The weather forecaster described Wednesday as ‘a window of brighter weather in an otherwise awful week’, but with high wind, sunshine and showers forecast for the day, it could do anything! It was still and the stars were bright when we left home at 6.35am. The appointed meeting point was the car park in Rhyd-Ddu, where we learnt of John’s windy overnight camp at Capel Curig, and panic when his pegs appeared to be missing (they were just misplaced!).
The nine o’clock start later proved to be a good move – it was to be a full day, traversing the Nantlle Ridge and returning along the Cwm Pennant valley, over a pass, and back down to Rhyd-Ddu. Viewed from the slopes of Y Garn, the summit of Snowdon was clear and all the hills had a good dusting of snow. Rays of sunlight pierced the grey cloud and made silhouettes of the hills to our south.
The ridge was superb – short sections of scrambling, broad grassy shoulders, a narrow col, requiring great care due to steep rocky slopes either side, huge drops down into the adjacent cwms, and constant ascent and descent. The only prints besides ours in the virgin snow were those of a fox, which, amazingly, continued along the whole ridge. Early on, two showers narrowly missed us, but donning waterproof trousers was enough to encourage the sun to come out, reflecting the verglas on the rocks.
The rocks were of constant interest to amateur geologist, John, who broke open a few to determine that they were likely to be volcanic ash. His colourful geological map illustrated when we crossed to an area of different rock.
The obelisk provided shelter from the brisk wind for a morning tea stop and the walls on our final summit of Garnedd-goch (700m) formed a wind break for lunch. From here, Caernarfon Castle stood out clearly, Anglesey was nearly all in view, and the sunshine reflected off the sea.
A pathless descent through deep heather, crossing a stream above an attractive waterfall, brought us to the valley by Braichydinas. Immediately before the road, brambles caught both my ankles, causing a tumble – all would have been fine if there hadn’t been a rock beneath my shins…. They were not inspected in situ but stung for the remainder of the walk. Not a pretty sight when we’ll be wearing shorts in less than two week’s time! Anyway, my thoughts were soon diverted because the helicopters that had been buzzing around all day now flew low through our valley – they might have been helpful if my injuries had been worse! Were the three of them on exercise?
Climbing out of the valley, we passed dilapidated cottages, a large mine building with huge arched windows, and entrance shafts to mines, which John was keen to investigate. “Its warm in here,” he observed.
As dusk fell, we drained the flask and finished off an excellent batch of Martin's homemade fudge, before ambling off on what we thought would be a simple descent to the cars.....!
As the light started to fade, the fun began! The path marked on the map took a direct line through the narrowest part of forest, but somehow, we missed it. Initially, it was easy to walk down the trees between the rows, on soft needles. However, it soon became trickier, with fallen trees, holes and brambles underfoot and tightly packed trees. John’s practice in Panama at jungle bashing proved useful and we were very relieved when a forestry track appeared. Weaving through the forest, we finally exited it, in rain, minus a pair of gloves, about 2 km from the car park. In the dark and rain, we tramped along the narrow gauge railway track, enjoying John’s tales of his neighbour and their escaping bull!
Despite injuries sustained, this was a superb winter day! Hooray for not being at work and despite injuries, I am today feeling invigorated (so much so, the bathroom is sparkling)!
Here’s an outline of our route, which ran to 19 km, 1300 metres of ascent, and took us just over 8 hours.