Snowdonia, 12th to 14th November 2004

Present: Stephen Ratcliffe, Oli Kenyon, Pete Skeen, Tom Wale and Ben Heggs

After an epic five-hour journey from York in Steve’s car, stepping out onto a waterlogged campsite in freezing, blustery weather, overlooked by the imposing silhouette of Tryfan, was not the hoped for start to the weekend. A few soaked feet and a broken phone later, we decided it would be best to go to the site a km or so east and try the ground there. It proved a lot dryer, so, quickly up went the tents, and even quicker we found ourselves sampling the delights of the pub in Capel Curig, where we could work out our routes for the next day in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Warm it was, too, and friendly. But the weirdness of a group of geology students from Hertfordshire Uni, who, instead of Snowdonia “usually just go down to Switzerland or somewhere” to peer at rocks, was a little too much to escape our attention, especially the one dressed in full army-combats and Jamaican flag which doubled as a fetching bandanna.

 “Last temptation”, or last orders, saw us on our way back to the campsite, where we met the ever trusty Ben battling the wind trying to put up his tent. With this finally achieved, we climbed into our sleeping bags and gradually fell asleep to the rhythmic munching of grass flawlessly performed by the site’s resident sheep, and dreamt of waking to the glorious, sublime weather promised by the met office.

You know that feeling you get, when you wake up in your tent, and know, just know, that it’s not a glorious, sunny morning as promised by the met office? Yeah? Well, we woke up with that feeling, and, true to form, it was cloudy! Not entirely cloudy, but enough to make a joke of the likes of Mike Fish and Bill Giles. It didn’t deter us though, and after spending breakfast guarding our food from an outrageously bold, wolf-like pack of hens, we set off to repel the north face of Tryfan.

Oli had described Tryfan as an “amazing mountain”, and anybody, whether a Tryfan-virgin or not, would be hard put to deny that. It offers untold scrambling opportunities over a jumble of elephant-sized boulders, arranged in such a way that even the most adept Hertfordshire geology student would be completely befuddled, and its sheer imposing stature is enough to awe the hardiest of Ben Lairigers. About two thirds of the way up, with most of the group tripping and slipping as they endeavoured to keep up with Steve and emulate his fearless scrambly ways, we encountered gale force winds from the north, and, shock shock horror horror, it began to snow!! In an effort to keep warm, then, we continued skywards until we reached the hallowed heights of Adam and Eve, the two gigantic oblong boulders placed by what can only be divine intervention right at the summit of Tryfan.

After amusing ourselves hopping from Adam to Eve and vice versa, a rather strange ménage-a-trois indeed, the wind and cold induced us to move on to the south peak, and then down-climb the Far South Peak, into Bwlch Tryfan, until we came to the just-as-impressive face of Glyder Fach. This is where it began to get really interesting. The scrambly ascent alone is diversion enough, but combine that with a cascade of big fat fluffy snowflakes and the consequent cold, icy rocks, and it’s something else. However we reached the peak unscathed, and after a brief respite moved onto the huge Cantilever Rock, and tested to see if it could hold 5 guys on a student diet.

It did, and forever will do, so onwards we moved into the eerie mist, along the gentle ascent to Glyder Fawr, which, through the clouds, offered beautiful views of the coast and Anglesey, and then down to the shores of Llyn y Cwm, a small but picturesque lake in the valley between Y Garn and Glyder Fach where stopped briefly for lunch. Passing Devil’s Kitchen, we then hit the long climb to Y Garn, a slog indeed but it gives a “good burn”, and from the top we were treated to superb views of Llyn Idwal and Llyn Ogwen beyond.

After the quick descent we had a welcome tea break at the Nature Trust’s café, and, since what would have been snow a few hundred metres higher had turned to rain so far down, we quickly walked to the car and piled in, quite satisfied with our achievements of the day.

A very convenient navigational error on the part of Steve, in that he missed the turning to the campsite, meant we ended up in the warmth of the pub in Capel Curig quicker than expected, where we learnt of the nine-goal stunner between Tottenham and Arsenal. Here began a very interesting evening…out came Ben’s brand new pack of cards, and after a few games of a different type of “rummy”, we played “spoons” (using beer mats (not 10 pence each in Snowdonia!) for spoons). It’s a classic game, just like “snap” really in that it requires no intellectual exertion, just a quick eye and quick hands, and raises the tension of the room like no final degree examination ever could.

With it nearing dinner-time, we set off for Pete’s Eats in Llanberis, the essential diner for all Snowdonia trips, where we topped up our burnt-off calorie levels with ridiculously large all-day fried breakfasts, and then moved onto a pub between there and Capel Curig where a group of walkers from Norwich Uni we met on Glyder Fawr had promised to meet us. We were stood up, though, but didn’t let it spoil our evening as we drank, played pool and were merry, and then let ourselves have one or two more games of the renamed “beer mats” before leaving. The commotion we caused however caught the imagination of a bunch of locals, so much so that, after a few minutes of patient coaching by Pete and myself, the pub had two groups chasing Stella Artois beer mats across its tables, one somewhat rowdier than the other. The day’s list of achievements had just gotten better.

Sunday morning treated us to more blue sky than Saturday, a meaner and hungrier pack of hens, and also a rather alarming cloud formation over the Carneddau. Not letting it disturb us, though, we set off for our destination: an area previously un-graced by the soles of a Ben Lairiger’s boots, about 10km west-south-west of the Snowdon horseshoe. Leaving the car, we soon found ourselves lost amongst huge piles of slate left at a disused quarry (through no fault of the navigator, I hasten to add). Finally finding our way, we began the slog of slogs up a 700m hill which doesn’t even have a name, but which is bordered by the Craif yr Ogof crags (492688).

From there we began a gentle ascent until we reached the Craig Pennant crags, which necessitated a steep down-climb over icy rocks, only for us to have to regain the lost 200m in height down the small valley, Bwich Dros-bern, by ascending Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd. At the top there’s a huge “obelisk” to mark the summit, but it could be mistaken for a giant’s game of Jenga any day. From here we would have been offered unparalleled views of Snowdon had it not been masked in cloud, so we had to content ourselves with the rolling hills of southern Snowdonia and a magical sunburst igniting the horizon of the Irish Sea to the west.

The next part of the walk consisted of an interesting narrow ridge exposed by steep 200m crags either side, until we reached the 709m summit of Trum y Ddysgl, and from there we circled the crescent-shaped rim towards the top of Mynydd Drws-y-coed, our final peak of the weekend. All that was left now was a running descent, it being quite a gentle slope, and we reached the “reassuringly expensive” pub in Rhyd-Ddu in no time, which disgustingly charges £4.50 for a pint. Admittedly it was for the uber-strong Leffe, at 6.6% ABV, but that ain’t reassuring, that’s just insanity.

Aside from that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

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