Friday, November 21, 2014

THE 3000ers OF WALES....ALMOST

I must confess to finding this time of year tough. The days suddenly seem so short and the weather still hasn't settled into proper winter so I feel somewhat cooped in and claustrophobic. With this in mind I decided to take advantage of a long weekend off at work and head to one of my favorite places-Snowdonia. I went fully laden with my tent, equipment and food for three days. I had a vague plan to start in Llanfairfechan , just head south and see how far I could get. I did my usual train, ferry, train trip and it was dark and dry when I alighted in Llanfairfechan Saturday evening at 6.20pm. I stayed in the excellent bunkhouse at Platts Farm which was only half a mile from the station and a comfortable night followed.

Sunday  16th Nov;
Rising above Llanfairfechan

I got up at six am and after sorting out my stuff and forcing down a bite to eat I was out in the predawn in the sleepy village to begin my journey. Nothing was moving and it was quite nice to walk anonymously through the quite nice looking streets. There was little breeze and it was mild and dry with some clear skies overhead, result!. The light soon improved and by the time I was up at the golf club I could see quite well and get a good view of the village nestling in the valley below. I found the path that led up into the hills above and in good spirits set off. I was reminded of my first trip to the Pyrenees in the first week of December 2011. If you substituted the Med for the Irish sea and Banyuls Sur Mer for Llanfairfechan and the foothills of the Pyrenees for the Carneddu there wasn't a lot of difference, well okay, perhaps it is a bit of a leap in imagination but it was how I felt and I was really looking forward to what was to come. I liked the way that the route started at sea level and the hills rose in stages and stature until finally spending a lot of time above 3000 ft. The good path climbed up through good pastureland and afforded lovely views down to the village and beyond over Conwy Bay and Anglesea. Rounding the shoulder of Garreg Fawr the landscape opened up and a wild rolling range of hills rose in stages and eventually disappeared into the clouds gathered ahead. Now that I was up in open territory the wind was quite stiff and carried a distinct chill but it was dry and that was a bonus. My bag felt pretty heavy but the way ahead was gentle and I made good progress.

The first major top is Drum at 770meters and here I was in the cloud and I had to check the map and compass to ensure I was setting off in the right direction. Navigation was easy as there was a fence running all the way to the first 3000er of the day Foel Fras 942 meters. I was all the time in the mist but that didn't matter as I was just enjoying the fact of being out and about and it was nice to be on ground that was new to me. The helpful navigation aid of the fence was now left behind and the compass was again necessary to ensure correct progress across the rather featureless ground. There wasn't much of a drop or rise to the next top Carnedd Gwenllian 926 meters and as there was still nothing to see I took a compass bearing and set off for the next top Foel Grach 976 meters. There had been several occasions when the sun seemed tantalizingly close to breaking through the mist and now as I arrived at the summit I was finally rewarded with some views. The first thing to catch the eye was the rather lovely ridge leading to the summit of Yr Elen 962 Meters some two kilometers away. As I rested awhile the cloud dissipated further and the day became a wonder of blue skies and wide views across the lovely plateau of the Carneddu. I set off for the next summit and enjoyed the wonderful views before reaching the top of Carnedd Llewelyn at 1065 meters the second highest mountain in Wales. I hadn't seen another living soul all day but now I was in the honey pot of Welsh hillwalking and other walkers were here enjoying this wonderful place. I didn't stop here (having had a nice rest on Foel Grach) and set off towards Carnedd Dafydd  1044 meters.
Easy ground and good paths make for good progress towards Drum

Finally emerging from the clouds and seeing Yr Elen

Towards Pen Yr Helgi Du

The East face of Carnedd Llewelyn

 I was getting a bit tired now having covered about 14 kilometers and had about 1200 meters of ascent with a big bag. Still the going was easy and the views were a pleasant distraction. When I passed the col and turned towards Dafydd I looked across the gulf to my right and realized that I had completely forgotten to do the out and back trip to Yr Elyn. I briefly considered going back and climbing it but sense prevailed and with a tinge of regret I continued to Carnedd Dafydd. I should say at this stage that I had decided against heading slavishly south and decided that the more serpentine traverse of the 3000 footers would make for a fitting challenge, so my next top was Pen yr Ole Wen at 978 meters. Here I had a decision to make again. I had decided to camp up at Lynn Bochlwyd under the west face of Tryfan and it was much of a muchness (distance wise) as to whether I went down directly towards Idwal Cottage or the easier way to the eastern side of Llyn Ogwen. The promise of a coffee and pastry in the cafe by the cottage swung the vote and the knee wrecker and steep descent to the cottage was the way I went. I was disappointed to say the least when half way down it appeared that the cafe was closed but joy was unconfined when I discovered I was mistaken and I savored every bite of the delicious (and well earned) rocky road when I eventually arrived at the roadside.
Carnedd Dafydd

Feeling a bit tired

Campsite


 I had made good time to this point so I was able to relax a while and rest before setting off on the final 250 meter pull up to my chosen campsite. Soon the crowds of people were left behind and I forced my tired legs up the steep path beside the stream that drains the lake that nestles in the impressive Cwm Bochlwyd. The mist had returned again so the wild steep cliffs all about were mostly hidden but it was still a wild and spectacular place to be. I searched around awhile looking for a good place to pitch my tent and I eventually settled on a little peninsula that stretched out into the placid lake. There was no wind and no rain so I was able to enjoy a nice early evening and cook outside etc. Occasional clearings in the mist revealed my wonderful surroundings and added to my pleasure. I had arrived at the lake at 3pm so I had been on the move for eight hours and it was a great relief to relax unencumbered in the mild evening. Darkness wasn't long in arriving and I settled into my tent for the long night ahead. The weather changed around nine that evening and I was lulled to sleep by the sound of heavy rain on my tent while I was snug and warm in my sleeping bag. It was lovely.

