When we look back on 2014, in North Wales we will remember the wettest August for a long time, followed by a prolonged spell of warm, settled weather. Then, just a week ago, winter arrived, and not before time, because some of us have ice-axes, skis and other toys to dust off. It was only a hint of what may be coming, but good to see.
I’d decided on a route in the hills north of Capel Curig in North Wales – they are part of the Carneddau mountains, but the Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir cuts these hills off from the main Carneddau plateau. The plan was to take in the highest summit, Creigiau Gleision, via Crimpiau and Craig Wen and then to return by the shore of Llyn Cowlyd. The wind speed was forecast to be high and increasing as the day progressed, with gusts up to 70 MPH.
I set out knowing that a retreat was possible. As well as the forecast of high winds later in the afternoon, the ground conditions were not good. Over the summer the mountains have been so dry that on occasions I’ve had to hunt out water for ‘Mist’ on the high plateau of the Carneddau – on this trip almost every step was a puddle, and boggy ground made progress even slower than expected, but despite this I made steady progress.
As I approached Craig Wen it became obvious that the wind speed was beginning to increase as forecast. The decision to turn back or carry on had to be made. I was certainly going to be able to clear Creaigiau Gleision in time as the wind was on my back, and the return was on low ground by the lake – my concern was that the valley would act as a wind tunnel, with the wind directly against me. A finish in the dark would also add to the fun.
As Creigiau Gleision came into view, I turned back. I could have continued and possibly had a bit of an epic, but nowadays I usually blunder into an epic rather than seeking one out. I took a slightly different way back down Crimpiau and in doing so managed to find more bogs that I had missed on the outward leg! I’ll be back though – I’ve walked most of the Carneddau now, and I need Craigieau Gleision to complete the set.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock