WRT 2016 Bikepacking trip
WRT, Bearbones bike packing weekend.
That time of year has come again when its time to pull out the bivi kit, sprawl it all around the house and revel in all the outdoor paraphernalia you have collected over the years. In-between slowly packing your dry bags you constantly check the weather forecast and what everyone else is doing to work out if your packing too much or too little.
Chat and excitement starts building on social media, tales of what to expect and stories of past get shared around as like minded people from all around the UK get ready make the annual pilgrimage to Mid Wales and the Home of BearBones Bikepacking for the WRT (Welsh Ride Thing)
In essence it is a weekend that you plan and you control, apart from the weather of course. Grid references are given out beforehand that if followed will ensure you you take in some amazing views, ride some great trails and most probably battle through some of Mid Wales’s most wild areas. Some stay out for one night others for two, one or two even don’t return to the comfort of their homes for three nights. We met one chap that was going to ride back to his home town of Wigan. (doffs his cap)
For most including myself it is a way setting a date on the calendar and meeting like minded people. Many don’t understand the wish to sleep outside let alone strapping additional weight to your bike to enable you to do so. The thought of sleeping in the woods, on a mountain top or a village hall porch (yes that did happen and it was brilliant, dry and sheltered) seem ridiculous to most of my friends. Add the fact that sometimes you sleep without a tent and under the stars in a bivi bag, their reaction can be rather comical. Admittedly sometimes when you are soaked, tired and yearning for that warmth, dryness and a cup of tea in your hand, you do question your sanity. Yet however many times that happens by the time you get home all is forgotten, we just add the word EPIC in front of any sentence when describing our adventure to others.
With weeks of good weather the thought of a dry WRT was rather exciting but worry not, balance was soon restored and in the upcoming days it rained and heavy rain was forecast for the weekend.
As we arrived a snow capped Cadair Idris could be seen in the Distance, hail stones were raining down on us and once again we were questioning our sanity. Our plan was a 120km route to Barmouth and back with only one night out due to other commitments, all of a sudden this seemed like a blessing in disguise as Sunday was looking awful.
The plan is to leave Bearbones Towers at 1pm after everyone has packed, repacked and double checked their bikes. Riders then gather at the start, tea and coffee is consumed and excitement builds as the annual lucky dip prize draw starts. Often great prizes are on offer and this year I was lucky enough to win a Wildcat Gear Lion handle bar system.
Excitement soon started to wain through the group as the heavy downpour of hailstones once again peppered us, with many jostling for a position under one of the gazebos but in true bike packing style the time came and a train of laden bikes made their way up the valley and on to each person preplanned route. This is the part I love, chatting with others as you ride and discussing where everyone is going and their hopes for the weekend. From here on its not uncommon to bump into another WRT participants in some of the most remote parts of Wales, other times you come across a tyre track and subconsciously try to work out which direction they travelled in and how long ago.
After a mix of lanes, tracks and forestry roads we pop out in Machynlleth. Whilst riding down the main street we noticed laden bikes propped up outside the many cafes, with only 20km in the legs was it a little soon for a stop? NAH of course it wasn’t, coffee and cake is all part of the experience.
After a caffeine boost and calorie levels restored to above when we started it was time to make our way across some of the most beautiful landscape the South of Snowdonia has to offer. All of the route from here was new to me and I was not disappointed in what was about to come. There were many hard climbs throughout the day but each gave us the the position we needed to take in views across the rugged hills and out to sea.
Although we had food and stoves, a decision was made to drop down into Barmouth to feast on fish and chips. We were by the seaside after all! We arrived above Barmouth Estuary as the sun was setting, a view I will remember for quite some time. With menacing clouds inland and the fading warmth of the sun setting out at sea it was time to make our last big descent of the day.
With a belly full of fish, chips, sausage and curry sauce we made our way back across the railway bridge and went in search for a bivi spot. We decided on a spot along the estuary in the hope of waking to great views up and down the valley before the scheduled bad weather to be apon us.
Weather through the night was looking good so we decided on just a bivi bag and hunker down behind some wind blocks. With a quick hot drink and chat it was time to get our head down and off to sleep, an early start was on the cards to try and miss the incoming rain the next day. I woke at around 3am to be treated by crystal clear skies and the most perfect display of the night sky, this is one of the reasons I love sleeping outdoors.
By 06:30 we had a hot drink inside us and had packed our kit back onto the bikes, a decision to roll back quickly along the minor roads was made to try and limit how wet we got. As it turned out the rain came in later and we finished bone dry, not many would say the same from this years WRT.
Although we only had one night out it was still a great adventure and thanks must be made to Bearbones Bikepacking for another great excuse to be out. They also raised £2207.87 for Wales Air Ambulance which is just amazing.
Big thanks to the following for their help in my adventures
All images taken on the Olympus OM-D EM1