There were some amateur mistakes this weekend if I’m being totally honest. From not taking a compass bearing, to sleeping on the floor of a shelter with no door, holes in walls and the weather god raining down carnage outside. I’m not mentioning the tarp again.
It had started brightly a few weeks back when Simon suggested a weekend’s wild camping with him and his dog Lottie. I thought it would be a genteel journey back into the outdoors this spring. The last real camping trip was an horrendously wet trip into the Lakes back in Oct or Nov last year, I’ve wimped out mostly since then and stayed in huts and bunkhouses, even a hotel or two. Anyways, there was no real plan other than pack a sack and see what the weather forecasts were like. I didn’t look at them after Tuesday and we found ourselves this Good Friday parked on the A5, below Tryfan, with snow everywhere. I was little surprised to be honest, I knew that they’d had snow over here but this much?
Fortunately, I’d been unable to find my Inov8s and I’d grabbed some boots for the trip instead. No crampons or ice axe but that wasn’t going to matter as the snow was slightly soggy. I’d only brought the Minim 300 with me and not’s it’s synthetic Drishell outer. I might be a little cold but at least the full length and heavy Synmat was in the bag, so I’d not feel the chill from the floor. After freezing all night during a scottish wildcamp in February, I had decent food and intended to eat it late, followed by some jumping around before getting into bed… I would not be cold.
I shouldered the 11kg sack containing a fine single malt, we strolled up to Ffynnon Loer taking our time, me throwing snowballs for the dog to catch and I kept turning round to have a look at the majesty of Tryfan in it’s winter raiment.There’s a nice wee flatish spot by the banks there but looking around there was standing water everywhere were there was no snow and what the guy who had skis on his sack, who we’d spoken to on the way up, was thinking as he’d set out that morning , I have no idea but it definitely wasn’t skiing conditions. The Laser Comp was pitched whilst the rain held off but almost immediately that pitter patter on the fly started and the tent would be occupied sooner than later. Dehydrated food can play havoc with my guts sometimes, so I’d packed heavy for the three days. Look What We’ve Found meals and microwave rice for dinners and some fruity oat bars to go with the chocolate limes during the day would keep my heavyweight belly happy. Food cooked up, a warm up jog on the spot and I was ready for the sleeping bag. We chatted for a while, until the wind became too loud and gusty to hear clearly and then I dozed off.
I know I popped out for a call of nature in just my undies and a down jacket, only to be confronted by howling winds and tortuously driven rain. That wasn’t fun but I’d forgotten a pee bottle and I couldn’t bring myself to use a cooking pan. I’m posh like that. I awoke about 2am, to find the tent pushed flat on my face – some strong winds had appeared and not checking the forecast was a bit daft now. The sleep mat had gone down, as it would the next two nights. Exped, hang your head in shame as I think it’s the valves that are the problem.The Comp pitched side on into winds will shrug off a battering far more ably than most give them credit for, it had it’s pole hood on and it’s a strong little beast then. Simon was having flattening issues in his three pole Voyager too, it was more than a breeze it seemed. On packing away camp on Saturday, we could see the thaw that had happened overnight and that would continue all day, water everywhere. I had a grumble or three about the mat but we soon headed off to the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen, which was a first for Simon. It was grim. Lottie the dog enjoyed the scramble up and looked pretty capable for a big breed. Onwards to Dafydd and the Carnedds really let rip with the weather. Plans to head out to Aber Falls or somewhere got lost in the mists and snow, a plan was hatched that involved Ogwen toilets and Diet Coke before they knock it down. It was horrible weather and we saw no one much till after midday. Neither of us ever having walked up Cnicht, we thought maybe to camp out that way as the sun was shining further south but a look on the map showed boggy ground and the potential for another very wet camp. Campsite it was to be, the forestry one just outside Beddgellert and at least the sun came out to dry our kit out. The wallet came out to pay almost £24 for one night too, that’s for two small tents and a car. A rip off but well smart it is, I was gonna enjoy my night there. My whisky too.
