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Ennerdale

(March 2015)

Time for another backpacking weekend and another two Quality Mountain Days. I had a long planned trip to Ennerdale in the North-Western Lake District in mind, part of the area I’d not visited before.

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On Friday I rushed home from work, threw the ready-to-go backpack into the car and set off for the three hour drive to Cumbria.

Keswick is about 2 hours from home and Ennerdale isn’t that far from Keswick, on a map. In terms of Lakeland roads it’s another hour.

The plan was to spend Friday night in the Youth Hostel before setting off, up onto the ridge along the Northern edge of the valley, along to the head of the valley and Great Gable and back along the Southern side, finding somewhere to spend the Saturday night.

I parked the car at the car park in the forest and walked the mile or so to the youth hostel in darkness. I soon discovered I was not alone…

The road had a large number of frogs hopping about and so it became necessary to use my torch to prevent me standing on them. Although I never saw what it was,  there was also company in the forest to my side. I’d hear the crack of branches and movement within the trees. Despite casting my torch I never saw what was in there.

Arriving at the youth hostel I was greeted by the friendly warden. A Dutchman. We chatted briefly and I tried to impress with the six or so words of Dutch I know. I settled into the shared lounge with a couple of beers and my maps.

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The next morning I took advantage of a cooked breakfast before heading out into the hills.I only had to follow the low level track a short way before a break in the trees allowed me easy access to the hills above. I paused for a while on the summit of Red Pike (755m) and took photos and checked the map. From here my route followed the ridge to the south east towards Haystacks, the final resting place of Alfred Wainwright.

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Haystacks was crowded, the first time I’d seen more than a single person since I left the youth hostel a few hours earlier.I found a comfortable rock and made my lunch. Tuna and cheese wraps, pretty standard backpacking food for me.

My plan for the afternoon was to continue onward to Green and Great Gable before moving towards Kirk fell and a bed for the evening.

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The crowds thinned out again as I walked away from Haystacks. The weather was superb, beautiful blue skies and not cold at all.

I’d never been on Great Gable before and had heard several people extol its virtues. I thought it was okay but nothing amazing. I preferred Kirk Fell, or more accurately the views from it.

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There was not a breath of wind and so I decided to pitch my tent in an exposed place on Kirk Fell. It was a four season tent so even if the wind picked up I was confident I’d survive. The spot I chose offered me amazing views of the Scafells.

The night sky was beautifully clear and so I spent a long time out of my tent just looking at the stars and at the head torches I could see on Scafell Pike. Eventually it was too cold to stay out to I retreated to the warmth of my tent and sleeping bag.

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The next morning was just as still and clear as the previous and  I enjoyed the views while I made breakfast.

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Frosty camp site

After a light breakfast I packed up and continued on towards Pillar and the descent back to the valley and my car.

 

 

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Mountain Leader (Summer) Assessment -day by day

Last week I drove back to Plas Y Brenin at Capel Curig in North Wales. The visit was from Sunday night until Friday afternoon for the Mountain Leader assessment.

I did the training in the February half term in 2014 and I’ve spent many days, nights and weekends wandering the mountains of Scotland, England and Wales between then and now gaining logbook experience ready for the assessment. I booked my place at PyB months ago, as soon as the dates were published. As the months passed I became more anxious, wondering if I really was up to the challenge. Would I make an arse of myself?

I booked in and went to my room. Jim, my room mate and fellow assessment candidate was there already. A fellow teacher -one of several on the assessment (It was half term, after all) but from a very different subject and workplace.

The week began with the standard PyB welcome briefing to all guests and the centre director told us that on that evening Alan Hinkes, Britain’s greatest living Yorkshireman, top mountaineer and one of my heroes would be giving a talk in the evening. We separated off into our groups and Dave, our course director outlined the week ahead for us and introduced us to the assessors we’d spend the week with.

Monday.

1:25k navigation. We were taken down the road by minibus and we set off to walk up Moel Siabod via a tussocky, boggy route. We were a group of four; Jim, Dom, Mike and myself accompanied by Greg, our assessor. We took it in turns to lead a leg and declare when we’d reached our destination. The other members of the group would have to identify where they thought they were by pointing a blade of grass at a relevant point on the map and explaining the evidence they’d used to make that decision.