Monday 17th Nov;

I had hoped that the rain would have passed in the night but in the dawn light I was still listening to the rain beat on the tent accompanied by the odd strong gust of wind. The good thing about carrying enough food etc is that there is no great pressure to keep moving so I settled back and waited for things to ease. Soon enough there was a break in the weather and I got busy making breakfast and finally breaking camp. I managed to almost get it done in the dry and I was on the move again at 9.30. The first target was to climb to Bwlch Tryfan some 180 meters above. I could feel the effects of the previous days efforts and the bag seemed heavy but the path was good. The weather too wasn't too bad and occasional glimpses of blue sky made an appearance. I wasn't too bothered by the weather anyway as I had the right clothes for winter and was ready for whatever would come my way. I dropped the bag at the col and did an up and back of Tryfan. I was once again in the mist and rain and the rocky ground was treacherous and slippery which made for careful and slow going. Its not every day that one has the summit of this most popular of peaks to yourself but today I was all alone on top. Mind you it wasn't the most hospitable of places today as the wind and rain whipped across the summit. Lets just say I wasn't tempted to jump from Adam to Eve and I quickly turned and headed carefully back down. Again things cleared and I was hopeful of better weather for a while but again things closed in as I went up the steep track that rises to the left of Bristly Ridge. Ordinarily I would head straight up the very enjoyable ridge but I'm not a fan of scrambling with a heavy bag.
Bristly Ridge and Glyder Fach

Looking up to Tryfan

Looking down at the previous nights campsite

Anyway things were pretty bleak upon arriving at the summit plateau of Glyder Fach 994 mtrs. Again care was needed as the rocks were treacherous so progress was pretty slow. The mist was dense and the strange rock formations took on an otherworldly air. The good thing was that the wind was at my back so at least I didn't have to fight that. Some care was needed in navigation but I didn't tarry and set off for the next summit of Glyder Fawr 1001 mtrs. This soon passed and I descended steeply to Llyn Cwn almost 300 meters lower. Here I emerged briefly under the cloud to see a windswept sodden pass but I was almost immediately engulfed again as I set off on the slog to the next top Y Garn 947 meters. This slope seemed to go on and on and my only reward for reaching the summit was the fact that the next bit was downhill. The next top was Elidir Fawr 923 meters and this was about three kilometers away so off I set.As I descended to the col before Foel Goch the weather suddenly cleared and I was afforded stunning views to the west. The one great thing about going out in poor weather is that when things improve the enjoyment of the day increases exponentially. I must confess to being tired though and its fair to say that I set no speed records on the pull to the long slender top of Elidir Fawr. The views were a great compensation though as was the knowledge that the climbing was now done for the day. The descent into Nant Peris went well and I turned my thoughts to where I would stay for tonight. I opted to stop in the recently refurbished hostel at the Pen y Pass. It is excellent and I would highly recommend it. A very comfortable night ensued.
Back under the cloud and looking southwest

Elidir Fawr

Heading down towards Nant Peris

Lovely evening light.

Tuesday 18th Nov;

One thing for sure that can be said about the hostel is that it is Really convenient. After breakfast and getting all my nice and dry kit together I simply walked across the road and joined the Pyg track. This leads to the base of the scramble of Crib Goch 923 meters. Solitude is not easily found hereabouts but once I passed a couple at the base of the scramble I didn't see anyone else until I rejoined the miners track below Snowdons summit. The weather wasn't too bad with light winds low down (strong on top) and cloud down to about 700 meters but it was dry. The scramble to the narrow summit ridge passed easily enough and after crossing the ridge I decided to avoid the pinnacles by dropping down to the left (south) a little and traversing steep but easy rock which afforded many holds. It added a little to the interest of the route. I rejoined the crest and walked to the next top of Garnedd Ugain 1065 meters before continuing easily to the summit of Snowdon itself. Here the wind was quite strong and chilly so I didn't linger and set off towards Y Lliwedd. The cloud had remained stubbornly down all the way despite a couple of hopeful glimpses through the mist but now once I reached col I once again reemerged under the cloud and I could once again feast my eyes on this wonderful landscape. Yr Aran to my south made a very elegant statement and I promised myself that maybe next time I would visit it. The climb to the twin topped summit of Y Lliwedd saw me reenter the mist but the size of its huge cliffs well still in evidence and in these conditions gave the mountain a certain menace. All my climbing was now done and I descended down into the magnificent amphitheatre that is enclosed by these peaks. The day saw a dramatic improvement and by the time I was walking back out it was quite sunny and warm. I caught the bus back to Betws Y Coed and started my long journey back home. I was a little annoyed with myself for forgetting to do Yr Elen on Sunday but it will give me an excuse (like I need one) to return. Perhaps this winter I will get to sample the delights of winter climbing in these parts.

Looking towards LLanberris

Finally back under the clouds looking towards Yr Aran


Nice sun and cloud

Across towards Crib Goch

Snowdon peering above the cloud

Content.