Snow, in Snowdonia!

Of all the big mountain ranges in the UK, Snowdonia seems to suffer the worst winter conditions, and any snow that does fall there doesn’t tend to stick around too long. This winter has been quite an exception, and I’ve been enviously eyeing up the “Snowdonia Winter Conditions” thread on UKC, jealous of all the talk of Parsley Fern Gulley and “full winter conditions” on Crib Goch and Tryfan’s north ridge. I’d all but surrendered to the fast that I’d missed out on these great conditions in Wales this winter, and so it was a complete surprise on Sunday to find my wading through the white stuff up one of my favourite mountains – Moel Siabod.

Within the space of a few hours on Saturday evening and another few hours on Sunday morning, a very considerable amount of snow had fallen, rendering Pen-y-Pass impassible to my Aunt and Uncle, Paula and Pete, whom we were meant to be meeting in Pete’s Eats that morning. We hastily rearranged our meeting location to Ogwen cottage and our walk, which was meant to be up Moel Eilio, to Moel Siabod instead.

Our route was from Pont Cyfyng, but instead of the usual Daear Ddue ridge (see my post dated January 12, 2011) we headed up the broader north-eastern shoulder and onto Siabod’s north-eastern summit ridge. This final ridge, whilst not being narrow enough to feel much exposure, offers a good bit of easy scrambling and is in such a fantastic position and was covered in so much snow that it had a really mountaineering feel to it. Add the white-out and wind, and for a moment you could have mistaken yourself for being in Scotland.

Siabod’s north-eastern ridge

Said white-out necessitated a compass bearing from the summit, which lead us to the “tourist” route back down to the Afon Llugwy near Plas-y-Brenin. We walked back along the river to the cars, before popping by the Tyn-y-Coed for a well deserved pint of Purple Moose’s finest! All-in-all, a fantastic day out and it was great to eventually be out in Snowdonia in the snow.

Summit photo!

Fell running on the Glyders and Carnedds

It dawned on me last week that I only had two weeks to go until the Three Peaks fell race and that the last long run I did was the Edale Skyline fell race a good few weeks ago – time to put some proper training in! I’ve also entered the Welsh 1000m Peaks race in June and so I thought I’d use the opportunity to recce the only part of the route I’ve never done before – Y Gribin ridge onto the Glyders.

I did the run yesterday as a variation on what could be described as the “Ogwen Horseshoe” – along the Gyders, down to Llyn Ogwen and back up onto the Carnedds. The variation I chose came out at 15 miles with 7000 feet of ascent. I parked at the base of the north ridge of Tryfan and headed up to Llyn Bochlwyd before picking up the obvious track up the Gribin ridge. I had a quick look to see if I could spot the Cneifon Arete (translated as the nameless arete) that I’ve fancied doing for a while now, but couldn’t pick it out of the mass of crags lining Cwm Idwal. From the top of the ridge it is less than a kilometre to the summit of the highest mountain in the Glyders – Glyder Fawr, standing at 1001m.

The ridge is down as a grade I scramble, though I definitely think it is at the lower end of the grade as most of the difficulties can be bypassed.

Pen yr Ole Wen

The view of Carnedd Dafydd from Pen yr Ole Wen, taken on one of the few runs when I chose to take my camera with me, over the Carnedds in the April of last year. The weather was quite a bit worse yesterday!

Until late 2010 the listed height of Glyder Fawr was 999m and as such it wasn’t included in the Welsh 1000m Peak race. However, new GPS measurements found the height to actually be 1000.8m and so a decision was made to include the mountain in the two fell running categories of the race. This year, the “elite” mountaineer’s categories will include the summit as well. This addition makes the long fell runners class (A) race a grueling 20 miles with 9000 feet of ascent – why did I enter this!?

From the summit of Glyder Fawr, I headed down to Llyn y Cwn and then onto Y Garn, before taking the eastern ridge straight down to Ogwen Cottage. The past few times I’ve been down this ridge, a new path was in the progress of being built, and it was a relief to see the new path fully in place yesterday – it certainly made the descent easier than the boggy/grassy mess it was before!