While we were navigating our way Jim and Mike took the opportunity to deliver their 5 minute hill talks. Jim described what the Romans would have found when they got to Wales. This was a fascinating talk and easily ten minutes of enthusiastically delivered information. Mike explained glacial processes and the impact on the landscape.

Greg commented that as a group we kept up a really good pace as he was a fast walker and we took in the difficult ground without problem. He said that we may need to moderate our pace if we were walking with a less experienced group.

On the final descent back to PyB each of us was given individual feedback about our performance that day, good bits, things to improve on and other tips.

On the evening we were given a route planning task to be done that evening and handed in at reception along with our paper logs, home papers and first aid certificates.

After the homework was done I grabbed a pint and went to the Hinkes talk. Even had opportunity to speak to the man himself!

Tuesday.

1:50K navigation and steep ground. We were dropped off by minibus part way between Pen Y Pass and Llanberis. Our groups was now without Jim who’d been re-assigned to another group due to changes in numbers. Today’s assessor was Dave, the course director. The format was similar; each of us was given a ‘leg’ to navigate and we’d make our way over the broken ground to our target, declare we were there and the others had to say where ‘there’ was. I was given a point to navigate to, which in hindsight was a piece of cake; find the flat bit on the spur down from Crib Goch and head to a small contour line. I completely screwed this leg up. I kept stopping, checking, walking off. I didn’t take in the big picture and got bogged down in the detail and basically lost it! Dave gave handy hints and tips and eventually I made it. On arrival I was questioned thoroughly as to how I knew (partly because I’d previously declared I was ‘there’ when I was nowhere near). This screw up hit me hard and really knocked my confidence. I took extra care over everything else I did that day but the thought that I wasn’t up to it began to take hold.

Coming down a ridge line I slipped on some wet grass and landed on my arse. Unhurt, I leapt up with a ‘Tah-Da!’ but it didn’t help my faltering confidence.

When we were back on easier ground we got our feedback. Dave explained that my poorly done navigation on that one point would have affected a group’s confidence in me if I was their leader. He was completely right, I looked like I didn’t know what I was doing. He gave me some great advice about how to plan the navigation, the big picture and things of that sort. I got back on the minibus beginning to think I was now fighting for a deferral, rather than a failure.

Back at base we were given instructions about the next few days which would be spent on expedition. We spent the remainder of the evening in the bar chatting and having a restful evening before the ‘big days’ ahead. I possibly had two too many beers and ended up getting to bed somewhat later than was ideal.

Wednesday.

1:25K Navigation, rope use camp craft and expedition skills. Andy was our assessor for this part of the expedition. I was given the first leg to navigate, a truly easy point on a bend on a footpath! -I found it, using timings, the map and common sense (I had a feeling they’d given me an easy one due to my earlier screw ups). En-route I took the opportunity to give my five minute talk. I’d originally planned to talk about the CroW act the Scottish access code but had decided that it was too dry and instead gave a talk on choosing a water source to drink from. The other guys took their turns and I got my second one. Another easy leg to an easy-to-find lake on the slopes of Snowdon. (I really did think they were giving me the ‘Noddy’ points to keep me going but that I wasn’t going to pass). We walked towards Cwn Tregalan and I was given another point. In retrospect another completely simple piece of nav. I messed up again! I made a ridiculous assessment of the map and declared that the point was about 500m further than it was. Andy questioned me, gave me a bit of info and It fell into place. I was definitely not passing this course. Walking to the point the realisation of just how easy the point was to find hit me. What an idiot!

We reached the place where we’d spend the night. We got the tents up, not without issue, one of the poles from Mike’s Jack Wolfskin tent snapped! Luckily we’d both come prepared with a pole sleeve and I had a roll of duck tape. A repair made, we got the tent up and made a brew. We demonstrated our skills at lowering someone down a cliff and tying up an anchor to belay from. I kept on tying a stopper knot wrong. I climb most weeks and can do a stopper without thinking but something in my brain kept sabotaging me!

Darkness fell and we set off night navigating. The first leg was mine and I got us there no problem. On arrival I explained to Andy what my procedure was and the evidence I had found. A few more points and it was my turn again, a ford on the Watkin path. As we set off uphill to my point we heard a sound. Was that a whistle? A sheep? A person? We waited a while and looked around. It was definitely a whistle and we saw a weak torch on another path almost a kilometre away. We set off at once the whistling continued we also heard a shout for help. We arrived at the path to find a lady and her young daughter seeking help. They’d been up Snowdon with other members of their family but had come down a different route and got caught out by the darkness and had no map. Their torch was a keyring type torch, not really up to the job of navigating.