There’s a steam train hammers past, kids playing on climbing frames, seated tables to cook up the evening’s feast on and even a room full of sofas if you fancy a cossetted hour or two. Happy days, I mean one, couldn’t afford any more days here. Over a drink and food we decided to summit Cnicht early and then drive down to Cadair Idris for a camp overnight on the summit, if the weather got blowy and wet again, then there was always the shelter to take refuge in. Simon hadn’t been on Idris before, so let’s hope we wouldn’t have a mad dog when awakening. I’ve slept there before and I’m a poet me. Oh aye. My mat went down again. Unhappy Kelvin.
We’d left the site with most sleeping soundly, away by 8am to find ourselves in the car park at Croesor not much later. No views of Cnicht to be had as the weather was clagging in yet again, so we promptly headed up a little steep incline away from the village. The views behind were worth the odd stop and turnaround, past the crags of Tremadog and over to a sight of the sea being held back to the left of Porthmadog. There was no view ahead, just low cloud and I couldn’t help but thinking we may be about to walk up the Welsh Matterhorn but we wouldn’t be getting a view to rival the Alps today. Camera in pocket, firm and fast. The path rises smoothly, with a few false summits in the conditions we had, until you find yourself on flatish piece of grass, ideal for a wildcamp and a saving of £24. Hmmm, map reading skills need to be better. It’s a good scramble up to the peak, nothing too hard but still, it has an airy feeling even in the cloud as we were. Lottie again coped admirably. There was some ex fell running geezer, a fellow decorator in the car park and we stopped to have a quite random chat with him. The fella’s name was Idris, he was off on his own to have a look inside a mountain as he could no longer go up them and he produced a sheet of A4 from the ‘Friends of Cwmorthin’. On another day, on my own, I’d have asked to accompany him as he was one of those people I took an instant liking to and he was off for an adventure I’d never even considered. One for the future.
A while later, car in a layby, we sauntered up the Pony Path before diverting across to Llyn Y Gadair across a damp and treacherous boulder field. I wanted a peep at Cyfrwy Arete, a legend of a route and a future scramble to be done. Nowt to be seen there, jog on. There’s a spot or two for a wildcamp I guess and the climb could be done next day.
The Foxes Path from Llyn Y Gadair heads up a steep scree slope that at times is just a little unstable. Not too harsh mind and a quick way to the summit. Lottie, not used to three days in the hills was starting to tire and her glances showed an almost human element of communication. The dog was pooped. I don’t think Simon enjoyed the scree but with his hill legs fit from a recent trip to walk up Killimanjaro, it was soon behind us and the summit in view. The weather was again grim and the wind buffeted our wet waterproofs. Into the shelter we go, conversations were struck with those that came and went and finally we were on our own. There was no way I was going outside to find a spot for the Comp. I’m pretty sure it would have held out but the shelter was damp if not dry and I was content in there. Simon put his inner up to sleep in, more to stop Lottie from doing a runner in the night if a sheep happened by and I laid a groundsheet on the floor, inflated the airbed, fluffed the down bag and overlaid it with my fly. Just in case the roof leaked. Home was the first picture posted and as you can see, the PHD bag looks rather damp under that fly. It wasn’t however, it was soaked. My mat deflated as expected and the water level built up under me, it was a good job I was wearing merino socks, leggings and tshirt – I’d have been bitter cold otherwise. I’m not a lover of merino, it takes too long to dry in my experience but there’s no denying that when it’s wet, it’s still warm. Not the worst night’s sleep I’ve had but far from the best and I awoke to a puddle a couple of inches deep all around me.
I’d never slept in a bothy or a hut before now and I’d made a right beginners mistake I guess. Never mind, it all adds to the colour of a trip and the bottom of my Minim is now a different shade, I’m hoping it doesn’t start to smell. Kit was launched into the sacks, a bearing wasn’t taken, we missed the right path and headed the wrong way for while as water from a heavenly bucket was emptied on our heads and the wind drove the H2O into our faces. I hate boots to be honest, my knee was complaining by now and I’d have done everything and anything to be in my Inov8s. Boots pull the knee forward when heading down and it’s painful, you’re out of balance and next your skidding around on wet rock with a heavy sack.
It was a decent trip in reflection, we hit a Little Chef on the way home for bacon breakfasts and the rain continued till Birmingham. Lessons had been learnt and legs stretched. The mind as usual, a peaceful place after a trip into the wild and Wales was a wild place over easter, except for our few hours on that jolly nice campsite. It was grand being out with a dog too, it put a different pace in the legs and a milder route to the paths we trod. Good stuff.