31 August 2017

Small Sunday scamper

I had spent pretty much the entire Saturday in the hills. No chores got done! But I had plenty. I started on these on Sunday. By lunchtime I had done enough to grant myself a jolly! I made some sandwiches, packed a bag, and set off. My goal: a small lake I had seen from yr Aran. It was only a small walk!

It didn't start well. I got into a serious traffic jam (by North Welsh standards). When I came to a roundabout I had to take I saw why; the police had blocked everything except the first exit. I didn't want to take the first exit! But I didn't have a choice.

I saw some cars in front of me turning into a small road in front of me. I decided to follow them. I wasn't sure where it went but it was the right direction. I would recognise something soon enough! And so I did. I got back onto the road I had wanted to be on, and drove on. I got to Llanberis and there all went slow. It was a bank holiday weekend, and nice weather, and everyone wanted to be in Llanberis/Nant Peris. And Nant Gwynant. Especially people looking out for a parking space (forget it) or very, very insecure drivers who though 15 mph was a fine speed. Argh! I was glad to hit the tiny and quiet road into Nantmor, until I came across another car. Oh dear. I was fairly close to something that could function as a passing place, but I felt like I almost reduced my car to a total loss trying to get to it. These walls were so close on both sides!

I got to my intended parking space but by then I was ravenous. I sat on a convenient slate spoil heap and had my sandwiches. I needed those! It was 3PM by now...

Then I set off. The path was very soggy but quite easy to follow. The landscape was magical, as usual! And I had an amazing view on yr Aran (although it looks dull from this side) and Cwm Llan next to it.

At the lake I sat down on a rock and admired the scenery. I also got out the map; maybe I wanted to go somewhere again on Monday. I made a plan! Then I went back. I ate my fruit along the way. When I got back I had only walked some six kilometers, and climbed some 200m, but I had got my landscape kick. And seen a new lake! And even driven a new road. I drove back in the other direction so I had seen all of it; I had been tipped off it was very beautiful. And so it was! And still very narrow. I again met a car coming in the other direction. This time the other car backed up! And with some manipulation of wing mirrors we managed to pass each other. Brr! A beautiful road but not one to take lightly. But I had already seen another walk in the same valley I wanted to do. Note to self: not to do it in a bank holiday weekend! Especially not a sunny one...

At the start of the walk

Snowdon in the distance (and yr Aran at the far left)

Looking northeast towards Nant Cynnyd

Scenic ruin

The lake!

 Thistles frame the view towards the west

30 August 2017

Big Saturday trip

August is coming to an end, and with it perhaps my last Welsh summer! Time to discover more of this magical landscape before I can't anymore. When we had been on the Thursdaynight Wild Goose Chase and had been looking over Llyn Padarn while having a tea break at the old quarry hospital I had looked at Moel Eilio ("second hill"??) and Foel Goch (red hill) and all these mountains on the other side, and realised I had not been on top of them yet. An omission!

I had a look at how to go about it. I figured the place to start was a parking lot I had seen before, when I had gone for a run near Llanberis. From there a path went to the top. And then along the ridge. Where to get off again? I saw two options: the short one,where I would walk until I would cross the path coming from the valley on my right (Nant y Betws) back to Llanberis on my left. Otherwise I could press on, hit the Snowdon Ranger Path, get to just underneath the top, probably not be bothered to do the last 50m, and then descend the Llanberis Path with a potential detour to Llyn Du'r Arddu. I would have to cross the valley at some point to come back to the path that would get me back to my car. That would get me past the start of my recent Tuesday Evening walk, and near where a race had brought me a fair while ago which had brought the idea home to me there were some valleys around here that were worth further exploring. I'd have to see how I felt on the day!

By 9AM I had parked. It was a beautiful day! Slate grey skies combined with sun. Very atmospheric. I started up the path. The view was a bit intermittent; sometimes I was just walking in a cloud, but from time to time the valley below me would open up. Nice! When I got to the top I couldn't see a thing. I did see my first passer-by of the day: a fell runner.

