28 June 2012

Ogwen Valley & the missing 3000's Part 2

Ogwen Valley & the missing 3000's Part  2

Location - Snowdonia National Park
Height - Carnedd LLewelyn (3491 ft)
Time - 5 hrs  approx
Distance - Approx 5 miles
Conditions - Rain, wind, mist, cold !
Walking with - DK 

Sunday 27th June - Day 3 and our final day in the mountains for a few weeks at least.  Today's task was simple, find Yr Elen.  We'd previously trekked across the Carneddau taking in Pen Yr Ole Wen and Carnedd Dafydd and LLewelyn with the purpose of tagging Yr Elen on to the end but sadly on that occasion by the time we'd reached LLewelyn it was a total white out and we were knee deep in snow at some points, couldnt see 2 ft in front of us and had to navigate ourselves off the mountain.  Yr Elen was well hidden and on that occasion we never even saw the mountain far less set foot on it.

So today was different.  We'd tackle Carnedd LLewelyn (3491 ft) up the water board road and the zig zag path (our previous occasions descent) and once on the summit head over to Yr Elen.  I was looking forward to this as 1.  It would be another 3000 ticked off our list and 2.  It was annoying having missed it the first time.

The weather was not being kind to us at all.  We knew there would be some rain in the day but the sun was supposed to come out at some point.  Choosing to park in the campsite car park ........ anyone for a meat pie???....... the water board road lay ahead of us.

We knew the route, retracing our steps on a previous walk and with some steely grit got out of the car, hoods up, gaiters on and started to make our way up the path.  4 km of path.  We'd forgotten how long it actually was and the last time we were coming down not going up.  It really did get the lactic acid flowing and seemed never ending in leading us to the base of the zig zag path up the side of the mountain.  The one saving grace of that horrid path was that one look over your shoulder and the beautiful Tryfan was in your view.  Did I mention that Tryfan is my favouritist of all favourite mountains.......hmmmmm!

The flanks of Pen y helgi du to our right we finally got off the tarmac and onto the grassy surface of the hill.   The respite was short as we soon gained the rocky path and started our ascent which would take us to the impass between Pen y helgi du and Carnedd Llewelyn.

The path was tough.  Like any mountain ascent its steep, rocky and in some places you had to step up some rather large rocks.  With the mornings rain the rocks were slippy so extra caution had to be taken as one small slip could mean trouble.

 Waiting for mountain legs to kick in we had a few stops to take pictures of the lake behind us emerging from the cloud and to take on some sugar that boosted energy levels.  More zig zagging and climbing up through the rocks and we were at the gully where a right hand turn would take you up Pen y helgi du and left to Carnedd Llewelyn where we knew a nice bit of rocky scramble awaited us.

Scramble or no scramble the one thing that was noticiable was that the cloud wasnt moving and still hanging very low and for the first time today we actually wondered if after all this effort we'd get to Yr Elen.  It was a little unthinkable that here, on our second attempt, we'd be thwarted again......surely not!

The rain was more persistant now and it was cold.  Wooly hats and gloves on and hoods firmly up and tied against the rain and the wind and cameras firmly packed away.  The scramble was as fun ascending as it had been on the previous descent and we then followed the clear path that would lead to the summit.  Up and through the rocks there was still no visiability ahead however I did manage to emerge from the rocky section without my walking pole.  Gutted!!!  It must have come loose from my pack and fallen.  Hopefully we can find it on the way back, fingers crossed!  We met only 2 other walkers who emerged from the misty path on their way down from the summit and told us tales of a heavy hail storm that greeted them there.  Zero visibility, hail, wind......och it would all clear by the time we got there, wouldnt it?

Onwards and upwards, the mountain walking motto.  The path was longer than I remembered and although there was a flattish meadowy section the steep part soon was upon us.  Rain, mist, wind, slippy rocks all meant that our wits had to be about us and concentrate on what we were doing.  There was still time for a chuckle or two but we mostly just kept pushing for the summit trying to remember landmarks we'd seen previously.

It was madness, the weather preventing any chance of seeing Yr Elen which of course meant that we wouldnt be going there today and yet here we were still pushing forward to the summit.  There were a few moments in that last 30 mins of steepness that I did think about abandoning all hope and turning back but it would have been wrong to do that so close to the summit.

At last the silly penguin on the rocks came into sight.  The wind made it difficult to talk and we found some rocks for shelter quite quickly.  I was starving and thirsty and needed to fix my socks in my boots and was glad to get out of the wind to do that.  Feelings were a mixture of frustration at being here twice and still not being able to tackle Elen.........our Ghost Mountain as we now call it........Does it even exist?  Who knows :).

