Southern Snowdonia

Early in March this year, I returned to Snowdonia for the third time, this time visiting the Southern area of the National Park around Cadair Idris. The other Snowdonia trips I’ve made have been to Llanberis and Nant Peris, both only a few miles from each other in the Northern Llanberis Pass.

Although it was just a few weeks shy of Spring starting and the Southern area is characterized by more rolling, green hills, our hikes plowed through deep snow. A completley different atmosphere from the ground (70-80 metres above sea level), up to near 900 metres for the ridges and peaks we climbed.

On day one, we started near Aran Fawddwy with the intention of climbing up to the peak and then continuing along the Aran Ridge to meet and swap keys with the other group coming from the opposite end. With decent conditions and a reasonably fit group, this would be doable, but we didn’t anticipate the heavy snow at the peak with drifts more than four feet deep!

Very lucky with the weather the whole weekend. Aside from a brief spray, we dealt with snow but virtually no rain. In Wales! Incredible.

Although these white skies make setting up decent exposure levels a little difficult (while washing out the pictures at times), I love the effect of the peaks vanishing into the clouds. It made me think of Jack and the Beanstalk; that you could just keep climbing and disappear into the sky.

Starting our ascent from spring to winter. This perfectly captures the climatic snow line and the dramatic change from a rolling country stroll to more challenging mountaineering.

Surveying the transitional climes at one of our first resting points.

The light and weather streams getting higher were very dramatic. Hold onto your butts for some incredible examples!

The start of a short white-out, before our perspective was completely engulfed in cloud of horizontal snow.

At this stage the snow was only a few inches deep, so with every step you took, you were rewarded with the satisfying crush of frozen grass.

Jack, crunching on ahead.

Look how wild and wonderful! You felt so far away from everything up there.

Sun & snow drama for you…

… and wintry desolation.

The light up here was doing all sorts of magical things. Sun dogs and light inversions at different points, and then this, which may not be anything but was completely captivating for me. The way the clouds masked the sun to make it appear as a perfect circle with only faint radiance was so weird. More moon-like luminance than sun shine.

Chris and Alec, our leaders for the day.

Looking back through the valley with yet more spotlight drama.

Jack on the top of the world!

The start of the flinty hoarfrost.

Our favorite new friend, Daniel.

Although pretty dangerous really, we ended up pretty sledding down most of the mountain through our descent in fits and bursts. It was just too slick to do anything but. (By the way, for my American friends, “slippery” here is “slippy,” which I’m still not used to. I give into a lot of things but “slippy”?)

Pretty valley!

Two people from our group far in the distance.

As the snow got deeper and deeper, our movements became more jaunty. I kept thinking of myself as a little peg moving along a cribbage board for some reason; taking my little peg legs and hefting them in the leg holes the person in front of me made with very little wandering deviation from the trail blazers in front of me.

After our 14-15 kilometer hike through the heavy snowpeaks, we returned to the car only to find a farmer had deliberately blocked our exit :/ We evidently parked like jerks and got a taste of our own medicine. For a short period we were really worried we’d be stranded, cold and without food in this remote place, but we eventually found the owner, and thankfully we weren’t the only ones blocked in. The other car were local and Welsh-speaking, which helped with placation. We negotiated our way out eventually by making a donation to the air ambulance!

The Aran Ridge. We got back to the hostel and the other two hiking groups from the day had been back for hours already. We had wonderful hot showers, got on our dry clothes and perched by the roaring fire with bowls of curry and tiny tumblers of contraband wine. I read my book for awhile but was so wiped out that  I tucked into bed (honestly the best sleep ever) around… 9:30? Grandma over here.

We talked about going in one of the easier-going groups on day two on account of our weariness and muscle aches, but when I woke up the next day, I just needed more mountains. I have to remember – I exercise all the time and in general, am very resilient. Why else exercise all the dang time if not to be in good enough shape to go climbing day after day? Jack was happy for me to break off and go with the group ready for more of a challenge and climb Cadair Idris. Jack’s walk was also great, and several hours longer than ours, but at a lower altitude.

I was given the OS map and compass for our group and, though I wasn’t actually one of the leaders, assumed the position as I am, let’s say, a little more communicative and decisive than most. I thought the rest of the group might appreciate regular instruction and explanation, so after convening with the leaders each time I’d run down the full plan with the rest of the group so they knew what was up. I actually relished the responsibility, learned a little more about map markings, was surprisingly accurate throughout about our altitude, and just generally enjoyed knowing the plan. I am pretty tempted to go on an outdoor leadership course to officially be responsible for (and better trained) a group lead.

On the way up to Cadair Idris, over the lake. The peak is far in the foggy distance. Here’s our group!

Lunch break looking over the landscape.

After summiting and walking around the ridge, the lake from another vantage.

Goodbye Snowdonia! I’ll be back.

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