The weather forecast for the weekend was not optimistic: winds 45 to 55mph, possibly 60mph, gusts up to 90mph; widespread rain; extensive cloud with 10% chance of cloud-free summits; little, if any sunshine – widely poor visibility; 7-8 degrees celsius at 900m.

I was anxious: my first ever ML weekend with a group of friends and the recent ML Training course fresh in my mind. I felt the weight of responsibility keenly, and it did not sit comfortably with the meteorological havoc being wreaked in the mountain areas of the UK, especially Cumbria. However, I was equally keen not to disappoint the party or myself by admitting defeat to the elements without having faced up to the conditions in Wales.

Smiles all around

We set out into the Friday night traffic, taking the available window of opportunity to access our accommodation, and I resolved to balance our adventure with a full understanding of what we would face out on the hills.

Given the extremely high winds at altitude, I decided that Snowdon was not an option, and that the keen ones amongst us would not suffer from leaving it for another day. Instead, I investigated low level alternatives that could be accessed easily from our accommodation in Nant y Betws. Options included a portion of ridgeline from Moel Elio to Foel Goch; a section of the Nantlle Ridge; or a local walk, including Mynydd Mawr.

Wet, but spirits unquenched

Over the two days we tackled Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd via Beddgelert Forest and Mynydd Mawr. Little did I know that we were in classic Welsh hillwalking territory, which was unsurprising given that I was often concentrating on protecting any exposed flesh: the wind whipped up the rain into a raging fury akin to sandblasting. As such, local knowledge would have helped us, as well as a willingness to ignore the overly visited haunts of the Glyderau, Carneddau and, of course, Snowdon massif.

Despite managing the risk of high winds by staying relatively low and avoiding exposed ridgelines, I was undone by the narrow notch in the ridgeline between Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd and Trum y Ddysgl. What would normally be a straightforward obstacle to surmount in good weather was now a funnel for a howling gale. This was the point where the line between adventure and folly lay. We turned back.

Sheltering in between rain showers

I was disappointed, mainly for the people in our party. I rebelled inwardly against the capitulation of retracing our outward steps, having hoped for the satisfaction of an aesthetically pleasing and physically challenging circuit. I knew that by myself or with equals, the bad step could have been dispatched, accepting the calculated risk. However, our responsibility was for the party, and to attempt an exposed ridge in gale force winds was to become a hostage to fortune.

I was gladdened, though, by the high spirits and unfettered enthusiasm of the young men I was with who had been hankering to get away from their environment of institutionally minimised risk. Moreover, their spirits were not the least dampened by the elements. Indeed, something in the raw nature of the elements complemented our collective, sub-conscious need to shake off the parameters of normal life. The highlight for me was turning to look over my shoulder on descent and witnessing the guys bum-sliding down grass slopes with glee!

Our perseverance was rewarded towards the end of the weekend when, having scrabbled to the top of Mynyndd Mawr, the sun made a brief appearance, briefly allowing us views of the Menai Straights, Anglesey and Caernarfon Bay. Snowdon, however, was cloaked with dark clouds, and after a brief lunch-stop heavy rainbands scudded towards us at summit-level. We beat a hasty retreat.

Trying not to get blown away

Overall, it was a great weekend: we learned much, had an adventure, enjoyed good company, came away wanting more and, most importantly, stayed safe. Don’t forget: the summit is optional.

P.S. Apologises for the poor quality of photos. Inevitably I had trouble using a camera phone in high winds!


2 Responses to Snowdonia

  1. Alistair says:

    A QMD if ever I saw one! One for the logbook methinks and a grand day out to boot.

  2. Simon Cox says:

    Welcome, Alistair!They were definitely two good days out, and it's amazing to think what a difference a week makes – that area has been plastered by snow in the last few days.Really looking forward to getting back and tackling the Nantlle Ridge properly, though. It's satisfying to have made a new discovery.

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