“…..the can of cold cider in the camper fridge didn’t touch the sides on the way down”! (Blog #46 – Foel Fras and Drum in the Carneddau) Now, that’s the way to end a walk, a variation on the old ending “….and they all lived happily ever after”. Our day in the Carneddau had been a ‘biggy’, with a lot of height gain before reaching the high ground. Day 2 was set for something a bit kinder, so over a couple more ciders, plans were made.
I’d had it in mind for several years to walk the High Level Route from Ogwen to Capel Curig. On the map the route looks entirely logical, with an interesting ascent up to the pass of Bwlch Tryfan, followed by the traverse of the Miners Track to join a long descending ridge pointing directly at Capel Curig.
Not only is the route logical, but it is also fairly user friendly – there are no major peaks to climb, and the height gain is surprisingly gentle. Once the ridge is gained, the route is a long gentle downhill apart from a short 50 metre ascent to Y Foel Goch (“The Red Rounded Hill”) which at 805 metres altitude was the only summit of the day. (It’s perhaps worth adding that this minor summit is higher than anything in, say, the Coniston Range in the Lakes)
John and I were joined by our wives Miv and Chris, seduced by the promise of dramatic mountain scenery without dramatic mountain discomfort – Border Collie ‘Mist’ also thought she might give it a go, so we had a team. The day was just on the wrong side of indifferent as we set off from Ogwen Cottage, but we hadn’t been going long before the sun came along – another T-shirt day in October!
One of the most famous quotes in the world of football is that “it’s a game of two halves”. It soon became apparent that this route was a game of three halves! We started with the mountain drama I had promised Miv and Chris, as we took the path up to the pass of Bwlch Tryfan. It was one of those steady ascents where progress seems slow until, suddenly, it’s all change.
All change in this case was from steep and upwards to horizontal and level. The Miners Track runs from the pass of Bwlch Tryfan to the broad ridge of the Glyderau. From there the Miners Track drops south down to Pen y Gwryd, but our route lay to the east, heading for Capel Curig. The fine weather gave great views of the Snowdon Range to the south, and the Carneddau range to the north. It was an easy and short ascent to Y Foel Goch, from where it was all downhill.
Soon things started to go ‘downhill’ in a different sense. Miv had been going strongly until we started to descend, but the change of walking from up to level to steep down brought on a severe pain in a knee joint. It wasn’t disabling enough to cash in the ‘get out of gaol’ card, and call the mountain rescue, but it made each step painful and miserable. It soon became apparent that the anticipated late afternoon finish was becoming less and less likely….
It can be a narrow line between adventure and misadventure, but in our case we already had the trump cards – an easy to follow route, good weather and headlights if the night caught us on the hill. Chris went on ahead in the dying light of the day, located the track we needed to finish, then illuminated it with her headlamp – John and I gave moral and physical support, and Miv, bless her, just kept on going when all she really wanted to do was stop! Her swollen knee the next day told its own story, but the guys from the mountain rescue were left in peace!
p.s. Come back next week for another Snowdonia moment – a short day on a short hill.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber