So, I have finally managed to get round to doing my report on my trip to North of Wales and a very nice few days…
Robin, Sean and I had agreed a few months ago to meet up in North Wales partly for the social aspect but mostly for the scenery and a chance to stretch our respective legs. This was my first major trip of the year as was for Robin as well. For Sean it was the first major trip in over a year for many different reasons not least of which was setting up his fledging Oookworks business.
The forecast had been touted as being dry with a good chance of some sunshine so I optimistic for the trip. I had left the planning of the route to Robin who has been in this particular neck of the woods several times before. We were aiming for his special place, Maeneira, for the first night and then a circuit of the ridgeline leading to Carnedd Llewelyn and back with a wildcamp somewhere on the summit (or at least as high as possible).
The trip up to North Wales for me involved travelling through the Brecon Beacons, mid Wales and up through the middle of the Snowdonia National Park. In other words just under 4 hours of pure driving pleasure, even when occasionally stuck behind a lorry for a short while. I always love the journey up to North Wales. Time to unwind, time to anticipate the upcoming walk/camp and time to appreciate the gorgeous scenery in front of me. On my way up I exchanged texts with my companions for the next few days. Sean had a bad knee, Robin had a cold and they both wanted stuff from Betws y Coed! I didnt mind so I popped into ByC got their bits and bobs and did a bit of gear browsing at the same time. I didnt get anything for myself!
That done, I arrived at the meeting place/car park with a planned walk in of around 20 minutes to the campsite for the night. On arrival I was told off for being 20minutes late even though I had been diverted to doing some shopping on my companions behalf! 🙂 Still it was good to see Sean (+Jo his better half) and Robin and we made our way to the campsite at Maeneira. I also hasten to add that I was already packed as soon as I arrived at the car park (whereas others werent!). Harrumpf! 🙂
The walk in was pleasant and we soon arrived at Robin’s special little spot and I can certainly appreciate why he likes it. Secluded but still with good views, a good water source and plenty of atmosphere being in amongst tumble down rocks and abandoned farm houses. We pitched up with Robin going for the Duomid and new inner supplied by Sean. Sean put up the ubiquitous SL3 and 2/3 solid inner made by his own fair hands. I pitched up the new Lightwave T10 trek and I will do a separate review of this tent another time.
The evening was spent, cooking, eating,drinking cherry wine made by my own rough hands and chatting about a whole range of things. I think we managed to cover the world credit crisis, Robin’s retirement, my new job, Sean’s ever growing enterprise, the internet, how good the internet is and how bad the internet is. Oh and a lot about the denizens of the internet and especially outdoors bloggers and forum users. It was an entertaining night 🙂 That over we made our goodnights and retired for the evening.
Morning and some bad news. Robin’s heavy cold hadnt improved overnight and even the thought of doing daywalks as an option instead of a full wildcamp and circuit wasnt on. After a lot of thought, Robin decided to call it a day and go back to Essex. He had, to be fair, managed 3 days of walking and camping before finally admitting that the cold was hitting him hard.
Still, I managed to get a promise out of Robin to come down to the Brecon Beacons this year (much to the disgust of Sean 🙂 ). After saying our goodbyes to Robin, we shouldered our packs and started our trip proper, down towards and then alongside Llyn Eigiau Reservoir.
After a couple of miles, we then cut up across the hillside towards the ridgeline by Hafod y Rhiw. After a short exertion across the rough boggy grass of the hillside, we attained the ridge and much easier going. Our first “proper” peak of Pen Llithrig y Wrath lay 1.5 miles ahead along a steadily climbing ascent. As we climbed towards this first peak, the Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir in the next valley came into view. We also had a growing sense of altitude and the vastness of the mountains around us. At the top of Pen Llithrig, the peak of Carnedd Llewelyn came into sharp focus for the first time.
