07 August 2021

The Slate Trail: getting ready

It was finally going to happen! My holiday in the local area. The Slate Trail was waiting for us. We would walk it from Penmachno, walking clockwise (which is opposite to the official direction; this matters because the guidebook gives you a description of the route going anticlockwise) to Bethesda, and from there the short way back to Penmachno. It’s quite a distance, but we thought we could do it. But we knew that if there was a problem we could bail out. This is North Wales; you are never that far away from the road. In case of injury or other issues we could just phone a friend and get taken out of the hills. But we hope that wouldn’t be necessary. I had done some preparations; I had bought what hopefully was a better waterproof jacket, and my tent had been repaired. So at least I should stay sheltered and dry!

One thing I had been a bit nervous about was my legs. Not too long ago we had gone on a walk that was only something like 15 km. My knee had started playing up! And it still hurt for a few days afterwards. And if my knee can’t cope with 15 km without that much ascent or descent, and only a day pack, then what would it do with 120 km with full gear? But we could only find out one way.

Another thing that wasn’t straightforward was the cat. I had argued we should do the long stretch first. I figured we should get the difficult bit out of the way first. The next stretch would probably only be one night away; she was used to this by now. I had practised this several times. Would she have chosen that if she were capable of such choices? We will never know. But it seemed the best decision to me. The neighbour would sometimes pop in to check if she still had food and water.

One thing that always takes me the most time is preparing for food. Breakfast is easy; porridge with added cranberries. Kate said she had a very big bag of porridge so I would take from that. It needed eating! For lunch I always make a potato mash concoction: potato mash, a sachet of cup a soup, and then added nuts and cheese. It keeps well in all weathers, and is quite light! And then the evening meals are difficult. It needs to be light, quick, calorific, and tasty. And it needs to also be able to withstand all weathers. We had taken three meals each. I had settled on one meal with noodles, peanut sauce, leek and mushrooms; one with couscous, chorizo, bell pepper, mushrooms and cheese; and one with pasta, mackerel, olives and different cheese. I don’t do vegetarianism when I am hiking. Kate had gone for expedition food; given that she does expeditions all the time she tends to have that sort of stuff. Maybe I am just too stingy to buy them! They are quite expensive. They are the easiest, though. Just add hot water! And I had brought some sausage, cereal bars, nuts and sweets as snacks.

The original plan was to leave on Friday evening. That way we could get a few kilometres out of the way, and get a night out in the hills really early on! But then Kate called. She had to be in Middlesbrough for work, but this was the first weekend of holidays for a lot of people, and the roads were stupidly busy. And when she would get home, she would have to eat, and then get her bag ready, and only then set off. And it would get a bit stressful. And the weather forecast wasn’t even so good for that night; it would be better than next day. So we decided to postpone until early the next morning. That way I also would get an extra night with the cat! I had my bag as ready as it could be the night before, so I just made sure I had some extra quality time with the cat, and set an early alarm. I had packed a lot of water, as I expected we would not have much drinking water on the hill we had expected to end up camping on the first night.

last evening of cuddles with the cat

The next morning I woke up at 6:30. That was a lot later than intended! But it would have to do. I went to the kitchen where the kettle wasn’t working. Neither was the radio. That explained why my alarm hadn’t gone off; a fuse must have blown. And it had!

I quickly had breakfast, finalised the bag, said goodbye to the cat, and jumped into the car. Time to start this adventure! I should have emptied my water bladder at least partially, but I struggle with throwing water away and I kept it all in. The bag was a bit heavy.

I got to Penmachno to find Kate still faffing around the kitchen. The other Kate appeared too. She offered coffee and cake. I wasn’t going to say no to that! And as I had the tent I gave her a meal. I had also brought my walking poles as Kate had said she preferred to walk with poles, but didn’t have any herself. It turned out that she had found a pair anyway, and they were a lot lighter than mine, so I left them behind, together with my keys.

After a while we were sort of ready. Kate insisted on weighing the bags. And that was a bit confrontational! Mine was 27 kg. Hers was 19. We decided maybe she should take the tent… We swapped that over. And then we really were ready to go. The Kate who stayed behind took a picture of us with our bags. And then we were go! Hundred and twenty km to go…

 ready to roll!

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