Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Friday, 4 January 2008

Saturday 29 December 2007 - Shrapnel on Arenig Fawr

Today Alastair joined us for a rare day out, for him that is. One of the features of bringing up children is the paucity of opportunities to escape to a good walk. For a few years, anyway, and Alastair is in that time zone. So the choice of venue was his. Was it to be his highest unclimbed hill in England (Cross Fell), or its counterpart in Wales (Arenig Fawr)? I think the weather forecast was the deciding factor. It was to be a clear dry day in Snowdonia, whereas rain would sweep over England’s northern fells. The forecast proved to be wrong (again), and it’s not the regular BBC forecasts we are going by, it’s the Mountain Weather Information Service website that is struggling to provide accurate information.
The drive down to Wales was fine, and our hills were clear. We planned to climb Arenig Fawr and Moel Llyfnant in a 16 km circuit from the north. After the 2 hour drive we parked up by a disused quarry at SH 830 392. My driver’s door wouldn’t open. A bit more effort and I managed to escape from the car. The door slammed behind me and I cowered on the other side of the vehicle with Alastair and The Dishy Pharmacist.
After kitting up and starting at 10.30, the first part of this walk, an easterly trot down a quiet lane, was all too easy. We had difficulty restraining ourselves from running. Once we had started up the good path towards Llyn Arenig Fawr the wind eased in the lee of the hill, and we ascended easily, just about able to chat above the roar of the breeze. Crossing the narrow dam where the stream exits the lake was a little nervy, as it would have been a painful drop onto spiky rocks had we been blown off, but we managed this without having to resort to crawling.
Then we had to cross the little stream that was in spate today. A helpful ladder facilitated that, aided by walking poles, always useful in such situations. I hadn’t brought mine today, so was stranded until Alastair generously tossed his across.
Climbing the east ridge of Arenig Fawr we were quite sheltered, so elevenses were taken in a fine location with wide views to Welsh hills enveloped by smouldering clouds.
We soon realised these dark monstrosities were moving our way when, contouring southwest below the ridge, we caught a taste of what was to come. My Paclites went straight on, and after a few minutes I was glad of that, as the big black cloud was actually a swarm of ice pellets that stung sharply even through several layers of fabric. The DP made some pained expressions then put on her own extra layers, but Alastair, a hardy soul, remained faithful to his Max Wall / Alan Sloman caricature in his decomposing tights. For the final slog to the summit in the face of the hail I was glad not to have brought poles as my hands were free to shield my face. I was also pleased to have the secure snug hoods of the Vapour Rise and Paclite smocks – so much better than the awful ill-fitting hood on my leaky old Craghoppers Aqua Dry jacket.
We met three backpackers stumbling around in the wind, which was too noisy on the ridge to enable us to chat to them.
After sheltering on the summit behind a windbreak, and consuming our first lunch, we headed off again into the wind, slithering along beside a fence. It was hard going, and not particularly pleasant. A conflab at a sheltered spot at the next col resulted in a decision to leave Moel Llyfnant to another day. We could see the hill, but it was exposed to the strong wind, and the ‘up and down’ route we had planned now seemed pointless to all of us.
It was a steep and slithery descent over rock and grass to the security of a track in the valley, at the end of which bright white sheep were happily munching on recent provisions and the wind was much less hostile. As we strolled down the track towards Amnodd-wen, the tops of the hills disappeared and steady rain engulfed us. Beyond here our path degenerated into a boggy furrow, and my Asolo Fugitive boots confirmed that they have now lost their waterproof qualities. Sealskinz socks kept my feet dry and warm however, and we were soon back on the lane which led to the car. The early finish – 2 pm – enabled a second lunch to be taken before setting off back to enjoy some time with Andrew (5) and Kate (3) and some of their Christmas games. Alastair’s puddle on the car seat dried out within a day or two.

Today’s walk, shorter than planned, was about 13 km with 650 metres of ascent, and took us 3½ hours.


Stayathomehazel said...

Glad to see someone else has noticed the state of his trousers. His new year resolution needs to be "GET NEW TROUSERS".

Am intrigued by the puddle on the car seat......he never mentioned that!!!

Phreerunner said...

Hi Hazel
You really should get out more!!
(Just Joking.)
There may have been a little poetic licence in the word 'puddle', but Sue did arrive home with a wet bum after sitting in the seat previously occupied by 'Holey Pants', who kept his overtrousers nice and dry and out of the rain - perhaps he didn't want them to go holey!.