Rode this on Sunday with Ed Hargraves to check the route for this coming weekend (or rather I spent 400k grimly hanging onto Ed's back wheel as I had a week of touring on a loaded tandem in my legs).
Sadly the sunny weather of the last week disappeared right on cue and we got to see the mountains looking menacing and moody instead. The long climb out of Bala across the Migneint with cloud swirling around the tops of the Arenigs was particularly notable. And true to form it rained just as we arrived at the highest point of the road; a place that scores particularly highly on the bleakness stakes even on a good day. The NW wind turned this leg into a bit of a slog and we were glad to make it to Pete's Eats.
My secret back road route out of Llanberis is a real cracker. Straight out of town uphill on a road barely wide enough for a car to twist through the disused slate quarries above the town. Eventually the road pops out on the hillside with a cracking view over the Menai Straits (and back up Llanberis Pass). After Waunfawr the wind was now behind us and we fair flew over Rhyd Ddu and down the coast road to Barmouth. The sun appeared briefly here so we indulged in fish and chips followed by ice cream.
Across the bridge and we elected to take the Mawddach Trail up to Penmaenpool. Graveled but a decent surface which allows rapid progress and is so much more scenic than the road. Then it was time to sweat our way up the monster climb out of Dolgellau. At Cross Foxes there was much dark cloud swirling around Cadair Idris and we decided lights were sensible on the main road. A couple of hundred yards later and we stopped again to cape up as the murk turned into a full on soaking for the ascent to the Black Gates. The climb up here from the south always seems that this would make a cracking descent – long, fast and straight. Unfortunately the wind always seems to get funnelled up the Tal y Llyn valley so the inevitable headwind always seems to kill the descent. Then it was racing the onset of dusk down the A487 to Aberystwyth, where we decamped into Wetherspoons to prepare ourselves for the night leg.
It's a long haul up Plynlimon in the dark. Approaching the bends above Ponterwyd we could see car headlights sweeping round the bends above as they descended from Eisteddfa Gurig. At the summit the mist / low cloud was thick so extra layers were in order. The good news is that from here, the rest of the route is virtually all downhill. A handy bus shelter in Llandinam provided the venue for a quick doze before the final stretch, with dawn lightening the sky to the east as we headed back into Shropshire. Altogether a cracking route with a mixture of unfamiliar roads, and some familiar ones that will be seen in new light.