 How it all started

 Top of Moel Eilio

I went on. The fog slowly lifted. I could largely enjoy the view from the rest of the ridge! And I made rapid progress. Soon I was having coffee with a view over the pass with the path back to Llanberis; Bwlch Maesgwm. No way I would take that path! I would go on. And so I did. Soon I had Bwlch Cwm Brwynog in view; I had a cup of tea before hitting it, as it was there I would join the much busier Snowdon Ranger Path. I had met noone since the runner. From a distance I could see the throngs on SRP...

The view returns! And offers Llyn Dwythwch

When I got to the pass I saw a stile, bringing me into the valley. I didn't know there was a path there! The map said nothing about it. But I saw it even split; left, going back to Llanberis along the convenient side of the valley, and onwards, towards Llyn Du'r Arddu. Worth a try! I could do without all these other people. I followed the path to the lake until it vanished (the path, that is); then I cross-countried to where I knew the lake had to be. The landscape was amazing! I felt really good. My choice had been the right one. I thought I was all alone until I saw a few climbers on the vertical cliff face. And then some more. There were about ten there! But very spread out, both horizontally and vertically. I decided to have lunch at the lake; I found a good spot, took off my shoes and socks, and bathed my feet.

View down the valley

The impressive cliffs of Clogwyn Du'r Arddu at the end of the valley. Notice the climbers...


Someone else appeared; this hiker was soon also sitting at the lake edge taking off shoes. And more. Soon she was in a bikini, wading into the water, encouraging me to do the same! Where I was the water got deep abruptly though, and I didn't have a bikini, or a towel. I stuck to my sandwiches. Maybe for the better; I would have had to go naked, which can make me feel a bit vulnerable, and soon yet another hiker appeared. This time a male. And hikers tend to behave well towards random naked females, but still.

When I was done I went on. I knew there was an incline here; it was on the map! Worth having a look. I got to it and couldn't resist walking up it. But where to? I saw no entrances. Maybe all had been backfilled. When I got high up I still saw no entrances. Oh well, too bad! I went on.

From the mine there was a path; an old tramway, undoubtedly, and now still there to cater for climbers. It would join the very busy Llanberis Path. I wasn't feeling that! Tens of meters before the paths joined I saw a faint trail in the grass, going back into the centre of the valley. I took it! It vanished but the river was easy to find. I crossed it, thought of going on, then reconsidered, took my clothes off and had a bath in the river. It was quieter here!

The river leading into the lake. Zoom in and see the horror of the throngs on the Llanberis Path! 

The incline

View on the lake from the cliff

Heading back towards Bwlch Cwm Brwynog

The river, where I had a bath

After that refreshing bath I went on. The path vanished but I followed the landscape until I came to a place where there should be a public footpath. I found a stile! But no path to speak of. Oh dear. I was a bit fed up with bushwhacking by now; I cut short to the big path I had seen at Bwlch Maesgwm and followed that back. I had another break finishing my supplies some mile from the car. Then I walked on, along the path I had ran on before. I took a tiny detour past a small slate quarry on the side of the path, but then I was back at the car. It was getting late-ish but I wasn't ready to leave this beautiful landscape. Even this parking lot was beautiful! It was a flat piece of land next to slate spoil heaps; the site of the old slate mill? I got the newspaper out of my car and sat down on the grass to read some. Very peaceful!

After a while I figured it was time to go anyway. I drove past the shop, did my grocery shopping, and was home at a quarter to eight. A day well spent! And now I have finally seen that valley! Such an evident one, but it took me more than three years to get to it... And I got to see it pretty much on my own!

Scenic farm in the middle of nowhere

Back to where it started!

29 August 2017

The dig is back on

We left the dig in a rather bad way the last time. At the very entrance, a big flake hung loose from the ceiling! We hoped it would come down on its own initiative before we would get back. As long as it was there, there wasn't really a safe way into the dig - at all. And it would be hard and scary to persuade it down!

When we got back I was down first. I immediately went to have a look. And I saw the flake was down! Success! It had snapped the electrical cable that had been suspended from it but that was a detail. And with that flake away we could go in for a closer look!

 The big flake down; notice the big metal ring to which the cables are tied. You can now see the back end of it sticking out on the other side. And notice the electric cable running behind it too, going up...

