Crossing Wales in a straight line just became a race

Crossing Wales in a straight line just became a race

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- [Tom] Well, they've seen me, f**cking hell this is horrible. No way, I can't get over that. - [Voiceover] Welcome back everyone, to the Geo Wizard channel, the home of the mischievous adventure. That's perfect.

The only place on the internet where you can watch a 30 year old man dressed in camo, running away from a furious Welsh farmer whilst apologizing profusely. - I'm sorry! - [Voiceover] You'd think we'd all had enough by now, but here we all are again. That's right. This is the fourth time that I'm attempting to cross the same country in a completely straight line. But don't worry, by the end of this short intro, you will understand why. there's so much stake this time.

As many of you will remember, the heartbreaking GPS malfunction that forced me and my brother Ben from our line 16 months prior, on an otherwise successful mission, resulted in an in-continuous, and thus impure victory. In other words, this mental challenge had yet to be completed. A few months later, while I scoffed burgers and Budweiser's in America, emails came in from hopeful adventurers, such as Marcus, the chess teacher, and a very confident chap named Tom Fell. The message was clear. I wasn't the only one that wanted to put this thing to bed.

However, far too unfit for an October attempt. I had to watch on helplessly as Marcus eeked his way along the line. When I logged in one day and saw his curly locks passing Bescot Stadium, by Junction 10 of the M6 I knew I was safe for the time being, but even when Tom Fell had to postpone his plans due to visa issues, I knew that I was living on borrowed time. Now, I don't mind admitting at all that I was desperate to be the first person to do this.

The last three years of my life had been engulfed by this quest, and during that three years, I've endured a fair bit of heartache and pain because of it. And that's not even mentioning the editing. I'm not gonna let some random kids pip me to the post after everything I've been through, but that's exactly what promised to transpire. When, on Jan, the 18th, 2023, I received an email from my most formidable competition yet, informing me of their plans to conquer Wales in little over three weeks time. Archie and Adam Fieldhouse, or the whippersnappers, as I like to call them, successfully crossed Scotland precisely a year earlier, an achievement that myself and Welsh Greg were painfully denied by none other than Stirlingshire Police. - It's not just mad, it's illegal.

- [Voiceover] They're a very capable and confident pair, who don't mind cracking the odd joke. - Would GeoWizard be able to do this? - He'd have gone home by now. - [Voiceover] And their approach to straight line missioning, which involves heavy support and zero weight carried, means that their chances of success would be even higher.

Although Wales is harder to cross than Scotland for various reasons, I knew that their odds of making a successful crossing were at least 50/50. My original plans to make an attempt in early to mid-Feb were now out the window. The boys had been kind enough to give me the opportunity to go before them, all I had to do was take it.

- Okay, we are back in wildest Wales, it pains me to say. Basically I'm here to check out a couple of pretty steep mountain sides that I need to make sure are doable, and aren't deadly. Because, in a bid to avoid farmer stress, and therefore chance of failure, this line is pretty mountainous, which brings its own challenges. - [Voiceover] The thinking was, that the less farmland there was, the more in control I was of my destiny.

So I'd drawn up a line on Google Earth that pretty much lay entirely over high altitude moors or mountain ranges, and crossed far less farmland than any previous Welsh line I'd attempted. The trade off for this though was that the line was longer, at 42 miles, had more elevation gain, at a whopping 5,000 meters, and was sure to be steeper, more remote, and more dangerous. This meant two things. Firstly, I needed to get as fit as I possibly could in the 10 days between now and my selected start date.

- I can't see. - [Voiceover] And secondly, I would need to make absolutely certain that my strategy was not only safe, but foolproof. - This is definitely the most prepared I've ever been.

All the food, you know, clothes in that box, technology over there, look at all the batteries over there. And crucially, guys, this time, satellite-capable GPS. So I can text Verity. I'm here, I've run out of battery. So, very prepared. - [Voiceover] Despite it actually being a lot more dangerous, my mountain strategy felt safe compared to the much riskier farmland strategy that my competitors would be adopting.

