Another beautiful day, which despite a terrible night’s sleep, promised new vistas, new challenges and new cycling adventures. No rough stuff today though, all road with the exception of a mile of track down from my camp into Llandrillo.
I didn’t hang about in Llandrillo, though it looked pretty enough, but struck out in a westerly direction toward Bala. Stopping at a nice pub, The Bryntirion Inn, to fill the water bottle, I got chatting to the owner who, it turned out, had only just been up the Wayfarer, for the first time, the previous week. He’d done it in a four-wheel drive and thought that was bad enough. When I told him I was going up Cwm Hirnant, like the gardener at the West Arms Inn the day before, he was circumspect. “The last part is very steep.” Well, I guess that’s often the way with hills.
As Bryntirion man was so friendly (albeit not very encouraging), and it being coffee time, I bought a coffee and then, due the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, decided to have lunch whilst I was there. Might as well. I kept the alcohol consumption down to a single pint today but even then it’s probably best avoided altogether. The meal was lovely by the way—lamb shank—enjoyed in a cool, sunken backyard.
The Secret Valley
With the A494 connecting the A5 to Bala, the B4402 that I was pootling along was pretty quiet: local traffic and tourists for the most part. It was even quieter when I turned onto the narrow country lane for the hamlet of Rhos-y-gwaliau, where I then joined regional cycle route 12, a circular tour, anticlockwise from Bala to Llanuwchllyn, Llyn Efyrnwy (Lake Vyrnwy) and back to Bala. I was going clockwise though, and only as far as Llyn Efyrnwy.
This route immediately took me into the bucolic Cwm Hirnant valley. Because this road doesn’t connect anywhere in particular to anywhere else in particular, apart from a few local farmers, I suspect the only other traffic would be tourists. However, being such a gorgeous day, there were a few folk out and about, so the road wasn’t as quiet as might have been. Still, it was quiet enough and very pretty indeed—having that sense of being a bit of a hidden valley, tucked away beyond the ken of the day-tripping masses.
Another Hard Climb
Though a gentle enough gradient for the most part, I was feeling somewhat exhausted after such a poor night’s sleep, so when I got to the big climb I wasn’t sure that I’d make it. It doesn’t look very steep in the picture but when it comes to hills, camera’s lie. After taking the photo, I organised myself into a determined and concerted hill-fighting unit and pushed off, pedalling like mad on the last little bit of down slope to give myself a bit of momentum for the uphill. It worked too! I must have been carried at least five meters further than I otherwise would. After that it was the granny gear and ride for two minutes, push for two, ride for two, push for two and so on until I got fairly close to the top where the road then got really steep. Bryntirion man was right.
I took a break for ten minutes, during which I gave very serious consideration to turning round and cycling all the way back down even though I only had a few hundred meters to go to the top. I was just so shattered! I’ve cycled over the Alps and the Sierra de las Nieves, not to mention a handful of other ranges, without getting off to push, but then I guess that was 20 years ago. No going back then. Come on son, onward and upward!
What an absolute joy to reach the top, even if the view wasn’t particularly attractive, unless that is, you like barren scrubby moor. What added to the joy was the fact that it was all downhill from here on, every meter until Llyn Efyrnwy, then pretty much flat to my camp spot.
A Wild Descent into Gladness
I think I peaked at about 32 mph (52 km/h) and though it was feasible to go faster I didn’t want to risk getting completely smashed to pieces; moderately smashed to pieces would be enough. Seriously though, I’m a professional so if you’re thinking of hurtling down this hill make sure to have a responsible adult with you. What a rush!
Arriving at the lake in one piece, I took the road hugging the southwest shore through cool, pine-scented shade as evening quietly settled over this yawning valley and its softly lapping lake. Ahhh, peace and the chance to relax for a few hours before dark, then a good night’s sleep, ready for the final day of this Berwyn odyssey.