The Rhinogs in July – a rather wet weekend in North Wales

I mentioned somewhile ago that I managed to get out for a full weekend in North Wales back in July. This is the belated mini-write up of that trip including pictures!

I had arranged to meet up with a small group of friends for a weekend in North Wales as I had been promising myself (and them) for a while to meet up and North Wales was reasonably central to all. Normally when in North Wales I will head to the Carneddau or the Glyders but this time I was persuaded to go a little off the beaten track and try the Rhinogs. The weather forecast had been changeable all week varying from sunny to sunny periods to cloudy to showers to Marty Pellow. As the day drew upon me, it was fairly obvious that the weekend was going to be at leastly partly wet, wet, wet.

The Friday saw me take a day off work and await the arrrival from Devon of my companion for the drive north. After duly arriving mid morning and the weather appearing to be holding, we set off with our caps firmly worn at a jaunty angle. We stopped briefly in Rhyaedr for tea and biscuits, which to be fair has one of the highest tea shop to square feet of high street ratios I have seen for a long time (maybe Eastborne has more but only just). Suitably refreshed we continued up through mid Wales and some stunning scenery. I always get surprised how lovely mid (and North) Wales is to the eye and our anticipation of a great weekend grew.

By early tea-time we arrived at our basecamp for the night, the little campsite at Cwm Bychan. Its simply a field where you can park your cars, pitch your tents and look upon a lake and surrounding mountainsin the middle of nowhere. 3 portaloos in the one end of the field were the only clues as to this being a campsite at all. We were the first to arrive and rather than pitch up, we decided to have a quick bimble up the Roman Steps. The weather was holding and so we spent a pleasant couple of hours picking our way up the side of Bwlch Tyddiad and back down again. By the time we entered the campsite our other comapnions for the weekend had arrived.

Right, pitching up. I decided to pitch the Laser Comp for the night and my other companions had Hex/Shangri La 3’s. There was a hint of midges being around and seemed the logical choice. Of course to much hilarity I pitched my little cuben fibre tarp for others to look at. If the weather looked ok for the Saturday night I would take the tarp and bivvy as we planned to camp on Rhinog Fawr. 

 

It is on the small side being only 6 x 4.5 feet in size but for me thats good enough unless it is really raining and blowing hard.

Following a demonstration of the pitching of the MLD Patrol shelter by one of the group, we got down to the serious business of cooking lots of food and starting to have a chat aided and abetted by several decent malt whiskys. It started to drizzle and the wind picked up so we pitched one of my larger tarps (3m x 3m) and called it the party tarp. After a very good evening of socialising, putting the world to rights and doing our best to keep the Scottish economy going, we retired to bed to see what the morning would bring.

Rain, although not that much first thing. Still, the omens werent good and I had a rethink on the kit I was going to take. I ditched the idea of the tarp as the wind/rain combo on an exposed pitch I decided might be pushing it. After a bit of judicious discussion it was decided that I might as well share the space of the Hex with one of my companions and thus also share the carrying. We aimed to do a circuit of the North Rhinogs finishing up on the summit of Rhinog Fawr or by Llyn Ddu if the weather was too fierce. Sunday would then be a circuit south and back to the campsite/carpark.

Actually Saturday was a cracking day for the most part…brisk winds, fast moving clouds, dappled sunlight and mildly fresh not muggy.

We went up, and down, and up and down, and up….well you get the picture and if anyone has been to the Rhinhogs you will know what I mean.Its not very high by comaprison to its northern neighbours but it is challenging terrain nonetheless. We spent a great day climbing rocks, eating bilberries and admiring the views. By the end of the day we were hungry, tired and in need of a decent night’s kip.

Problem no.1 – we knew by the time we were pitching the wind had whipped up and we thought that the llyn would be the best option.

Problem no.2 – the area around the llyn was quite (very) boggy but in the end we found a spot that could park a Hex and a Shangri-la 3 together….just!

Problem no.3 it looked like the rain would be heavy that evening

Still we pitched up and were relatively satisfied, so we brewed up, cooked and settled to have another chat. The evening passed well but it was quite clear we were all pooped and so an early night called.

