A Cambrian Way Rethink

Those who had the stamina to endure my recent succession of Cambrian Way planning posts may have been wondering why it suddenly seemed to go a bit quiet.  The truth is I’ve had to alter my plans. But unlike several other people recently who’ve had to change their walking or running plans, it’s thankfully not because of injury though. (Although I did give myself a scare this week when a day walk followed a couple of hours later by intense badminton saw me fall to the ground wrenching my left ankle. It’s ok, but I did overdo it having not done that much exercise recently.)

So if not injury, what’s the reason why plans have to change ? Well, it’s the rather boring one of work. I simply can’t afford to take 3 and a bit weeks out in one go, because my current client projects just don’t have a gap of that size in – indeed, just at the time I’d intended to be in Wales, the project is coming to a head.

So the upshot of all this is that the plan to do the Cambrian Way in one go in April/May is dead in the water. Indeed, according to my original plan I’d actually have started it today, and I can assure you I’m not writing this from a stealthy woodland wild camp just north of Cardiff, but rather from my desk at home.

The evolution of my diary left me with a decision to make: to reschedule the whole walk, to break it into sections, or to abandon it. The first doesn’t really work in my diary either, the last is not something I want to do, and so I’m left with the middle option.

At the heart of the decision is answering the question “Would I still do the Cambrian Way if I couldn’t do it in one go?” And the answer to that is clearly a resounding yes. So I’m going to go for the two stage approach. The hope now was to find a window of time big enough among my project commitments – likely to be 9-11 days – for the first stage, and then to do the rest in July, which should take a couple of weeks, which is about the biggest gap I can create.

Re-planning Part 1

The decision as to where to cut the walk into two parts is actually quite simple and obvious – Llandovery. This comes at the end of the second stage (as I’ve described it in my planning posts) and has the advantage of being on a railway. Indeed, Llanovery always was going to be a key milestone on the walk and a key escape point if it went wrong. So all I need to do now is re-plan the travel.

But there’s another niggling issue that has been worrying me – the eternal question of the 6 day slog across the Brecon Beacons without major re-supply. After my Lakes trip last month, I’d pretty much decided that I would manipulate my Cambrian Way route to create a break point in the middle of that section, even if it meant missing something out. As luck would have it, the Cambrian Way book anticipates this exact situation, and so I think I’ll now be taking the Talybont variant. This involves an overnight detour to the other end of the Talybont Reservoir for a hostel or B&B, nicely breaking the 6 days stretch into two 3 day stretches.

The Talybont variant (dark green) compared with the standard route (light green)

The Talybont variant (dark green) compared with the standard route (light green)

The other advantage of this is it doesn’t miss anything major at all, as I’d planned to drop down to the reservoir for the route over Allt Lwyd anyway. But now instead of a wild camp on Bryniau Gleision, I’m hoping for a night not camping.

Given my state of fitness, I still have some concerns about the length of some of the days, so I’ve also been re-assessing the mileage and ascent. My original schedule worked out at an average of 15.5 miles and 971m of ascent every day, and I know from past walks that combination is going to be a struggle on just a one-off day, let alone every single day. Worse still, that’s only the average, so in reality some days are going to be longer and harder. So a key element of the re-plan of this southern section is adjusting the number of days to bring these averages down to something more realistic. After all if I find I can sustain the original optimistic schedule, I won’t have lost anything.

I’ve concluded that if I can work to between 9.5 and 10.5 walking days, I’ll get the figures down to something workable. And, I often find that the ascent figures calculated by Anquet (on which my schedule is based) are a bit high compared with what I actually do, so that will also help.

Now this could in theory mean a lot of replanning my overnighting locations, but I’ve decided not to do that, and simply to aim for my former schedule and treat the extra 1-2 days as pure contingency. So for that reason I’m not going to book accommodation in advance – I’m going to turn up and take my chance if I fancy a hostel or tame camp. Indeed, “JFDI” is very much the approach I’m taking now. I’m not going to expend lots of energy and time planning or prepping – I’m simply going to book my train ticket, pack and go.

The plan now is to head to Wales next Saturday and return from Llandovery on the Tuesday or Wednesday of bank holiday week.

I can’t wait.

3 thoughts on “A Cambrian Way Rethink

  1. Work is that necessary evil, isn’t it, which often gets in the way of what you’re really wanting to do!
    I split my Pennine Way into bits for the same reason, doing several stretches near home over weekends, and then the final two thirds of it over the Spring Bank fortnight. I totally agree that not being able to do it in one go, is not a reason not to do it at all!

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    • I think I knew that if I put it off (again, having already done so in 2011) until I could do it in one hit, I’d never actually do it. And to be honest, I’m not even sure I could do it in one go.

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