Four solid days of missioning, starting with a hefty 14.5 miler, would be broken up by three campfire-free wild camp spots. Verity, who would be based in nearby Bala, would be on hand to meet me at any point. That said, the backpack, although slightly lighter than usual at six kilograms, would ultimately remain stocked for a camp at all times, and rendezvous would be kept to a minimum. In terms of deviations, platinum was the goal, but quite honestly, I was so desperate to reach the coast in one continuous line, that if at any point striving for platinum felt like it could jeopardize the trip, then gold it would have to be. The weather happened to be very favorable on the week surrounding the 29th of Jan, and the golden beaches of Barmouth Bay, my most scenic finish line yet, waited patiently for me.

I can honestly say, and if any of my school teachers are listening to this, they'll agree, that I've never been more focused on anything in my entire life. - What's the date? - It's the 29th. - Okay. It is Sunday, the 29th of Jan. This is my fourth attempt at Wales, and I don't even care, it's my final one, because I'm gonna succeed. I am about to set off over eight miles of farmland, which I'm dreading, but then after that, it's moors, mountains, forests, which I'm also kind of dreading. Anyway, without any further ado, I am gonna shake off these butterflies, and I'm gonna fucking smash it. Come on.

Okay. In view of this farmhouse over here, I'm gonna cross the border into Wales. It seems like the edge of this field is the border, so let's do it.

Ah, I've already whacked my shin off a rock. Fantastic start. And we're off. Let's do this. I am moving fast today, guys. I am not messing around. - [Voiceover] The strategy for the farmland-heavy day one, was to move as quickly as possible through the fields, hiding if necessary, but generally speaking, barely stopping, and even running where possible.

This way, not only would I potentially make some serious ground, but I'd be making interactions like this one, (OI! WHERE YOU GOING!?) a lot less likely. - The way I'm looking at it is, I haven't been caught before, you know? so.. I might see a farmer, but then they've gotta see me, and then they've gotta catch me. So my odds are good when you look at it like that. - [Voiceover] What also really helped in this regard was the fact that it was a Sunday, and although farmers are known to operate on Sundays, they're far less likely to be operating on a Sunday in January.

However, as that winter daylight began to illuminate the arena of play, I was suddenly reminded how precarious my situation actually was. - For those of you who haven't watched one of these, my ears are always on the listen out for the faint rumblings of a quad bike, whose tracks you can see right here, 'cause one could appear at any moment over the brow of this hill. Then what do I do? I'm forced off, just like that, in a blink of an eye. Is that a fox, or is that a dog? - [Voiceover] This is probably a good time to tell you that some of the footage in this mission may be missing some of its upper parts. I opted to ditch my classic 4:3 aspect ratio this time in favor of a wide view, but didn't really consider that the angle at which I position my GoPro on my head might not be ideal for that.

It shouldn't affect the overall edit too much, especially as this is a more condensed edit than usual. But there will be the odd clip where you can't actually see what I'm referring to. - Well, I'm doing it. Oh dear.

He's not. That is grim. Wonder if that was that fox, the little bugger. It feels great when you're just on the field basically, because, all those jittery nerves you get when you just sat there anticipating it, does my head in. When you're out here, you're doing it, you're controlling things. Hopefully.

I can hide, I can run, I can do anything I want. I just can't deviate from this line, despite shit like this. - [Voiceover] But embarrassingly, that's exactly what I did thanks to my second technological mishap in the space of half an hour. A disorienting setting on my new GPS that caused me to leave the line by a ghastly 19 meters. Don't worry though, I quickly fixed this, and can assure you that that is the last of the electrical blunders. Just as well, because over the brow of the next hill was my first farm of the day.

- Here we go. Whew, I am nervous. Must make sure not to deviate.

Oh, I can see diggers. Ah, that's nice. - [Voiceover] Staring into the farm yard bothered me more than I thought it would.

- That is one active farm. - [Voiceover] However, the undulating terrain of a scrambler track just to the south of the yard, kept me hidden for the most part, as did the sheds themselves. Before long, I was past the worst of it. - We are away from that farm, I think it's safe to say. So that's obstacle one, overted. There's another big farm today later on, and that's in about, three, four miles.

