It should have happened last year but didn't. It happened this year and it was fab! Better late than never. I'm talking (clearly, as whoever can read this can also read the title of this post) about the Swamphike
which should be annual! And this year I live in such an amazing environment it isn't hard to pick a magically beautiful route. So I had.
There was some complication due to the student field trip
, but by 5PM I was on my way and only minutes later I was in Bethesda where we met up. It was good to see everybody! And we had a bonus: this year a gentleman by the name of Sløtl joined. He had been in the same year as me during our earth Science studies in Amsterdam, starting in 1994. A while ago! He had heard a lot about our autumnal hikes and had wanted to join. He would fit in like a glove! Or something.
We jumped into the cars and set off to Llyn Ogwen. I had planned to park at the very western end of the lake but space was limited. We then probably should have driven on to the far eastern edge but I wasn't that switched on. We parked in the middle! And after a bit of faffing we set off. The hike began!
My bag was very heavy. I was carrying the usual stuff, but also a tent big enough for me and Viking (he carried the poles, pegs and ground sheet, to be honest), a stove, pots and pans, fuel, the first aid kit and a (plastic) bottle of booze. And my share of the food. Maybe a bit much! And also a reminder I should really buy a new and lighter sleeping bag. But we'd sort weight out the next day. For now we just wanted to get going as the sun was setting.
We went up along Afon Lloer, just keeping climbing until we found a nice place to camp. We pitched the tents (and the Tarp, under which Roelof slept) and sat down. It was great to have a beer (the others had brought some from Bethesda) with a view with old friends! We looked upon the road through the valley and Tryfan on the other side. Great! And although we had pitched a tent I decided to sleep outside. It would be great to open my eyes in the morning and see a mountain! And I didn't sleep very well as at first I had creatures clamber over my face and later it started drizzling, but the whole opening eyes in the morning thing worked. And then it would really start!
The view in the morning
After breakfast (porridge!) I gave away another fuel bottle and lugged the bag onto my shoulders. It was still very heavy! And we were headed for the Carneddau, with their highest point of 1064 m, while we had only slept at 550. Oh dear. Soon I knew I really should get rid of some weight but I figured it could wait until lunch. But that was a bad idea. Roelof noticed and inspired me to give my tent to Henco who was running up the slopes like a mountain goat. Then I felt a lot better!
Ready to start!
On the Carneddau it was windy, foggy and cold. We found one still spell we used for a little break. Sometimes a sliver of view revealed itself. If it did the result was great! But most of the time our gained height did not mean gained enjoyment. Underneath Foel Grach we had lunch; it was quite clear then. We could see all the way to Holy Mountain! But as soon as we got up to move again the fog was back. Luckily we would soon descend. The path by which we would do that didn't materialize, but Roelof got his compass out and lead the way anyway. At one point we decided not to follow; he walked straight into a swampy patch and vanished up to his thighs. Luckily Viking got him out! And that was the end of his dry socks but as that was as bad as it got it was actually quite funny.
Henco admires the absence of view
The wide view during lunch
A shelter we found just under the top. Well blended into the landscape!
Viking pulls Roelof out of the swamp
When we had dropped down to some 700m we got out of the cloud. A lovely valley stretched out before us. The sun even came out! The Carneddau are rather spectacular but this was nicer. Roelof changed socks and we moved on. There was no path but we could see where we were headed. We saw the quarry and I wanted to have a look at the ruined buildings. From the buildings the old tramway lead down the valley; as I expected, that turned into the path. A nice one! This was a day of nice contrasts. The autumnal stillness of the afternoon- with some sun, even!, was welcome after the wrath of the Carneddau. And after a while, the broken reservoir dam came into view. We made sure we got water from a nice stream, and then we scouted for a camping spot. And we chose one right beside the dam! Why not.
Coming out of the clouds and into the valley
Changing socks in the sun
Walking towards the quarry
Approaching the dam. Pic by Sløtl
We pitched the tents again and four of us went for a bath. I didn't go all the way into the water but I did enjoy it. What a place for a shower! A big empty valley and only the sound of a high waterfall. After the bath we had a snifter. I had brought some Icelandic moss booze. Very tasty! And soon followed spiffing dinner. Butter chicken! Without chicken, but it was still magnificent. Soon after it was bedtime. After a disturbed nigth and a heavy hike I was tired!
Atmospheric camp site
The next morning it was foggy again, but not too much. After a breakfast under a tarp we set off again, on to Llyn Cowlyd. It looked on the map like a simple skip to the next valley but the path vanished and we had to do quite some soggy bushwhacking. But why not! And we got there. The plan was to walk to Capel Curig and from there onto the slope that leads to the Glyders, but that was clearly rather ambitious. Plan B was go to the Pinnacle Cafe and make a plan. Everyone was keen on that!
Skilful map reading
We negotiated the gentle path down, with its many soggy bits, and the well-meant but badly executed bridges over the worst bits, and got to the shop/cafe. I bought whisky and bara brith, and Henco bought coffee as we feared Roelof had miscalculated how much of that we needed. Panic over!
