The idea was conjured up at a birthday party a few days prior to us leaving. “You doing anything next week Tom?”
“Fancy going on a micro-adventure?”
“Yeah, how about we cycle to Snowdon?”
We woke up late, the alarm had not gone off. Whoops! Keen to get going quickly we hurried down a bowl of porridge and a mug of tea each and then packed the remainder of our things into our bags. Finally at 9:50 we turned on the GPS, clipped in, and set off towards Snowdonia.
We weren’t to bothered about the latish start, we had all day to cycle the 100 miles so we wouldn’t be pushed too hard. However what we didn’t count on was getting lost in the first couple of kilometres. Unable to decipher which road to take we were stuck, less than a kilometre from Tom’s house, we really are good adventurers! Fortunately after a short delay we were on our way cycling at a decent pace through the morning fog. It was quite a dull day but we were excited for what was to come.
We stopped briefly in Lymm to remove some layers, it may have been cloudy but boy was it humid. The amount of sweating was also increased by our heavy backpacks, which contained almost all our supplies to last us the two days. The cycling itself was really good, perfectly flat and all on B-roads or smaller so there was little or no traffic. Perfect for peaceful and picturesque cycling. We had just turned down one of these ‘smaller roads’ when the road surface started to deteriorate rapidly. Before we knew it we had been directed down a road which was marked as a dead end and which now ceased to be. We were on our carbon road bikes and cycling along a dirt track, dodging potholes, glass, and other waste. Where were we? Rather than turn back and look for a different way around we decided to persevere with the dirt track. Hopefully soon it would lead us back to civilization. We crossed over the M56 motorway and there it was, the dirt track continued, wiggling it’s way across the fields and to what looked like a chemical plant.
It was not a chemical plant. Well it was one of sorts it was a sewage plant. I needn’t go into the smell. However suffice to say that we could taste it. We continued to cycle, our bikes plastered with god only knows what by now. We had been going for six kilometres down the track before finally a road surface developed. It was barely there but it existed and it was infinitely better than what lay before it. We had made it back to civilization.
Rather than immediately turn down a similar path we decided to take a diversion on an A-road for the next section. We flew, our average speed increased, and we were about to enter Wales. We were loving it, even the terrible dirt track made it feel like an adventure. We decided after nearly three hours we needed a proper break so just before the border we stopped to devour our egg and bacon sandwiches. A lunch that felt well deserved! I was starting to tire now though, this was the longest cycle I had done this summer, however worryingly the hills hadn’t even started yet and we had over 2000 metres of ascent to do before the evening. It was about to get a whole lot harder.
After our brief lunch we cycled the final few kilometres into Wales! We had made it into our destination country. Furthermore we had made it whilst cycling on one of the greatest cycle paths either of us had ever cycled on. It could well and truly rival some of the Dutch cycle-paths. We crossed the river Dee and entered our first Welsh town of Shotton. From here on in things got pretty hilly.
We elected to keep on pushing as the afternoon was drawing on and we had still only covered barely 70 kilometres. We still weren’t even halfway. We turned off the highstreet in Shotton and immediately encountered our first proper hill. Up and up it went but our legs kept turning and remarkably (as we were tiring by now) we were able to climb it without difficulty. However it wasn’t too long before we left the security of the B-roads. Cast out into the abyss of farmers tracks and rugged footpaths once more. We were now encountering ‘real hills’. Our legs screamed for oxygen, the lactic acid built up in our bodies, our shoulders and backs ached from the strain of our backpacks. Then it was our bikes’ turn to scream in agony. They could not go any further. We turned our legs yet our tyres just skidded on the moist asphalt. The incline was too great, almost 30 degrees on some hills. If we stood up our bikes would lose all traction. If we sat down our bags would move our weight backwards and lift our front wheel off the ground. It was hard work. We had to will our bikes, and ourselves, to the top of each and every hill.
Why on earth had we chosen to tackle so many hills? A poignant question we asked ourselves often over the course of the afternoon. One positive thing about the hills though was that there were no cars, it was peaceful and very picturesque. However it can often be tricky absorbing your environment when you have sweat trickling down into your eyes causing a horrible burning sensation.
At the top of one hill Tom and I finally agreed to take a break, the next pub or supermarket we came across we would stop and get some food and drink. We had been cycling for many hours now and all we had eaten were a couple of bananas, a sandwich and a bowl of porridge each. We were lacking in calories. More importantly though we were lacking in fluids, combined we had a mere 400ml of water. However we had not seen a supermarket all day and the pubs were few and far between, especially on these small country roads.
Just as we came upon the realisation that we might be in for quite a wait we rounded the corner and there it was, a pub. Even better it had a number of bicycles outside. Definitely cycle friendly. We parked up our bikes and went in to inquire about the Ales and food. Closed. It was 3:03, we were informed by a very helpful bartender that they closed from 3 till 5 and there was nothing he could do. Great. Once again we were stranded. However despite the gruelling hills, the now very cloudy weather, the lack of sustenance, we were in surprisingly great moods. It is amazing how many things can go wrong and yet you still be in a great mood because you are on an adventure. I think our previous micro-adventures and expeditions had prepared us for this, we knew things always go wrong. However in the grand scheme of things do they really matter? Are they worth getting down about? If you can, try and chin-up then everything will work out in the end.
As luck would have it after another 7 kilometres we neared in on the bigger town of Denbigh, and more importantly Denbigh’s Lidl! Food at last. It was a great feeling and felt very deserved. We went in and purchased an array of pastas, sandwiches, donuts and sweets. Oh and a couple of beers. We ate and drank, celebrating our success at cycling up all the hills we had. By this point we had cycled up over a mile of ascent and we agreed that we would rather cycle up the Alps again than those roads. We were just hoping our way home the following day would be mostly downhill. Although we seriously doubted it would be.
After nearly an hour of eating we were nicely brimmed with food. Our aim still stood solid, we would make it to Snowdonia. As the afternoon mulled into evening we mounted our bikes for the final push before we made camp. The next few kilometres ceased to get any flatter. In fact I think they probably go a bit steeper, however we decided to just take small breaks at the top of each hill, otherwise we thought we might see our food again.
We plodded along, our phones gradually losing more bars of signal until we knew we were remote. Finally we reached the Snowdonia region and then we began looking for a place to wild camp. All day we had seen great spots and fortunately this was no exception. Almost immediately we found a great place to camp. It was a small section of a field, undercover by trees and out of sight of the road thanks to a hedgerow. We found the flattest, driest section of the field and positioned our bikes. We then tied the tarp between them so that the bikes acted as tarp-poles. Then we unloaded our bivvys, unpacked our sleeping bags and we were ready to go to bed. We actually were, we were absolutely knackered, perhaps we had bitten off more than we could chew cycling this far. However it had been a whole lot of fun so far and no doubt tomorrow the fun would continue.