- Furthlines

In the wake of Storm Dennis, three of us explored the roads, gravel tracks and infrastructure lines of Snowdonia N.P.'s Carneddau Mountains on the Nicassio+, Gestalt X11 and Headlands bikes, from Marin's 'Beyond Road' range. Our bikepacking adventure was built around a simple concept: pick an alluring 12 x 12 grid area of an OS 1:50,000 Landranger map and spend 24-hours exploring its 576km² of roads and tracks. This sea of un-crowded Carneddau contours between the honeypot village of Betws-y-Coed and Foel Grach peak appealed given the collection of Furth mountains, forest trails, reservoirs, quarries, service tracks, chevron roads, sparsely-sprinkled buildings, and traces of infrastructure and industry...

Our riding started straight out of low-lying Betws-y-Coed, and up into the high hills; closing in on the clouds and Furth peaks. With dusk falling, we rode through and along what turned out to be the poignant, powerful remains of the Eigiau Dam Wall. At 1.2 kilometers long and 10.5 metres high, the wall was initially built in 1911. Seeing it today in a wider valley context, the concrete installation was reminiscent of the remote redundant soviet buildings dotted through the Stan’s mountains. Was it a dam wall? It could’ve only been a dam wall, really. There was no other explanation for it. The two gaps were intriguing for sure.

Speeding along through the villages of Tal-y-Bont and Dolgarrog, on the banks of the River Conwy, a memorial caught my right eye through the relentless rain. I stopped and low-and-behold, it was for the Dolgarrog Dam Disaster – that dam wall we had ridden through, holding back all the water of Llyn Eigiau, burst and breached in November 1925 killing 16 folk in the village where we stood. Weak foundations, apparently. That explained it. Whether it’s the dams and reservoirs for water and power, the local slate and stone quarries to build the dams, or the buildings that were required to service and house the workers, there are traces of human influence and infrastructure everywhere you look in The Carneddau.

As gravel riders, we have a lot to be thankful for: well, fresh water and power in towns and cities, for one, but also the network of service tracks and roads that were built and are still facilitating fantastic riding access amongst these stunning mountains today.

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