GORGE WALKING: AFON DDU, WALES

Notes: we did this back in June but I have been waiting for pictures. Pictures taken on a water proof camera and unedited. 

I love water, despite my small phobia towards it and even though I am part mermaid, deep water in particular gets to me.  I’ve been partaking in a few water activities over the summer – kayaking, canoeing, body boarding and surfing.  Gorge walking seemed an obvious adventure to get on board with and I’m so glad I did because it was fabulous day for us all.

Gorge walking wales

Splodge Lewis, an outdoor instructor who I’ve been following on Twitter for some time, seems to just be on one permanent adventure so I thought he was the ideal guy to take us out.  Therefore on one very wet and cold afternoon we all met in Betws Y Coed for a hot chocolate and a sticky chocolate muffin before driving to Afun Ddu gorge which is about a 15 minute journey.  There were 4 of us in total, all of us complete novices to gorge walking and some with water phobias.

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We parked and wiggled into our wetsuits whilst the rain had stopped (ever tried to get into a wet suit whilst wet? Don’t do it!) and made our way to the rushing sounds of the gorge. I was feeling quite apprehensive as Splodge talked about how some of the climbs were a bit more technical and needed ropes. The air was damp, the ground soggy and my wet suit felt a bit too clingy, I was nervous whether I was going to make it out alive. Of course, I was being ultra dramatic but fear kind of does this to you…

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When I Googled gorge walking, my brain somehow filtered out important words and just saw ‘wading through water.’ In actual fact gorge walking also known as gorge scrambling includes climbing, caving, jumping off waterfalls, climbing up waterfalls, squeezing between rocks and everything in between.  The Afun Ddu is a beautiful clean gorge with fast and cold running water (as you’d expect) and surrounded by rare edible plants (which are apparently a delicacy).

Gorge walking wales

Inspired by the blokes who were now wading through the cold water (waist deep) I gave myself an ‘everything’s going to be OK’ talk and got on with it. I soon learnt to enjoy the experience. I’m not that steady on my feet and it’s really slippery around gorges especially on the beds of them, where slimy leaves cling to the rocks.  It’s a tactile experience as you hold on to every soaked boulder and branch as you make your way up the slow incline.  After the shock of the cold water, you soon forget that when you’re jumping in backwards, making your way up waterfalls with ropes attached to you and shooting down natural rock slides.  It’s a bloody good work out!  Much better than a gym mind as you’ve got the scent of wet wood, the taste of edible plants and the sounds of birds.

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You can check out his awesome explorer blog though…. From Shrewsbury where you are not. 

My favourite part was using the ropes to ascend up the waterfalls. It’s amazing how fast your eyes spot out a ‘safe route’ to climb and how your hands and feet work in unison. I defiantly got a taste for rock climbing which I’m hoping to explore more of in the new-year.  My least favourite moment was probably when we had to get up and over a rock without using a rope. It was slippery due to fast running water and I couldn’t get my leg far enough to grip on to the ledge.  We were instructed to rest our back on to the rock and then use our legs to walk ourselves up the opposite rock face(think of a chair position). I just couldn’t relax enough to lean back and so when I nearly fell, the group pulled me up by my life aid jacket!

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Another favourite moment was getting to the top of a really high waterfall and then jumping off of it in to lower plunge pool. For me, it was scary because I couldn’t see the bottom so that meant deep, still, with an audience below me (another gorge walking group) counting me down, I took a leap of faith and did it. I was especially proud of the other woman in the group who was terrified of water and despite a few ‘I can’t do this’ moments, she conquered her feared and jumped in like a pro.

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The whole day lifted our spirits, the rain soon stopped and we were rewarded by glories sunshine whilst we played in nature’s backyard.

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It was a day to remember! I really love organising group activities in my local area so I’m hoping to do another one in a few weeks.

What adventures have you been embarking on?

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