#125 – Snow time in Snowdonia – Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr

Llyn Bochlwyd frozen, with Glyder Fach behind and to the left (JB)

Llyn Bochlwyd frozen, with Glyder Fach behind and to the left (JB)

It’s been a funny sort of winter in North Wales – a promising start to the winter mountaineering season in December gave a great trip out up Pen yr Ole Wen (see post #108) but after that the snow started a gradual retreat until only the higher peaks of Snowdonia had any cover (see post #120).  Then, a couple of weeks ago, winter returned with a vengeance, causing misery to farmers and commuters.

Wild goats at Ogwen down near the road, looking for grazing after the March blizzards (JB)

Wild goats at Ogwen down near the road, looking for grazing after the March blizzards (JB)

There’s a traditional saying in Britain about ‘ill winds’ – the ‘ill winds’ that blew from the east on the first day of spring certainly brought nobody any good.  Transport was disrupted, sheep were lost in snow drifts just as lambing was starting, and the wild goats in the Ogwen Valley came down to the road to graze.  Even hardy mountaineers could find little pleasure with 40mph winds on the summits.  Then, someone switched off the wind, and people came out to play.

The author ‘encouraging’ the team  (JB)

The author ‘encouraging’ the team (JB)

 Tom, the author and ‘Mist’ striding out from Llyn Bochlwyd towards Bwlch Tryfan (JB)

Tom, the author and ‘Mist’ striding out from Llyn Bochlwyd towards Bwlch Tryfan (JB)

The stone wall at Bwlch Tryfan (‘Mist’ standing on the stile) (JB)

The stone wall at Bwlch Tryfan (‘Mist’ standing on the stile) (JB)

What the wall and stile look like without the snow (JB)

What the wall and stile look like without the snow (JB)

A sunny day was the extra ingredient to the mix – my photographer mate John Bamber took no persuading to drive down to Wales for a snowy mountain day, and he brought his nephew Tom to join in the fun.  We decided that a traverse of Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr would fit the bill, and hit the trail to the frozen Llyn Bochlwyd, before heading up to the Bwlch (Col) between Tryfan and Glyder Fach – on our arrival it appeared that someone had stolen the stone wall!

Tryfan in the background (JB)

Tryfan in the background (JB)

On the Miners’ Track, ploughing through soft, unconsolidated snow (JB)

On the Miners’ Track, ploughing through soft, unconsolidated snow (JB)

Steeper, but better snow (JB)

Steeper, but better snow (JB)

Team photographer John Bamber, carrying an unfeasibly large amount of camera gear

Team photographer John Bamber, carrying an unfeasibly large amount of camera gear

We carried on along the Miners’ Track, or a close approximation!  At one point we contoured across the slope rather than losing height, but soft, unconsolidated snow made this hard going – after a swift ‘risk-assessment’ on avalanche conditions, we pressed on to better ground on the plateau below Glyder Fach.

‘Mist’, the author and Tom on the plateau below Glyder Fach (JB)

‘Mist’, the author and Tom on the plateau below Glyder Fach (JB)

Sartorial elegance! – John goes for black and blue whilst the author sticks with his ‘traditional’ red (TS)

Sartorial elegance! – John goes for black and blue whilst the author sticks with his ‘traditional’ red (TS)

Heading up to the summit of Glyder Fach (TS)

Heading up to the summit of Glyder Fach (TS)

Rime ice forming on the rocks just below the summit (JB)

Rime ice forming on the rocks just below the summit (JB)

From the plateau it was more uphill work.  We found a sheltered hollow for a refuelling opportunity (AKA sandwich break) before pressing on to the summit of Glyder Fach (it translates as “Little Heap of Stones”) passing ice-rimed rocks on the way.  Tom had declared himself a ‘crampon virgin’ at the start, but his fitness and natural confidence meant that you would never have guessed – ‘zero to hero’ by the time we reached the top.

Near the top of Glyder Fach (JB)

Near the top of Glyder Fach (JB)

The Cantilever Stone, possibly one of the most photographed features in the mountains of Snowdonia (JB)

The Cantilever Stone, possibly one of the most photographed features in the mountains of Snowdonia (JB)

The rocky prominence of Castell y Gwynt (JB)

The rocky prominence of Castell y Gwynt (JB)

As Tom hadn’t been this way before, a photo on the famous ‘Cantilever Stone’ was just about obligatory!  From there we by-passed the spiky top of Castell y Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) and carried on to the rim of Cwn Cneifion.

The rim of Cwm Cneifion, with big snow cornices (JB)

The rim of Cwm Cneifion, with big snow cornices (JB)

Photographer John caught in the act, taking the above image (TS)

Photographer John caught in the act, taking the above image (TS)

Party about to climb the headwall of Cwm Cneifion (JB)

Party about to climb the headwall of Cwm Cneifion (JB)

The leader of the party bringing his two companions up the steeper finish (JB)

The leader of the party bringing his two companions up the steeper finish (JB)

The rim of the cwm was edged by large, impressive snow cornices – we kept a respectful distance from the edge, and ‘Mist’ had a rope attached to her hill-harness.  As we passed along the top we watched a party of three climb the easy line to the top of the cwm.

