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North Wales Trip

10-14th October 2018

After a bit of organisational to-ing and fro-ing, attendance final settled out as a group of 6 of us; Gillie, Alan, Jane and Bob joining Althea & I at our cottage, Ty Newydd in Beddgelert, Snowdonia. As the trip got closer, the weather forecast began to look more ominous, with Storm Callum brewing off in the Atlantic. We therefore assembled on the Wednesday evening and considered our options, rapidly determining that we needed a good route choice to make the most of on Thursday, with little prospect of conditions being anywhere near as good for the rest of the trip.

So for Day 1, we selected on an ascent of Cnicht (689m) by the SW ridge. Clouds were beginning to gather over high ground, with the main Snowdon massif already clagged in, but being off to the south of the main high ground, Cnicht was still in sunshine for our start.

We stayed in good conditions with decent views to about half way up..... which point the wind began to pick up, increasing steadily and starting to carry in some rain. The party of six got to a distinctive notch about 50m below the summit, through which the wind began to howl and progress was rather difficult. Althea, Gillie and Alan decided that they were not keen on the forthcoming scrambly bit in these conditions, so elected to retreat at this point, perhaps to meet Bob , Jane and myself coming down the Croesor valley later.

As Bob, Jane and I continued the ascent, the route slipped into the lea of the hillside a bit, so progress to the summit wasn't actually too bad, though you didn't want to go exposing yourself to the continuously rising blast too much. Brief pause for summit piccies....

....then quickly down the NE ridge to find a sheltered spot for lunch, pausing for the view of the route to come over towards Moel yr Hydd and the quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

This involved descending past the lake in the middle distance of above picture, to the quarry workings beyond, then following an old tramway down into the Croesor valley and back to our start point. The necessary height loss for the tramway is achieved by an astonishingly steep incline, not far off vertical at the top. We walked round to the top of this and peered down....

....but fortunately the main path takes a less committing route!

As we continued down, torrential rain was added to the high wind, so that was the best of the day gone. Gillie, Althea and Alan had set off to meet us coming down, but with the advent of the downpour, called it a day and returned to the cars just before they would have caught sight of us descending. As we came down, it was clear what the local sheep thought of the deteriorating weather; they all stood, bums to wind, looking rather disconsolate.

This is Wales - you've got to have a sheep photo!

And so back to Ty Newydd to dry out, and settle in with a fire in the range, supper and a beverage or two.

Day 2 belonged to Storm Callum, as it howled round the hills and raised the river levels. Finding some indoor activities was a unanimous decision, so we all headed off to Porthmadog for a swim, followed by lunch in the Ffestiniog Railway Harbour Station. Then Jane, Gillie, Bob & Alan headed for Caernarfon to find the local climbing wall for a bit more exercise, while Althea and I returned to Ty Newydd to sort a few things out. Fine supper in the Tanronnen Inn.

With Day 3 not promising any better weather, Bob latched onto the Go Below option, and managed to book us onto a trip for the Saturday. This involved a drive round to Betws-y-Coed for check-in, which allowed us to see the damage Storm Callum was causing. The Llanberis pass road from the Pen-y-Gwryd was closed due to a landslip, and the A5 from Capel Curig west was closed due to an accident. Our route, though covered in win- blown detritus was OK though, and we arrived for our trip underground.

This involved getting kitted up via ferrata style, with wellies and full waterproofs, then driving up to the slate quarries at Penmachno. As part of a party of 16, with 2 guides, we then walked uphill about 2 km to the mine entrance point and began our underground adventure.

This involved walking through various mine passages and slate extraction chambers, with the guides doing a great job of pointing out the industrial archaeology features along the way. There was a section involving a boat trip across a flooded chamber, via ferrata style scrambly bits, a zip line across another flooded chamber, a top-roped abseil, and a water fall climb.

As if that wasn't enough, some folks had to fit in their pilates exercises with a bit of planking.

After about 3 hours underground, we emerged into the daylight, having stayed out of the wind and rain, but still rather soggy...

....and set off for the 2km hike back to the cars through the quarry workings of Penmachno.

Jane took the photo of the aftermath of Callum on the drive back...

...a bit fuzzy, but showing the flooding that was quite prevalent by this time. Still, we made it back to Ty Newydd for our final supper, with a nice chunk of happy Perthshire pig roasted in the aga.

On the Sunday, folks set off on various continuations of their visit, with Gillie and Alan heading home via the lovely Bodnant Gardens, and Bob and Jane taking a swing by the famous and spectacular Telford Aqueduct at Pontcysyllte.

The weather had been something of a constraint, but I think we all made as much as we could of the opportunity, and even so, the beauty of the area impressed everyone.

Needless to say, Callum moved on, and Sunday evening and Monday were glorious, with the sun shining as usual at Tremadoc! Perhaps more of that, and some bigger hills, on another occassion....

Jeff Dickens

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