“…This was my first bivvy under the stars and as a result, I had decided to bring a tarp so if the weather did change, I (and my expensive down sleeping bag) at least had some shelter from the rain. As I was setting up the tarp, I noticed some lights at the other end of the lake. It’s amazing that even in this remote part of the country, you still bump into other people. They seemed equally disappointed as one head lamp shouted to the other “Bugger, someone’s already there!””…
Inspired by Alastair Humphreys
For sometime I’ve been waiting for the ideal opportunity to sleep under the stars on a mountain; otherwise known as a wild bivvy. So I left work today at 4pm, came home, packed the rucksack, double checked the weather forecast, packed the car and was away by 5pm. Tom Tom was warning of plenty of Friday afternoon, school holiday traffic so I took the M6 Toll. After breaking away from the A5, Tom Tom took me along the most awesome mid-Wales roads I’ve ever driven on. Following some B-roads to Bala then joining the A4212. The sun was low in the sky, the tarmac was good, the road meandered though hills, past lakes, through woods, and the best bit was that unlike the roads to northern Snowdonia, I was not stuck behind a 35mph caravan. Just me and the road. The journey there was a microadventure on its own!
My car’s destination was a camp site at Cwm Bychan, the site’s owner lets you leave your car there overnight for a fee of £5. I arrived at about 9pm, there was not going to be much sunlight and I was resigned to arriving at my desired bivvy spot in the dark. I geared up, locked the car and headed off up the Roman Steps.
The first part of the walk was a bit confusing, after following the route that I thought the map was telling me, I hit barbed wire fences where I could see the path up the mountain on the other side. So, frustratingly, I had to follow the fence back along and down where I’d come to find a stile. This wasted about 15 minutes of sunlight.
The path up to the top of the Roman Steps was pretty easy going and I made good progress, however by the time I’d got to the top, it was dark and navigating my way from here on along the rocky, very windy track was proving difficult and slow requiring many checks of the GPS.
The route veers to the south and then up towards Llyn Du. I arrived at the lake and began to look as best I could for a suitable spot to bivvy with only my head torch for illumination. The ground I was standing on seemed ok, but I wasn’t really happy about being right next to the path. I had read that there was a good spot the other side of the lake so I began to walk around the north side of the lake. There were many boulders and it took quite a while to negotiate my way over them, but sure enough the ground started to flatten and the rocks gave way to grass. In fact, the perfect spot seemed to be marked with a ring of scorched stones, clearly someone before me had made a fire here. I moved the stones over and began to settle down for the night.
This was my first bivvy under the stars and as a precaution, I had decided to bring a tarp so if the weather did change, I (and my expensive down sleeping bag) at least had some shelter from the rain. As I was setting up the tarp, I noticed some lights at the other end of the lake. It’s amazing that even in this remote part of the country, you still bump into other people. They seemed equally disappointed as one head lamp shouted to the other “Bugger, someone’s already there!”. They settled themselves in the other flat grassy spot next to the path.
I had brought my Panasonic LX3 camera along which I’ve used in the past to take long-exposure sky photographs with reasonable success. Tonight, however, the camera seemed to struggle since the sky was so dark, there was no moon and the camera seemed to pick up very little of the light from the stars. I was, however, completely amazed at how many stars I could see. In fact, there were so many it was very difficult to make out any constellations.
Eventually, I got tired and decided to settle down into my bivvy bag. I was very comfortable and the dark sky and sparkling stars were amazing. As I lay there watching shooting stars and satellites zoom by I started to feel as though something wasn’t right. Maybe it was the knowledge that I wasn’t alone up at that lake but I began to miss the security of my beloved tent. I know a tent doesn’t really provide that much protection, but at least you get the warning of a zip opening first! I admit, this feeling was somewhat irrational but I was not prepared to feel quite so exposed and as a result, I did not sleep well throughout the night.
The sky began to lighten around 4:30am and at about 5:10am I decided to get up and watch the sunrise. It was spectacular. I had really chosen a great day for my first bivvy experience. The air was mild and still as I sat there in a T-Shirt having left the comfort of my sleeping bag. I cooked breakfast and sat there watching the sky get brighter illuminating the mountain on the other side of the lake.
By 6am the sun was up, I was packed and ready to move off. The path up Rhinog Fawr was not clear or easy to navigate and at times was quite steep and felt a little exposed. However, by 7am I was at the summit and admiring the view out to Barmouth and the sea, inland towards the rolling hills of mid-Wales, and north towards the pointy peak of Snowdon. It was clear, mild and still.
I decided to descend the way I’d come but on the way back down, walking past the lake again, the water looked very inviting. I decided then to make two “firsts” on this trip; I would also have my first Wild Swim in a mountain lake. I stripped off to my shorts, left my sweaty clothes on the rocks and eased myself in. The water was cool but not cold and it felt refreshing. I swam out towards to the middle of the lake and as I turned and looked back, some other hikers were walking along the path intending to ascend Rhinog Fawr. I shouted salutations to them, and apologised as best I could for the sweaty clothes they had to pass by.
I returned to the rocks to get dry and dressed. Feeling refreshed, my hike down the mountain and back to the car park passed quickly and before long I was on my way home. I arrived back at 13:30pm. That’s probably the most adventure I’ve ever managed to cram into 20 hours.
Alpkit Hunka Bivvy
Rab Neutrino Endurance Sleeping Bag
Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm
DD Tarp 3mx3m
Black Diamond Walking Poles
Lightwave FastPack 40 Rucksack
Alpkit Manta Head Torch
JetBoil Zip Stove
Panasonic LX3 Camera
Zamberlan Vioz GT Walking Boots
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
Garmin eTrex 20 GPS