Crib y Ddysgl - 1065m
Snowdon - 1085m
Y Lliwedd - 898m
Sunday 22nd October 2011
Weather/Conditions: High winds is the main one, but alright weather otherwise, a bit of cloud on Snowdon sitting over the top but usually a hazy sun. Winds were bad in the morning but died down enough to cross Crib Goch and eased toward the end of the day.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 11.7km / 1100m / 5h 25m
Accompanying: WalkHighlands meet up - there were more people there than I know the names of (but in the region of 20-odds?) but a small group of us did the Horseshoe: Mackenzie, Monty, Alan over Crib Goch, a couple more?
The next morning, we headed out for Snowdonia. Mackenzie's pal gave us a lift to Pen-y-pass (parking is £10! That's another story...) and we got on our way.
The Llanberis Pass looks a lot like the Glen Coe of Wales, if that kind of comparison can be made. It's so steep and craggy, the mountains look big. It was a new experience to see dramatic scenery in a place I wasn't familiar with (aka Scotland). We headed off pretty soon for the Pyg Track. Snowdon was one of the busiest mountains I'd ever seen, right from the outset. And this WalkHighlands group that I was with must have included around about 20 folk, almost none of whom I knew.
The winds were high even in the valleys. We'd wanted to go over Crib Goch but if the winds were this bad at the top, then we might have to rethink. When we reached the path junction between Crib Goch and the Pyg Track, a bunch of us decided to go on up. This could get interesting!
When we started gaining height, we realised that any team up on Crib Goch was turning around. When we met them, it was the wind that had stopped them. Well - it was windy while we were climbing up, but it seemed to have eased a bit. We would simply wait and see.
When we got up onto the spine of Crib Goch, the winds were not worryingly high. These hills are just rock and more rock; Crib Goch started out as a knife-edge - a deadly-steep drop on one side and a not-so-worrying drop on the other. The high winds had given us the arete completely to ourselves. Considering the numbers down on the Pyg track below, this was incredibly lucky.
Crib Goch became pinnacles at the end which gave way to the Crib y Ddysgl ridge - more Welsh rockiness, but without much exposure this time. All the whole the wind battered through, and we staggered up to the trig point on top. I also looked out for rock climbing in the range, since this place is known so well for it's climbing. I remember hearing that the rock was loose, but 'snappy'. And now I understood. The rhyolite is firm, solid rock, but it creates little spikes that seem as if they might snap off if you weighted them enough.
From Crib y Ddysgl, we joined Sauchiehall Street (only kidding - the path to Snowdon, but it was probably just as busy) and held a quick pace to the summit: Colin joined me on the viewpoint indicator that marks the summit of the mountain. Mackenzie didn't even bother. A big group was huddled around the cairn and made it way too busy to any meaningful shots on the top.
With a railway and a cafe on the summit, this was some environment. The cafe was the most interesting part - from fighting up cold mountains, we could join a queue in a heated building, look at the landscape behind great glass windows, buy a cup of hot chocolate and a bite to eat, and get on our way again. It was busy in the cafe and it is quite a beautiful wee building - no longer the slum it (apparently) once was. Faces went red and cameras fogged up in the heat, but it meant that we got a break from the cold wind and warmed up again.
Four of us descended from Snowdon toward Y Lliwedd and the rest of the WalkHighlands group were heading over to Y Aran. Colin and I ran down sunny slopes - the mountain now much more summery than it had been over the first couple of summits. Y Lliwedd is an amazing mountain, all spikes and bare rock. The walk up to it's summit is not difficult at all, but features a lot of wee steps and amazing views over the main cliffs. We saw a couple guys climbing a route. I remember when I first saw this mountain in pictures; it was great to be on it. It didn't seem as narrow as it looked!
All around, there were glimpses of sea, Welsh mountains spread out in every direction. Mackenzie pointed some out. The world was golden and brown, with the busy flanks of Snowdon and the darker shades of high mountains.
One of the things I noticed about the hills of Snowdonia in particular, was that they are very rocky, and compressed mountains. Roads run between them and they climb immediately, as if the tighter squeeze built up vertical relief. This creates the atmosphere of a small concentrated area full of accessible rock, an ideal location for climbing. In Scotland, hills tend to roll away from the valleys in small steps to culminate in the great heights. Places like Arrochar and Glen Coe are the exception where roads touch the bottoms of hills. Many of our steep, wild glens lie beyond the defence of long miles. In Wales, the mountains rise right off the road and Mackenzie told of how he preferred this so he could get straight onto the mountain rather than walking into it first. Each to their own!
We descended of Y Lliwedd at a good pace and got back to Llyn Llydaw. Snowdon looks good from here: a vaguely symmetrical pyramid. We paused for a moment to look, then headed off down the Miner's Track to Pen-y-pass.
I haven't seen much of Snowdonia, but this Horseshoe must be one of the most complete, whole mountain days you can have in Wales, there is a little bit of everything. Sure they have the elusive Carneddau in the north; the Glyders offer some spectacularly weird, rocky landscapes - but the Snowdon Horseshoe must come out somewhere near the top for offering endless rock on a high serrated skyline.
We walked down the boggy track to Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel - another place in Wales crammed full of history. Monty gave me a lift back to Llanberis, where I stayed the night Mackenzie.
The following day: Tryfan North Ridge, then home to Scotland.
Crib y Ddysgl
(0.00) 10.00am Pen-y-pass car park
(1.30) 11.30am Crib Goch
(2.25) 12.25pm Crib y Ddysgl
(2.45) 12.45pm Snowdon
(4.00) 2.00pm Y Lliwedd
(5.25) 3.25pm Car park