On the weekend of 14th-17th March, a Saint Patrick’s Day holiday weekend in Ireland, I ran a trip for the Hillwalkers Club from Dublin, to the ruggedly raw and beautiful mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales.
This remarkable area of mountains lies close to the coast at the northwest corner of Wales, and is within easy reach of Dublin by ferry and car.
Seven of us arrived around 20.00 at our accommodation in Llanberis village, a cosy guest house, and soon headed to the neighbouring pub for dinner and a discussion of the weekends plans.
The forecast was for dry but cloudy weather, without significant wind, but with the possibility of snow still lying on the higher tops, so plans were laid for the next day to hike to the summit of Yr Wyddfa, (Snowdon), at 1085 metres the highest mountain in England and Wales.
|En route to the slate workings|
The popular routes up this peak take well worn tracks from Pen y Pass, which involves the minimum of ascent, they can be crowded and are possibly the least interesting of the many ways to get up Snowdon.
I decided, therefore, to take the guys up the far more interesting and much quieter South Ridge, a route that starts at Rhyd Ddu on the west of the massif.
We started up an old mine track and headed to austere, tumbled down, and abandoned slate workings higher up the valley. From here we turned north, up the South Ridge, enjoying some mixed ground, rugged paths and rocky steps, before crossing the narrow and precipitous Bwlch Main and making a final pull to the summit.
The day ran true to form, with a good deal of cloud spoiling any chance of the wonderful views that can be had on this route. However, we had a great time, with only a little snow above 900 metres, and a relatively quiet summit to take our photographs.
We returned via the Rhyd Ddu path which brought us back to the car, and headed back to Llanberis to complete a satisfying day.
Day two brought more in the way of drizzle, but we were undeterred, and set off for Cwm Idwal at the base of the Glyders, a blocky range with four mountains over 3000 feet, Y Garn, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr and Tryfan.
After a relatively easy walk-in, passing Llyn Idwal and some damp looking climbers on the Idwal Slabs, a popular rock climbing venue, we tackled the rocky ascent up through the Devil’s Kitchen, past huge fallen blocks of volcanic ash rock and into an ever narrowing cleft in the dark mountainside.
|All the team at Glyder Fawr summit|
We emerged at a small lake, or llyn, on the bwlch between Y Garn and the rest of the massif, and reluctantly ignoring Y Garn itself, headed up a long rubbly scree slope to the summit of Glyder Fawr at 999 metres.
Our route now followed the Glyders ridge, a moonscape of frost shattered rocks and bare ground. These rocks had stood above the ice during the last glaciation, and as a result had been split by the freezing and thawing of water into strange shaped slabs and blocks, seemingly thrown on top of one another like giant building blocks in a child’s toy box.
|Strange goings on, on the Cantilever Stone|
In the misty conditions the whole impression was of an unworldly and alien landscape. It was here we found the much photographed Cantilever Stone, close to the summit of Glyder Fach, and posed for our own pics.
Our route now took us down and north, across the head wall of Cwm Tryfan and over to the bwlch between Glyder Fach and Tryfan itself.
From here we scrambled up the south ridge of Tryfan to the two stone blocks, Adam and Eve, on the summit.
|Scrambling down the south side of Tryfan|
We returned the same way and then descended into Cwm Bochlwyd to make our way down the rocky path to our start point and our transport back to Llanberis. The hike had taken 7 hours, and the guys were very happy with their day.
Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, gave us fine weather, and we drove to Capel Curig to climb Moel Siabod. At 872 metres it is not one of the bigger mountains in Snowdonia, but it makes up for this with some superb grade 1 scrambling on the Daear Ddu ridge, and a wonderful rocky summit traverse.
The walk in was a delight, along another old miners track to more abandoned workings, this time in clear weather and high cloud, past small lakes and flooded workings that finally led to the start of the scrambling route. The Daear Ddu ridge has an imposing northern face, steep and rocky, but is more benign on the southern side, more gently sloping with grassy rakes and rocky outcrops. There are several ways up, and the most exciting is the route that keeps close to the ridge crest, overlooking the steep north face.
|Scrambling on the Daear Ddu ridge|
I chose a route that bypassed some of the hardest sections, whilst still sticking to the true ridge as much as possible. The rock was dry and the day fine and far too soon we were at the top of the route, which finishes directly at the summit trig point of Moel Siabod. Here we unfurled the Irish flag and took photographs before heading northeast along the summit ridge, which was quite narrow in places, and topped with huge boulders and slabs of volcanic ash, a grippy rock called tuff that is found all over Snowdonia, and which gives great confidence with foot and hand placements.
|Moel Siabod summit|
Finally the ridge ended and we reluctantly descended the grassy west flank of the mountain to a path that led down through mixed woodland, old oaks dripping with lichens, mosses and ferns, and along the Afon Llugwy, a river benign and gently one minute, roaring rapids the next.
Back in Capel Curig we headed for a local pub, where we saluted Saint Patrick and our wonderfully successful weekend.
Our three days of Snowdonia hikes had come to an end, the guys and gals were elated, and the mountains I have known and hiked in for 40 years did not disappoint us yet again.
I will be returning soon, of course, will you join me?