Our night navigation had become a genuine assistance! We checked they were uninjured and warm and set off. I gave my spare headtorch to the little girl who also had a few of our wine gums. She was very calm considering she was in the dark on a mountain. After a while we came across a pair of well-equipped walkers who were out practicing their night navigation in preparation for an ML assessment! They’d heard the help shout and were looking for the woman too.

We handed the lady and daughter over to them and exchanged phone numbers. We carried on our navigation exercise. Later on we got a text to say that all was well and the party were reunited.

We cooked dinner and crawled into our tents at about ten pm after what had been a long and tiring day.

Thursday

1:50k navigation and security on steep ground, including rope use. We got up, packed up and donned waterproofs. Each of us in turn took a navigation leg. We walked far from tracks and other people eventually stopping for lunch next to Llyn Nadroedd. After lunch Dom gave us his five minute talk which was on the subject of droving. The movement of sheep from the valleys to the markets.

Talk done we shouldered our packs and set off down a small scree and boulder slop where we demonstrated our short-roping technique. Towards the end of the journey I was given a point to get us to and I screwed up. Again! I’d got it into my head that I was leading us to a camp site and this thought took over my brain and I missed the point I was to take us to. I declared “we’re here” when we were no such thing. WHile the others were relocating I re-checked the map and the ground and realised my error. I told Andy I was wrong and showed him the actual location and where we should have been. He said that he’d have been concerned if I hadn’t corrected myself but he was happy I had done. I was certain that  I wasn’t passing the assessment.

We arrived at the location of our camp and set up the tents. We whispered amongst ourselves; “Are we night navving tonight?” “I dunno, hope not” “Lets not mention it…”

Andy came over and told us he’d seen enough the previous night so we didn’t need to leave camp until the next morning. We were very pleased with this! As we sat on a large flat rock enjoying a brew and cooking our dinner I asked if the assessment was effectively complete as we only had about 3km to walk into Llanberis the next morning. Andy said it was more or less over unless we burned our tent down. In which case we’d fail! As the night grew colder we began to yawn. We were all in our tents by 8pm.

The next morning dawned and we wandered into Llanberis and Pete’s Eats café and waited for the minibus.

Back at PyB we returned borrowed kit, showered and awaited our summons to collect the results.

I knew I’d failed. Too many mistakes. I waited glumly with the other candidates. One by one they went in to see Dave and to get their results. Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Defer (Ropes), Defer (Navigation).

Dom -Pass. My turn. I was hoping it was defer and not fail. I went to the office and sat down. Dave turned to me and said “Congratulations, you’re a mountain leader”

“Fuck me!” was my ineloquent reply.

I’d done it! I’d fucking done it! I couldn’t believe it. My brain had focused on everything I’d got wrong through the week. Everything I could have done better. I’d forgotten all the things I’d got right.

I came out with a huge grin and returned to the bar. Mike was last. He went in, got his result -a pass and came back to the bar. Our team had done it! The three of us had been together since the Monday and we’d all done it.

The elation of passing even made the five hour journey home (usually 2.5 hours) seem bearable!

Amazing weather on Ben Nevis

Near the halfway lochan on Ben Nevis

Near the halfway lochan on Ben Nevis

I’d never been up Ben Nevis before and had heard mainly bad things about the ‘Tourist Route’ -recently rebranded the ‘Mountain Track’ to imply a level of seriousness and to reduce the number of mountain rescue team callouts.

A bit of research led me to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete route (CMD arete). This route takes a more scenic and challenging approach from the Northern side of the mountain and an extended time on a high ridge.

First steps on the CMD

First steps on the CMD

I followed a route from the Walkhighlands website. It began at the car park for the Glen Nevis visitor centre (Parking £3 for the day).

The route begins along the river then picks up the main ‘mountain track’ as far as the ‘Halfway Lochan’. Here the tourist herd turn right and my route turned left.

I wouldn’t see another soul for over an hour after this point.

The path contoured around the end of the mountain before entering the valley between Ben Nevis’ North face and Carn Mor Dearg.