Our visit to the summit was brief mainly due to the weather and the fact we were going no further.  The descent  was careful but brisk.  The rain had lightened somewhat but the visibility was still bad.  The lower we got the better it became and sure enough as we headed for the final rocky section that would take us back to the top of the zig zag path the cloud seemed to blow over in a moment and give us the views once again.

It really is a magical sight to have seen nothing but mist for hours in front of you and then in an instant valleys and mountains and lakes open up before your eyes.  Another bit of magic was my walking pole, lying there between some rocks waiting to be collected.  So all is not lost and it was fastened again to my pack.

Down the rocky scramble we went, choosing the left hand path this time which seemed easier but still as exciting.  Further down the path and we were at the top of the zig zag path again.  Last time we were here I was begging passing strangers for ibuprofen as  my knee was just about done by this point.  The zig zag path killed it and it took us several hours to navigate our way down the last time because I simply couldnt use my leg.  It was so painful and remembering that time was sobering.  This time however I had no pain.  The physio work and excersises I've been doing must be working because I simply skipped down through the rocks and couldnt have been more elated.  I did over do things a bit with the " Ask me how much pain I'm in" question which I probably asked about 50 times.  I soon shut up when the answer was a grumble and didnt dare ask again hehe!

Before long we were at the bottom and back on the water board road which would take us back down to the main road and back to the car at the campsite.  It was again the road that never ends and the main road never seemed to get any closer no matter how far or how fast we walked.  Our attention was drawn to a noise that is unfortunately very familiar in the valley and that is the noise of the rescue helicopter hovering as ever over Tryfan which stood proudly ahead of us..........I might have mentioned before that Tryfan is my most favourite mountain ever (cue grumble grumble!) however it is a dangerous place to be and more often than not its to this mountain that the rescue teams are regularly called.  Pictures taken of the event and we headed on finally down to the road.

A good day's walk, involving some adverse weather and hard and steep climbs however we still have not seen our now elusive mountain Yr Elen.  Its a box that must be ticked if we're to conquer ALL of the 3000's but how long will it take us to "bag" it.  I have visions of us years from now having trekked up Carnedd Llewelyn multiple times and still not having set eyes on the wee ghostie! 

Ogwen Valley & the missing 3000's

Ogwen Valley & the missing 3000's

Location - Snowdonia National Park
Height - Y Garn (3107ft) and Elidir Fawr (3031ft)
Time - 7hrs  approx
Distance - Approx 8 miles
Conditions - Cold, bleak, misty, rainy!
Walking with - DK 

It was billed as a weekend of walks to include 4 peaks, 3 of which we'd not climbed before but needed to tick off the list of our missing 3000's.  The plan was to travel down on the Friday, walk up Y Garn and Elidir Fawr on the Saturday and retrace our steps up Carnedd Llewellyn to reach the previously unattainable Yr Elen on the Sunday.  Being there early doors on the Friday meant we could squeeze in another and we decided to do Moel Siabod as it was reputed to have an excellent scramble and that's enough to whet anyone's appetite.

Friday 22nd June - The plan was to climb Moel Siabod or Moel Showaddywaddy as I named it as it was a mountain that we'd looked at before and although wasnt in our list of 3000's it still had a certain scrambling appeal.  The drive down to Capel Curig was uneventful apart from the lashing rain and flooded roads.  However by the time we'd reached the Siabod Cafe to get some breakfast the rain was practically horizontal and the winds gusty and strong even at ground level so goodness knows what it would be like at the top of a mountain we couldnt even see.  Plan B was quickly put into action and an afternoon of window shopping and route planning was now on the cards.

Saturday 23rd June - Bags packed, snacks prepared, checklist ticked off, boots on and breakfast consumed we headed down to what has become a very special place indeed the Ogwen Valley.  Home to my very favourite mountain, Tryfan.   This was not our target for the day but instead we'd venture further down the valley and tackle Y Garn (3107ft) and Elidir Fawr (3031ft). Having only ever seen pictures of these 2 peaks we had no idea what was in store for us today apart from the knowledge that our hard work would be rewarded at some point with some spectacular views (if the cloud removed itself from the top that was).  We started out on a familiar route through the valley towards the Idwal slabs and Llyn Idwal where this time we'd take the right hand path and not the left one we'd previous taken towards the Glyders.

 The right hand path was clearly marked and as the cloud swirled around the mountain ahead we kept catching glimpses of the route upwards.

