Another one of my crazy adventure ideas was to watch a sunset somewhere and walk through the night to watch the sun rise. Thankfully I have some very crazy friends who were willing to do this challenge with me. So the planning commenced.
The most difficult thing about getting a group of people together is getting a date to suit everyone. This happens in anything! Social events, small gatherings and walking in the dark! The longest day is the 21st June which inconveniently falls on a Monday in 2021 which wasn’t any good for any of us. We wanted to be as close to this date as we could so it was the shortest night from the sunset to sunrise. Many dates later, we finally set on Friday 11th June 2021.
We wanted to do a route we knew well. Walking in the dark has its own challenges. It’s tiring, you have to concentrate more and even with a head torch, you can’t see that far in front. Paths that you walk all the time become difficult because they look different at night compared to the day. A long walk through the night with little sleep also means mistakes are easily made when walking. Easy to slip, miss your footing etc.
Because of all of this, we chose the route through the Clwydian range which we have all walked multiple times. Just never in the dark and through the night. It was approx 8.5 miles, mapped out on the OS map, with an estimated time of 4 hours walking. The sun would set at 9.45pm and rise again at 4.45am leaving a total of 7 hours for us to fill.
The timing was something we were incredibly conscious of. Arrive too early for sunrise, we could get bored and cold. Walk too far and we’d be tired and maybe not get the best view for the sunrise and/or sunset. We agreed we would watch the sun set, enjoy some time together before we started walking. We also took some camping equipment with us so we could enjoy bacon baps and a hot drink at sunrise.
Car parking wise, because we knew the area and the car parking situation, this was brilliant. We took two cars, drove one to end of the walk (or just a bit before the last hill) and the other at the start of the walk. We agreed to set off just before 8pm to get the cars in the right place, with the right things in the right car.
The weather had been teasing us all week. We had gorgeous sunny weather and then Friday’s forecast didn’t look so good. The temperature was great, no rain forecasted, but the cloud cover had other ideas. Not ideal to watch a sunset and sunrise! We deliberated for days what to do and left it right until Friday afternoon until we finally made the decision to just go for it. It had taken us so long to find a date that worked for us all and the weather forecast for cloud cover is just something so unpredictable. Especially when really, you just don’t want cloud where the sun is.
The Actual Adventure
Both cars drove to Penycloddiau car park. We made sure all the camping gear and food was in this car, and then transferred everything we needed into the other car. Then we drove about 30 minutes to the starting point at Moel Famau, the top car park.
From here, we got all our stuff together that we wanted to watched the sunset. Prosecco, peppermint tea for one of the group (definitely not me!) snacks and a picnic blanket. We began to walk up Foel Fenelli (the hill to the left of Moel Famau) and we found our usual spot to watch the sunset. We got up there for around 9.15pm and watched the sun set, and let it go dark until around 10.15pm when we made our way back to the car and prepared ourselves for our walk.
Bags and head torches on, we made a start at around 10.30pm. Knowing we had to take our time and stop often. Our first proper stop was on the top of Moel Famau. There was such a bright hue on the horizon where the sun was underneath and using a special app, we could track exactly where the sun was at any given time, and where it would rise. We stopped for some snackos, walked round the tower where we could see all the city lights over by Liverpool and then carried on with the walk.
This next section from Moel Famau down to Moel Arthur was challenging. It’s difficult enough in the day with steep descents and loose rock so doing it in the dark made it even more difficult. The amount of slugs, centipedes and various other creatures were out and it was actually really interesting to see them.
The sky was clear and in a sheltered part of the path, we decided to all lay down and watch the stars. We were lucky enough to see some shooting stars as well as the Big Dipper and moving satellites. At this point it was 12.45am and very surreal laying in the middle of what would usually be a busy path by day, hearing the stillness and watching the stars.
Before we got cold, we made a move and continued down the Offas Dyke path to Moel Arthur. At this point, my head torch battery had died and I was relying on one of my team to stay close by so I could see. We took our time heading down the steepest section towards the base of Moel Arthur and stopped for some for snacks and a catch up. We realised how challenging this walk was. The terrain, the up and down were really taking its toll on our knees and ankles. We had 2 more hills to climb, and at this point it was around 2am.
We started the climb up and over Moel Arthur and the crickets and birds were clearly starting to wake up. The light in the horizon hadn’t gone and during this climb, the sky just got even lighter. We forgot how tight the path was on the descent from Moel Arthur and this took longer than we remembered. Not being able to see where you’re headed is really disorientating!
We reached the car at the bottom of the final hill just after 3am. We collected the cooking equipment, the food and dropped off anything we no longer needed for our final hike onto Penycloddiau hill.
We were extremely tired by this point. Our knees and ankles really felt the strain of the terrain and the amount of climbs and descents we had done. We headed through the forest, onto the hill and disturbed all the sheep who probably wondered what on earth we were doing. We found a nice sheltered spot and set up for our breakfast. It was around 4am at this point, with the sunrise due at 4.45am.
We were teased again by this strip of bright red underneath the cloud. The colours were incredible. We had the bacon sizzling in the pan, hot drinks in our hands and this red view. A few minutes silence was needed to take it all in whilst the dogs napped. However, Mother Nature had other ideas, especially in the hills, and the weather turned so quickly. The clouds and fog rolled in hiding our beautiful red strip and the sunrise altogether. We laughed. We knew it was a potential and grateful we saw the sunset and decent colours before the sun rise. We sat and enjoyed our bacon baps, hot drinks and looked at where we had walked from and as tired as we were, incredibly proud of ourselves that we had completed this challenge.
We packed everything away, left no trace (how it should be) and walked back to the car for the final drive to retrieve the other car. All in all, 8.5 miles later at 5.30am.
Hints and Tips
Plan. Plan, plan, plan. Think about your route, use the OS Map anyway. Even if you know the route, the dark can disorient you so much. Make sure your location settings on your phone is on and close friends or family know your route, who you’re going with and what times you plan. Set up an agreement and check in at specific points.
We took 2 dogs with us, they were brilliant. They both had lights attached to them, short leads and take plenty of water and snacks for them. It’s hard for them too! Where we walked is tick season and unfortunately we suffered a couple of ticks on each, so I would recommend taking a tick remover with you too.
Food! Bacon baps and hot drinks was the best idea we had! It made it so nice to sit and chill at the end and talk about what we had just completed.
The weather, keep checking, do not put yourself in danger and if needs be, cut it short. You can always do it again.
Days off! Make sure you have some time to recover before going back to work or normal life. It’s incredible challenging on your body and much harder than you think it’s going to be!
Many people have asked us why we decided to do this. And in all honesty, why not. It was invigorating, surreal and the feeling was incredible. I absolutely would do this again, maybe with better weather! I also plan to do a sunrise to sunset walk in the winter, slightly more favourable on the body clock.
I would recommend anyone to do this, taking into account the safety aspects I’ve raised. It’s amazing. Go do it and let me know how you get on!!