Once I get past that, I really am looking good. - [Voiceover] The beauty of this line was that even the farmland sections were mostly pretty high up. At this altitude, you get the odd stretch of marshland, and the fields are usually big, open, and lined only by barbed wire fences. - Has to be said, I'm making very good ground at the moment. Just need to keep it up. - [Voiceover] Occasionally, as a reward for powering up a steep grassy hill, I'd get a practically bird's eye view of the nearest farm.

This allowed me to look and listen out for farmers, as I made light work of their thorn-free boundaries. - It's pretty hedgerow free, this type of farmland. And as a result, I've completely skipped this. - [Voiceover] Soon though, it was time to make the inevitable dip down into the valley, where the farms are more robustly and fiercely guarded. - First of the day.

(sound of twigs rustling) - There we go. I think I can part here. Just about. Yeah, just about.

Definitely should have taken the bag off. Oh man. That is hard. This is meant to keep someone out.

Not me, though. - [Voiceover] Over the next hill, another farm to my right had me worried, as the farmer strolled out of his yard with his dog. But he didn't see me, and nor did anyone else as I emerged out of this woodland. - This is definitely their field. - [Voiceover] And powered my way up the steep field at the back of their farm. - Good timing, actually.

- [Voiceover] Next up, however, the most nerve-wracking farm of the day, and possibly the whole trip. - And that is Backyard Farm, right ahead. Sooner than I thought, which is kind of good, really. The saving grace is, that either side, there is some form of sanctuary.

On this side, it's like this ferny valley. Then the other side, there's a road, a country lane. (sound of sheep in background) - But, the downsides are, there could be dogs, there could be a farmer. I could be accosted very easily.

- [Voiceover] At the bottom of that ferny valley, I heard the dogs. (distant barking) - Ah, for fuck's sake. Now I'm dreading it. Hopefully that thing's chained up, man. Seriously.

(dogs still barking) - Bloody hell. This is gonna be one where I am viewing from the sidelines for a bit. This is it, guys. One of the biggest moments of the trip.

- [Voiceover] Cleverly remembering that dogs have quite a good sense of hearing, I crept silently up towards their annoyingly positioned kennel, in the hopes that they wouldn't notice me. Unsure of what was over the next fence, I headed for the cover of this oak tree, around 15 meters offline. With the dogs still silent, I made my move. - Okay, let's go. - [Voiceover] However, you will see that from the moment my feet touched the floor, it took them all of 1.15 seconds to go berserk. (dogs barking) - Well, they've seen me.

- [Voiceover] Hoping that the owner hadn't, it was now time for the actual farm part of the farm. - Oh my God. - [Voiceover] I could have climbed over this and avoided the 12 meter deviation.

- I'm not going in there. - [Voiceover] But, if someone was there watching me through a window, they'd be a lot more inclined to come after me, and for the sake of such a minor deviation it didn't seem worth the risk. - That is serious, that. Please don't be a wobbler. Oh, it's a wobbler. (groans) - I've done it though.

Wet foot. Slightly to the left of the line (8 metres) but, I'm gonna opt for the barb wire, and then I've gotta get through this. Okay, up here we go.

Come on, mate. - [Voiceover] Glad to have found myself a gap, it was up and onto the next hill, where I was able to keep a watchful eye on the nearest farms and set my sights on my next safe haven. - I am going straight up that gorge, I know that. Okay. There was a farmer there, on the road reversing. There he goes.

I'm in his blind spot now. - [Voiceover] Moments later, another vehicle slowed right down. - Oh, he's stopped. Why is he stopped? Slightly worrying.

- [Voiceover] Thankfully, they also buggered off, and I was able to make my way over this stream, past this house, and over the road without any interference. The timing felt good, but it may have been even better than I thought. - Lovely little spot. And there's that farm vehicle, four by four. See, you don't know.

