It must be stressed that the Cambrian Way is generally unwaymarked and that the walker has to be able to navigate by map reading. Experience in interpretation of contours is crucial. A compass is sure to be needed, but the most useful modern device is a GPS navigation aid which will tell you where you are. In an emergency, mobile phones are generally useless, particularly in the valleys, and in remote areas phone boxes may have been taken away due to lack of use. The guidebook gives numbers of some of the boxes so that one can ring in advance to check availability.
Do not make the Cambrian Way your first long distance walk but try other challenging routes and try navigating away from paths on open access land. Make sure you have waterproof clothing and that your boots will keep your feet dry and blister free.
A reasonably strong and fit walker can cover the distance in about 20 days. By comparison the Pennine Way is 25 miles shorter and involves only half the ascent required for the Cambrian Way, with average time of 19 days. Many choose to split the route into three, such as Cardiff to Llandovery in 9 days, the Central section to Dinas Mawddwy in 6½ days and the Snowdonia section in 8 days. The clear message that comes through the valuable reports that come to the guidebook author is that the route was tougher than expected and that the enjoyment was dependant on the weather more than anything else. The Welsh mountains have several times as much rain as southern England.
The guidebook has a very comprehensive list of where you can spend the night close to the route. These are now shown on the Accommodation page. Over a hundred bed and breakfast establishments, hotels and bunkhouses are listed. Entry in the book is free and at the discretion of the Cambrian Way Trust. Tourist Board certification is not insisted upon. Most establishments were visited by Tony Drake and nearly half stayed at overnight by him. In recent years a number of others have been added without necessarily being visited. The Cambrian Way Trust takes no responsibility for the information provided or for the standard of accommodation or other services provided.
A special section details 10 Youth Hostels as available in 2016. YHA has had to capitalise on its property values where possible but still manages and takes bookings for Ty'n y Cornel and Dolgoch, which are classified as Bunkhouses. Ty'n y Cornel was acquired by a philanthropic couple who let at a low rate. Dolgoch was bought by Elenydd Wilderness Trust following a fantastic appeal. Details and online booking is available on the YHA Wales website
25 camp sites or other establishment that permit camping are listed and there is scope for wild camping on much of the route, but this is not allowed except by permission of the farmer or landowner. Many pubs providing meals are listed but beware of Sunday night off and the fact that many rural pubs have suffered loss of trade and may have reduced services or closed altogether.
All sites are grid referenced. Charges are given where known. 10 to 17 mile daily stages are available provided beds are not booked up. Accommodation is available but limited in the Elenydd and Plynlimon areas and there is no accommodation in the central part of the Rhinogs. (A taxi arrangement has worked well to pick up at a phone box in Cwm Nantcol and take to Llanbedr or Harlech, though the future of remote phone boxes remains uncertain). May to early September is the best time to walk the Cambrian Way.
Weather Conditions - Best Time of Year to Walk
As the Cambrian Way is predominently a high level route, the weather is an important factor to consider when planning a walk, both from the enjoyment perspective and from considerations of mountain safety. The highest parts of walk are over 3000 feet (915 metres) above sea level, and are often snow covered for several months of the year, which can bring added danger with slower walking speeds requiring greater effort. Rainfall can also be more frequent and heavier at certain times of the year, as can high wind speeds. The weather in Britain is very unpredictable, so there can be no guarantee as to what it will be like, but consulting charts of average monthly weather can improve chances of avoiding the worst weather conditions.
The Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia include many of the highest parts of the route, and there are a number of websites showing statisics for these, such as World Weather Online (Brecon) and MountainWalk.co.uk (Snowdonia). Neither of these show the conditions on the mountain tops, where there can be as much as double the rainfall, stronger winds and temperatures 4°C cooler.
These statistics show that the best months are between May and September, with June probably about the best of these. There is moderate risk of snow on the mountain tops in April, but considerably less risk in May. Later in the summer, there is a greater risk of thunderstorms and occasional days with excessively high temperatures, which can be more of a danger than low temperatures due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. By September, the hours of daylight have reduced significantly, which means that there is a risk of darkness falling if anything causes delay in the schedule, whereas in June there are only a few hours of total darkness with twylight lasting beyond 10 p.m.
For short term mountain weather forecasts up to three days ahead, the MWIS (Mountain Weather Information Service) gives a Brecon Beacons Forecast and a Snowdonia Forecast. The BBC Weather Service at www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ gives forecasts for any town in the UK for up to five days ahead, but bear in mind that this does not take account of the different conditions on the mountains.
Contacting Emergency Services
Should you be unfortunate enough to require assistance from the Mountain Rescue or Ambulance Services whilst walking, they can be contacted by the usual 999 emergency number from a mobile phone if there is sufficient signal strength to make a call. Signal strength is often poor or non-existent in valleys or when surrounded by hills, but is generally better on higher vantage points where there is an increased chance that a transmitter mast will be in line of sight, even if it is several miles away. When signal strength is poor, it is sometimes possible to send SMS text messages when normal voice connections will not work. There is now an EmergencySMS service available by simply texting to 999 stating your problem and location. To use the service your mobile number should be pre-registered as this will save valuable time in an emergency. To see full details and to register, visit http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/.
Please Note that the website still states that the service is primarily for deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired people, but the service providers have been contacted and it has been confirmed that anyone can use this service when other options fail.
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