It was a steady slog initially until our mountain legs kicked in and after an hour of heading up we were granted a moments respite on a flatter path.  This breather was short lived as before us we could see the path to the summit and it was indeed steep.  Onwards and upwards I found myself counting my way to the top.  One step in front of the other, stopping every now and again to take a breather and to look back down the gorgeous valley behind us.

 Its said that you should find your pace and stick to it without stopping and a chap passed us using this exact technique.  To me it seems quite a boring and monotonous way of walking up a mountain.  Very regimented and emotionless and I much prefer the push and the stops and the burn and the breathlessness and the mental struggle I sometimes have with myself whilst tackling the steepness.  Whether this is the best way or not its the way that works for me and I'm going to stick to it.

Y Garn was indeed a delight to climb.  It had its tricky moments and then a lovely little scramble at the end brought us out right on the top where for the first time today the full effect of the wind could be felt.  I needed a drink and to sort my boots so tucked down  in behind some rocks to sort my pack out and heard the bimblemeister call out that it was like Piccadilly Station up on the top behind me.  Suddenly from nowwhere there seemed to be loads of people all coming up from the path we were heading for to Elidir Fawr and making their way to the Glyders.  We soon found out that this was groups of people doing ALL the 3000's that day.  Some had bivvied on Snowdon the night before, been up since 4am (ish) and were now half way through their challenge and it was only mid morning.  Hats off to these folks but its not something that I would relish.  I like to enjoy each mountain and not be rushing round them just to tick a box.

As we made our way off the summit of Y Garn we could see a large and impressive mountain to the left of us and realised that this indeed was Elidir Fawr and our next target for the day.  The top was covered almost a 3rd of the way down with cloud however the 2/3rds we could see looked magnificent and every now and again, through the cloud, we could see the ridge walk which looked very very inticing.   Making our way down the left hand flank of Foel Goch the cloud still hung ominously over the peak.

There werent many people going our way but we did pass many people coming the other way on their 3000's challenge and it was lovely to stop and chat for a moment and giving some insight as to how far they still had to go to a certain point.  Quite a few of the young lads we met were keen to get to Tryfan and looking forward to that highlight of their day which took me right back to the day we tackled Tryfan and thoughts of getting back there one day soon.  I dont think I could ever tire of being on Tryfan.   But back to our next summit for today and before long we had climbed up to the ridge.  It was a steady climb only hampered by the fact that the cloud was now so low we couldnt really see what was ahead.  There was a clearly marked path and every now and again you would hear voices coming towards you but the visibility meant that you had no idea how far you had to go or indeed where the summit was.

 As with all mountains you just keep going, moving forwards, encountering challenges and obstacles and finally you reach the summit and this is what we did.  By the time we got there  the visibility was practically zero and after a foray through some very big rocks we found the shelter.  A shelter for 2 soon became a shelter for 4 and then a shelter for 10 as people emerged from the mist and climbed in to the rock enclave.  Snacks consumed, stories shared and boots relaced we didnt stick around long as it was cold and windy and the moisture in the air meant that the rocks were slippy and going down them would be a little tricker than coming up so off we set back down the path we'd come up both agreeing that Elidir Fawr was indeed an impressive mountain.

Once back on the path between Y Garn and Elidir Fawr we looked back and the cloud was starting to lift from the top of the mountain we'd just climbed and we could see its impressive summit.  One day, on a clear day we'll go back and hopefully see the views that eluded us today.

Thoughts now turned to our descent and although we'd looked for our downward route earlier in the day we still had no clear idea which was the best path to take.  We were aiming for the route down via the mushroom garden and this was clearly marked on the map but with all descents choosing the wrong route down can lead you into big trouble and today wasnt a day for big trouble.  We did toy with the idea of re-ascending Y Garn and taking a quick trip over to the Glyders but stuck to our earlier plan and hopped over a few stiles to see if we could get our bearings for the desecnt.

 Ever downwards we plotted our way down to the valley, passing Cwm's and large rocks marking our way.

A fence, a wall and a river was spotted....all good signs to get you where you need to go so a bit of handrailing and the emergence of a bridge to cross the gushing river meant we were soon back down on the road.  Almost immediately we turned round and there before us, sitting pleasantly on the mountain side was a a section of rock and grass which ineed looked like the terraced view of a mushroom garden......there it was!

Y Garn and Elidir Fawr were brilliant and it was another excellent day.  True the weather could have been better (the rain stayed away till near the end thankfully) and the views werent there for us but it didnt matter, the day was excellent.

To finish things off we decided to stop by the Mountain Rescue hut for a cuppa and meet a few of the folks there.  Unfortunately they were in the middle of a rescue as someone had hurt their knee over in the Devil's Kitchen so it was a short stop and after our cuppa we thanked them and vowed to return soon.