasant). Fortunately, that didn’t last long, and I was soon onto the back roads of Wales, weaving my way towards Snowdonia. It wasn’t long before the mountains made there presence felt, and it was around noon when I hit The Climb. Now, most of my cycling is around Cambridge. For those who aren’t familiar with the area, it is rather flat. In fact if you head north or west from the city the landscape does a rather good impression of a well-ironed pancake. DSCF2311.JPGTo the south it is hillier, but none of the hills last for more than a couple of minutes. I suppose I was expecting this one to be the same, so I powered up the first stretch to the bend - only to find the same again waiting for me around the corner, hidden from view earlier by the pine trees of a forestry commission plantation. When this happened twice more - still on the same climb - I decided to slow the paced a bit, kidding myself that I had a choice in the matter. When the trees cleared and I could see the same again and more continuing up to a distant pass, I briefly considered giving the whole thing up there and then. A swig of water and a cereal bar got me back on the bike however, that and the knowledge that the nearest station was back in Shrewsbury. After what seemed an eternity of climbing, but in reality was probably no more than 30 minutes, I was rewarded with a spectacular vista of north Wales spreading out beneath me. (Later note: looking back, this was probably the longest continuous stretch of climbing on the whole trip. Just my luck for it to be in the first half day!) I then had a descent which was probably the equal of the climb, and best of all there was not a car in sight.

The weather warmed up as I dropped down into the next valley, and I found a lovely little spot for lunch in the shade of an apple tree.

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Lunchtime!
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Sadly, however, my luck with the weather didn’t hold, and the rain - which had been looking ever more likely as I headed further into Snowdonia throughout the afternoon - finally started as I climbed up to Capel Curig. I arrived at the junction by the church, our arranged meeting point, at 7.30pm - bang on time. I think that’s pretty good timing after 70 miles riding! Polly was already waiting in the shelter outside a row of shops; this was clearly country for outdoors people, since one of the shops had a weather forecast for tomorrow in the window. It sounds promising! We now had a choice: Snowdon lay to our west, uphill, naturally enough. We could either press on towards Snowdon, hoping to find somewhere suitable to camp for the night, or we could head east, back down the hill, but where I was certain there were campsites. We decided to head down; it’s always slightly depressing cycling downhill knowing that you’ll have to head back up again, but this was doubly so, since I’d only just cycled up the very same bit of hill! However, it wasn’t far, and we soon had the tent pitched and our wet gear out to dry.
Once the tent was up we had time to see about the day’s most important activity: dinner! Which we cooked in the shelter of a barn. I think that dinner was about the most welcome rice I’ve ever had!
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