 

After a while I reached the CIC hut, a private bothy for climbers.

 

 

From here it was a steep climb over loose scree, boulders and  up a snow field. Eventually I reached the ridge and stopped to admire the view. On my living room wall I have a large, framed poster of the North Face of Ben Nevis. Until today I’d never seen it. Now, the scene before me was the same as the poster. The famous ridges and buttresses spread out in front of me.

Snowy cliffs

The Ben’s best side

 

The ridge was mostly clear of snow, only patches below the top remained. I was equipped with an ice axe and crampons but was glad not to need them. The scrambling wasn’t too difficult and the conditions were perfect; not a breath of wind and bone dry rock.

Reaching the summit of Carn Mor Dearg I stopped for a brief lunch before continuing on descending first then re-climbing to the edge of Ben Nevis.

Between me and the summit now was a steep boulder field without clearly defined paths. I scrambled, clambered, walked and shuffled upwards and towards the top. After an eternity I realised that the view ahead of me contained more sky than rock. I was nearing the summit! Spurred on I sped towards the blue.

After hours alone I reached the summit and the hordes of tourists enjoying the May sunshine.

People atop mountain

After hours of peace, the summit swarm

There were dozens of people sat, wandering, being photographed, exploring the summit. The trig point was crowded, the ruins surrounded. There was even what appeared to be a fridge strapped to someones backpack!

 

 

 

The weather forecast had said there would be rain later in the afternoon and I didn’t want to wait for it on the summit of the UK’s highest mountain.

 

After ten minutes I was off again.

 

As part of my preparations I’d marked my map with the bearings and distances for the safe descent in poor visibility.

I could clearly see the way down but for interests sake I followed the compass bearings to see how it compared to the ground in front of me.

The route taken by the masses closely matched the bearings I was following, so I followed the people and the footprints.

 

The descent route was still very deep in snow so I used a ‘ski-less’ skiing technique to get down quickly. Slipping, sliding and skidding down the snow field to the zigzags of the mountain track.

Snowy descent

Snowy descent

 

The snow cover extended far past the top of the zigzags and so I decided to keep on sliding, skidding and slipping down the mountain. Most of the crowd had by this time returned to following the zigzags but a few of us remained on the snow.

The direct route over the snow saved so much time over the tedious looking zigzags I was back at the halfway lochan in no time.

Stopping to remove my gaiters and have a drink I looked back up, impressed at the ground I’d covered.

Back on the mountain track I was back at the car in a little over an hour.

Overall I’d been out for 8 hours 10 minutes. The guide reckoned 10-12 hours!
Travelling over the snow had definitely been worth it.

 

Four Days in the Carneddau

I’ve visited Snowdonia several times over the years, never backpacking and never in the Carneddau. Always went to the South side of the Ogwen Valley road.
During the ML training we spent two days wandering around the Northern end of the Carneddau. It really whetted my appetite for a further exploration.

Maps were ordered, received and studied, Google Earth was zoomed, panned and tilted and a plan was formed. I realised that I could take the train to the North coast and make a four-day circuit of the area, taking in many of the main peaks.

Easter weekend became the obvious choice of dates, four non-working days where my wife would be able to look after the children without taking any of her precious leave (which she ran out of months before, the perils of a ‘normal job’). The return train ticket from Bradford to Llanfairfechan (a short distance before Bangor) was about £45, not too far off the cost of diesel in the car and without the hassle of finding a suitable parking spot for four days.

View of the North Wales coast

Beautiful weather at the start of the walk

 

From Llanfairfechan I could be into open countryside, climbing into the mountains within 2 miles, it was the ideal starting point. Excitingly I discovered en route that Llanfairfechan was a request stop and I needed to speak to the guard to ensure the driver knew to stop! The departure required me to flag down the train to get on board -I never knew this was ‘a thing’ that one could do in the UK.

