North Wales

When: 4 – 6 December 2009

Present: Richard S (organiser), Dave H, Tim, Bruce, Sarah, Si, Andrea, Bob, Richard C, Angela, Claire, Alan, Mark C, Tony, Dave W, Paula, Pam, Martin L

Location: Snowdon Ranger YH

The promise of winter walking in Welsh mountains enticed 18 people up the A5, with a few chip-shop and pub stops along the way. We had the whole hostel to ourselves, which meant an embarrassment of choice when it came to bunk-bagging, and plenty of room to spread out on Friday evening with drinks and maps.

On Saturday morning we split into three walking groups: Snowdon, not-Snowdon, and Mark. Mark set off at 8am with the intention of tackling Crib Goch – however, after reaching the top of Snowdon and being blown off his feet at Crib y Ddysgl, he changed route to the Miners’ Track instead. Having summitted Snowdon for the second time on his return route, he was back at the hostel by mid-afternoon to stick a couple of birds in the oven for the evening meal.

The Snowdon group set off just after 9am up the Snowdon Ranger path, with the intention of summitting well before the rain came in (scheduled very precisely at 2.30pm). A few showers arrived impolitely early, and the wind also picked up as they gained height. The path eventually joined the railway line and the group was on the summit, along with several other people and a considerable amount of snow, by 12.30. They took shelter next to the (closed) new cafe before starting the downwards walk through more snow and ice on the Rhyd Ddu path. For the final part of the route, they decided that walking along the closed Welsh Highland railway line was preferable to a dark narrow road, only to encounter a maintenance train with a driver who wished to engage in some earnest discussion on the merits of their plan.

The not-Snowdon group elected to go in the opposite direction, to scale the ridge on the other side of the reservoir, around Mynydd Drws-y-coed. It was a full day of excellent walking – however they chose to stay high up for as long as possible, a decision that cost them when they did drop down because they had to go further than they wished. For the latter part of the walk, they were in the unenviable position of being able to see the lights of the pub in Rhyd Ddu but being unable to get at it. Some careful navigation was required through the forest, and there were a few wet feet by the time they finally got to the pub and spread soggy gear over a wide area. As there seemed to be a large amount of ironing going on in the pub, they didn’t think it would matter…

The evening took on a festive theme, starting with mulled wine and nibbles and then moving on to Mark’s feast: goose, an impressively large ham, and all the standard trimmings, Christmas pudding and brandy butter (with a few blind taste tests to establish whether the Tesco or Lidl offering was better), and cheese and biscuits. We also got to see some (or all?) of Pam’s Everest photos.

On Sunday approximately half the group took advantage of the improved weather and set off mid-morning on a short walk up to and around the reservoir. The other half of the group set off towards home (via the assorted gear shops of Betws-y-Coed), some of them quietly praying for rain to assuage their guilt at leaving early…

Sarah Davies

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