Have you ever had that feeling, a premonition of something and you just know it will come to pass? At around midnight the wind picked up and began to scream all around us. By 4am with dawn’s early light trying to peer through the mirk I was aware of a lot of cursing from the vacinity of the other tent (hastily applied rocks on pegs were called for).  By this time the wind was swirling and howling and my guesstimate would put it in the 60mph bracket. At 5am, my premonition/spidey-sense kicked in. I knew the tent I was in (the hex) would not last the hour. I began to pack up all my kit and get ready for a speedy exit if required. My companion in the tent slept (dozed) on until about 10minutes BC (before collapse)

At around this time, I went outside to be buffeted and stung with horizontal missiles of rain delivered by the unforgiving gale. I tried to shore up the tent pegging points as best I could but was not hopeful. In the end, a large “rrrrrrip” was heard and one of the pegging attachments gave way followed closely by a rip up the side of one of the hex’s panels. It was clearly time for baling out and I had to keep the rapidly collapsing tent off my companion whilst he tried to pack up

(yes that is me trying to manfully hold the tent togehter)  

 

By comparison the Shangri-La was holding up ok but was also beginning to show signs of impending doom. We managed a quick 15minutes respite in the SL3 before packing this away ready for the walk back out. Not a moment too soon as one of the attachment points was also starting to go and a small tear had developed in the fly material

By now the rain and wind had whipped themselves up into a frenzy and a persistent drizzly-fog covered the hillsides forcing us into a unanimous decision of heading straight back to the campsite/carpark. The waterways and stream beds we had viewed on the Friday had turned into raging torrents making the descent tricky. It wasnt cold at all but everyone’s waterproof systems be they paramo or goretex or event were soon overwhelmed….it was that wet

We squleched on, enjoying the walk down even in adversity. We were wet, we were tired and we were hungry. And yet that was part of the fun. By midmorning we returned to Cwm Brychan and found that the little stream feeding the lake had now turned into a river

A quick conflab decided that there was only one course of action. Drive to the nearest village and have a big breakfast. We drove a few miles, spied a cafe on the side of the road and parked up. After 5minutes of squelching we managed to get into spare clothes and deposit ourselves in the cafe and order rather large breakfasts and coffees to boot.

Ok, so a mixed bag of a weekend but on the whole thoroughly enjoyable even if a lack of sleep on the Saturday and a collapsed tent threatened to spoil it. Sometimes, the best weekends are those when simply being with good mates puts the biggest pair of rosey spectacles onto your perspective. A great weekend and I would like to go back to the Rhinogs at some point, but next time with maybe just a little bit less rain

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About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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16 Responses to The Rhinogs in July – a rather wet weekend in North Wales

  1. Mmm – not a very pleasant experience, hoping your tent wouldn’t collapse and then the sudden realisation that you are going to have to bale out, before you expensive purchase is torn to shreds ! Happened to me only once, an unnerving experience. Still looks like you had a good trip and the Rhinogs are a fine range of hills, where no-one really goes
    Mark

  2. backpackbrewer says:

    Absolutely Mark,

    these things happen. Part of the rich tapestry of venturing out of your front door! 🙂

    The Rhinogs are indeed very nice. Quiet, unspoilt, challenging and rugged

  3. You will have noted that I resisted a reference to the Soulo
    in my last comments 🙂
    Mark

  4. backpackbrewer says:

    indeed you did….until just then! 😀

  5. -maria- says:

    All’s well that ends well! A nice breakfast somewhere dry sounds like a good way to end a weekend like that 🙂

    I only _thought_ of a Soulo or a Warmlite 2C, would not have mentioned them if Mark hadn’t done that in the first place! 😉 But at least we had some very sudden rainstorms (which surprised even the meteorologists) last summer, so I think I will err on the safe side when purchasing a new tent to replace my ancient one.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      a breakfast like that always makes the day seem brighter whatever the weather 🙂

      yes, as per above, the Soulo, Warmlite, Unna etc would have shrugged off the wind I am sure although to be fair the main issue here was the lack of sucure anchor points as the ground was so waterlogged…..