It's unlikely, but that four by four, he's gone past twice, Could have been from that house, or farm. Could have been, and he's looking for me, but I've just gone at such a speed that I've evaded him. As I say, probably not, but could be. It's feasible. - [Voiceover] Either way, my policy of moving quickly had served me well so far.

- Ah, my groin. - [Voiceover] I'd traveled over six miles in less than three hours, and having passed most of the day's farmland, was well on course for reaching the ambitious camp 1B in the measly nine hours of daylight that I had to play with. I knew I shouldn't have opened my stupid mouth. My second to least favorite plant, the gorse shrub, teamed up with some pretty vertical drops to reverse some of my good progress. No, I don't. I don't know what to do here.

I genuinely don't. I think I've gotta go up there. Absolute madness. - [Voiceover] But, after a 20 minute battle, I was soon at the apex of the creek.

- Gorge done, not too bad. and up onto my next ankle-bending strip of moorland. Now, I'm not trying to jinx anything again but, what's so great about this line, even the farm section, or at least the main one, is so high altitude that there are many bits like this, which is great. I mean, it's not very nice to walk on.

It's zaps your energy, farmers up here. - [Voiceover] 1.2 miles of marsh, grass, gorse, and even snow, later. - Oh, fuck, that is deep. - [Voiceover] Just as the rare January Welsh sun was really starting to raise my spirits. - What a day one this is turning out to be.

- [Voiceover] A couple of awkward farms came into view. And there is the farm. It's a big one. What I'm really praying for is that the farm just isn't in operation on a Sunday. - [Voiceover] These were the last farms of the day, and although I wouldn't be treading too close to them, I'd be exposed for a good number of fields, and didn't exactly have the best escape route either. - Keep going, Tommy.

- [Voiceover] At least for the time being, it seemed like my wishes for a lazy Sunday at the farm had been granted. So far, so good, and I was able to waltz on through. I think we may have got away with that one. If we get to the road, I'm fairly safe.

'Cause if someone comes then, I can just sit on the side of the road and say, "Ever so sorry, I got lost. I've done my ankle, my girlfriend's coming to pick me up." And then then wait for no one to be around, and then just leg it up the hill. Just leg it up that.

It really is one of those days so far where everyone's just having a chill. Except for one person. Ah, fuck. Ah, Thorn right in the bun cheek, right up the arse.

Ah, fuck off. Absolute dick. Man overboard? It's not quite that bad just yet. Okay, two more fences and I believe I am home and dry, in terms of farmland for today, and for 90% of the trip. The only thing that could stop that happening now is a farmer moving across here on a quad bike and chasing me.

- [Voiceover] But thankfully for my already aching legs, I had no such bad luck. - I can't see or hear any movement in that farm either. It's just been an incredible amount of inactivity, and with each fence now, I think I'm getting more and more towards justifiably occupiable land, where they wouldn't bother kicking me off. Can't even walk, let alone run.

Oh, there is movement over there now. Farm vehicle. It's one of those sheep carriers. - [Voiceover] My legs definitely weren't thanking me for it, but more quick, decisive movement had put me in another great position, and I couldn't help but celebrate a bit.

- Right, I've done it. They ain't coming up here. Get in. That is basically day one done. All I'll have to do now, actually, it's really hard. Gotta go up some massive mountain sides, but still, great news for the trip. - [Voiceover] Slowly but surely, the calm green grass made way for the cold, blustery marshland that would go on to dominate the next few miles.

My next major point of interest was camp 1A, or sheep pen camp. An idyllic grassy spot, sandwiched between two monstrous valley walls. I was pretty sure that I'd be scaling both of these this afternoon before soldiering onto camp 1B.

However, the exhausting terrain I now found myself batting through had slowed me down to a snails pace. - This is horrible, by the way. Really, really horrible. So spongy and deep.

Whoa, look at that. That's not sheep pen. That's the one before it, fuck me. I did not think that that was that steep, at all.

It's not dangerous, it's just fucking annoying. On the plus side, what a remote, tranquil, peaceful valley I've got all to myself, really high up where no one goes. Be a great little camping spot, no one would find you for days, weeks, so peaceful. You've gotta be grateful, haven't you? Freedom. Don't take it for granted. - [Voiceover] That brief moment of gratitude was quickly overshadowed by another arduous ascent through an endless array of increasingly unlikable plants.

