Welsh C2C

A 275 mile Coast to Coast walk from Cardiff to Conwy, following the Cambrian Way path.

Completed 9/08/10

The Route

Over the dragon's back...if you dare!



A minor miracle that I made it at all!



Or the lack of...



Not such a problem in Wales funnily enough.


Footwear and Footcare

The most important thing to get right.



Due to the lack of power and therefore photographic proof of location, I asked kindly fellow walkers if they would verify my location by email. Here are copies of those emails I have received so far and many thanks to the authors for sending them.

In North to South descending order:

...I confirm that i saw Paul Briscoe on Glyder Fawr at 16.50 on the 8th August 2010
...Hi Paul i met you at the bottom of snowdon on the 8/8/10. I hope everything is going well.
...Hi Paul, I met you as you were descending the Rhinogs into Cwm Bychan on Friday 6th Aug in wet-ish conditions. Hope you've completed successfully by now!! WELL DONE! If you have. Awesome effort - inspiring. I will keep an eye on your blog etc.
...We saw Paul at the summit of Cader Idris on Wednesday 4 August at 6.00 pm
...Dear Paul,Good to see you at the top of Tal-y-llyn pass 4.20pm 4.8.10 and pleased to see you had made Cader's top. All the very best for the Rhinogs and beyond.
...Hi Paul, just a quick note to say me and my walking buddy met you at SH 81122 14615 Dovey forest area, we were Nuttall bagging. Didnt realise you were from Warwickshire as that's where we are from. Good Luck with walk.
...Passed through Dinas Mawddwy area around 7pm tonight, Tuesday 3rd August. Good Luck with your journey.
...Strata Florida Abbey, Pontrhydfendigiad at 3.00pm sat 31/07/10

Trip photo's

Unfortunately due to lack of power I was unable to take many photo's.

Trip Report

An account of the trip completed on the 9/08/10 after taking 20 days (19 days 23 hours castle to castle or 20 days 1 hour sea to sea.)


Staring at the “hand puppet” like shadows cast on the familiar underside of my tents fly and remembering the warmth and security its fragile single skin provided so solidly on my English Coast to Coast trip, twelve months prior - I relaxed. Relieved at being horizontal and not vertically compressed by gravity-laden kilograms - transferred by creaky vertebrae to throbbing size nines, I felt strangely at home, secreted in the bushes and away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Reflecting on the day’s events,

the formalities of photos and ritual foot dipping - witnessed by a multitude of quizzical coffee sipping tourists, gave way to goodbyes, instant loneliness and pressure. Pressure, born by the enormity of the task ahead and fear of failure (I had abandoned an attempt on the Irish coast to coast previously.) and this weighed on my shoulders more than the unfeasible large and heavy rucksack I bore. A sombre mood followed in sympathy with the darkening sky.

Walking in drizzle beside Cardiff’s Taff river - pondering apprehensively the excitement of a new adventure now underway, the telltale hot-spots of early blisters flashed their warning signs on my visual dashboard, advising me to pull over. Overconfident in my footwear, American foot ointment and 1000-mile socks (promising “blister free” progress), I had neglected to tape my heels. Taking a precautionary stop at the castle (the official start) to rectify this with zinc oxide on a sticky base of Friar’s Balsam, after cleaning first the anti friction goo I had previously applied.
Disappointed by the early stop and the seemingly over optimistic footcare claims (I was unaware just how important this combination would be to my future success.), I re-lubricated and pointed my feet Northwards.

Tongwynlais brought an end to the city but a start to the rain. Sheltering under a tree near Castle Coch, memories of a wet Ireland flooded my head and kindred rain dissolved my fortitude. Hours passed. My negative boredom resolved into positive action, and caped in a red emergency blanket, my Red Riding Hood figure wound up the hillside on the look out for Grandma.
Cheering up with clearing skies and progressively more rural scenery, I set up camp, satisfied with the day’s progress. Subconscious routines kicked in; including, searching for the ideal location, clearing site, unpacking kit, erecting tent, last pee, on with warm socks, zip up door, into sleeping bag, eradicate bugs, make hot drink and consume food. Finally achieving "horizontal heaven" (This would be the prime motivator at the beginning of each day.) in an average of one and a half hours.
De-camping in a similar time frame, including breakfasting and re-lubeing feet (A morning ritual that entailed pulling on cold wet greasy socks - something that was to become mildly pleasurable even if  the thought of it was not.) and drying, as best as possible, any wet kit (this was nearly always impractical in the available time frame and wet gear added considerably to do load).

