Cabin fever had set in over the last few weeks/months, and I was desperate to get out for a day, regardless of conditions. Apart from a few hours before Christmas walking in to Llyn Lygad Rheidol, below Pumlumon, It feels like I’ve not spent enough time out walking – let alone backpacking.
The met forecast was basically for hill fog and some drizzle everywhere – but had a few crumbs of comfort – “lifting in the afternoon” ‘higher summits may be clear”, interspersed with the usual may/might/could weasel words.
9:30PM on Friday night. The sun has just gone down, the last rays weakened by the cloud rolling down off the Glyderau plateau and masking the tops of the Snowdon horseshoe. I’ve reached the summit of Cnicht, and it’s time to find a spot to camp before the light dies.
It’s been too long since I’ve blogged – and also too long since I’ve been out in the hills. The weather seems to have been nothing but rain since a trip to the Carneddau in mid May, but today’s forecast was good enough to deserve a day trip to the heart of Snowdonia. And as I’ve just replaced my tired and leaking (but much loved) La Sportiva Trango Alps with a pair of Trango Evo’s, something rocky rather than peaty was required.
The Gribin Ridge seemed to fit the bill. An easy scrambling route onto the Glyderau plateau, and I could head over Glyder Fawr and then down into Cwm Idwal via the Devil’s Staircase.
It’s always surprising how quickly you leave the A5 (and the crowds) behind as you climb away from Llyn Ogwen. First stop was Llyn Bochlwyd, which is a great viewpoint for Tryfan and back across the valley to the Carneddau. I headed west, picking up the path that heads up towards the Gribin. there are a few rocky steps you can play on in the lower part of the route, but a path follows the line of least resistance and brings you out to the ‘football pitch’ where the rocky crest of Y Gribin can be properly appreciated.
The path keeps on, below and to the right of the crest, with great views down into deserted Cwm Cneifion and the winter climbing routes on Clogwyn Du. I should probably have left the path earlier than I did, as the cairn marking the descent route came into view quite quickly. The new boots were great -grippy, and confidence-inspiring when edging, and felt a lot more ‘tactile’ than the Trango Alps. Also, the shockingly bright blue finish is now toned down with a subtle layer of dust and dirt.
The path across the plateau to Glyder Fach is heavily cairned, but visibility was good enough today not to need them. A bit of high cloud was blocking the sun, making photography far from ideal, and there was a good cooling breeze. I’d been on Glyder Fawr twice before – but only in winter, with good snow cover and crampons. It’s actually a lot harder work when there’s no snow, and the screes down to Lyn y Cwn (which had been easy in winter) were something of a slithery nightmare.
The positive side is that it’s a lot easier to locate the Devil’s Kitchen path when there’s no snow. I’d spent 15 minutes trying to find it on a previous visit… The path down below Twll Du is steep and rocky, but very well maintained. I took the left fork to take me round the quieter western side of Llyn Idwal. Plenty of wild flowers out, including Butterwort and Mossy Saxifrage, and a couple that I haven’t identified yet.
Due to rain the camera stayed buried in the rucksack all day yesterday, and the rucksack, in turn, was buried under several tons of snow. This was intentional – part of the process of building a ‘shovel-up’ shelter. In a couple of hours our team of eight had built a shelter big enough for eight people (and one dog) to stand up inside. Inside was the right place to be, as the weather outside was just continually wet. We’d taken a gondola ride up onto Aonach Mor, and done more work on avalanche assessments before getting out the shovels and digging. We also looked at the use of avalanche probes, hunting for a buried drybag in the snow. Some photos on Rob’s blog here.
Today was the last day, and with a forecast for ‘incessant’ rain and high winds I didn’t have very high hopes. We headed into Glencoe, and up onto a rainy Buchaille Etive Beag. We found what was probably the last decent snowpatch left on the hill, and refreshed ice axe arrests and step cutting, and admired the remains of the snow-holes built by the SARDA Wales team as part of their winter training week in January. By the time we’d finished there was blue sky in evidence and the clouds were parting around us, giving great views down the glens and the occasional rainbow.
We followed the ridge south to Stob Dubh, braving some serious gusts on the way, before heading back to the col, followed by the cars and the Clachaig. A great day to finish on!
And by the time I was back at my B & B, the view across the Loch was stunning.