I had been planning on topping my water bottle at Ogwen Cottage and so had drank everything I had before I got down to the little takeaway stall in the car park. Unfortunately however, the little takeaway stall refused to fill my bottle up and so I was left with a choice of either water from the outlet of Llyn Idwal or water from the sinks in the toilets that was specifically marked as not drinkable. I presumed that the sink water was marked undrinkable as it was also from the outlet of Llyn Idwal and as I didn’t have much choice I filled up from there. The Carneddau are notoriously dry and I didn’t fancy my chances of finding a source higher up.

My route up Pen yr Ole Wen was via its south-western ridge, a route I’d never done previously. It was a drag and my legs started aching, but a bit of scrambling and the odd bit of steep scree added enough entertainment to keep me going. There was a good deal of snow about on the summit and I chose to eat this instead of drinking the water from down at Ogwen.

I followed the ridge along over Carnedd Dafydd and Llewellyn, before heading over to Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach and finally down to the A5. The weather closed in on the final section and for the first time all day I was forced to put my windshirt on as it started snowing. By the time I was down at the A5 this snow had turned to persistent drizzle and by the time I got back to the car I was drenched through. I can’t really complain though, as most of the run had been cloudless and with sunny intervals. The run took me 4 hours 30 minutes altogether.

My legs ache now but not too much and yesterday has definitely boosted my confidence that I’m (just about) fit enough for the Welsh 1000m Peaks race. I ended up drinking the water from my bottle and as of yet (touch wood) I haven’t fallen ill!

Convoluted scrambling up Siabod

Moel Siabod is often overlooked, falling short of the 3000 foot mark but only just, standing at 2861 feet. It is no less of a mountain than its taller counterparts however, and boasts a number of interesting and varied ascents with arguably some of Snowdonia’s most rugged and interesting scenery. The best of this scenery can be seen via the ascent of the mountain’s east ridge, Daear Ddu (Black Earth). The ridge offers a variety of different paths, mostly scrambling of lower-end grade 1 difficulty, but this can nearly all be bypassed. It is a great introduction for those less experienced.

I received both Nuttall’s books for Christmas and as Siabod was one of the first mountains I ever climbed (at the age of 5) I decided it would be the first walk from the books I completed. I was certain I had never done this exact route before, but I’m now having second thoughts as I recognised a good deal of it. I did the walk  today on my own – I saw a brief spell of good weather on the forecast and decided to go for it. I was hoping for a bit of snow but unfortunately it had all thawed.

Start point: Pont Cyfyng, SH 735 571
Summit: Moel Siabod
Distance: 6 miles / 9.7 kilometres
Ascent: 2400 feet

The weather forecast wasn’t entirely accurate as the first mile of my walk was in pouring rain. It did clear up slightly but there was still a considerable amount of cloud about, hence the lack of photos.

From Pont Cyfyng, a tarmac track crosses the river by the Cyfyng Falls. A signposted footpath branches off this and winds its way up to the disused Rhos Quarry first of all, and then the natural lake Llyn y Foel. The path is very well defined and well used right up to the start of the Daear Ddu ridge itself. From here it’s theoretically as easy as following the ridge right up to the summit, picking the difficulty of route you wish. However I made the mistake of branching off too far to the west on a path that seemed to be skirting right around the southern aspect of the mountain. I decided to leave this path and as a result ended up heading directly north onto the summit (instead of north-west along the ridge), a route that involved some pretty tricky scrambling. So, a word of warning, it is by far best to stick as close to the ridge as possible!

The summit itself was very icy, but with only the odd patch of left-over snow. I stopped for lunch in the small shelter and managed the below photo in a momentary break of cloud.

Summit of Moel Siabod

A rather icy summit of Moel Siabod

A compass bearing led me off the summit and down to Coed Bryn Engan, a small forest with a network of different sized tracks that eventually led me back to the A5, albeit about half a mile further down the road than I intended.