No pain, no gain…

This year hasn’t been a particularly mountainous one for me, in the literal sense.  As in, I haven’t been out walking and climbing in the mountains much.

In fact, I think my trip to the Glyderau range last Saturday was probably the first one of the year.

The Glyderau, part of Snowdonia, are about the second closest group of mountains to where I live (the Carneddau are closer, and the Snowdon Massif itself is just a little bit further away) and are the ones closest to my heart.  Largely that’s because my first trip into Snowdonia after I moved to Wales (fourteen years ago last week) was to these very mountains.  Also, I find the rugged, rocky, windswept landscape up there particularly beautiful.  I’m fairly sure I’ve been up there on at least five previous occasions, so it’s almost certainly my single most-visited bit of the mountains.

On this trip, we ascended via Bristly Ridge, a scrambling route up from the foot of Tryfan, to the north.  This is classified as a grade 1 scramble (i.e. the easiest grade) although it’s apparently towards the top end of the grading and the particular route we took, up the appropriately named “Sinister Gully”, is one of the more difficult ones.  The scrambling itself is not too bad but the fact that a lot of it is quite exposed and even on a dry, sunny day some of the rocks are quite wet and greasy adds to the fun.

This was my first ascent of Bristly Ridge itself, although on one previous occasion I went up the scree slope just to the left of it (on my way “down” from my first ascent of Tryfan).  After that trip, I wrote a couple of tunes in honour of a friend’s wedding (my friend Phil, with whom I made the trip).  One of them I named “Bristly Ridge” (I think in the mistaken belief that I’d actually been up the ridge itself) and the other was called “I don’t Adam and Eve it” (a reference to the two stones at the top of Tryfan).  I haven’t played either tune for several years, but I have managed to find the manuscript book in which I wrote them down and I hope soon to make a recording of them that I can put online (not that they are particularly great tunes).

Once we got to the top of Bristly Ridge, we checked out the Cantilever (a popular photo spot – though I forgot to take my camera with me on this trip) and the summit of Glyder Fach before scrambling up Castell y Gwynt on our way up to Glyder Fawr.  The clouds came in briefly several times while we were up on the top, although for the most part it was a lovely clear day.

We went back down y Gribin, the next descending ridge along from Bristly Ridge.  This was at least the third time I’ve descended from the Glyderau via this route, although I don’t recall ever having gone up this way.

Interestingly, when I first went to the top of Glyder Fawr its height was listed on the map as 999 meters.  It was resurveyed in 2010, using more accurate (GPS-based) techniques and the height was established as 1001 meters.

It was a lovely day out in one of the most beautiful places I know, with some good friends.  It was also quite a physically (and at times psychologically) demanding walk/climb and I’m still feeling a little stiff and sore almost a week later.  Looking on the bright side, every time I feel an ache in my limbs it reminds me of my exciting mountain adventure.

Nantlle Ridge

Last Saturday I had my first trip into the mountains of Snowdonia for several months (in fact, the last one I can remember was back in January!). I went with a couple of friends to walk the Nantlle Ridge, which is on the Western fringe of Snowdonia.

We started at the Rhyd-Ddu car park, which is also the starting point for one of the classic routes up Snowdon (not one that I’ve done yet) and walked through a boggy field before climbing up Y Garn, the first peak along the ridge (which runs along to the south of the Nantlle valley). This is one of several peaks called Y Garn, and I’m not sure what the name means – it’s not a word used in modern Welsh, except as a proper name. At 633 metres above sea level, it’s not an especially high peak but the starting point is just below 200 metres and it is quite a steep climb.

It had been raining as we drove to the car park but the rain had more-or-less stopped by the time we started walking. However, the cloud was quite low and we were into it by the time we reached the top of Y Garn. There were some nice views to be seen on the way up, though, including a lake called Llyn y Dywarchen. This was mentioned by Gerald of Wales (aka Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerallt Cymro) as having a floating island in the middle of it. Although there is still an island in the lake, it is apparently not the one that Gerald was talking about. More information about this legend can be found here.

Llyn y Dywarchen

From Y Garn, we climbed up Clogwyn Marchnad, which required a bit of scrambling at some points, to the second peak, Mynydd Drws y Coed and from there it was a fairly straightforward walk to the third peak, Trum y Ddysgl. This was the highest point of our journey so far, at 709 metres.

Unfortunately, due to the cloud cover and the fact that we didn’t stop to check the compass sufficiently early, we started coming down the wrong ridge and found ourselves heading south towards Moel Hebog instead of west towards Mynydd Tal-y-Mignedd, the next peak on the Nantlle Ridge. Once we realised our mistake, we decided instead of retracing our steps to cut round the edge of the mountain and then climb up a fairly steep, vegetation-covered slope to rejoin the ridge. This venture was successful although I think it was probably much harder work than just going back up the way we came.

We eventually reached Mynydd Tal-y-Mignedd (only 653 metres above sea level, although you have to drop down much lower and climb back up even if you stay on the official route) and stopped there for lunch. Because we had been somewhat delayed by the detour (and I at least was consequently fairly knackered), the weather wasn’t great and we were due to be going to dinner with some other friends that evening and didn’t want to be too late, we decided to turn round at this point rather than carrying on to the end of the ridge. I was quite pleased with that decision as there was another very steep climb in store before the next peak (which is evidently nameless, though at the top of Craig Cwm Silyn, and weighing in at 734 metres).

On our return journey we went back almost to the top of Trum y Ddysgl and then back down the ridge we’d accidentally descended earlier. Before too long, we turned off this and descended into the northern reaches of the Beddgelert Forest, from which it was a fairly gentle walk back to the car park.

By the time we got back, it was turning quite sunny and so I persuaded my friends that it was worth dropping down to Beddgelert to check out the local ice cream parlour before we went home. This is one of the two best places in the world that I’ve so far found for ice cream (not that I’ve tried a very large proportion of them; the other one I particularly like is in Szeged, in the south of Hungary). Fortunately, the place lived up to my hype (it’s been several years since I last went there, so I had hoped it would still be as good as I remembered) and I enjoyed a cone of coffee ice cream, followed by one of chocolate and ginger (complete with big chunks of crystallised ginger), before returning home for a well-earned (and much-needed) shower.

I hope to be able to go back one day, preferably when the weather’s a bit nicer, to do the whole Nantlle Ridge.