Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Skyline 3/4's

In order to use up my remaining holiday I arranged with Uphilla to have a sneaky couple of days away from the daily grind with the objective of acquiring some top rides. A few deliberations had us settle on South Wales and even the poor weather plus doom'n'gloom forecasts didn't prevent us getting an early start on Weds morning.

With fresh legs we planned for our first ride to be the longest, Afan's Skyline which would finally settle the debate of how good the sections are after the 2nd short cut.

Arriving mid/late morning amongst broken sunshine and gusty winds we set off up that 6km climb we're all familiar with. I'm not sure if it was driving to/from Sunderland the day before along with our journey west, that I'd gone at the ascent like a lunatic or that fact that you get ZERO warm up - but by the 1st switchback I had a nasty headache, stomach cramps, the sniffles, wheezing and the wobbles...and we'd only just started. Fortunately my companion is wiser and was taking a steady approach to which I soon settled into, after half an energy bar, a layer lighter and a few more km's I felt much better.

The recent storms hadn't left their mark and although the trails were a little damp there was plenty of grip, the puddles gave you a chance to practice "manuals" :p The wind didn't affect us until we were topside and even then it mostly seemed to be behind us.

We steadily cranked our way to the 2nd shortcut which denotes the July trail we usually follow but this time we headed left to take in more miles. The shortened Skyline is a schweet route in itself but this time we were keen to explore and checkout some new sections.

After some fire road we nipped between the stile of Short'n'Sweet but rather than getting a nice section of singletrack we were greeted with a silly short few feet that simply cut a corner off the fire road. With thoughts of "oh no what are were doing?" we cranked onwards into Riding High which has a super vista over a tarn. On the Edge had plenty of loose rocks to tug at your front wheel but was exposed to the elements so we pushed on.

At the next munchie stop we took stock of Uphilla's poorly shoulder and the weather which was now blowing a gale and worse of all turning into a headwind. My tough buddy had managed much more than I thought he would and we decided to leave the last two singletrack sections for another time so we headed down the 3rd short cut. To get there we first had a fast section of fireroad to negotiate...easy eh ? Yeah provided you don't have a mighty cross wind with gusts hammering into ya.

Next up were Handy Andy and the Grand which pretty schweet sections in their own right and the latter has a fantastic loose boulder in which to test your mettle. Imagine a few hundred metre's of loose scree the size of car battery's and you'll get the picture. Much to my amazement Uphilla made it 3/4's of the way through before a nasty twist/impact stopped him dead and in obvious pain. To his credit he dusted himself off but he was now riding much more cautiously. Fortunately the following singletrack was mostly fast but smooth open sweeping turns where you can easily pick your line 3-4 corners ahead and hammer through safely.

The connecting fireroad then brought us back to our usual short cut and my old favorites of Fast Forward, Joy Rider and Deadwood with it's rock staircase.

THAT (yes you know the one) nasty last fireroad climb is still naughty and does it's best to deplete your reserves before the switchback descent continues to punish your aching body.

Whoop, whoop and double whoop - this trail is a beauty, no doubt about it.

Our accommodation for the night was tucked the other side of Brechfa forest and around an 1hr's drive from Afan. The NonniBarn b&b is a veritable gem with comfy sofa's, a roaring log fire, very comfortable rooms and a HOT TUB :D

You'll find a Tracklog and pic's here.

Posse; Farqui (5.5 Spot), Uphilla (5.5 Spot)
Weather; overcast, sunny spells, windy (VERY)
Mechanicals; none


uphilla said...

I was really keen to do this trail as it was the one we have never tackled before, but also because of the length. Winter un-fitness did worry me a bit, as did my dodgy shoulder. That initial climb is a long one, so I was pleased to get up it, but it felt much harder than last time.
Although there are some longish fireroad climbs, the feel of this trail is very different and it was great to be 'out in the wilds'.
It was probably a bit daft to tackle this one with a torn shoulder muscle because of its rocky nature and it did prove to be the most 'painful' one of our trip.
That final descent will always bring a big smile, even if done a bit slower than in the past - we both arrived at the bottom with our teeth and bones well and truly rattled :-) Thanks to Farqui for sorting the best B & B in Wales, it was so good to be pampered after the cold wind!