29 January 2015

Find some winter

The snow on the mountains was gorgeous! On Wednesday. I was in the office on Wednesday. I wanted to get into the snow in the weekend, but the snow didn't wait for me. On Friday it was raining. The mountains looked green and brown and grey again.

I was supposed to be going on a run with my newfangled running mate Coleen on Saturday. Or do a Parkrun. And in the evening there would be a birthday party for which I had to cook a dish. So Sunday seemed the right day for it. Except for the weather forecast. Saturday would be gorgeous, Sunday gloomy!

When Coleen failed to respond to any reminders of our run I decided to just ditch the running, get up early and get into Snowdonia in time to have a nice hike and still be home in time to cook my dish. And so it happened!

I decided to climb Pen yr Ole Wen, which is a mountain I drive past (or am driven past) an awful lot. It looks spiffing! And this time I would see it from close up. As the weather was mild I didn't pack anything exotic. And I set off! It was great to step from the road straight into a beautiful landscape, with pink morning sky. I just staggered up, not following any particular path. The route is simple; just keep going up and you'll get to the top. I figured I should, once there, follow a cliff around and then loop back to the valley floor. Once there I could walk along the lake back, or perhaps on the other side of the road.

This pic is taken only some ten meters from the road. And already there it's this beautiful!

Orange morning sky

I got to where there were patches of ice on the path. I don't have crampons! If it would get icier I would have to turn back. Too many people have to be helicoptered off Snowdonian mountains because they didn't come prepared. I don't want to be one of them. But the patches stayed incidental. And the only other way would be back; there were no reasonable paths in any other direction before the top. So I pushed on! And I got there. By the time I did I was in the clouds, and the wind picked up. I had to stop to put on my windstopper hat! The wind almost blew me over the edge. And the moist wind had covered everything in icy frosting. I got a bit worried. You still have grip on frosty rocks, but what if you have an ice patch over the entire width of the ridge?

It started like this; very civilised

A bit higher, the heather started looking like this

Higher still, the rocks started looking like this

And then I looked like this

I was staggering on, hoping to get a bit lower down soon, which would get me out of the wind. And then I suddenly heard "hello there!"; there was a little sheltering wall and some chap was having a cup of coffee there. It looked snug! I joined. I saw his windproof gloves, and his ice axe, and I figured he was prepared. And he seemed nice. So I was bold and asked if he'd mind if I teamed up with him. And he didn't! So we introduced ourselves. The chap's name was Mark. And as soon as I found that out, a whole group of walkers joined our shelter too. It was getting very sociable!

Mark turned out to be English, but had lived in various North Welsh towns for decades and knew his stuff. In spite of the howling wind we managed to strike up a conversation. It was nice to have someone to talk to! And after a while we reached the area where the slope down into the valley became subtle again, and we could descend. Peace was our reward!

Back in calm areas where you can see the world

Mark descends into the valley

After a while we emerged from the clouds and saw the valley below. Good! And from icy the terrain turned swampy. We happily sloshed through the gunk and got back to the valley floor. It was only 12:15! Mark, who was parked around there, offered to give me a lift back to my car which was parked some kilometers further down the road, but I preferred to walk. We said goodbye, I sat down in the shelter of a rock for some lunch, and he went on his way.

After lunch I strolled leisurely along the lake back to the car. When I was almost at the stile which gets you back to the road I saw some people appear from underneath the bridge. What? Can you go there? And when they came closer, one of them addressed me. "You once drew a glorious moustache on my face!" And so I had, at Juan's tash party. The world is small! But I of course tried their funny bridge route, which only took me under the road and back up on the other side, but it was a nice surprise. And then it was time to go back, do food shopping, have a shower, make my dish, and then go to the party. I was glad I'd come out! And once home I started bidding for crampons on eBay... don't mess with a mountain!

Cup of tea at the lakeside

The old bridge still there, underneath the "new" one!

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