Of the Mawddach trail, Coed y Brenin and a thousand year old bridge at Pont Scethin.

Dear Reader, I am so sorry that your favourite blogger has been away for three weeks. I've been on holiday in Wales with the family. Dolgellau to be precise, in an house overlooked by Cadair Idris. What a lovely place. I've known Dolgellau for, well, 40 years now having visited the town at least once a year in all that time. Never thought much of it really. Good source of Welsh cakes and that was about it. So it came as a surprise to find wife had booked us a house for two weeks. Bless, she's also been loads of times but has the same geographic memory as a goldfish. But over the two weeks I really came to appreciate the town and was really sad to leave.

For a small town there's loads going for it. Mountain walks applenty, of which we did three, only getting soaked on the Precipice Walk - but for me that was negated by having a lovely chat with a T25 owner. We did the Mawddach trail fully twice - my six year old demanded that, riding to Barmouth and back twice. That's 50 miles in two days for a boy of 6. And he was fast. Did Coed y Brenin once - more of that later. Lots of beach stuff, mainly surfing [all burnt blond now] and even managed to visit Betwys y Coed to look at the wonderful display of every single shop in town selling rain wear. Oh and got held up by loads of really slow drivers, the best one being 15mph.

And hat's off to the town council. Your playground is outstanding. We were there 'till 8pm most evenings.

So, Coed y Brenin, my almost annual visit. I've been going there since it opened way back. I can remember the original quite harmless Red Bull run. Back then it was a mix of cross country with the odd blast through the trees. It was lovely. But gradually the trails have morphed into something that I no longer consider has any relevance to what I look at mountain biking for. My fault for just doing the black runs? If you've never been, the black runs are essentially long drawn out fire road climbs, followed by jiggly joggly runs through trees, the trail being made up of boulders the size of a small child's chest. The only place you encounter such features being mountain bike centres, so being able to ride them is of little interest to me. Sure it's fun for a bit, but by the end I'm grateful for the end. But this time around I fell off, having managed to clear every trail until now without incident. Quite honestly it was entirely down to my Schwalbe tyres that I did so, as they'd been slippery bastards all week. They're Ok when concentrating, but I fell off the trail on the most insignificant rock at walking speeds. The front tyre just washed sideways and I was off, the bike landing on top of me. Cut face and legs, lots of bruises. My fault, not the trail.

But falling off did contrast nicely with the Pont-Scethin route I did previously. This is a thousand year old bridge stuck down a valley in the middle of some 600m mountains. What you do is ride / hike-a-bike up a 450m mountain, ride down the other side almost to sea level, then ride / hike-a-bike up to 600m again, then drop to sea level in 4km in under fifteen minutes, more like ten. 28 miles circular route, 1200m of climb, 1200m descending. Took me four hours and for most of it I was a swearing, sweaty pig of a rider. Right up until I got to the top 600m bit I hated it, really did. Couldn't see the fun.

Oh dear, when you do finally crest that last big climb it's all worth it and more. The trail drops to sea level in around 4km and you can see the path all the way down, right over to the King George III for lunch. 25 miles takes 3hr 50 min to do, the last bit takes around ten minutes but more than makes up for it. You crest the mountain top all sweaty wondering why the heck you brought a bike with you, you daft twat. Within seconds you've dropped the saddle all the way down, your brakes are already ticking from heat build up, there's an imense drop to the right, and you're doing silly speeds on a trail you've never ridden before.

I loved it.

By all means try Coed y Brenin; I like it, but also hate it for the same reasons. You may love it. But please, do that circular to that old bridge. What a blast. OK you do need to be entirely self sufficient and be confident that you can actually survive on a big mountain [top tip: don't do as I did and take everything for every eventuality, including two inner tubes, but discover your tyre levers in your other pack when you get back], but for me it was about being a true mountain biker. You, your bike, high up on some really stupid mountain in the middle of nowhere.

Here's a little video for you. It's not mine - I'd use better music and wouldn't ponce about rather timidly like they did! Not wishing to be too mean, but what are they doing exactly? Full suspension Orange 5's so they chose to sit down on that rocky descent? Made a right meal of that they did. And how slow were they going? Ah well, at least the video gives a flavour of how isolated the ride is, the height gained and the stunning views. Just watch those sodding ruts is all I can say.