Having had an epic first day back in the hills the day before, I was looking forward to Sunday and meeting up with Sean. The day began with the sun gracing the hills opposite us, and we packed up quietly. Lauren headed off for a search exercise, and I was off to the North ridge of Tryfan. It still feels a little strange meeting people you have got to know from twitter, but having met Helen in the peaks, my experiences have always been positive. It was lovely to have met Lauren as well – not only was the conversation good, and she made me laugh, but she didn’t snore and keep me awake unlike my last wild camp companion who will remain nameless 🙂
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Meeting up with Sean at Nant Gwynant car park, we headed back to the Pinnacle sports cafe in Capel Curig for a bit of ballast for the day ahead, and to decide what we wanted to do. I have always been keen to do the North ridge of Tryfan. My better half has never been a fan of scrambling and so whenever we have been in Snowdonia, we have always passed on doing it. Sean kindly agreed and so we headed down the Ogwen valley to park at the foot of Tryfan.
I think Tryfan is perhaps the most beautiful mountain to look at in Wales along with Cadir Idris, and I was genuinely excited to be climbing it. I don’t have a huge fondness for heights, attributable to being up the Kyoto Tower when a 6.3 richter scale earthquake hit on our honeymoon. Sean was decent enough to keep me away from the more exposed elements to the east, but at the same time, we took more of an interesting route up, away from the standard smooth rocked trail.
A steep ascent gave us some rapid height, and the route that Sean had us following led to a massive grin on my face. I had ditched the large sack from yesterday, and just had a small scrambling sack. Pausing to drink in the Carneddau opposite, I struggled to think of a time when I had more fun on a mountain. I was loving the physical challenge, but not feeling too exposed, and I really started to enjoy myself. Heres the route I took on social hiking;
Getting nearer to the top, the final section of Tryfan came in to view, looking like nothing else but a selection of rock lego bricks piled up by Ifor, my three year old. The top came too soon for me, and we perched for a while, catching our breath and some amazing views.
The descent was down by Llyn Bochlwyd. By this stage my feet had realised I had walked for a while the previous day, and decided to let me know that they weren’t happy with me. I’m sure other people feel the same as well, but I really have no fondness for going down hills. I would rather climb all day than have to step down. We soon reached the saddle leading down to the lake, and Sean pointed out Bristly Ridge. Keith has often said in conjunction with the North ridge of Tryfan, it is one of the best hill days out in Wales. It certainly looked like a hell of a lot of fun, but sadly we had a 6 hour journey in the car ahead of us, plus our exertions from the day had left us both zonked so we meandered gently back to the car.
The journey home was made in a comfortable haze of tiredness, Sean driving down through mid Wales, a route I had never taken before which was a treat in itself. Heading past the other side of the Moelwyns, Rhinogydds, Cadair Idris etc, plans were hatched for the next hill visit. I usually drive whenever we go anywhere as a family so I enjoyed the rare treat of not having to drive at all. Soon my head was lolling around like a broken doll and I awoke just as we came past the black mountains in the Brecons. Tempted to stop for an evening stroll, we resisted the temptation and continued down to Dorsetshire and home.
Snowdonia has so many memories for me as most Easters before the boys were born, we made the journey up to the Rynys campsite in Betys y Coed to stay with a wide variety of friends and family. It felt strange to be there without Cath, but at the same time I realised that these times are what we live for. The memories, experiences and challenges we gather from the hills, are many times the potency of the experiences we pick up from every day life. It has been too long since some proper hill time for me, but a week after my visit, I am still casting my mind back to an amazing weekend, and if truth be told, still feeling the tiredness a little!
I’ll write shortly about the gear I used, but in the meantime you might want to have a look at all the photos I took on Flickr
I think that the ugliest numbers I have ever seen are the numbers 2,4 and 5. These were the numbers my phone flashed at me to let me know I didn’t need to bother trying to sleep any more. Sean would be outside at 3 am ready to pick me up. I dimly recall thinking that perhaps Snowdonia wasn’t such a good idea, but I humped my sacks in to the car and promptly fell asleep. I woke up on the M5 and immediately felt bad for not keeping Sean company with witty repartee, but he was decency itself.
There is something about the quality of early morning light that uplifts you and Saturday morning was no different. Lots of low lying mist coupled with the pink tinge of dawn made 2:45 am feel years away. We arrived in good time at Betys y Coed and drove up to the Pinnacle cafe in Capel Curig to load up carbs. They know their customer base well , as half the breakfast was potato! Sean was up doing a Geology course as part of his SPLA qualification, and was due to meet the rest of his course at Pen y Pass. As usual though, the car park had been full since dawn, so we parked down by the Pen y Gyrd hotel, and set off to walk around the back of Moel Berfedd to Pen y Pass.
The whole weekend had nearly been kyboshed as I had picked up a decent bit of lurgy from the weekend before. As we started off up the hill my chest reminded me of this with a bubbling rasp that no amount of coughing could dislodge. It didn’t bode well. Taking leave of Sean at the top end of Llyn Cymffynnon my plan was to follow the ridge up to Glyder Fawr, heading round to Glyder Fach. I would then follow the miners track down to Pen y Gyrd, before heading down the valley towards Bethgelert and a rendezvous with Lauren for a wild camp up at Llyn Edno.
