Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Swimming the Isle of Skye's Fairy Pools

Not Wales but Scotland. This place has got to be on every wild swimmers hit list.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Llyn Y Fan Fach - Mountain Shelter


Its been a cold cold January so far, me and Owen decided to test out our new 4 season sleeping bags by sleeping in the mountain shelter at Llyn Y Fan Fach. The spec on the bag says that as long as you sleep in the foetal position, at -2, there is only a small risk of hypothermia. So we decided to take firewood and whisky with us to help with the cold. Carrying the firewood and our rucksacks up to the shelter was the hardest thing ive done for ages, the wood weighed a tonne!

When we got to the shelter the top of the ridge was hidden under cloud and the lake was half frozen. We dumped our gear and went for a walk, Owen found a sheeps skull which he slid out over the ice on the lake, it looked weird just sitting there on the waters surface.

I got back to the shelter and stood in the corner, facing the wall, Owen came in laughing, immediately understanding my 'Blair witch' joke.

We went to walk up the ridge but the windchill was fiercely cold, our faces were numb and since the top was covered in cloud anyway, we just retreated back to the shelter. We shut the wind out and wedged the door closed. There's no window there so we lighted some candles so we could see what we were doing. We played a couple of games of 'pass the pig' and cards and cracked open the Talisker. Time drifted by, and so did the whisky, we had drunk just over half the bottle and i checked my watch. 17:50!!!! Not even 6pm!! we had a serious lack of whisky panic and passed the time trying to get the pitiful fire going and toasting so garlic bread. The fire was rubbish all night, except for a period of about 10 minutes when we could feel the warmth of it on our faces (which were only 2 ft away from the flames). We cooked up some chili and rice on the stove, the hot chili did warm us up a little.

Later on when we were lying there listening to the wind, we both heard noises and looked at each other. It sounded to both of us like childrens voices which spooked us out a bit, we put it down to the wind rattling the tin roof.

Owen brought some curly wurlys which we crunched, it was like they had just been taken out of the freezer. We crashed out at 10pm, the sleeping bags held up pretty well considering how cold the concrete floor was. I didnt sleep very well, i heard the 'childrens voices' again in the night but Owen slept through it.

When we woke in the morning the sky had cleared and it was cool to sit on the edge of the lake watching the reflection of the full moon.

I was back in the real world doing the weekly shop in Lidl's by 10:30 on Sunday morning. I felt like i had been in the wild for a week. My back and neck have been giving me grief ever since.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Afon Alun - no swim


Chores done managed to get out for a walk with the kids down to our local river, the Afon Alun. The river completely dries up in the summer and is not deep enough for swimming in, so i stayed dry today.

Stumbled across some velvet shank mushrooms which was a bonus, looking forward to eating them for my tea.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Wild Places

Domestic chores and a post Christmas clear out mean that i am not likely to get in the water this weekend so i thought I'd give you a wild swimming related page out of the book I'm reading, "The Wild Places" by Robert Macfarlane, he describes a dip in the drink, off the west coast of Wales -

"I dived in. Blue shock. The cold running into me like a dye. I surfaced, gasping, and began to swim towards the cliffs at the Eastern side of the bay. I could feel the insistent draw of the current, sliding me out to the west, back towards Enlli. I swam at a diagonal to it, to keep my course.
Nearing the cliffs, i moved through different ribbons and bands of temperature, warm, then suddenly cold again. A large lustrous wave surged me between two big rocks, and as i put a hand out to stop myself from being barged against them, i felt barnacles tear at my fingers.
I swam to the biggest of the caves. Holding on to an edge of rock, and letting the swell lift me gently up and down, i looked inside. Though i could not see the back of the cave, it seemed to run thirty or forty feet into the cliffs: cone shaped, tightening into the earth from its mouth. I released the rock and drifted slowly into its opening. As i crossed the shadow cast by the caves roof the water grew cold. There was a big hollow sucking and slapping sound. I shouted and heard my call come back to me from all sides.
As i got deeper in, the water shallowed. I swam breaststroke to keep myself as flat as possible. I was passing over dark red and purple rocks: the voodoo colours of basalt, dolerite. The lower sides of the cave were lined with frizzy green seaweed, which was slick and shiny where the water reached it, like wet hair.
Further back into the cave, the light was diffused and the air appeared powdery. The temperature had dropped, and i sensed the whole gathered coldness of the unsunned rock around and above me, pushing out into the air and water.
I glanced back over my shoulder. The big semicircular mouth of the cave had by now shrunk to a cuticle of light. I could only just see out to the horizon of the sea, and i felt a sudden involuntary lurch of fear. I swam on, moving slowly now, trying to sense the sharp rocks over which i was moving.
Then i reached the end of the cave, and there at its very back, and in its very centre, lifted almost entirely out of the water, sat a single vast white boulder, made of smooth creamy rock, shaped roughly like a throne or seat. It must have weighed five or six tonnes. I climbed awkwardly out of the water, slipping on weed, and sat on the rock, while the water slopped around its base and looked back down the cave to the curved rim of light, all that remained of the world beyond".

A cold afternoon at Dunraven Bay.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Winter Dip

Lyn y Fan Fach


Just got back from a trek in the Black Mountains with Owen. It was freezing up top, the lake was totally frozen. Was a hard climb but got extra energy from a sausage baguette and a box of Christmas chocolate liqueurs which Owen had sneaked up in his bag.

Stopped off at one of my favorite dipping pools on the Tawe on the way back, was running well with snow melt, water was 4 degrees, the coldest I've been in yet. Couldn't move my fingers afterwards, putting socks on with no fingers is impossible!!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Years Day

I'm better and back in the water!! I managed to persuade a couple of victims to come for a new years day dip.

Bloody Cold

Well, its bloody freezing, literally, -10!!! no chance of a swim today at Lady Falls!!!!
Photo - Steven Howlett