There clearly still was a big loose flake, but you could get around that. If you took the traditional way in you had to pass underneath, but there was another passage; it wasn't very comfortable but I decided to go in through there to go and get the metal bar and the crowbar from high up, so we could go and bring some loose stuff down. It's not good to hang around when loose bits fall on your head all the time! And you don't want things to come off in your hand or under your feet either, We had some tidying up to do! I threw Miles the metal bar and prodded the passage going up a bit, so the most offensive loose bits would be gone. I brought down a lot! Miles had really gone to town on the slate last time.

The flake that's still there, with Miles sticking his hand into the lower crack

When it all seemed OK I went to the far end where the crowbar was. I used it to clean up more. And I brought some loose rocks down that had been perched safely but had been dislocated. I didn't think we'd get much done beyond cleaning up!

We had a long, pensive look at the big flake. The good thing was that you could bring it down from the side; it could not fall onto you that way. Or slide towards you after coming down. But Miles was a bit nervous about it perhaps blocking the way out. I was a bit nervous about a vertical rock leaning against it; would that topple over if the flake went down, and bring godknowswhat down. Hm! We wanted to do that from a distance. But how? Miles had two ideas. Stay tuned! I hope we get to try them next week...

We had a tea break. At the end of it Miles showed me his altimeter; he had brough one so we could measure how much height we had gained. He set it to zero on the chamber floor. It obediently gave a level of 1m when he held it up, and 2m when he held it further up. Looked OK! But I had a polyprop rope so I could take a measure of horizontal distance too.

I climbed to the ceiling. The altimeter said it was 92 m up. Oh dear! It clearly wasn't. And I hadn't tied my rope to the bottom of the passage so I wasn't being very efficient. Oh well. I checked the angle of the ceiling with my compass (or tried; it's a bit of a faff if you're the only source of light around) and went on. At the far end I checked the altimeter still gave gobbledygook, took another ceiling measurement, and had a bit of a prod at the remains of the pile of rock there. I removed some more! And I noticed I might be able to dig under a big rock, rather than necessarily having to blow it up and go through. The problem was that the only place you could throw any rocks from there was in my own way, impeding the way out. If Miles could get up here he could help tidy up! But first things first.

I tied the rope to a rock. Then I went back to the vertical passage. From there I threw the rope to Miles and asked him to tie a knot in it at the bottom. Then we would have all the measurements needed! I went back to retrieve the rope. It was coming close to having-to-skedaddle-time. I came out and gave Miles his altimeter back. It now said I was at -105m! That thing needs calibration. Anyway. The polyprop rope would tell us enough!

We went out, and popped by the manager's office, where Miles' shoes were. There was also a measuring tape there! We measured the lengths of the two marked bits of rope. I had come less far than I thought! About 8m up vertically, and then 10m along the ceiling. Oh well, not bad anyway! 

27 August 2017

Bonus climb

We would climb again at Bus Stop Quarry! I looked forward to that. I drove up and saw Simon already parked up. He was keen too! Then we saw Eifion approach. And rain. Oh dear!

Glyn and Eirian appeared too. Together we discussed the situation. I was up for giving it a go anyway; Bus Stop Quarry has plenty of easy routes that are doable when wet too. But that may be a bit of a mine explorer's opinion; climbers tend to REALLY not like rain. Especially on slate! On the sandpaperish rocks of Anglesey, like at Rhoscolyn or Holyhead Mountain, it matter less, but slate really does get slippery. Eifion suggested going to the Beacon climbing wall instead. I was in two minds! I decided against. I can climb indoors all winter.

Glyn said he wanted to look at some of the routes. I was glad to be outside, surrounded by slate, so I decided to join him. In the background we saw several cars leave. He had a look at some of the routes, and was clearly tempted to give it a go anyway. Some of these routes were rather sheltered! Soon we saw Eifion approach too. He brought the book! That helped. We had a look at some routes we could perhaps do, especially 'Fool's Gold'; a route Glyn had been psyched up to do. And while we did that the rain abated. We decided to have a few climbs!

Glyn decided to warm up on an easy route, one I had lead the previous time. He climbed it, and Eifion seconded it, and then it was time for something more serious. We chose 'Septuagenarian'; a 6a. Glyn lead it. It looked a bit tricky! But he did it without much effort.

