Friday, October 27, 2017

Adventure- Cycle Touring with a Trad Rack

                        Cycling through Llanberis - Photo courtesy of Ellie Fuller 

We planned to finally walk the Pennine Way this summer as it has been on our adventure list for years. A few weeks before we were meant to set off, I have injured my foot whilst running. It was sore with every step so walking 280 miles was out of the question. If you are training for a particular event or you have been planning and training and putting a lot of effort into something, getting injured really sucks.  The solution to not getting disheartened is to become a Jack of all trades. In the world where everything is so specialised and results driven, there is something quite refreshing about giving yourself a permission to not strive to be the best at something but to enjoy many different things.
I love the idea that I can have adventures in more than one way. Sure I have my favourites where I put most of my energy into, but concentrating on a few different things means that there is always something that you can do. No matter what. Because it is the mind set and the challenge rather than just the vehicle of the adventure that gives you that satisfaction.

                 Feeling content after a full day of pushing my limits 

With that in mind we were looking for a plan B. We had 21 days, limited budget and were keen to stay within the UK. Cycle touring seemed like a great idea. It was my first adventure love and it is just a great way to spend your holidays. However, I was also keen to climb. We planned to be in Wales for 5 days learning how to lead trad climbing with a friend who is an instructor just before the trip. Decision was made. We would continue onwards in the direction of climbing venues starting in Wales. We watched a really inspiring short film about a climber called Kyle Dempster touring on a bike in Kyrgyzstan, so we thought, if he could do it there surely we can do it in the UK! (Sadly Kyle passed away after a climbing accident few years later). We didn’t own a rack by that point, had no clue about where we were going to go or how to trad climb for that matter, but we decided to embrace it and figure it out on the spot. That seemed to set the tone for the entire trip- no plans, just make it up as you go along. 


 The drying rack - literally! We got soaked a few hours before on a multi-pitch route at Tryfan

Bikes- I have sold my touring bike as I didn't plan a bike trip this year so I had to take my road bike with a back rack. I also had a 44-litre rucksack to fit everything in . The rucksack did come in handy when we got to the crag.  Craig used his touring bike with 4 panniers.
Trad rack- including two ropes and all of our climbing gear including shoes, helmets and harnesses.  
If you are not familiar with climbing, a trad rack is a set of different protection devices which you insert into cracks as you are climbing up. This is different to sport climbing where you clip an existing bolt which has been drilled into the rock. 
Camping and cooking gear- ultra light stuff to make sure that we save precious grams. We camped most nights apart from when we stayed with some friends
Clothes- Everything we took has multiple purpose which we could use for climbing, hiking and walking.
Food and Water – We carried some supplies, enough for a couple of days as well as our stainless steel Kleen Kanteens. 
Electronics - mobile phones and a charger point

            Getting some tip from the all round legend -Eric Jones in Tremadog 

The route was 100 percent dictated by the weather. We started in Ogwen Valley and headed south. We looked at climbing destinations that were cycling distance away and based our days on when the weather was supposed to come in. If you have a car you can usually find a dry rock somewhere in North Wales but on bikes it is a different story. I suppose that if you were somewhere in Europe, it would be a lot easier to plan your days. A few days of climbing followed by rest days (cycling) followed by leg rest days (climbing). At least that was the original plan until we realised that the August weather meant that we were usually cycling in the rain and climbing until the rain came in. 

   Waiting for the rain to stop whilst drinking tea - bringing a flask is a must! 

 I have never had an adventure where you have two objectives. Usually, with cycle touring, all you need to do is to get from A to B. You feel content when you achieve it. Because we were desperate to climb, it was frustrating at times to not be able to climb whenever we wanted (indoor spoiled climbers). You really had to live in the moment! That meant sometimes learning to not get frustrated and sometimes climb when I was too tired and wanted a rest day (we didn't know when the next dry day will be). We had to also adjust our mind set about how far we could cover on bikes. In the past, doing 80 - 100 km would be a normal day where as with this much gear, the maximum we have done in one day was 67km.  We realised that a UK tour was therefore a little bit overambitious and we were happy to manage to cycle around Wales. We ended up doing a mixture of trad and sport climbing as it was quite refreshing to clip a few bolts! We have ended up taking a train from Swansea to Portland for the last leg of the trip. We looked at the weather forecast and we could choose between rain for the next 7 days in Wales or a heat wave at Portland limestone crags. Decisions, decisions...

The heat wave in Portland did come! It was too hot to climb during lunch so we opted for the beach 

 Once we set up camp somewhere, having a bike was really useful. No warm up needed, just cycle to your destination. The reward was so worth it- world class climbing. 

                             Cycling into the sunset after a day climbing in Portland 

Climbing on different rocks with different styles every day made me realise just how much varied climbing there is around here. And we have only just scratched the surface. You can feel the history of British trad in Tremadog, get lost in apocalyptic looking Llanberis slate and  climb overlooking dolphins and seals in Rhossili just before the tide comes in. The bike gives you such freedom. 

            When the tide makes climbing impossible- embrace it and go for a swim! 

                     Probably my favourite place of the whole trip- Llanberis slate quarry 

         Looking back to what was an awesome day learning trad at Hollyhead Mountain 

                              The cliffs on Rhossili beach 

  Happy faces after our first multi-pitch at Tremadog- Hail Bebe 

Looking at what is arguably the best limestone crags in England - Portland Blacknor South 

Carrying everything that you need for a fulfilling life (shelter, food, climbing gear) and sharing that with your partner makes you feel at home anywhere. Not only is this a low cost way to travel but it is also good for the environment.

Wet but still smiling

Would I recommend it? Absolutely! I think cycle touring with sport climbing gear is a really good combination.  Cycle touring with trad in the UK, well you just have to be prepared for Type B fun a lot of the times. But there will also be incredible rewards, that you only get from braving the elements and working hard. I would not have changed one thing about our trip. It is the type of adventure which you don't truly appreciate until you go home, get warm and think - bloody hell that was amazing!


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