The great thing about living in or near a mountain area is that you get to know it well. 25 years living in Cumbria left me with loads of good memories and a good knowledge of the Lake District – I could still cross the Lakes National Park without a map, and find my way round most of the north and east in poor visibility by following known landmarks. I’m currently ticking off the important bits of Snowdonia, which is about an hours drive away from where I now live.
Over the past 1½ years of living in North Wales, I’ve completed a ‘tick list’ of peaks, but what next when the peaks have been done? Start filling in the gaps, that’s what, so a misty Saturday found me in the Ogwen Valley, heading for the hanging valley of Cwm Cneifion. I had Border Collie ‘Mist’ with me, and ‘Seniors Ridge’ looked like being a fun day out for the dog. It has to be said though, ‘Seniors Ridge’ doesn’t look much from below – what DID look really interesting was ‘Cneifion Arête’ on the opposite side of the cwm.
I knew of ‘Cneifion Arête ’, but had never climbed it – it’s one of those routes that straddles the line between hard scrambling and easy rock climbing, and looking across to the route I was already making a mental note to return. However, today was a dog day, and ‘Seniors Ridge’ was on the menu.
‘Seniors Ridge’ is a much easier option than the ‘Cneifion Arête’, lacking the knife edge drama of the latter. ‘Seniors’ is a wide, whaleback ridge, with an easy path most of the way up. I should add that ‘easy path’ is relative, and although this was a dog day it’s perhaps not the route for a pampered pooch – Border Collies, on the other hand, get bored waiting for their human to catch up.
A path of sorts weaves through steep rock, with just the occasional step needing hands as well as feet. I hadn’t brought the dog’s harness as I wasn’t expecting any ‘epics’, and sure enough ‘Mist’ just bounded up each steep bit without any difficulty. As we got higher, the mist got lower, and as I reached the summit Plateau of Glyder Fawr I wasn’t expecting any views, nor did I get any!
In mist, the summit plateau is a mysterious, ethereal ‘other world’, with weird rock spikes and outcrops all over the place. It’s also an awkward place to navigate for those who don’t know it, and a confusion of unnecessary cairns doesn’t help, but an easy to follow path cuts along the top of the headwall of Cwm Cneifion. As I headed round to the top of the Y Gribin ridge, the mist cleared a bit, giving views towards Y Garn.
My intention was to ‘have a look’ at the descent of the Y Gribin Ridge to see if it was OK for the dog. Then I saw it – a ‘Brocken spectre’! This phenomenon is nothing more than your own shadow projected onto mist, but I had never seen one in forty years of knocking about in the hills. I managed to grab a poor photograph before the spectre disappeared.
Our route downwards also disappeared, into a series of steep rock walls that I had to down-climb then assist the dog over – I can tell when ‘Mist’ has reached her limit of confidence and ability when she stops and waits for help. I decided that it was steep enough to make an accident a possibility, so kicking myself for not bringing the dog’s safety harness, we set back upwards to join the path for Glyder Fach and its famous ‘Cantilever Stone’.
From there I opted for the easy option of the scree path next to Bristly Ridge – this is loose and steep, but gets straight to where you want to be, that being the pass of Bwlch Tryfan in my case. From there a steady walk pointed us back towards Ogwen. My perfect end to a hill day is to come down in the dark, and the light was just starting to fail over the last kilometre, but I was a bit too early – oh well, maybe next time.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock
p.s. ‘Cneifion Arête ’ is a Grade 3 scramble/Moderate rock climb. ‘Seniors Ridge’ is a Grade 1 Scramble, but low in the grade if you follow the route I took, and ‘Y Gribin’ is also a Grade 1 scramble. Remember that un-roped scrambling can be dangerous, especially for those lacking experience.