Three hours taken up by camping, added to the walking average of eight, made for a full day. Mileage varied from 7-20 depending on: terrain, weather, physical condition, mental fortitude, navigational error and water availability/hydration. (The latter proved the least problem apart from the first couple of days, where I failed to pick it up at an ideal spot and suffered consequentially.). In fact there was a glut of it all around from previous weeks of rain, especially around my feet which, the magical American foot ointment waterproofed, and I am sure this walk would not have possible for me without it (They were wet during the daytime for 90% of the time.).

Frustrating inadequacies of my solar charging system (which due to my inability to resolve a more efficient voltage regulator) would only produce power in full sun. Due to the high percentage of cloudy days, my all eggs in one basket approach, meant the technological extravaganza I had dreamt of, was not to be.
I had little access to the available potential of my phone; namely, digital OS mapping, photography, media uploading, communication and entertainment. When I did, its annoying descending tones of impending doom struck, in perfect Hamlet advert timing, whenever inopportune. What little power I did produce, made by a set-up reconfiguration, was saved for location tracking updates (allowing progress to be followed online) and a handful texts. These were few and far between and giving out my blog address to fellow walkers - cheekily asking them to confirm my location via email, as testimonials, was a last resort.
Resultant navigation became a stressful daily orienteering challenge, using Tony Drake’s hand drawn strip maps (which were thankfully very good) and compass. Narrowly confining channels of information, bordered by white snowdrifts of space, meant I had no idea of the bigger picture and dare not divert from the prescribed route, or horror of horrors, go wrong!

Camps took on their own personalities according to their outstanding characters. Storm Camp, so named at the end of the third day, after experiencing terrifying lightening on the summit of the Blorenge, was unforgettable. The storm, which hit soon after reaching the summit, evoked an innate response to - get off the mountain! Quickly losing height, flailing through foot-entangling, carnivorous giant ferns - brought to life by elemental electrification, I dived into a wood in fear of my life. Soaking wet and cold and holding my ankles for half an hour - while Thor wielded his hammer all around me, my heart pounded (This, most likely disproportionate reaction, derived from a similar experience whilst climbing in the French Alps.). Reconfirming that electrical storms and mountains, aren’t my favourite combination.
This was a bad day, but it was not yet over. Shivering - in somewhat less than “horizontal heaven”, nausea (with its mouth-watering precursor) made its claim, shortly followed by its close cousin of the opposite orifice. I was in a mess that only sleep could cure.

Traversing the Brecon Beacons was testing, its large height gain and loss, combined with navigational errors, made for many tired and hungry camps. One, in particular, after descending Pen y Fan, where I lay weak and unfed, next to several small converging streams. I resigned myself to the possibility of a day off.  Delusional or not, great amusement was had by listening to sounds of the water. Talk about a “babbling brook”, I counted at least four conversations and even joined in with a most entertaining, singing Elvis Presley. This has to be experience to be believed, camp by a stream and you’ll know what I mean - there goes Elvis again! Waking up in a pool of water, after I had slept on my water reservoirs bite valve, left me "all shook up" and did not "help me make it through the night."
The next day to my surprise "I got my mojo workin" and was on the trail by 2pm, after drying all my kit.

The Middle section unfolded with intriguing and remote landscapes, filled with myth and legend. Continuous visual feasts - absorbed optically, drove me hungrily forward to sate a voracious appetite for new scenery, only stopping when my body refused to fuel its addiction.
Strange Tolkienesque scenery was fascinating, if not difficult to cross, including Ascot’s green hat storage facility - acres of tall tussock grasses blowing in the wind, which had to be negotiated by adopting an exhausting hurdling gait.
Whilst more rain descended, (or was it water canon?) I started to believe I was in some masochistic game show with an invisible audience. Their canned laughter accompanied every stumble as I trudged on through the never ending, knee deep, bog-ridden vastness .

With the onset of yet more rain, I headed for a wood to setup camp.
Pulling through branches - with jaw agape, I checked my footsteps, and surveyed a visual spectacle with childlike first Christmas grotto awe. It was the greenest thing I had ever perceived. Bearded trees stood and lay where they fell, in chaotic entanglement. Sprayed with fake Christmas snow abandon, myriad shades of green moss, lichen and fern, clung to everything the eye could behold. Troughs of deep clear water, reflecting silver light, interspersed the scene like fallen mirrors.
I lay in deep silence feeling that I would be absorbed by greenness and thinking that I could never adequately describe this timeless emerald dimension I had found myself in.