- Fuck this. - [Voiceover] Then one more grueling mile later. - Ah yes, I can see the recognizable part of the other side now.

See how steep it looks? Now just over here, there's gonna be what it looks like, quite a steep drop, with some pretty big, rocky outcrops. I've gotta work my way between them. - [Voiceover] It was too hard to tell from Google Earth and the photographs on it, how steep this descent was. Hence the need for my recce trip five days prior, which resulted in me going home and tweaking the line, to hopefully avoid the worst of these rocky outcrops.

- Uh, that's not too bad, I can get down that. Ah, this is beautiful. Beautifully plotted line, so far. But yeah, we are five meters off the line. Waay. I love this steepness.

It's pretty damn steep, but it's not too steep. That, I think would've been, ah, it looks doable. I can't lie. Oh, there is a walker down there. Shoot, see if we can intercept him. I think he might beat me, actually, but we'll give it a try.

Thanks to the whole hillside being covered in gorse, I failed to intercept the hiker and filled my boots with thorns in the process. Thrilled by the thought of scaling this with thorns embedded into my socks, I hurried down to the bottom of the mountain. - Huh, okay, gorse done, cliff's done. See what I mean by some of those bits? - [Voiceover] To be honest, it was a good job I didn't stop and chat with a fellow lover of the outdoors at this point, because by the time I'd got some food and water down me, texted Verity my camp 1B ETA, and heaved my burning legs up the biggest and steepest descent of the day so far.

- Oh, hello, lactic acid. Get me to the top of this, now. Time suddenly felt quite precious.

I've got two hours or so to do three miles of this, which is a little bit ropey, a little bit iffy. Especially as I'm tiring. I've got my head torch, but I do have to go down pretty steep thing, towards the end. Kind of similar to that. So I need to keep moving, despite what my body's telling me. So hopefully this plateau's out in a minute, 'cause, goddamn.

I just can't go up it anymore. - [Voiceover] Eventually though, this 200 tall meter slab of Welsh rock began to flatten out. - Ah, yes. That is an achievement in any man's book. - [Voiceover] The thing to remember about these dramatic elevation changes, is that not only is it absolutely knackering, but you are barely moving anywhere.

That valley was 700 meters across as the crow flies, but took me an hour and a half. That's five times longer than if it were flat, and it destroyed my legs. A mile later, and you can tell how punished I must have been by that last incline, by my reaction to seeing this one. - Okay, that's not terrible. Just a few percentage less steep is a godsend, really sometimes. Oh, this ground's amazing as well.

Thank God. That is such a relief. I can walk, I mean, look at me, I'm walking. The ups and downs, both metaphorically and physically, are truly something on these missions. - [Voiceover] Another magical seldom seen valley led me down to a lovely little cozy gorge, which proved a tricky obstacle. - Right.

This ain't ease- This ain't a gimme, is it? Safety-wise. (sound of nearby water) - That's pretty cool, actually. That was nice. - [Voiceover] But it was after this, at around 3:30 that things started to go a bit south. - Ah, this is exhausting man, going along the side of this.

Ah, really taking it outta me. And I've still got about two miles to go. It's not good. Really not good. And I haven't eaten enough food or drank enough water. Stupid. Ah...

F**king hell this is horrible. I've just gotta get a mile that way but.. I'm feeling weak. I haven't got jelly babies today. The one time I need 'em. I could sit here and eat, but I need, it's the darkness as well.

It's hard to know what to do. Oh, I've gotta eat. I've gotta have something, and then I'll dig in for the last mile. - [Voiceover] The anxious energy that had caused me to move so quickly that day, was the same anxiousness that had decreased my appetite. The 200 gram packet of dried mango that I wolfed down me was better late than never, though.

And it seemed that I would be making it out of this endless sea of misty bracken. What a ghastly place. And down toward my target of the gigantic Nant Valley before dark. And as it turned out, those last rays of sunlight would prove to be extremely important.

