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Mid Wales 100 Mile LDW Walk

The Long Distance Walkers Association 2007 100 mile started and finished in Llandrindod Wells, I had to do it. Having done several 50 mile walks, could I do 100? I was about to find out. The weather at the start with 500 others alongside at 10am Saturday morning 26th May was perfect for walking, encouraging considering the forecast was for deteriorating conditions. I set out with the notion that as long as I took my time and went at my own pace I would be fine. Having so many friendly people sharing the same goal was heartening, at least there shouldn’t be any lack of support along the way.

Our first real challenge came soon after Check Point 1, Aberedw Hill. It was incredibly daunting and once I began to ascend I realised just how tough and steep it was probably going to be, it straight away made me question whether I was fit enough for this adventure. By the time I reached the top I was exhausted, what I had let myself in for! I kept going and the walk across the ridge was glorious, open moor and miles of turf tracks with brilliant views into the Wye valley and even the Brecon Beacons, then down into the Check Point 2, the village of Aberedw.

The views alone were worth the exhausting challenge of the uphills and would have kept my spirit high if it wasn’t for the fact that I had forgotten to pack spare batteries for my Etrex Global Positioning System. A major set back, as I had intended to navigate the 100 miles with my GPS. I’d spent hours carefully plotting all the eighty plus grid references. I was gutted, and the next leg was nearly nine miles across featureless heather covered moor. I had a route description and even the required maps but I was still concerned. Fortunately there were about 500 others on the same route and I managed to find some friendly faces and help.

We came down into Check Point 4 at Glascwm which, like the others, provided food and a place to rest. I think the Check Points were the real secret to a successful 100 mile walk. Village halls, tents even caravans all manned by very helpful, friendly, hospitable folk mostly, I think, members of various Long Distance Walkers Associations. The food was good the menus included such delights as potato wedges, cheese sandwiches, cheese on toast and even rhubarb puddings!

I now felt stronger and in spite of brief showers the expected bad weather had stayed off. Feeling much better, I was on my way to New Radnor. We then went from New Radnor up a very steep tarmac road, again I doubted my fitness, up to the ridge of Radnor and across a wonderful piece of land, which I must go back and explore. It started getting dark going past Black Mixen and became dark enough for head torches going down into Dolau. We had more refreshments as it became evidently important that we should eat whenever having the chance, to maintain energy. To Check Point six at Llangunillo Hall and getting a little lost on the way looking for a Self Clip Station.

From Llangunillo Hall we continued across nine and a half miles of rugged rutted moor land, part of Glyndwr’s Way, and all the way in the dark. My feet were beginning to be a little sore and it was raining, from now on it was going to rain, good old British weather! Placed light sticks marked some of the way leading to another Self Clip Station which was easier to find then a trudge across featureless unfriendly land which went on and on. But a new day dawned which brought revitalised hope and when I reached Felindre Hall, and Check Point Seven, I had done 51.5 miles, the longest distance I had ever walked.

Next was a short jaunt, just five and a half miles, to Llandadarn Hall. Now 57 miles in I was ready for my breakfast and not just food but other aids. We were able to send ahead a second bag and now I had another pair of shoes, new socks, more water proofs, fresh, dry, warm clothing. I even had a foot massage. My feet were showing signs of wear and tear and a foot massage was wonderful!

Staying on the Glyndwr’s Way to the most hidden Check Point on the whole adventure at Abbey-cwm-hir. I’d concentrated on getting my feet right and gear sorted, but having had only a small breakfast which meant I was now starving. Food is so important, and I was aware of the problems caused by not eating enough from past long walks. This time I ate, cheese on toast, cake more cheese on toast, three cups of hot tea some more cake. Then a short walk over to Check Point 11. The village of Bwlch-y-Sarnau situated down a steep, very muddy bank, it was still raining and my blistered feet were really hurting.

After a very quick stop at Check Point 12 the next mountain looked impossibly steep. The driving rain felt like sleet on my face. The trek to the next Check Point involved a steep descent into an empty valley, then a steep ascent and then down into a valley of boggy ground, my feet were soaking and the cold was starting to bite. My companions were far ahead of me and I was demoralised walking alone.

Somehow I reached Check Point Graig Goch and refreshments. I managed to change my socks, my feet were painful, now raw and blistered, but we had to move on to Elan Village. The journey took us along the Pen-y-Garrreg, Garreg Ddu and Garreg Coch reservoirs. The walking was the flattest part of the whole 100 mile adventure, but I was feeling so jaded and in pain that it felt more like an uphill struggle. I had now walked 86.8 miles but it could have been 800, I felt rough.

We reached Elan Village and my positive attitude at the beginning was a distant memory. We moved on quickly to the next Check Point looking for yet another Self Clip Station. Climbing back up yet another steep muddy track through woodland I realised I’d had enough and couldn’t stop imaging not having to move another inch. I was holding everyone up and couldn’t go on. Letting the others pass me I slowed right down to a standstill. On my own again I slowly crept up a long steep tarmac road. I switched on my GPS (batteries provided at the breakfast stop) to help me find my way. The painkillers I had taken at Elan Village were slowly beginning to kick in and my GPS told me that the Self Clip Station was at least one and a half miles away which would have been great news if it wasn’t all up hill.

I now met one of The Long Distance Walkers Association’s zealots. He had done at least seven LDWA 100 milers and although he was now in his seventies he was determined to finish despite his obvious hobble which put my painful feet to shame. This man wanted his 100 mile Certificate and he’d already earned it. I was feeling better, it had stopped raining and the painkillers were working and so was my GPS. I found the Self Clip Station and made my way down to Llanwrthwl and a four star restaurant rest point. Potato wedges followed by home grown rhubarb and custard and lots of hot tea.

The penultimate trek to Newbridge-on-Wye along the Wye Valley with just six miles to go and my feet feeling ok and I was happy to be grouped up with my new friend. At first the track was easy, it was dark but it wasn’t raining. All was going well until my friend started lagging behind he was struggling, his prominent limp becoming a stagger. He was finding it difficult to walk. I tried to help but it was no good, the rest of the route was going to be difficult and I was tired. By now other walkers were with us and we wrapped our friend in several survival blankets to keep him warm. I phoned the emergency service and was able to give them a grid ref from my GPS. We were about six miles from the end but he just couldn’t go on. I had great respect for his efforts and his enduring attitude inspired me to the finish. After the paramedics had gone a small group of us slowly made our way to the last Check Point and to the end. I had walked 100 miles in forty hours. The longest 40 hours of my life.

100 miles is not easy and at times I had very real doubts that I would complete it. The last two hours were the worst. I was taking painkillers liberally just to get me through. The pain was exhausting and I know that next time (for there will be a next time) I will need to take more precautions to prevent the pain. At times I struggled but the sense of well being from completing 100 miles out weighs everything. The landscape was breathtaking and challenging. As for my companions, there was a great sense of camaraderie, encouraging and supporting. The Long Distance Walkers Association has to be commended (the foot massage was a life saver). If any one reading this is considering taking part next year (The Yorkshire Dales) and think they are fit enough – do it. The sense of achievement, mixed with that sigh of relief after completing, is one that doesn’t compare.

Chris Roberts.

 


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