More rain and bog proliferated northward, and south of Cwmystwyth, difficult navigation and terrain led me off-route into danger. Trying to avoid an uphill excursion in thick cloud, I cut across, seemingly flatter ground and ended up waist deep in a stinking cold swamp, whose grip secured me, eager to digest my mortal remains. Carpets of thick floating organic matter played at supporting my weight, only to give way at the last minute.
Alone, tired and lost, I stood pondering my vulnerable situation. Compressing time- past and future, whilst expanding the “now” would allow me to slowly and calmly escape. Years of exposure in dangerous positions, helps develop a self-preserving disassociation from reality and even a feeling of relaxed calm, our minds can be as powerful as any anaesthetic and are designed to blur pain and help us forget it. After all, the alternative is panic, exhaustion and well, who knows what. Some say a Fourth Dimension, where no pain or fear is felt - an intriguing theory, but most would say “you’ve been at the mushrooms again!”.

Originally I considered taking a live mouse as a companion, which is highly amusing retrospectively as I only just managed to look after myself, so instead I opted for an inanimate substitute called Dave, donated by a friend of the family, after hearing of my lunacy, and named after its contributor.
This tailless creature remained, stowed away in my sack, in case of a cerebral emergency, throughout the trip.
It is a great source of relief that during this ordeal, which while being both psychologically and physically tough, did not see me reach for my “Psycho Pet” and resort to talking to a stuffed toy rodent!
I did however write a ditty about Dave, (which may well be as bad!) and it goes as follows:

Oh Dave you are a rat with no tail
A friend in need, indeed without fail
In the lid of my sack
You ride on my back
And follow me up hill and down dale

Back on track in Mid Wales, wildlife was prevalent; including, Red Kites, Red Squirrels, Red Foxes and Red Dragons - no, I’m kidding about the Squirrels - and sheep, lots of Sheep.
Recurrent themes bound the way in ribbons of regularity, the “60 a day” guttural Kark of the Raven, followed me from start to finish and seemed to be spying on my progress and other birds, whose farmers sheep dog whistle calls made me paranoid when wild-camping  - thinking I would be found out.
Bilberries, which I feasted on from end to end and other wild fruits included: raspberry, blackberry, cloudberry and juniper berries, were a welcome addition to my odd diet, which was a contentious issue. Months researching nutrition, provided breakfasts of multi-grain corn flakes with dried milk and lunches of natural energy bars (interspersed with 85% cocoa chocolate), all being sustaining fare. Evening meals were a disaster, and in the over research of super-foods, I formulated an unappetizing gruel (made from shelled Hemp seed and Quinoa flakes). The Quinoa made me sick, I suspect initially from consuming the cooking water (but afterwards just the smell put me off), so it had to go. This left the Hemp, which I ate cold, a mini Snickers bar and fruit leather strip, not exactly a hearty meal!
Prior to leaving, I experimented with consuming Hemp oil (which was a reasonable success in the 30g amounts after a meal) providing high calories for its weight. Taking 1 litre with me, its palatibility decreased with time and this too would make me nauseous (it also had to go). What was I thinking! Was this not hard enough, no wonder I ended up losing 4 kg.

The Northern section brought more familiar names and places, which in turn led to a feeling of ease.
I relished reaching Barmouth, whilst descending Cadair Idris's flanks, a place of childhood holidays. Crossing its bridge for free, enabled my “no money spent coast to coast ” rule to hold firm, and an hour spent soaking up its holiday atmosphere, was mesmeric. The feeling that the trip had ended, (after all I had reached the sea) percolated in with the rain, through the smell of coffee and chips.