At the summit of Glyder Fawr – ‘Mist’, the author, Tom and John (JB)

At the summit of Glyder Fawr – ‘Mist’, the author, Tom and John (JB)

Tom admiring the peaks of the Snowdon Range in the distance (JB)

Tom admiring the peaks of the Snowdon Range in the distance (JB)

The descent from the summit (JB)

The descent from the summit (JB)

We were soon at the high point of the day, the summit of Glyder Fawr (the “Big Heap of Stones”).  Here we had the most nerve wracking part of the day, as John rested several hundred pounds worth of Canon camera on an icy ledge – the fact that we have a summit photo shows that the camera survived!

Heading towards the Devil's Kitchen (JB)

Heading towards the Devil’s Kitchen (JB)

(JB)

(JB)

(JB)

(JB)

Impressive ice falls above John on the descent from Twll Du (TS)

Impressive ice falls above John on the descent from Twll Du (TS)

The descent from the Devils Kitchen, otherwise known as Twll Du (Black Hole) would have been uneventful had we not come across the large party slithering their way down the icy path – two of them were clearly well-frightened, and we decided that it was probably better to help them down an icy rock step, rather than having to rush down for Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue team to pick up the bits.  For those interested in this sort of thing, we roped the two of them down on an Italian Hitch from a buried ice-axe belay, on the worst snow of the day – I knew the axe would stay put as I lowered, because John was standing on it!  For the guys we helped, it was probably a great adventure – we were just glad it hadn’t turned to misadventure.

Another happy customer says “Thank you” with a big, sloppy kiss! (JB)

Another happy customer says “Thank you” with a big, sloppy kiss! (JB)

Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber, and (TS) © Tom Strawn

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 5. North Wales and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to #125 – Snow time in Snowdonia – Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr

  1. johndburns says:

    A great series of shots, really conveys the story of the day. I had a fantastic couple of days in the Cairngorms about the same time. Looks as though some of those slopes could be avalanche prone as the thaw sets in, or maybe that’s just my Cairngorm paranoia!

  2. lanceleuven says:

    I love the Cantilever Stone. Certainly an apt photo opportunity. It reminds me of the Kjeragbolten in Norway (although I think the Kjeragbolten wins for epicness!)

    Fair play for helping down the people in difficulty though. I’m sure they were very appreciative. 🙂

    • They were a nice crowd (possibly a university group) who had inadvertently bitten off more than they could chew – they were very grateful, and it was a good feeling to see them down on to safe ground.

      • lanceleuven says:

        I’m sure it was. Lucky you were there to hand.

        (BTW THe word Kjeragbolten in my comment is actually a link to a photo of it. For some reason it hasn’t shown up as such. If you’re not aware of it you should take a look.)

      • I’ve seen the pics of Kjeragbolten before Lance – very impressive! It looks like one of those tests that would be a doddle about 5 metres up, but put a big drop below and it’s a totally different matter 🙂

  3. MrsBoardwell says:

    great set of pics, must have been a fabulous day, well worth schlepping the kit up for ^_^

  4. I need a beard like your mate with the winter we’re having this year – where did he get it? 😉

    Those people who needed roping down – did they not have any crampons? was that the problem? I remember it being a very steep slope with huge boulders on (to stop a slide 😉 ) but don’t really remember much in the way of rock steps?

    I’d never have thought of checking for avalanche risk on that slope leading up the ridge to Glyder Fach – shows how much I could do with learning! The Miners Track looked like quite an undertaking in those conditions – that’s my usual way up as I daren’t try Bristly or the steep scree next to it!

  5. Haha … John’s beard has been nurtured for many years now – there are things in there that even HE doesn’t know about 😉

    Yes, lack of crampons (or spikes) was the problem – most of the group were coping on steeper bits by ‘bum sliding’, but the two guys we helped had real issues with the angle, a sort of vertigo I guess. The rock step was the kind of thing you would just scramble up or down in summer, but it was well iced up – I used my axe to cut steps for them, but one of the guys was literally clinging on to the bod on each side of him, and I had a vision of him slipping and taking the other two with him!

    The (possible) problem with the Miner’s Track was new-ish snow (powder and slab alternating) was lying on top of a glazed snow surface (ice by any other name). It was just a question of trying to weigh up what the snowpack was doing – it may well get more dodgy when it starts to thaw. Or not!

  6. LensScaper says:

    A wonderful Post and a superb set of images, Paul. Looks like you had a superb day in Alpine conditions. The Rime on the rocks on Glyder Fach looks amazing. One winter I must come up there – I’ve probably missed the best winter in a long time! What are the conditions like up there this week?

    • There will be snow on the tops for some time yet, but we’ve probably had the best of it for this year – the weather is already warmer, and the ‘hot-shots’ are trying to climb all the extreme ice before it collapses, as it has done already on a couple of routes. The unconsolidated snow will be better now, and hopefully will have bonded with the icy layer below.

      It’s certainly been the best winter for a while, though only over the last few weeks – things might still be good until the early May holiday, who knows! Perhaps you are due a trip Andy.

  7. ebuhaug says:

    GREAT pictures! Looks like a wonderful trip!

  8. Pete Buckley says:

    One of my favorite valleys in Wales the Ogwen. Once used a couple of sharp rocks instead of a (left at home) ice axe crossing hard snow on Bwlch Tryfan. Nice pics

  9. I hate reading your post – you always make me feel jealous :-)…anyway looks like a superb walk Paul…thanks for sharing it

  10. writesofway says:

    Absolutely cracking pics of an excellent route in sublime conditions!

  11. Pingback: #147 – Ring out the old … 2013 hill memories | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  12. Pingback: #196 – Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) by the PYG Track | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  13. Pingback: #242 – A (not so) snowy day on the Glyderau | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s