Day 1: Llanfairfechan to Dulyn Bothy

My only previous experience of the Carneddau was in the Llyn Anafon area – an attractive spot a few miles inland from Aber Falls. My first day’s walking took me over some familiar ground  into the mountains. From Llanfairfechan I followed a good trail to the west of the Anafon valley over Foel Ganol up to Drum. The sun was shining and the air was warm -quite unlike my last experience of North Wales which was positively Wintery. I stripped to baselayers and fixed the solar panel for my PowerMonkey charger onto the top of my backpack. A few Km into the walk I came across a group of three Americans, exploring the area before heading off elsewhere on a European tour. They were holding up a guidebook and trying to fit its sketch maps to the view in front of them. “Hi” one of them said to me, “Is this Drum?” he continued, pointing at a hill to the East. “No” I replied. “Drum is a few Km further on, you can’t see it from here”. I took my OS map from my belt pack and showed them. “Wow, you have a topo!” he said, sounding genuinely impressed. I showed them Drum and we all carried on together along the track chatting. After a few hundred metres more we’d separated, they stopped for photos and I carried on ahead.

Clear mountain track

As I wandered alone I began to daydream. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to bump into Chris Townsend (Backpacking legend) when out in the mountains’. I looked up from my thoughts and heading towards me was a familiar face. Not Chris Townsend, but Dan English. A friend I’d met on the ML training months before and had since been backpacking around Helvellyn with. “Hello!” I said, with a broad smile and most likely a surprised look. “Hi, fancy seeing you here” he replied. We walked together to the summit of Drum, from where Dan had recently left. We sat and chatted a while, discussing our plans and discovered that we planned to wild camp in the same place the next night. After a short break we said good bye and went our separate ways.

From Drum I left the clearly marked trail and set off on a bearing across the hillside towards Dulyn Reservoir. The ground was generally fine for walking, tussocky grass with only the occasional boggy part. After a while the reservoir came into view, bounded at its Western edge by the cliffs of Craig y Dulyn

 

Reservoir and cliffs

Wild camp destination

 

As I approached the reservoir I kept my eyes open for a suitable place to pitch my tent for the night. There were a few spots here and there above the lake I made a mental note of one or two as I passed. Before pitching I went to check out the bothy, an old mine building a few hundred metres from the lake.

As I took the trail for the bothy I saw the perfect wild(ish) camp site. An area of perfectly flat ground -obviously man-made not far from the lake shore. That was the place for me!

The bothy is a small hut, containing two rooms, one sleeping and one communal cooking area. There was a small dome tent pitched on the front porch area. I opened the door and received a friendly  greeting from the occupants. About 5 people were there, all set up for the night. They asked if I was going to join them, I told them no, I would camp near the lake.

I left the bothy and returned to my perfect camp spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I put down my pack and got out my Hilleberg Akto. Within a few minutes it was up and I was moving in. The weather was perfect for wild camping, clear skies, not too cold. The ground under the tent was a little hard but the pegs went in deep enough for me to be happy -perhaps not too happy in a storm!

Small tent and rucksack

After I’d got myself set up and a brew on a group of five more people arrived, looking to camp. They told me there were now about ten people in the bothy. That would make for a warm night in there!

Dinner was ‘look what we found’ meatballs and a pasta mugshot (tikka). It tasted fine and was the heaviest meal in the bag so I was glad to eat it first.

 

As the evening went on I wandered on the hill above the reservoir took some photos and watched some of the wild ponies graze. As usual, I was in bed before 10pm.

A nocturnal need had me getting out of them tent at about 2am. I saw the most amazing night sky. So many stars! I’m always happy to have woken up when that is my reward.

 

Day 2: Dulyn to Ffynnon LLugwy (Easier typed than said!)

two small lakes

Mountain lakes

The second day dawned cool and clear, another cloudless sky.

After a quick breakfast of Alpen I packed my kit away and set off uphill towards Melynllyn, a smaller lake slightly higher than Dulyn. A clear track, presumably used by the miners led the way to the second lake. The bothy was clear to see back down the valley and the calls of birds could be heard.

cliff view

At Melynllyn I took out the map to decide where I was going next.

I had an idea of where I wanted to go, just not exactly how I was going to get there. Looking across the lake I saw  the mountain walls that I needed to be on top of. The most sensible approach was to climb up the shorter hill to the left and then circle around the lake from above.

After a short climb I followed a stream onto the top of the hill. The views were excellent, back to the North from where I’d come and down to the South West towards Carnedd Llewelyn and South to Cwm Eigiau. Studying the map I decided to head towards Llewelyn and from there take a ridge to the South East towards Pen yr Helgi Du.

It was easy enough to get to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn as the weather was good but the ground was fairly featureless from this side, it could be a different proposition in mist or darkness.