We were now all hungry, so instead of the originally envisaged scone we all went for a full scale burger. Nice! Then we bought a few more beers, as we had decided to skip Glyders and Snowdon and all these peaks as you don't see anything from them anyway. Instead we'd head into the Gwydyr forest. We had really enjoyed Llyn Eigiau so we aimed for another lake; Llyn Goddionduon this time. Well-fed and relaxed we scampered that way. The route took us over cute little forest paths. And soem full-scale logging roads. And the lake was nice! It had flat spaces for tents and pesky robins. And soon the lake proved itself a lovely bathroom. This time I even swam a few metres. It was that nice! And that in mid-to-late October. And after the bath we got lovely Viking pasta. And the Red Arrows did a fly-by (honest!) What more can one want!
Viking, Henco and Sleutel's nose. And some whisky. Good times!
The next morning we first got some more water and then we walked pretty much straight to Ty Hyll. I had driven past it so often, and it looked very nice, so I was glad to have an excuse to finally visit. And I'm always willing to drink some more coffee! And finally all the others could eat scones. And the house even had a resident robin who hipped around and added to the already rather twee environment. Nice! And after we'd finally extracted ourselves we followed the river, admired Swallow falls, and then headed up the hill. It was great to see a "danger, old mine" sign about every meter. And the woods are rather confusing so we took a convoluted route. But why not! And by the time we reached the curve in the road from which you have a great view on the Hafna mill we were hungry enough for lunch.
In the Gwydyr Forest
Walking along the river. Pic by Sløtl
Admiring Swallow Falls. Pic by Sløtl
From that point there should be a path down, but it wasn't there. We just took one that went in a different direction. That way we ended up (by accident, honest!) at Parc. Parc is very accessible so I suggested we go in until the water would get too deep (which is a few tens of metres at most). Viking and Henco thought it was a good idea! The rest didn't like this mining malarkey one bit. Oh well. I later showed Roelof another mine entrance, which in my book also counts as accessible, but he looked at me in horror and asked "you would go in THERE?". Maybe my standards are odd.
Confusion in the woods
Hafna mill. Pic by Sløtl
From the Hafna mill we got to the top of the hill and then a bit down. There was another lake that had caught our attention: Llyn Glangors. It was ludicrously beautiful so we decided to stick with it. It did mean we had to scout for water as the stream feeding the lake according to the map was dry. Roelof, Viking and me set off. It didn't look good! The next one was a suspicious-looking trickle. The second a bright orange little stream. The third and the fourth were no more than trickles either. And the fifth was finally just big enough to fill bottles with. The water was a bit yellow but it would have to do.
Our next lake annex bathroom. Pic by Sløtl
The view from this camp site. Pic by Sløtl
When we finally got back I figured it was time for a bath. Another swimmable lake! I felt lovely when I came out. And I came back to Henco already having started cooking the meal I had brought. Maybe he was hungry! But it was quite luxurious. It was a lovely evening.
The next day would be the last proper one. We wanted to end it in a pub! I thought of Tyn-y-Coed, so we had decided on a route past Llyn Geirionnydd and Llyn Grafnant, and then back into Capel Curig. It was a lovely day! We imagined ourselves in a Ravensburger puzzle many times. And at the northern tip of Grafnant we even found an old quarry. Three of us went in. Nice! Small but decorative. But we moved on. At the other end of the lake we were glad to enter open land again; by then we had seen quite enough of chocolate box forests. And it stayed chocolate boxy, but nobody complained.
Perfect holiday conditions
When we got to a strategic point we decided to scout for a camping spot, go to the pub, go back and pitch our tents, have dinner, and then go back to the pub. And we found a great spot! And then we did go to the pub. But once there the idea of having to climb the 80m back to the scouted spot was not so attractive anymore. After a few beers we decided to re-scout on the other side of the river. We found a nice flat field next to the river with nice autumn colours! No objection. So we settled down, and I had a bath. By then light was fading so I wasn't too scared of embarrassing the local population. And then we had lovely Henco rice. And then we went back to the pub!
We were all a bit tired, and quite used to early nights, so we didn't drink much or last long. But it was nice! Upon coming out we noticed it was raining, but we had already pitched the tents, so it didn't matter too much.
The next morning we got out of bed late. It was still a bit wet! After breakfast we packed all the sogging stuff and set off. The Dutch contingent wanted to have some time buffer for in case. The path was nice and autumnal. Things got more autumnal when we got out of the woods. The tramway back to the cars was rather exposed, and the weather didn't improve. But that was alright! We were all heading home.
Packing up from our last campsite
The road back to the cars
I thought we'd have to do the last stretch on the road, but there turned out to be a small path running parallel. That was nicer! But also festooned with ankle-deep water. I was resigned. Once back at the cars we decided there was time for lunch in Bethesda. We found a nice cafe. The mood was getting melancholy; goodbye was nigh! It had been a very good hike, as far as I was concerned! Lovely landscapes, lovely camp sites, lovely weather. A nice balance between wilderness and pubs/cafes. And good people of course, but that is always the case.
I don't see these folks very often but more than 20 years of history is enough to pick up where we had left off when I do see them. I'm not sure I would have envisaged us still hiking together as a bunch of 40-year-olds. But I'm glad we do! More next year! Hurray!