2012-08-06 52 -3
While most of the Mid Wales graticule lies far, far away from anything, this particular hashpoint sits on a low hill right by the river Mawddach. Sure, the hill's forested and may not have any paths in it - but that's no problem, right?
- Huinesoron's mother
From Saturday 4th through Friday 10th August, I was staying a short distance south of this hashpoint (my journey there allowed me to hit my first ever hash on the Saturday), right on the border between two virgin graticules, so I had a prime opportunity for geohashing. Unfortunately, Aberystwyth graticule is mostly underwater... and Wales is very bad for internet access... so I had a total of three possible hashes: Saturday, Sunday, and (because we're east of 30W) Monday. Saturday and Sunday were too far. Monday... was just right.
Oh, but no internet means no GPS even on a phone - so this was a map job. I pulled the map off the shelf and... cursed, because the map grid of course isn't aligned to the lat/long grid. Fortunately there were graticule intersections marked, but it was still a lot more maths than I'd been expecting - and the forest was so small! Surely there had to be a larger-scale map.
There was. That one didn't have graticule-intersection marks. Cue some overly-complicated ruler work (and more sums!) to pinpoint the hash (hey, it's been a decade since I last used a map this way, cut me some slack!). At least the second map showed some actual tracks... a tentative route was planned. Three routes, actually. Since the hashpoint itself was off-track, we could compass either from the end of a wall (blue option), a corner in the path (red), or along a contour (yellow).
But this is Geohashing. It was never going to be that simple...
 Mapping photos
 All Goes Well
We set off from our base of operations a couple of valleys south on a fine Welsh morning - that is to say, the coast was blue skies, a mile inland was under the Shadow of Mordor. Parking was easy at Penmaenpool (home of a toll bridge and a pub that doesn't serve chips - fries, if you're American), and we set off under... well, y'know, clouds.
After a stretch of very straight path, we came to our first utter departure from the plan: a gate at the wrong end of the hill. "Oh hey," I said, immediately christening it Hollin Gate, "this'll be quicker. Let's go in here!"
My mother foolishly agreed. Even more foolishly, she told the rest of our party to meet us in half an hour... I would have said two.
Still, the path up from Hollin was pretty; we kept rough track of where we were (sighting off the gap in the trees at Pant-y-cra, and the clusters of pines that mark the two highest summits), and soon managed to reach the peak of the lowest, northernmost hill. I started to think that 'half hour' wasn't such a wild overestimate after all.
Soon we came to the end of the obviously new path we were on; it was cut by an open, green track that looked significantly older. "Ah," I said, nodding wisely, "I know exactly where we are."
I said that quite a lot, as I recall.
 The Curse Strikes
So off we went, confidently, down the green path that I knew exactly where OH LOOK a gate. And a gate with a warning sign, no less.
I studied the sign intently and decided that, since it was a clear warning of danger, we were best to give up, say we'd made a valiant effort, and-- who am I kidding? It didn't actually say No Entry, so we climbed the gate and continued on.
The path was now obviously disused, but I was confident I knew where to go. All right, so the uphill track we followed went directly east, rather than turning back west almost immediately, but maybe the map was out of date. Maybe there was an extra track not marked. Hey, is that a cave? I wonder if anything lives there.
Suddenly, like lightning, something darted across the path; I turned just too slow to see it. My mother let out a gasp of pain. I knew instantly what had happened: raptors. The bane of a geohasher's life. I should have known this was too easy.
Walking on in our most careful flight for our lives, we discovered that the mountain was even less friendly than the predatory dinosaurs led us to believe. Without warning, the path simply vanished into a tangle of weeds. I forced my way through, but to no avail: there was no hint of anything resembling an onward path. We would simply have to return to the gate and head out. Caradhras (as I began to compose my report in my head) had defeated us.
 Out of the Jaws of Defeat
Oh, yeah, there was another turn just after the gate, wasn't there? Well, let's see where that goes to - it's going in the same direction as the exit, anyhow.
"Ah! I know exactly where we are - I promise this time!"
We had come to a four-way junction - and there was only one of those on the map. After carefully documenting it and taking a compass reading (which we actually did frequently - usually when I said "We can't still be going east, surely!"), we chose the path that sound upwards to the south-east and kept walking.
The path was still overgrown, but not as much so as our dead end - and there were no raptors. There was a tree engaged in what seemed to be either a strike action or anti-rhododendron propaganda, but we gave it a wide berth and continued up the hill...
... to what turned out to be a three-way junction. It turned out I'd actually been right about knowing where we were. Of course, we were at least an hour behind schedule for meeting with the stay-at-homes, and this was the first time we'd had signal for the phone... so my pictures of the junction include my mother saying "No, we're not there yet..."
My very next words to her were "We're almost there. Now I just have to go 65 metres that way... and 30 down."
Yes, those contour lines I'd been ignoring the whole way - along with that extremely ominous 'cliff' glyph - had come home to roost. With a reassuring call of "I think I can see a way down!" I set to scrabbling down the hillside. Ten metres passed away, twenty, forty... I covered about 55 metres before the glyph finally caught up with me in the form of a 30-foot drop to the floor of the ravine. This was the hazard of the red route - it had the steepest climb. But there was hardly time to try and find a way round.
Fortunately, at this point I remembered that geohashes don't have a vertical coordinate, so I was actually within about 10 metres of it - and given the scale of the map, that was easily "close enough". I snapped a couple of pictures and headed back up-slope.
 We Make Our Escape
I laid out a quick marker - my mother was panicking over the time, so I had to move quickly - and we headed off on the shortest route home. Then we turned around - not because I'd forgotten anything, but because there was a random pond in the middle of the path. "I think I've found the lake," she said. "You'd better not have," I replied.
So we retraced our steps (not being interested in a Drowned Rat achievement, thanks) and returned to the four-way junction. From here there was a clear path to the outside world... and yes, the actual lake was on it, right where it should have been.
"We must be back in civilisation - they've got bird boxes and everything!" - my mother
We climbed another gate, featuring the same dire warning, passed some buildings ("They're on the map!" I excitedly declared) and found the stream (also on the map), and soon... daylight! The footbridge! No-one waiting for us! Wait, what?
It turned out that our faithful comrades (all right, one faithful comrade, one doggy comrade, and one two-year-old comrade) had gotten a bit fed up, what with us taking an hour and a half longer than expected, and had headed back to the car... about two minutes ago. We quickly caught them up, and then it was back along the railway, back to Penmaenpool, and home. Mission Accomplished!
(And while walking through Penmaenpool, we discovered exactly why we'd been so cursed. The evidence indicates that this stretch of the Mawddach is Where The Wild Things Are - and King Max is in residence)
 All Photos
(Collection of all the images featured in the above report)
| Huinesoron earned the No Batteries Geohash Achievement
| Huinesoron earned the Velociraptor Geohash Achievement
| Huinesoron earned the Drag-along achievement
|Huinesoron earned the Virgin Graticule Achievement|