Forcing myself north was hard, I had left my purpose at Barmouth and dogged stubbornness dragged my body reluctantly forward. Up and over the hills, whose feet I had adventurously played as a child and whose pleasing memories carried me onward now. I let myself think,“The Rhinogs weren’t so bad after all.”.
As the wind picked up and cloud lowered, a wild camping opportunity not to be missed, availed itself in the vicinity of Llyn Hywell. Overlooked by an audience of incredulous wild goats, I set up behind a wall, whose dry stone might, strained against gale force winds. I relaxed in the calm of its lee, amusingly struck by the contrast between the raging wind, and bees that were using the walls defences as a sheltered highway, buzzing passed in both directions happily as a summers day. I smiled and felt warm with the connection of summer.
The next day dawned and leaving “Bee Tunnel Camp”, unleashed misery ensued.
I clambered, scrambled and fumbled up slippery rock, seemingly made of soap. Torrential rain, flowed in streams where there were none. Wrestling wind with grim determination, anthropomorphized despair asked me “Why was I doing this? Just go around, no one will ever know!” and Andy Drake’s words about the Rhinogs haunted my ears, “Lone walkers must particularly appreciate the dangers of a sprained ankle or other incident in places where no one will hear or see them”.
Sinusoidal waves of emotion, ranging from despair to relief, ran in congruity with the alternate summits and valleys, tiring the mind equally as ground did body. I dug from the deepest well of my existence and pulled out something, something that got me through. Maybe happy thoughts of walking up the Roman steps with my family, and amusingly our cat, kept me going as I descended this slippery Cambrian rock stairway.
Miraculously escaping with ankles intact, I feared they would now melt in the imaginary radioactive quagmires around Trawsfynedd’s now retired nuclear power station.
Irrational negativity was amplifying my discomfort with every step.

The last few days from Aberglaslyn onwards were a frenetic surge to finish, having been warned of a bad forecast. Ascending Snowdon’s Watkin path, on a rare sunny day, a summit view revealed buzzing clouds of people, like flies on the proverbial.
On top, dodging a surreal collection of summiteers, (including one man in a thong) I remembered being there 3 months prior. Sharing with mates, a cold and uncomfortable bivvy on the station platform, as we swigged whisky like homeless reprobates (The start of a training walk, involving summiting all mountains over 3000ft in 24 hours, the Welsh 3000’s challenge.).
Weaving down the miner’s path, amongst the throngs and the thongs, I ran in an attempt to save time (not realising the penalty this would later incur).
Over the Glyder’s and down into Ogwen, straight up Pen Yr Ole Wen (the start of the Carneddau) reaching its summit at 8.30pm, in the last of the evening sunlight.
When the onset of Shin Splints hit, I cursed my earlier zeal and limped to a stoney camp between the summits of Welsh Princes, Daffydd and Llywellyn. This “Stone Cold” camp at 3000ft lived up to its name and little sleep was had until an early rise at 5.45am, which saw me stumbling painfully over the merciless terrain in low cloud. Reaching the Welsh 3000’s finishing point at Foel Fras at 8am, I shook hands with imaginary friends as we did so on its completion and they accompanied me onwards, if only in spirit.

My destination - viewed from the last main peak Tal y Fan looked close, and a slow debilitated descent through yellow, coconut scented gorse, in bright sunny weather was a stark contrast to the grim forecast I was issued.
Finally, I hobbled into Conwy aiming longingly for its castle, whose outer walls teased me, as I got closer to the finish. After 20 days and 275 miles (not counting all the extra’s from mistakes made), climbing the equivalent of two Everest’s from sea level, carrying all my food, spending no money, entering no buildings and receiving no support or re-supply, I relievingly finished at 1pm on the 9th of August 2010.
Quivering with excitement and indecisiveness, like a boy in a sweet shop, I went in search of man-food.
Finding the “sweet shop” in the form of Edwards’s delicatessen, whose semicircular array of meats, sausages and pies, initiated an instant Pavlov’s dog reaction in my mouth. Settling for a huge Lamb “Oggie” pasty (which I greedily ate, sat by the sea), followed up with a whippy “99” ice cream, a strong coffee and a pint of Guiness.
Slowly realising I had done it, as the forbidden pleasures of post "unplugged" existence kicked in, I realised also that I was lost in this unfamiliar world, lost to a greater degree than I ever had been during the trip.
It was going to take a while to readjust!

So the way was complete, what had I gained from - what would seem to be an exercise in masochism? Well, the unbridled beauty of Wales’s diverse countryside is stunning, and to be able to walk, unhindered and unfettered by timetables, restrictions and logistics through this magical land, is reason enough.
Stretching personal limits has its own rewards, maybe not at the time but retrospectively and increasing the spectrum of experience allows for richer comparisons and appreciations in all aspects of life, this cannot be underestimated!

Wales is wonderful place, and The Cambrian way is a glorious sample of its treasures which, thankfully, leaves me humble in its wake.