North Wales

Present: Keyna (organiser), Shaun, Si, Ali, Andy M, Alan, Sarah, Bruce, Dave W, Paula, Bob, Rhoda, Tarinee

Location: Swallow Falls YH/Hotel

Peaks: Tryfan (915m), Y Garn (947m), Foel Goch (831m)

This was a return to Swallow Falls, just outside Betws-y-Coed – most of us were in the youth hostel, with two people choosing to upgrade to the hotel (which at least lessened the snoring in the bunk room!). We congregated in the bar on Friday evening, with Dave and Paula just making it in for last orders. There was plenty of debate about plans for the next day, with Plan A (from Pen-y-Pass up to the Glyder ridge pass and then to Glyder Fawr) deemed too ambitious based on the weather forecast. As the evening wore on, suggestions were made for Plan B, C, D…

Nevertheless, on Saturday we were all ready to go at 8.45am. Si, Ali and Andy set off on their own chosen route: up Tryfan and onto Bristly Ridge. They managed the first part, but not the second: the “fresh and breezy weather” put paid to Bristly Ridge.

Si in the snow on Tryfan (Andy)

Scrambling up Tryfan (Andy)

Si on the Cannon, Tryfan (Andy)

The rest of us parked at Ogwen Cottage (this was Plan D, or possibly E, maybe?) and took the path past Llyn Idwel up to the Devil’s Kitchen – a route which Alan has done “about 95 times”, so we let him go first. The path was quite icy underfoot in places, and as we gained height that turned to snow. We then headed north-west up Y Garn; when we reached the summit the sun made a brief appearance and gave us some impressive views across to Tryfan and Snowdon. Unfortunately the good weather was short-lived: as we reached the top of Foel Goch the snow started to threaten. Some debate then ensued as to the best way down: Dave, Bob and Bruce decided on the route less travelled from Foel Goch, which was apparently “interesting” in places but got them back to the car park a good hour before the rest of us. The remaining group went for the more defined path on the map, which meant heading halfway back up the north side of Y Garn again, this time with the accompaniment of stinging snow showers and a distinctly stiff breeze. The downwards route was a new departure for Alan, and more of a clamber to begin with, often requiring five points of contact (waterproof trousers make a very handy sledge on packed snow…). Once out of the wind and past the most difficult part, we had a late lunch stop, at which point Rhoda realised that Bob was carrying all her food. Fortunately Keyna always packs enough sandwiches to feed a small army and there were also chocolate rations on offer. The path eventually took us around the other side of Llyn Idwel and back to the car park to meet the others.

Going up Devil’s Kitchen (Bruce)

The top of Y Garn (Bruce)

Descent from Foel Goch (Bruce)

The walk was, of course, perfectly timed for Alan, Si and other interested people to get into the bar at Swallow Falls and watch England play Wales in the rugby. Maybe it was a good thing that Wales won (says this partially-Welsh author!), because it made for a happy chef, and good food in the evening. Once again, we got a bit of a pool tournament going – mixed doubles this time, and Si and Ali were eventually victorious. It wasn’t a late night for anyone – Bruce started the trend by going to bed at 9.30pm, and an hour later most people were pleading extreme tiredness and an excess of alcohol.

On Sunday, most people took up Andy’s suggestion of a visit to the slate mines near Llanberis. Parking near Llanberis Castle, the group walked up to a viewpoint above the the town past some old tramway workings and dilapidated barracks (which housed the quarry workers). From the viewpoint we followed the main footpath through the quarries, breaking off at different points to explore. The first spot we visited was “Dali’s Hole”, a flooded hole containing bleached white trees. Very surreal although sadly the wind was disturbing the surface of the water too much to see them this time. We didn’t bother going into “Australia” but headed for “California” instead which is reached by going through two tunnels and emerges in a Doctor Who-type landscape and the whole quarry resonates with the hum from the power station buried beneath the quarries. We rejoined the path and passed Twll Mawr (Big Hole) before going up one of the inclines on the Great Wall of Llanberis. Access to the next quarry meant sliding down a scree slope holding on to a cast iron water main (ah, busman’s holiday for Andy!). Here there was on old building full of old machinery and some tunnels to explore. Two rusty ladders took Keyna, Tarinee and Andy down to a lower level and some more tunnels where we could see the even rustier ladders leading to “The Lost World” and most likely dinosaurs… Then it was back to Llanberis for tea and cake and to catch Bob and Rhoda tackling the north side of Llanberis High Street.

Descent into the Lost World

Tackling Llanberis High Street (Andy)

A great weekend, which will probably be remembered by those in the main bunk room for Alan’s culinary habits – real men do eat quiche, and lots of it, often accompanied by Marmite sandwiches…

Sarah Davies, Andy Miles

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