I hadn't climbed yet so it was my turn now. It did start to rain again, but that didn't stop me. I was on top rope! Nothing too bad could happen. And the rain did make things a bit harder but I did it. Not bad, an outdoor 6a in the rain, on slate! Eifion wasn't keen on trying it too (even though the rain had stopped again) but Glyn talked him into it. And he managed!

 Me doing the splits on 'Septuagenarian'. Notice the long tights; I remembered the midges from last time!

Eifion on Septuagenarian too

So now what? Fool's gold? That was a trad route. I figured Glyn had wanted to do this all evening and now he should. I suggested Eifion would do the belay; in trad climbing you can have big falls and Glyn is easily one and a half times my weight. Eifion is more his size! I did scamper up to the top to see what was there. The route came up a crack, to a ledge, and the final anchors were on the back wall of the ledge. A funny configuration; two anchors, but no maillons or bits of chain or anything like that; just a piece of rope. On well, it would hold! We do this underground too, sometimes. And the thing was; if Glyn made it to the ledge he didn't need these anchors; he could just walk off.

Looking at the men from the top of the route

He gave it a go. He used two ropes. He climbed effortlessly to the crux,where you had to transfer from an easy crack on the left to a difficult one on the right. Not easy! That right crack didn't have any footholds in the beginning. He was struggling.

Glyn places gear at the crux of Fool's Gold

I thought he might want to try on top rope. Sometimes it helps to do that first before you lead it. He was in two minds (he doesn't like top-roping) but I ran, fetched another rope and some karabiners, scampered up and fixed the rope. When Glyn confirmed he was safe I chucked both ends down. Better for Eifion to belay from the bottom; I didn't have enough kit with me to do it from the top! The men sorted out the re-rigging and I looked on from the top. Not for long; Glyn had worn himself out on that crux, and his arms were too tired now. Oh well! Maybe next time.

Light was fading now. We packed up! I had only climbed one route, but I was glad I had stayed. It had been a nice route, it was cool see Glyn do his thing, and it was a lovely evening in a slate quarry! What more does one want?

26 August 2017

Sunday mine

When I had been digging the men had been having a look at a mine none of us knew much about: Bryn-y-Felin near Beddgelert. They found an interesting shaft that went places! But they didn't have enough rope and/or bolting kit to go all the way. So on Saturday suddenly one of the men started mailing around; should we go back on Sunday? And people had stuff to do so the trip was put on the late afternoon. That suited me; then I could go for a walk with Dani, sort out my pictures from the Saturday, and blog a bit before going underground.

We drove to the meeting point, and found Edwyn, the instigator, there. Phil and Jason appeared too. Lots! And the entrance was close to the road. Very nice! It was located in a scenic bit of woodland, with moss and whatnot, next to a field with handsome Welsh Blacks.

Field with farmhouse ruin and pretty cattle next to the mine

The entrance: a hole in the ground 

We rigged the pitch and I was the first down. I waited at the bottom of the first pitch; there were three in total. It was just a level of a few meters long; not much to see there. I had a sandwich while I was at it! Soon we were all down, and I could go down the second pitch. That lead to a similarly small stretch of new ground (new for me, anyway).

Phil descends the second pitch

When we were all down the second pitch I could pop down to the lowest level, which none of us had visited before. Exciting! There was a main, central adit; it had water in it, which looked about crotch-deep. That was one to leave until the end! I explored all the other levels. Nothing went far, everything was backfilled! Edwyn performed some marvellous antics involving lassooing in order to explore some passage high up. That didn't go far either. Time to explore the wet bit!

I stepped in and Jason followed. He tends to be up for that sort of stuff! We waded on, and the water did not get more than waist deep. And the end had collapsed. It was stoped out there! Interesting.

Getting ready to wade

Jason emptying his boot

We went back. The first was already making his way up and out. This wasn't a big place! But that's OK. We all got out, and by the time I got back to the surface (I was last up) some others were exploring some other parts of the mine. A bit further on was a gunnis. A big deep one! Interesting! The men had a good look at it, decided today wasn't the day for it, and figured it would make a nice Thursday night trip. One I would probably miss, given my one week on - one week off schedule. Oh well! I'll hear the stories.