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I haven’t been back in the mountains for some time, and I had a certain amount of trepidation about my navigation skills and fitness. Dorsetshire is great and I’m pretty active, but nothing makes for good hill fitness except, well, you know, hills. Initially however the stillness of Llyn Cymffynnon, the call of the birds around me, and the presence of the hills made me just glad to be there. I had deliberately chosen this route as the path less travelled, and I was rewarded with no-one else around me. I spent some time just breathing it all in as I strolled upwards. It was rather claggy and the hill fog came down thickly. Before I knew it, I was way lower than I had planned to be. Not happy with myself, I began to climb sharply getting irritated with my lack of navigation nous and the bubbling in my chest. Stopping after a while I started to mentally slap myself. It was three years since I had navigated in something like this, and a year or so since I had been up an ascent as steep so I made peace with myself that it would take a while to get back in to my hill rhythm and skills. Stopping and pausing by a beautiful bit of quartz, I paused, had a bannana of justice, told myself to follow Helen’s advice to go with the flow a bit, and just enjoy where I was a tad more. I couldn’t see anything much due to the hill fog, but I could hear. Birds calling from the Llyn below and water wandering in the earth under my feet soon restored my calm and I headed upwards with a happier stride.
Topping out, I became mighty puzzled. There was absolutely no-one on top of Glyder Fawr, which was unusual to say the least. Taking advantage of the fact I was carrying all my kit, I brewed up. Blessed by the kindness of the weather, I then had quarter of an hour of cloud cover clearing whilst I descended to Glyder Fach. As the cloud cleared, Tryfan appeared , and actually made me stop. I don’t think anything has made me have such a physical reaction on the hills, but it’s manner of appearing, and that as a mountain it’s a point of kick arse rock made me come up short in wonder.
Hill fog sneaking in again, I headed down to Castell y Gwynt and started heading up over the top. My navigation and route finding were found wanting again however, so I ended up scrambling with a large sack. Feeling uncomfortable and slightly top heavy, I backed off, heading around and towards Glyder Fach. By now the hill fog was in nice and heavy and I decided to aim off to find the ridge and trickle down to the miners track paying more attention to my nav. My skills started to come back and I was pleased to hit the trail where I thought I would. Coming out below the clag, I came across an old welsh couple pausing on the hill. The moustache immediately marked them out as part of my grandparents generation and we shared a quiet word and chuckle. One thing I had forgotten about hill time was the social nature of coming across people, particularly on busy trails. Everyone is doing something they love for the most part, and is generally good company. I reaped the benefit of the encounter, enjoying an impromptu lesson of Welsh pronunciation on the hill. Despite my parents being both Welsh, I’ve never lived in Wales so my accent is shocking. They soon had me sounding like Richard Burton however and I strolled back towards the car, rolling my R’s in a manner to which Jones the steam would have been proud of.
Although the social hiking map above finishes here, my day had not, I just decided to save some of my battery for the following day as I was due to wild camp that night with Lauren . Heading down the valley towards Llyn Gwynant and Beddgelert, the transition from mountain moor to wooded valley bathed in sunshine gave a lovely counterpoint to the day. Approaching the campsite by the lake, it all became a bit peculiar for 3:30 in the afternoon. The sounds of banging techno lurched across the lake from a group of Teepees, and I encountered several groups of Scousers with cans of beer wandering randomly through the woods on the far side. Leaving them behind, I moved further up in to the woods above the lake, the mossy trees and buds of spring giving new energy to my tired legs.
The rest of the walk was a gentle meander down the valley to the car park at Nant Gwynant where I met up with Lauren. By that stage I was pretty pooped, my first full days hill walk in a while having covered quite a distance. Lauren is an MRT member for North East Wales Search and Rescue, and she had been trying to contact me during the day to say she had been called out for a search since 6 that morning. As a result, we decided to wild camp, but rather than hump up to Llyn Edno, we headed towards Llyn Llagi to find somewhere a little closer to camp as we were both shattered. The evening sun was glorious and we soon found a spot overlooking Craig Wen, Yr Aran and Snowdon, pitched our tents and broke out the single malt. A gentle evening in the company of the brightest moon I have seen in some time was a grand re-introduction to wild camping. The setting sun over mountains is something I can never tire of, and being outside again in good company put a tired but seriously happy smile on my face.
The only downer to the evening was the two chocolate deserts we had both brought along. The initial Mountain House main course was superb, never having had them before I was mighty impressed with the taste. The subsequent Wayfarer chocolate pudding was however, utterly stomach churning, and Laurens choice wasn’t much better either!
All that was left was to fall in to the shelter of the Obi 2 Person I had brought along, and give thanks that I didn’t have to see the numbers 2:45 again the following morning, but just dream instead of Tryfan’s north ridge.
It has to be said that having kids places a real dampener on actually being able to get out and about in the mountains. I love my two boys deeply and take a massive amount of pleasure of taking them outdoors and sharing my love of all things natural, but a recent route on Viewranger says it all. 1km distance. 1.75 Hours time elapsed. I’m pining for the ability to stroll at my own pace, rather than exercising patience and letting the kids explore to their hearts content. Bar a couple of days out and one overnighter, the last few years have been barren for me for serious hill time.
So when Sean from the Blackmore Vale Mountaineering club mentioned he was heading up to Plas Y Brenin to do a course, a cunning plan hatched. As a result I’m hitching a lift up with him on Saturday, walking for the day, wildcamping for the night before meeting up with him to hopefully do the North Ridge of Tryfan on Sunday before heading back again. I’m also meeting up with Lauren from Flight of the Bumblie for the wildcamp and I’m so excited, I’ve packed and repacked my sack twice already.
There is something delicious that has been missing in my life about the anticipation of a hill trip, the route planning, getting the kit together, and talking to your friends about what you are going to do. I knew I had missed my time on the hill, but I’ve been surprised at how much I have missed the preparation for a good trip as well. Opening boxes for kit that hasn’t been used in a year, the smell of meths, and coming across gear that in my case I had forgotten about has left me so excited that I’ve been to bed seriously late for the last two days. I’ve got a massive grin on my face right now, and I’ve not even stepped outside my front door. Roll on the weekend…..