Category Archives: Wales

First Winter Day

Black Mountains – 19-01-2015

Having just replaced my long-suffering boots with a new pair, the weather forecast gave an ideal opportunity to bed them in. The amount of ice on the driveway and local roads meant that somewhere near was athe best option, so I headed south to the Black Mountains at the eastern end of the Brecon Beacons NP.

Plenty of snow was visible on the hills as I drove towards Hay and then Talgarth, so I was a little surprised that the ground was mostly free of snow and unfrozen at the bottom of Y Grib – the undulating ridge head onto the high ground.

But after crossing over Castell Dinas and climbing out of the bwlch, there was no shortage. I followed the ridge up to the cairn, with Pen y Fan and friends impressively coming into view round the side of Mynydd Troed.

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On the ridge, the snow mostly just inches deep – the wind scouring from the ridge and depositing it on the leeward slopes – but on the plateau towards Pen Y Mallwyn it was much deeper and unconsolidated, making every step an effort.

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Much post-holing and floundering later,  and I reached the ridge path heading towards Waun Fach. The snow again was a lot easier here, and I made good progress on the path to the summit plateau.

I’d seen figures on the skyline earlier, and now could see they were all carrying unfeasibly large packs. And the SA-8o’s were bit of a giveaway that this wasn’t a D of E award group out training.

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After stopping for food, I took a wide loop round the summit plateau, before heading back to the car via Pen Trumau

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Overnight on Snowdon

The prospect of an imminent week in Amsterdam made focus on getting out for a day. The forecast was good but the inevitable traffic faff and late departure meant that it was almost 7PM before I got to Llanberis. The late hour meant I was tempted to cancel plans for a wild camp and use the excellent Llwyn Celyn Bach campsite, but the moon was full so I reckoned I’d be well up  the hill before darkness and tiredness struck.

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The sun set behind me, casting a deep red glow onto Snowdon as I made my way up the Llanberis path. Just a few folk were still coming down – happy faces after a beautiful day. As the sun went down, the full moon came up, disappearing behind  the cliffs above as I dropped off the path towards Llyn Du’r Arddu. Head torch was needed now for the first time, as I scouted around for a dry, flat and rock-free pitch. One located, it was time for a quick meal before bed.

I woke  briefly at about 2am to find the tent much brighter than  when I’d gone to sleep: the moon was now above the cliffs, illuminating the whole cwm below.  By 0600, it was properly light outside so after admiring the cliffs above I quickly packed up. My initial plan was to cross below the cliffs to the bwlch below Moel Cynghorion, but the weather looked good enough that a diversion to Snowdon summit (hopefully sans crowds) was appealing.

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Rejoining the Llanberis path, the sky was a patchwork of cloud, and the sudden views into the Llanberis path after Clogwyn station were a joy.

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As I neared the summit, my hopes of it being empty were dashed. I could make out a lone figure by the cairn. The views of the cloud bank rolling over Crib Goch, and a sea of cloud below me stretching out to sea were good compensation, though.wpid-P1020788.jpg

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The guy at the summit was  by himself – and seemed cheery enough, asking about the route down to Llanberis. Only then did he drop a bombshell: He’d walked through the night from Pen y Pass for 11 hours (no torch, and no obvious map, and you can guess the footwear), and he had two mates somewhere below on the steep screes at the top of the Watkin path. They’d had enough, and had called Mountain Rescue – and a helicopter was on the way.

On cue, Rescue 122 flew in over the cloud from Valley, and winched up the two below.  By chance, an ex-NEWSAR leader had arrived at the summit with some clients, and he led the third guy back down, while the Sea King headed off with his mates.wpid-P1020796.jpg

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Peace at last. I had the summit to myself for a good 15 minutes, before the first two trains of the day (first one: cafe staff; second one: water!) arrived.

wpid-P1020801.jpgwpid-P1020804.jpgThe rest of the day was less eventful: Down the Snowdon Ranger path, with my shadow  surrounded by a solar glory. The angle was never quite right for a full Brocken Spectre.

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A brief diversion to the top of the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu cliffs allowed me to look down to last night’s camping spot,  then up over Moel Cynghorion (tick!) and Fron Goch, (tick!!)  with a pause to watch ravens and (I think?) a peregrine falcon soaring over the cliffs.

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Finally, onwards to Moel Eilio (tick!!!) in the sun, and back to the car via the maze of little lanes and fields above Llanberis.

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Tryfan

About three years ago I’d been up the north ridge of Tryfan with Rob. While this ‘ticked’ the summit, I’ve never repeated the route on my own. Yesterday’s forecast for light winds and dry rock, so it seemed an ideal opportunity.

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Parked up at the foot of the Milestone buttress, I followed the obvious path up. Unfortunately I missed the less obvious fork onto the North ridge and found myself traversing towards the Heather Terrace. I backtracked and found a route up a damp gully which brought me to a familiar spot a little below the Cannon.

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From here the route up was clear and took me to the flat area at the base of the North Tower.

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The North Tower is the most difficult part of the route, and I spent a good 40 minutes trying to find a route up that I was happy to do. Lots of false starts both to the east and west that took me onto ground that was well beyond my (failing) confidence level. At least I was getting lots of good practice in downclimbing – something that I usually have problems with. Crampon marks everywhere didn’t help me much.

Eventually I did the sensible thing and sat down with food and water, and waited for inspiration. It came in the form of another walker who carefully but confidently scrambled up the centre line of the tower. I watched where she’d started from, and went back for another shot. Knowing somebody else has been that way made a huge difference, and after the first section the scrambling gradually became easier until I reached the ‘notch’ below the North summit. This was easily dispatched, and I was soon standing by Adam and Eve on the main summit.

I traversed round the south summits and into Cwm Tryfan. I was a long way behind my initial timing estimate, so I was tempted to make my way back to the road – but with the weather staying good, and plenty of time before dark I opted to stick with the plan of walking the main plateau and dropping back down to Ogwen via the Devil’s Kitchen.

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Rather than deal with Bristly Ridge or the screes, I took the Miners path round the head of the cwm. This is part of the route that the miners working the copper mines on Snowdon would have followed back to their homes in Bethesda every week. At the top of the path by the edge of the plateau a very lonely Starry Saxifrage was hiding by the stream

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It was an easy walk from here across Glyder Fach and Fawr, and even the notorious screes down to Llyn Y Cwn didn’t seem to bad. But, tiredness kicked in properly on the knee-jarring descent of the Devil’s Kitchen, and I was relieved when the path finally levelled off as you approach Llyn Idwal.

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