Starting our way back up

Staring down the gunnis in fading daylight

25 August 2017

Walk and speak Welsh

When Welsh class stopped for summer, one of the ladies in the class said I should give a shout if I wanted to go for a walk with her and speak Welsh while doing so. It was Dani, who had narrowly escaped becoming Welsh Learner of the Year. It was a good idea! I didn't get around to it for a while, but when I saw a weekend with walk-potential coming up I texted. She was up for a short walk on Sunday! Nothing too strenuous as she had a cold. OK!

I suggested driving to Pontnewydd and walking along the river Gwyrfai. She thought it was a good idea! We started off doing just that, but soon we bumped into a fence that said "no pedestrian access". Oh dear. We went the other way! That way we didn't see much of the river, but we had a very nice walk anyway. The weather was nice, the land calm, and the views good. And it was nice to practice some Welsh!

We had set off at 9.30; we were back by noon. A modest trip! But that was good; the day before I had already done a big walk, and later that same day I would head underground. No rest for the restless!

Fields just outside Pontnewydd

24 August 2017

Yr Aran

I'm starting to feel the pressure of this probably being my last summer in Wales. I want to see a lot of it before I have to leave! And a reasonable weekend was coming up, so I thought I should get out there.

For some reason I thought of yr Aran. It is a mountain just to your left if you walk up to Mount Snowdon via the Watkin path. I had never been on it! And I had seen a mine on its slopes. I was curious. So I decided to do a round trip: drive to the start of the Watkin path with my bike in the back, bike to Craflwyn, park the bike, and set off. Take the path to the mine, have rummage, and then cross-country to the top. There is no path there! But from the top there is a path leading back to the Watkin path.

It started a bit wrong as the path to the mine went through a farm; I thought that wouldn't be a problem. The farmer thought otherwise. In a genuinely nice way a woman told me there was no public footpath here and I had to start further west. Well, OK! I went back to the bike, rode to Craflwyn proper, parked again and tried anew.

 The start of the path at Craflwyn. Eagle-eyed people might spot my bike...

Fairytalish path

The hillside was riddled with paths and it was hard to figure out which one was on the map, but all went well, and I clearly headed in the right direction.At around 11 I was admiring a ruin when it started raining. My cue to curl up on a window sill and drink coffee while the rain passed!

Soon the landscape got wilder and emptier

When coffee and rain were gone I went on. I soon got to the mine! I soon saw an adit. It had deep-looking water in it! I swapped my socks and boots for sandals; I had decided to bring these as my caving boots are too big and heavy. This would be cold! And it sure was! It didn't go far. Oh well. 

I checked out lots of spoil heaps and structures and shafts. The latter I only admired from a safe distance; I hadn't brought stuff, and beside that, descending shafts is not something one should do on one's own, or at least not me. There was a lot to see! I went into another adit. Luckily this one had shallower water.

I have no reason to believe anybody has checked the shafts! But they are quite a walk from the road, and they would require the full kit to rig. Drill, bolts, ropes, the lot. I can see why people don't bother. But still! What's in them?

The mine as you approach it

On the right a mine entrance can just be seen!

A shaft! Where does it go?

Another entrance! I went in. 

When I had seen all I set off towards the top. I just made my way as it seemed right. It was a bit tiresome but not too bad. I also sat down to have lunch with a lovely view over the other side of the valley. At some point I veered off a bit to the left in order to end up on the ridge. That tends to be a bit more comfortable! And indeed there was a path. But it was incredibly windy up there! I had to make a concerted effort to stay upright. But soon I was on the top. The views were amazing! You looked straight over the slate mines of Bwlch Cwm Llan, and into Cwm Llan itself.

View over the valley through which I had walked up

Calm selfie before the winds hit me higher up

yr Aran (right) towering over Cwm Llan

I didn't linger; I went on. The ridge on the other side would be less windy! And it was. At some point the path seemed to vanish which made the going less comfortable again, but that didn't last, as soon I was back on the Watkin path. And soon I was back at my car! It had been a nice walk. And I already had one lined up for the next day too, with Dani from Welsh class. And I came home to emails about a possible underground trip on top of that! Never a dull moment...

