Winter in the mountains usually means playtime in the snow, but this year the snow in North Wales has been infrequent and transitory, so when the weather settled down and the gales stopped blowing, it was time to get out in the white stuff. No better place to start than the East side of the mountains of the Carneddau.
Our plan was to have a walk out to the bothy at Dulyn beneath Foel Grach, then to continue to the lakes of Dulyn (Black Lake) and Melynllyn (Yellow Lake). From our start point at the car park for Cwm Eigiau at 375 metres altitude it looked as though playtime in the snow wasn’t about to start anytime soon, and it became apparent that a thaw had set in. It looked like a soggy day lay ahead.
At 450 metres we finally hit the snow line – it was surprising that the wild Carneddau ponies hadn’t headed for lower ground, but they seemed to be finding enough grazing. Perhaps they had that sixth sense telling them that snow in March isn’t going to hang around long, and the blue sky we left behind us indicated more fine weather to come. Ahead though, it looked as though the Carneddau was still locked in winter.
Dulyn is one of just a handful of bothies in North Wales. This abandoned shepherds hut has been taken over by the Mountain Bothies Association with the owner’s permission, and is available for use by all as a shelter and stopover in this remote corner of the mountains. The facilities are rudimentary to say the least, but the room and walls are sound and there is a stove for those prepared to carry in the fuel – what it lacks in facilities is more than made up for in location!
300 metres beyond the bothy is the lake of Dulyn – in the almost monochrome conditions it certainly lived up to the name ‘Black Lake’ today! In November 1944 the crag above the lake was the scene of a tragic accident, when a USAAF Douglas C-47 ‘Skytrain’ (Dakota) transport aircraft crashed into the cliff. The aircraft was flying from Le Bourget in France to Warrington in the north of England when it was diverted to RAF Valley on Anglesey due to bad weather.
The aircraft crashed in low cloud, but it was eleven days before a RAF radio maintenance party on Foel Grach saw the wreck – the crew of four had all died in the accident. Some of the wreckage of the aircraft remained on the cliff until the late 1940’s, but divers found more wreckage in the lake in 1972. When the water level is low, a propeller assembly can still be seen near the stream flowing out from the lake.
There was a cold wind blowing, even though we were only at 525 metres, so we soon pressed on to the second lake which is at 640 metres – the height gain soon had the blood flowing! ‘Mist’ decided to ‘chill out’ by scraping a den under a convenient boulder, but the prospect of a dog biscuit by the lake soon became much more interesting.
Then it was time to head back – the snow was knee deep in places, with the surface variable, sometimes bearing weight and sometimes not. As the route had been my idea I did the decent thing by breaking trail for Chris, and when we reached the Melynllyn track we soon shifted up a gear. It was so good that I was back the next day with skis
I have a set of Salomon x-adv69 cross-country skis that I had been dying to try out all winter, and the track out to Melynllyn was just the place – unfortunately the thaw had advanced overnight, but I managed a short trip out on them. Best of all (in the circumstances) they weigh less than 2 kilos, so carrying up to the snow line was fairly painless – roll on next winter!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock