Cadair Idris, Rhinogs, Carneddau – 22/3/90-24/3/90

Cadair Idris: Myself and A. Mackervoy left our campsite on the A394 to the Welsh (sorry, the west) of Dolgellau, and progressed up into a corrie. The clouds were down, and it was warm. A good warm-up day.

Rhinog Fawr: A long drive to the west of the A470, into wild and desolate country. The walk-in led through some impressive forests, and on upward into the pass between Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr – the Bwlch Drws Ardudwy – which was superbly rocky. Then up over rough ground onto Rhinog Fawr, between two spurs, affording some shelter from the wind.

From the summit through drizzle over bands of cliffs and broken ground to Gloyw Lyn,and thence through to the “Roman Steps”, a series of steps up into a narrow pass, Bwlch Tyddiad. And the rain poured down. The rock scenery though, was superb, owing to the odd pitch of the bedding plane, which has allowed great platforms of rock to form.

Gloyw Lyn, on Rhinog Fawr, March 1990
Gloyw Lyn, on Rhinog Fawr, March 1990

From the top of the Roman Steps, over more broken and cliffy country, excellent hillwalking, entirely isolated and seemingly far from civilisation. We got out after scratching through the forest for a while after an otherwise excellent day on the hill, in spite of the rain. My Berghaus Goretex duvet (bought on the insurance after I lost my rucscac on the Aonach Eagach last year) performed superbly.

Carnedd Llewellyn and Carnedd Dafydd, winter conditions

We left the area around Dolgellau because of a subtle (and indeed quite unsubtle) sense of being unwelcome as Englishmen. At one point we drew up beside a pub and could see even from the car, a large sign saying “English out!”. We did not go in that pub. As an Englishman myself I don’t like people that don’t like the English: it really is as simple and as straightforward as that. We camped secondly therefore, at Beddgelert, where they may be just as Welsh and just as anti-English as at Dolgellau, but perhaps a little politer about it.

We parked up a small car park in the Ogwen valley just as a very heavy hailstorm began, reducing visibility to just about zero. We debated whether it was worth going on the hill at all, but as we did so, the hail ceased, and off we went. Up the side through settled hail, over an artificial watercourse draining or filling a nearby reservoir, and on up the long drawn-out ridge Y Briach. This brought us in due course to Pen yr Helgi Du (833m) at the summit of which there was considerable snow and a harsh wind. We were surprised to find a steep and narrow descent down to a col, separating us from Carnedd Llewellyn. We’d considered the Carneddau to be gentle, if high, hills. No. We scrambled down and up, taking lunch half-way up, before moving onto the top. There was a great deal of spindrift and quite deep fresh snow. There were impressive views from the top.

View from Carnedd Llewellyn, March 1990

We continued round the ridge to Carnedd Dafydd. Spindrift remained a nuisance for the rest of the time we were up high; we were glad of hoods and gloves. We retraced our steps and descended easily back to the Ogwen valley, at which point a final brutal hail storm obscured even the other side of the valley. To think we even considered abandoning the day – exciting mountaineering.