Now came the tricky bit, some drops and reclimbs as we made our way along the ridge leading to Carnedd Llewelyn. Ok the first was alright but the second, dropping from the peak of Pen yr Helgi to Craig yr Ysfa, caught me unawares. I am ok with heights and I am ok with scrambling but I am not ok on exposed narrow high places. Dont get me wrong, this wasnt that bad in terms of technical ability, but it was making my spidey-senses kick in and turn me into a bum shuffling nervous wreck. The drop down off Pen yr Helgi was sharp, too sharp for my comfort levels and the view in front of me was a narrow ridge followed by a scrambly climb. Eek!
Still, with encouragement from my companions (normally laughter but this time gentle patience), I did overcome my irrational fears of falling off this mountain and make it up the other side. The mantra of “keep looking straight ahead” played over and over in my head and served me well. The last little bit of scrambling up the rocky face of Penywaun Wen was, dare I say it, quite enjoyable.
Beyond this, the slog up to Carnedd Llewellyn progressed as the shadows from the sun started to lengthen. We had made a decision to aim for the top for a summit pitch if at all possible. Pausing to fill up the water bottles from a tarn (yellow-green tinged water….yum yum) we cracked on until we hit the magic 1064m top of Carnedd Llewelyn
The sun was starting to go down so we mooched around the summit until we found a campsite that afforded both great views, including the encroaching sunset and some shelter from a stiff wind. In fact the wind on the exposed summit was hitting 40mph so camping a few metres off to the side and down made it a more comfortable 15-20mph. Having had several exposed windy summit pitches in the past I wasnt keen to repeat the experience!
That sorted, we pitched up and started cooking immediately hoping to catch the last rays of the sinking sun. It turned out to be a splendid sunset and even the twinkling lights of nearby Bethesda didnt detract too much from the view. Fed, watered and pitched up, we retired to Sean and Jo’s tent for the obligatory sharing of a good whisky and a chat. When I noticed Sean’s eyes dropping and glazing over it was obviously time for bed. I just hope it was the climb and not my conversation that did the trick 🙂
Soundly. I slept soundly. Until I heard the moose next door shuffling around that is. We had decided to get up early to make the most of the day and the weather looked like it would be cracking. Morning mist gave way to superb sunshine and clear blue skies as we packed up and made our way towards Foel Grach.
The ridge dropped steadily until we reached the summit of Foel Grach. We tarried briefly before starting off down the ridgeline again passing the well camouflaged mountain shelter on the way past. Next stop was Garnedd Uchaf and a spot of well earned lunch. By now the sun was out overhead and warm but with the light breeze not overly hot. By now we realised that the early start and good progress on a downward track would mean an early finish to the days walking.
Foel Fras and Drum were next en route.
We passed a few other walkers by now, obviously out for the day. To our left, down towards Llyn Anarfon, mountain ponies grazed under a blue sky. Having reached Drum, we now left the ridgeline and headed down in a lazy route towards Pen y Castell and the last leg of the journey.
By now the valley containing Maeneira, and the dark blue ribbon of Afon Dulyn, could be seen. We decided to pause by our campsite of the first night and paddle our feet in the cool water of the stream. Idly engaging in a small game of Pooh-sticks it was soon time to don socks and shoes again and follow the pathway back to the car park. Pausing by the ruined farmhouse to briefly imagine how and why it was abandoned, we finally walked the last mile to our cars.
I was going home that evening anyway but Sean and Jo also reckoned it was a good time to head off back north as well. Tent inners needed making and they agreed that whilst they had really enjoyed the trip they were glad to head back home that night. We briefly stopped at a pub in the nearby village of Tal-y-Bont for a pint of fizzy stuff and a last chat. Saying our goodbyes, Sean and Jo headed north and I headed south. The drive home was a mixture of sadness at leaving but an overwhelming feeling of having had a really good trip too. Music, sunshine and the waft of marsh drenched trail shoes filled the car and kept me company on the way home.
All in all, a cracking trip and I cant wait for the next one…