Handsome goat overlooking Cwm Llan

Back onto a path: the Watkin path in sight

Small detour along the river at the end

22 August 2017

Bacon mine

There seems to be a pattern in my Thursday nights! It looks like Miles can go digging every second week, so every other week I join the Thursdaynighters. This week was one of those! And Simon had suggested going to Pen-y-Ffridd. That's not a very exciting mine, but it has a big fireplace. I thought a calm evening wouldn't be so bad. David was just back from the festival he had been at, so we were back to driving up together.

Simon, who had suggested the mine, had said he'd bring bacon and baps. David offered a frying pan and soft drinks. Jay promised cake. I thought I'd give it a Margot-ish twist and bring healthy stuff. If the others wouldn't eat them I would! So before coming to work I popped by the supermarket, where I bought plum tomatoes in two varieties, and strawberries, and plums. And some beer for at home.I had none left!

When we got ready at the parking lot I suggested perhaps bringing the beer. Almost all of us were driving, but you can legally have a pint in this country! I brought them. We walked up through dry weather. Soon we had a fire started! And I was hungry so I looked forward to some food. It was forthcoming!

Simon cooks some bacon

I liked the addition of the tomatoes! And the others did too. They were all eaten. I also had a beer. Simon and David shared another. It was good I had brought them!

When we had eaten all the bacon we could manage we went for a stroll. The mine is quite long. When we got to the end we heard it was raining rather hard, so we went back the same way and not around the outside. Then it was time to eat strawberries and cake! Don had brought a cake too. We didn't even manage to finish one. We had three! And we did manage the strawberries but not the plums. I'll manage with those.

By then Jay was getting impatient. He had to get up early the next day so he didn't want to linger. We packed up and checked the fire (or what was left of it) was safe to leave. We walked back, partly in the rain. Then we said our goodbyes! Would this be the last time we'd see Simon as a non-parent? Stay tuned!

21 August 2017

Don't pay the energy bill

A few years ago I was contacted by Southern Electric, who had been my energy supplier in Plymouth; there was an issue with an overdue bill. I told them I had moved house twice since. It wasn't me they were after! The bloke accepted my answer. Case closed?

No. Recently I got a letter from a debt collecting firm. Guess what? It was about an energy bill from August 2014 to August 2016. At my old address in Plymouth. I have lived here in Wales since April 2014! Don't they know who they supply energy to? Clearly not.

I phoned the debt collector and was answered by the moodiest woman I ever had the displeasure to have on the phone. What a shit conversation that was! She told me to email proof of my residency somewhere other than Plymouth. The next day I did just that: a council tax receipt, some documentation of my letting agency in York, and a string of energy bills. From someone other than Southern Electric. At my current address. They didn't accept that. They wanted a signed letter from my Plymouth letting agency stating when I had left. That letting agency does no longer exist. I pointed that out to them. They mailed back pretty much saying I had to provide it anyway.

I decided this was a bloody nuisance and I sought online legal help. Some friendly chap pointed out they can't legally do anything if they have no evidence it was you who incurred the cost. Put up enough resistance and they will let it drop; it is not worth taking this to court. But things would get more complicated than that.

I received a second letter. This one threatened with Southern Electric registering a default against me which would affect my credit rating. They can do that! I know people who had that happen to them. You can challenge that but I don't want to have to. What a nuisance!

My plan is threefold: contact the bloody debt collectors, contact Southern Electric to tell them to back off, and contact the legal chap again to see what he has to say about that default. I don't want to do this, I just want to get on with my job! But I suppose I have to fight this. I don't want to be bullied into paying a bill that is nothing to do with me. Wish me luck!

20 August 2017

Evening walk

It is August. It is one with rather changeable weather. When I saw, after a rather wet Monday, that Tuesday would be lovely, I decided an evening walk was in order. Do a day's work, go home, eat dinner, get into the car and drive to the start of a nice walk. Welsh class (which is normally my Tuesday night activity) hasn't started yet! I had picked a small valley with nothing in it opposite Dinorwic Slate Quarry: Cwm Dwythwch. Probably beautiful, and small enough to be negotiated in the limited time after work.

It was a good choice! The valley was beautiful. And the light turned from summerish yellow to sunset red over the impressive spoil heaps of Dinorwic. It's great to live so close to such beautiful places you can just visit them after dinner, and be back at 21:15!

View at the start of the walk

In full screen view you can see the railway going up Snowdon

The view on the way back, with Llyn Dwythwch