The views South West from the Llewelyn summit are amazing. The black ladders (Ysgolion Duon) of Carnedd Dafydd look imposing from across the valley.

Imposing cliffs

Cliffs of Carnedd Dafydd from Carned Llewelyn

The ridge SE from Llewelyn looked fantastic walking. Undulating a little, with sheer cliffs on the Northern edge, terminating with a scramble up the edge of Pen yr Helgi Du.

The walking was great, comfortable terrain, great views, great weather. I looked ahead at the scramble up Pen yr Helgi Du, hoping that it was ‘just’ a scramble and I wasn’t going to get stuck halfway up and need Ogwen valley MRT to come and unstick me.

 

Cliffs

Craig Yr Ysfa

 

The ridge walk was fairly quiet, in fact, I’d not really seen anyone since I left camp in the morning. The Carneddau really are the quiet side of the Ogwen Valley -unjustifiably so, there is great walking to be had here.

 

After a while I came to a steep downward section of ridge and I needed to put away my poles and get my hands on the rock. I love scrambling but it really is a lot better when you’re not carrying a heavy backpack.

 

I was getting closer to Pen yr Helgi Du and I was confident that I could make the summit without issue. There was a path off to the side if I needed a last minute change of route.

 

Keeping my poles strapped to my pack I began the climb up the edge of Pen yr Helgi Du. The rock was firm and dry, the sun shining. It felt great to be scrambling alone, hardly a soul in sight as I ducked and weaved between overhanging rocks to the summit.

Mountain ridge

Lovely walking

 

I gained the summit and found I had the whole plateau to myself. Taking advantage of the solitude I dropped my pack, took off my boots and socks and lay down in the sunshine.

 

After re-fitting by boots I carried on, following a compass bearing towards Pen Llithrig y Wrach and a col between the mountains.

 

I stopped for a lunch of Primula cheese, Chorizo, Tuna and Pitta breads on the rocks of Bwlch Tri Marchog. Looking at Pen Llithrig I thought it looked uninspiring and debated whether or not to bother with it.

I decided to climb it, for completeness sake, but without my pack.

I stashed my backpack behind some rocks and set off unencumbered to the summit. There and back was less than an hour and I was right, it was uninspiring. Decent enough views down the far side though!

 

 

 

 

Returning to my pack I now set off contouring around the hillside towards Glan Llugwy and the track to the lake. I followed faint animal tracks through the heather and then climbed onto the Southern spur of Pen yr Helgi Du.

Ffynnon Llugwy came into view far below and I needed to pick a route to get down. Directly beneath me were steep rocky drops so I walked South a little way to a boundary fence and descended to the access track to the lake.

As I was hoping to meet up with Dan this evening I thought I’d best chose a pitch which would be visible to him on his approach. I checked the map and decided where I thought his most likely approach would be. I pitched the tent on a finger of land which lead into the lake. It was decently flat and not too exposed as the forecast was more increasing wind and some rain.

Sunlit mountain

Tryfan glowing in the sun

 

 

I got the tent up, made a brew, boiled some water for the evening and went for a lie down in the tent. A short while later a familiar voice outside asked if anyone was home.

 

Dan pitched his tent near to mine and we set about making our dinner. I went for the gourmet option of  a packet  of Mediterranean vegetable cous-cous to which I added some chunks of chorizo and chopped up dried apricots. It tasted fantastic! We joked about our last trip where I’d experimented with a packet of  mixed grains with Quinoa. I somehow managed to burn this and leave it cold! It was horrid. I’ll be sticking to cous cous or pasta in future.

 

The evening grew chilly so we both took to our tents, continuing the chat through sheets of nylon. There were three other tents pitched about the lake that evening. Unsurprising really as it was a short walk up from the road.

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Ffynnon Llugwy to Afon Anafon

The next morning brought light showers and a breeze. We packed quickly and set off our separate ways. Dan had originally thought of joining me on the first few Km of my walk towards Pen yr Ole Wen but changed his mind when he realised he could instead head for the Moel Siabod cafe for a fry up! We parted company at the road head and I began to climb up and over Craig Llugwy towards Ffynnon Lloer and Pen Yr Ole Wen.

