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.
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.
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.
After stopping for food, I took a wide loop round the summit plateau, before heading back to the car via Pen Trumau
Snowdonia : Elidir Fawr, Mynydd Perfedd and Carnedd y Filiast
13 March, 2013: A deserted cwm, grass as far as the eye can see. It climbs gently at first, then depressingly steeply to the bwlch at the head. A pair of Ravens cronk loudly, demanding an audience for their antics. It could be almost anywhere in Wales, or rather almost anywhere else: Welcome to Cwm Dudodyn, on the unfashionable western side of the Glyderau.
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.
With today’s forecast featuring 100mph winds and rain coming in from the North, we drove down to Glencoe hoping to make the most of the day before the conditions got too bad. Rob’s choice of route was to head up to Coire nan Lochan, between two of the ‘Three Sisters of Glencoe’. This valley lies parallel to the more famous “Hidden Valley” where the MacDonald clan reputedly used to hide rustled Campbell cattle. It’s a long and steep walk-in but with a well maintained path for a good part of the way.
As we reached the corrie proper the rain started to come down, and we put on crampons (and waterproofs) and headed onto the ridge towards the summit. The summit ridge is rocky and awkward to walk while wearing crampons, so we stopped before the summit and headed back into the corrie to look at making snow bollards and ice axe belays. The snow was definitely wetter than yesterday, and the rain and rising temperatures could make things interesting tomorrow.
The rain continued all the way back to the cars (so few photos) and we headed to the Clachaig Inn for Hot Chocolates, beers and an opportunity to dry out a bit before the journey back to Fort William.
The first day of the Winter Skills course with Rob was spent looking at basic axe, boot and crampon skills. We met at Rob’s rented cottage for tea and a look at the weather and avalanche risks before driving over to the Nevis Range ski lifts and taking the Gondola up to get to the snowline quickly. Apart from the dry ski slope all other runs are still closed, but there was a good dusting of fresh snow and a firm base on the leeward eastern slopes.
As the forecast for the rest of the week is for wetter, windier and, generally, more Scottish weather, we seized the opportunity and daggered our way up the steep slope onto the ridge and headed on up to the summit, rewarded with great views of the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg.
After stopping to admire the views and check out the cornices we headed back down towards the gondola
Oh, and if you ever drop your water bottle 30m down a steep snow slope, it’s very handy have a trained Search Dog who’s prepared to act as a retriever… Thanks, Skye.