10 August 2021

Slate Trail: second and last leg

The morning after our mammoth march to Bethesda we set off again. Time to complete our Slate Trail loop! It was a bit weird to be off only some 14 hours after getting to the house completely exhausted, but we undeniably were! We didn't get far initially, though. Kate wanted to get another stamp in town, and the location where you can get it is a stone's throw from my house. I waited for her. The neighbour walked past with her little dog; we had met her in the final hundreds of metres back to the house the day before, and now I was actually in the position to chat a bit. And then we were really off! Soon we were diverting from the official route; it didn't send us via the beautiful route to the cycle path, so I suggested we rebel. Kate liked my suggestion. We would now first spend some time on my standard running route, and then some more time on the old road to Ogwen cottage, which is a route I have run once and biked many times. I wouldn't see anything new for a while! But that's okay. The weather was beautiful, the company was good, and my body seemed to still work. So all was well! And Kate knew this terrain a lot less well, of course. We had our first break just after Maes Caradoc. We know we had all the time in the world! We only needed to get to Capel Curig. And when we got higher in the valley, I could point out all the things that I had had pointed out to me during the World War II walk not too long ago. And when we got to Ogwen cottage we had the next break. It was another stamping station, and they happened to sell coffee and cake, and I had now felt the need to tape up my other ankle.

Nant Ffrancon

Blaen y Nant

The left ankle needed inventive taping

After a break we walked behind Llyn Ogwen. I have done that path several times to, but I didn't mind; it is pretty, and not too strenuous. Neither of us are feeling overly energetic! And we had a look at the pillbox there.

After the lake we crossed the road and took the path of which I am still convinced it is an old railway. I had seen on old maps is used to split close to Capel Curig, and only railways need such long stretches for vehicles to pass each other. An old drove road wouldn't have had that! And I knew that path too, of course, but it is pretty so I still wasn't complaining. And we found some shadow in which to eat our pizza. And we heard the familiar sound; on pretty much daily basis, you hear plane sounds in the village, but I have never ever seen the aircraft that produce them. And now I have! They are propeller planes that RAF pilots train in before they get to fly the jets. It will be different the next time I hear them!

The suspected tramline in the Ogwen Valley

Even though the road had been smooth, I was pretty tired when we got to the village. As expected, Kate went into the shop to get a stamp. And she bought some new socks! Excellent idea. And we decided to have another break not too far away. We found an excellent tree to lean against. And there was a stream nearby! I first cooled my feet in the stream, and then I made myself comfortable against the tree. I put my feet up and just enjoyed the scenery. Kate was doing all sorts of things on her phone, but I was just looking at the horizon. I was in the state of mind in which that was more than enough for me! We also met a bloke coming down the hill who had been trying to photograph military planes, but hadn't been very successful. And a group of DoE hikers going the other way. We again were not in a hurry.

View on Snowdon from underneath a comfortable tree

When we finally moved again we didn't have far to go. Kate had already scouted a suitable camping area before we even had started. We only had to find the best spot now! And I thought I found it. Flat, right by a stream, and with an amazing view on Moel Siabod. Kate was convinced and we threw down our bags. We first did nothing for a bit, then we had a wash, then we had food, and then it actually got a bit chilly. Kate went into the tent. I just put on more clothes and enjoyed the evening. But it wasn't particularly late by the time I retreated indoors as well!

Camping spot with view on Moel Siabod

When we got up, the weather looked a bit menacing. We expected rain from 8 AM onwards, so we didn't hang around. We had our breakfast and packed up. Time to get to Ty Hyll! And the route was quite pretty. We got to the café at 8:30, and the rain had barely started yet. We had another break on a rock in the river. I had signal there, so I sent a message to Miles. He had wanted to join us on one of our days, but practicalities had got in the way of that. He had now let me know he was going to be at Go Below headquarters until 12:30, and hoped to meet us when we were coming past. And it looked doable! So we then set off on the path along the river in the direction of Betws-y-Coed. It does scoot up the hill at some point, but not too far. And the waymarkers sent us over a stretch of asphalt. The route in the book suggested otherwise! But it was fast so we stuck with it. And soon after we left the road we came back to the river, where we should have seen the Miner's Bridge. We didn't, though, as it had been washed away in spring, and clearly hadn't been rebuilt yet. Oh dear! We continued our way to the village. On the outskirts I stuck a piece of silicon to my right foot as it was hurting. That did help a bit! And further on, again, was a stamping station. And we had another break. But not long one; we wanted to get to Conwy Falls by noon. So soon we were on our way again.

Cloudy morning with the need for a midge balaclava

Somewhat atypical forest track with a big rut

scenic river view near Betws y Coed

The first stretch from the field where we had had the break was a bit trying; lots of asphalt which hurts the feet. But once we left the road at Fairie Glen things improved. We were a bit hot; we had dressed to the weather forecast, and it was actually sunny. But we wanted to get to Conwy Falls so we kept walking. And we made it! Even before noon. Now we had the task of finding Miles. I had never been to either the café or the office, so I just asked the nearest Go Below employee where I should go. And I found him! Kate had gone ahead and found herself a picnic table. I shamelessly gave my bag to Miles to carry it there. He offered bring us some drinks. While he was gone I retreated behind a tree and changed back into my tanktop and shorts. I was quite done with walking around overdressed! And that way we had a really nice lunch there. Miles brought us jacket potatoes, and we had an opportunity to catch up. It was really nice! But when it got to 12:30 he had to leave, so we did too. Time for the last 3.5 km stretch!

drinks with Miles

I felt properly re-energised, and judging by her speed, so was Kate. We had to do a little bit of road from there, until we ended up on a wide gravel road. Not my favourite, as anyone who has read the first instalment knows! But I knew it wasn't going to last very long. And after a while we got tantalising views over the village, and could immediately pick out Kate's house. Our goal! So close now!

Views on Penmachno

We descended back to the valley floor over a narrow and steep path. And when we were about halfway it started raining. Finally! We had been expecting this since 8 AM. And now it was approaching 2 PM. We didn't bother with jackets or anything; we were so close now! We would be under a roof in no time.

home stretch! In the village now

When we reached her house, Kate dumped her backpack, went up the steps to the front door, greeted the other Kate, and then went down to the garage to open the door. We had reached our destination! We had done the entire loop of the Slate Trail! We had done 120 kilometres in six days. Or maybe 5 1/2; this day was far from over. We dragged the bags into the garage, and took off our shoes. Kate then immediately wanted to weigh our bags. They were as light as they could be! We had eaten most of the food, and I had no water left. They were both 13 kg. A lot less than in the beginning! But that was enough playing. I wanted to sit on my bum. We went upstairs and Kate made us a hot beverage. Excellent! We told her about our adventures, and she commented that we by now sounded like a married couple. I suppose so! But in a good way. We still liked each other, and no level of exhaustion seemed to be able to do anything about that. We can do this again!

After the tea and biscuit I took my walking poles and my keys again, quickly repacked my bag (it now had to contain my boots), and went back to my car that was patiently waiting for me. The adventure was over, and I really looked forward to a serious period of relaxing at home! With the cat!

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