- Fuck me. Now, I know this is a steep descent. I don't think it's that bad. It looks really bad now 'cause we're in a cloud, but let's see, could be bad. It's telling me just to go straight down here.

Let's check it out. Fuck me. No way, I can't get over that. Oh my God, I've gotta go up and over that.

Oh, dear. This is madness. Right, I think this is a bit of a, "I can't believe you've done this," sort of moment. Sadly. I could get up there, but I don't want to because of that. I could go around there, but I think it's about 50 meters off.

I could go up there, that's gonna be a fair bit off as well. I'm gonna try down, down and around there. That's too dangerous. - [Voiceover] I already knew at this point that this hidden ravine was probably gonna cost me my platinum run. - 28 meters off, we're out the platinum zone. - [Voiceover] It was now a question of finding a reasonably safe route up that was as close to the line as possible.

It's up here guys. That's where we're going. (sound of rushing water) - It's gonna look high, but it won't be that high, will it, really? I can try and get up this. That might be the one. We got gorse there as well. Fuckin hell.

So I need to crawl up there for dear life. And there's gorse thorns everywhere, which ain't great, but needles is better than slipping. - It's about four o'clock now, that's the other thing. Don't want to be up here when it's dark, so. Let's just have a look. Does this? Does this? Yes, that looks...

doable. As I suspected, the cliff is there, and this is all right, down there, look. Get in. Now, how far are we off? Ha, look at the farmer. We're 28 meters off still. - [Voiceover] In some ways, 31 meters was tough to take, as it is quite close to the platinum zone, but I did suspect that it would happen at some point.

And 31 meters is a whole lot better than 49, especially when it comes to the equally important Burdell Score, which I was hoping to keep above 90. At this point, I was just glad that it was still light, and that I was able to gaze on at the finishing line of what was a truly gargantuan day's missioning. However, just because you can see something, doesn't mean you're going to be there anytime soon. (upbeat music starts) - Uh! This is horrible, horrible gorse. Oh my god, that feels good. And now it's straight down there, Jesus.

Oh man, that's so steep. Pain is my friend. (age of empires villagers dying sound) Oh shit. Ah, no, no..

(music continues) - Look at that, man. Look at what I've just come down, it's daft. Almost as daft as that. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

And that is it. This is the campsite, just here. I'm not sure where Verity is. Need to try and contact her on the satellite phone. But that is this day of missioning over and out. Tomorrow, I attempt to get up that.

But what a day. That's by far the longest distance I've ever done on a straight line mission. And it's certainly felt it at times. Is that Verity? It is. She's coming to restock me.

- Two adventure foods, the biltong, the protein grains, couscous, figs, peanuts, m&m peanuts, cliff bar. - Yeah nice. - Protein, tuna, fish and stuffed olives. - Great.

- [Voiceover] Comforting words after a day like that. But how successful a day was it? Well, after the 31 meter deviation, the next worst were 19 in that early wood, 17 at Backyard Farm, and 18 to avoid this garden just after it, slightly wobblier than the previous couple of missions, but all in the name of survival. The hardest thing about this day was the elevation, at well over 1500 meters of ascent. However, despite the big dent in the overall distance and the shorter days that resulted, the climbing element was not going to get any easier. - I'm not sure whether I'll make the end, physically. Well, here I am, in my tent, with my new fancy gear that's gonna keep me warm.

About to just scoff loads of food now because I just haven't eaten anywhere near enough food today. Partly, it's just no appetite 'cause of just, adrenaline and jitters. And I'm hoping that this isn't gonna be too much of a loud bloody night's sleep with all this wind. I'm doing it how I set out to do originally, and that's the camp out.

Verity's basically just a walking stash point. That's, that's the only difference. Anyway, I'm gonna chow down now, and I'll see you in the morning. That is the line. Don't really like this, to be honest.

It's very. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This is absolute hell on earth. God, man. This is close for comfort. That is not good timing Tom, what have you done? Can I get over all the necessary barbed fences, through their land before they get to me? (music playing)

2023-04-25 17:00

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