27 December 2020

Into the early snow

One November Thursday I walked out of the house and I noticed that there was a dusting of snow on the hills. The first snow of the season! I was excited. It didn't stay, of course, but two weeks later, there was more. And Kate was up for exploring it. So on the Friday I got my ice axe and crampons from underneath a layer of dust, made a packed lunch, and went to bed early.

We met at 730 on a layby. It was still dark! But we could see it would soon be light. We didn’t need head torches when we set off. It started out rather sloshy! But soon we were in the snow. Visibility wasn’t great, but it was beautiful anyway. And soon we got to snow that in places was so deep you could really sink down into it. And we got to Ffynnon Lloer. 

Tryfan and Llyn Ogwen in the early morning

Very soon we were in the snow

We reached the level of the lake and crossed the river

From there was rather steep up. I had to use my hands! Even though I had the ice axe just in case, I hadn’t really counted on anything like that. I’m not supposed to do grippy things! But Kate, who knows this route better than I do, said this was only a very small section that was that steep, and soon we would be on the ridge, where we could just walk. And she was right!

Me on the steep bit; pic by Kate

On the steep bit we did sit down for coffee and cake, and we looked at lots of people lower down in the valley. Most seemed to have skis on their backs! Rather them than me. And there were some more hikers too. We had a chat with the bloke in a red jacket.

A bit higher up we put our crampons on. The snow had only been here two days, but the wind had already blown it into ice. It was quite gusty up there! We soon were at the top of Pen yr Ole Wen. We just kept going and had some food at Carnedd Dafydd. From there it was a bit trying; the wind was cold and biting. I didn’t have skiing goggles with me! That was an omission. It wasn’t actually that cold, but the wind made it so. We kept moving. The bloke in the red jacket passed us again. And at Craig Llugwy we bumped into a small group of women; Kate knew some of them, so we had a chat. But not too long, as that would be cold. We headed for Carnedd Llewelyn. When we were close to it, some other hikers came in the other way, going downhill. Kate remarked that we would be heading that way too. I wondered then why we were struggling uphill in a howling gale. She just wanted to bag the peak! I wasn’t keen; I was sort of done being buffeted by the wind. And I managed to convince her. We headed downhill.

By the time we came down from the ridge I was looking properly wintery

A beautiful panorama made by Kate from the last high location on the hike

Within seconds we were out of the worst of the wind. The landscape was magical! It was really nice. And then my crampon came off. That wasn’t a problem; we were in soft snow now. I took the other one off as well. But when we got to Craig yr Ysfa I had to put them back on again; there are steep bits there too. I noticed my own improvised improvement had broken and had caused the one crampon to come off! I took out the shoelace that I use for tying my hair back, and used it to do an improvised repair on an improvised improvement. It worked!

I just had enough battery power left on my phone to take a picture of Kate taking a picture when the sun was low above the Glyders

Once we were on y Braich we sat down for the last time, to eat the last food and drink the last drink. And from there it was just a trundle back to the road. The snow got sloshy and then vanished. Then we were on soggy grass. And when we reached the road, we crossed it, and headed for the old tramline on the other side. That is a much nicer route to walk back. And by the time we got to the cars it was dark again! We had walked some 19 km, and scampered between 300 m and over a thousand metres altitude. I think it is fair to say we had made the most of the day! I was keen to go home, have a shower, and have a hearty meal. And phone my mum! So that is what I did. This must’ve been the highlight of my sick leave!

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