  6. Simon says:

    An unpleasant experience for sure, but a worthwhile one in a “that which does not destroy you makes you stronger” kind of way. I’ve looked at this style of tent before, and while I like the idea of the internal space I’ve always thought that the design wouldn’t stand up to serious wind. Of course we don’t know how other tent designs would have stood up in those conditions either! Out of interest, how easy is this design of tent to pitch in strong winds? I’ve had problems with pitching the Akto in strong winds – part of that was due to the wind gusting and changing direction radically, not a fun experience.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      I dont have one myself but obviously watched the other guys pitch them. They are pretty easy to erect even in a blow. Essentially, peg out the fly loosely, insert inner, insert pole and then tighten. Its quick to put up but if you dont get it right, can occasionally be a faff to get it wrinkle free.

      The main issue with the tent stability wasnt so much the wind as the combo of wind and sodden ground. The pegs wouldnt saty in the ground and we had to resort to placing rocks on the pegs. Even so I think a lower profile tent would have fared better as the hex/SL3 is 5 foot high

  7. backpackingbongos says:

    Ahh the excitement of a wet weekend in Wales! I think that was the same weekend I was also suffering in Snowdonia. I too packed up and left as my tent was not enjoying its pasting from the wind and rain. My waterproofs were overwhelmed and I had wet pants!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      The very same I believe….

      Everything was wet, I think I gained 10lbs in weight through sheer absorption! 🙂

      One thing I did notice is that because it was the summer I always wear mesh approach shoes and ordinary walking socks. I didnt even bother to attempt to keep my feet out of puddles or the streams for that matter. Two of my companions were trying really carefully not overwhelm their boots (didnt work). When we stopped I took off my shoes, emtied them and put them back on. They were dry by the time I had driven home

      Still, an experience that overall I am not keen to repeat!

  8. alan.sloman says:

    I have to admit to not “getting” these shelters – I don’t see the point of risking the experience you have described when hit by bad weather and ground conditions – both of which usually go hand in hand in the British hills: If it is absolutely hammering down coupled with storm force winds then it stands to reason that the ground conditions are going to be less than ideal!

    My Warmlite 2C eats these conditions for breakfast – you just need to make absolutely sure that the rear peg (the one the tent totally relies on) is anchored properly – and for that I use my trekking pole as the anchor in soft ground.

    The weight penalty really is small in comparison to the ghastliness of bailing out in the middle of the night. Wanda, when new, with really heavy duty titanium V pegs and her stuff sack came in at 1205 grams. That’s not a lot for a huge amount of internal space and massive stability.

    Great report though! Thoroughly good read – and a good point about your trail shoes too.

  9. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Alan,

    thanks for the comments. I have looked at the Warmlite before as an option for fierce wind. What is it like in the wet as it has an internal porch I believe? If it can indeed stand up to a real battering then the weight of it means that its a real winter contender…..

    The fact that it was July meant that I was always going to wear mesh approach shoes and blend mix socks which as it turned out was a great choice. Goretex boots or shoes would simply have been overwhelmed

  10. alan.sloman says:

    Wanda is five feet wide at the front pole and four feet wide at the rear pole. She is cavernous. Her poles are made of incredibly strong ally alloy which is pre-bent so that all the strength of the poles is utilized to withstand wind forces. (Most other tent manufacturers poles lose 70% of their strength just bending the poles to the shape required for the pole sleeves).

    Wet gear is stowed on one side of the tent, (the down hill side) and dry gear (maps food phones camera etc) on the uphill side of the tent.

    Any dampness is dealt with with a J-cloth. It is only a matter of moments before all your wet gear is dry enough not to worry.

    I have sat through some incredible storms having arrived completely saturated and Wanda coped with no problems at all. She is an amazing companion!

  11. backpackbrewer says:

    thanks very much for this Alan. Although having said that I am not sure wanting to get another tent right now is doable! As a user of the Warmlite, your perspective has helped me fill in a few gaps of knowledge. Definitely one to watch

    🙂

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