15 January 2021

More snow than you can shake a stick at

 The mountains had been beautiful for weeks, but the weather has been very good. Additionally, I was working full-time again. So I didn't get to enjoy them that much! But the first Saturday of term had a very good weather forecast, and I intended to make use of that. I look for it to having my lunch sitting on the rock, surrounded by snow in all directions, with the sun cheerfully shining over all of that! So I chose a direction to go in (long smooth valley; nothing risky as this is not the time for that sort of things) and packed my bag with food and drink and warm clothes and suchlike, and also my crampons and snowshoes and ice axe, to be prepared for everything. And I set off. The weather was gorgeous. And the start of the walk was treacherous. All the slushy snow from the day before had turned into solid ice! And my little dead-end street doesn't get attention from the council, nor does it get enough traffic to remove the ice and snow accidentally. I almost wanted my crampons! But I shuffled my way out of the village successfully.

I took the long road to the start of the path; there is a lovely public footpath, but it runs close to houses, and the inhabitants don't like it to be used in times of this pandemic. And the path itself starts in woodland. This looked magical with the snow and the sun. And when I got out of the woods, the shrubland was magical as well. But clouds are starting to appear! And they were increasing in size and number. Oh dear. Snow is never the same when it's very cloudy. For a start, you can barely see it! But the sun still sometimes managed to break through the clouds, so I pushed on.

The wintry village under a cloudless sky

The fairytale-like woods

Nant ffrancon looking absolutely amazing!

I started out just on my boots; that was fine. It was clear that some people had even gone here in much more relaxed footwear. Among the footprints in the snow I saw one set that clearly displayed the word "crocs" in the middle of every footprint. Rather them than me!

When the path became obscure, and the terrain difficult with grass in clumps I put on my snowshoes. Even with those, the terrain was difficult to negotiate! But I got a bit higher up on the hill and things improved.

Selfie with glacier glasses

Some Carneddau horses

Difficult terrain near the stream

A rare beam of sunlight on the plateau

I was following some footsteps, and suddenly two of its makers came into view. They had decided to go back because the snow was too deep. And while later I found the last person who had contributed to them; she was sitting on a rock enjoying a snack. It turned out she was Bangor University physical oceanography alumnus, and had worked in wave energy. That was cool!

When I moved on I soon found the place where she had turned back. It was an impressive hole in the snow! But I pushed on. And soon I hid the steepest slopes I had considered negotiating. It took me up rather fast, but that meant ending up with my head in the clouds, seeing nothing. I didn't think that was a good idea. So I took off my snowshoes, traversed to the edge, cast a look into the valley below, had a drink, and then traversed back and onwards. My idea was to get to the eastern side of the valley, and walk back that way, so my walk would be a loop. Soon I had to put the snowshoes back on. The snow was incredibly deep and soft! Even with snowshoes I sank down into it over a foot all the time. It was hard going! But after a while I reached easier terrain. And the sun started to reappear a bit. And there were skiers on the slope; it was fun to watch them.

Where the physical oceanographer had decided to turn back; notice the difference between snowshoes and no snowshoes…

Looking back down towards the sea

The sun returns a little bit! (When it was gone, photography wasn't very successful)

A bit of a comedy shot; you can just see me walk down, suspecting nothing, and then vanishing into the stream… 

The going was fairly easy until I got lower down on the slope again. There are terrain was again a pathless swamp with hidden streams, soft deep snow, boulder fields, and clumpy grass. That was a challenge! I was glad I saw a small creature (a weasel?) to make that part of the walk a bit more rewarding. And that some point I even vanished into the snow. I had fallen through the snow bridge over a small stream! It's not that easy to climb out again if the snow is almost half a metre thick and you are wearing snowshoes. But I did it. And I went on!

I was glad when I hit the path again. I had done enough difficult slogging through deep snow! I took off the snowshoes and walked out of the hills. The sky was already orange.

I had assumed that the roads in the village would have thawed by that hour, but no! It was interesting to walk back to Gerlan. Once I was there, though, the roads were okay. Except, of course, the very last bit: my own street! But I got home and could nestle on the sofa with a hot drink. These three hot flasks I had had with me had, of course, not been sufficient! And I was resigned to the weather warming up the next day. At least my street would be less treacherous! And I had had a good day in the snow. It's amazing you can do that sort of thing from your front door!

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