Many times I’ve seen Pen Yr Ole Wen from the campsite in the valley (Gwern Gof Isaf) and fancied walking up it, especially something scrambly but I’d never got around to it.

Approaching ‘Ole Wen’ from the East I could see the rocky spur where I’d find a route to the summit. Arriving at the lakeside I found what looked like a path heading up into the rocks. It looked like a sensible scrambling route so I put away the poles, adjusted the pack and set off upwards.

 

The scrambling was great fun. Good holds, good foot placements and brilliant views. One part was a large, smooth slab with nobbles of quartz poking out. On a wet day a slip here could have been very serious I thought as I scrambled up.

Crags and grass

Approaching Ffynnon Lloer

 

After a while I reached the summit and enjoyed the views back over the Ogwen Valley. Familiar peaks of Tryfan and the Glyders. I made a note to climb Y Garn next time I’m here it is a very attractive mountain.

 

The weather forecast today predicted poor visibility and strong gusts on ‘exposed ridges’ -much like the Carneddau ridge that I would be on in an hour or so.

 

Ironically, the poor visibility was easy to see, a wall of mist creeping down from the North East and I was walking straight towards it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I set off towards Carnedd Dafydd and before I was halfway there I was in thick mist. The wind, as predicted picked up and I was suddenly very cold. I made a quick stop at a cairn shelter to add layers, check and set compass bearings and was on my way again. I got to Carnedd Daffydd in a short time and reset the compass. There was a family of about six people taking shelter and deciding what to do. I set off into the mist, all too aware of the sharp drop from the black ladders to my left. Typically, that was the direction the wind wanted to push me so I kept a fair distance from the edge, but close enough that I could see it and use it as a ‘handrail’.

After what felt like hours I got to the ascent up to Carnedd Llewelyn. This felt like hard work. I was hot in my layers, but would have been cold without them. I got to the summit about midday but didn’t want to hang around to eat my lunch. I rechecked the map, reset a compass bearing and strode off towards Foel Grach. A voice behind me caught my attention. A man from a group of three friends and a dog asked if they could walk with me as they were unsure of the way. I said they could but made no promises as to competence!

 

Finding the path was tricky, the limit of visibility was perhaps 10-15m and the best I had to go on was a bearing from the day before, when it was clear.

We walked a little way, found a faint track which was close enough to my expected bearing so we followed it, chatting as we went. After a few hundred metres I began to doubt we were on the right track. I stopped, checked bearings, contours and all the other bits on the map. We had drifted slightly to the East and downhill.
I set a new bearing and we started off, regaining some of the height we’d lost. The going was OK, terrain fairly firm and grassy. After fifteen minutes or so we arrived at what we believed to be the rocky summit of Foel Grach but there was no sign of the shelter I’d been expecting to find there. We searched a small area but to no avail.
I was certain we were at the summit, but where was the shelter?! I took out my smartphone and used an app to get a grid reference. A minute or so later our location was confirmed. We were at the summit, only about 20m from the shelter. We walked towards where the map said the shelter was and almost missed it. The mist thinning just enough to make it out.

We piled into the shelter glad to be out of the wind. It was small and dark, really not a place to spend a night except in an emergency. I ate a quick lunch and we put on the packs, locked the shelter behind us and walked off towards Foel Fras.

After Foel Fras the wind abated and the mist lifted (or perhaps we descended below it!) We could now see the hills in front of us and some of where we’d come from.

Hill track

Into the mist

Drum was the next hill and we passed with only a brief stop at the summit. We continued down the track where I’d begun my journey. My fellow travellers were heading for Rowen and a well-earned pint.

I said good bye and set off to Pen Bryn Du and a descent into Afon Anafon. I was aiming for an old sheep fold where we’d stayed on the ML course. It was flattish ground and the walls made a good wind break. Following a stream down into the valley floor my home for the night came into view.

 

sheepfold

The night was peaceful. I spent a lot of time just soaking up the views and drinking coffee and hot chocolate.

mountain trail

Day 4: Afon Anafon to Llanfairfechan

The next morning was calm and clear. I felt no urgency to hurry so I made a brew, ate my breakfast and enjoyed the morning before packing away.

 

The track out was easy walking and each step gave better views to the North and the coast.

 

After a few hours I was on the coast. The last few miles on the North Wales Coastal path back to Llanfairfechan and the train home.

 

 

a tree on the coast