The best part of the day!
I woke to sunshine and my hopes of a better day rose. After breakfast and chores, I packed and was away by 9.00. Although still sunny the cloud was starting to build. I made my way up the side of Foel-fras backtracking for a while as I went too far south. There was one particularly impressive large boulder, which I guess was a glacial erratic. I also encountered an large complex of dry stone sheepfolds, possibly with some ruined buildings.
The large boulder, Foel Grach in the background
There was quite a lot of tiring bog trotting. For future reference it is probably better to head up Pen y Castell to Drum than cross the bogs up to Foel-fras. On the final steep section I encountered some wild ponies. Unfortunately, these could become a rarity if the EU gets its way.
Anglesey and Puffin Island
Once on to the ridge on the north-eastern side of Foel-fras, the views opened up to the sea. On the left was Anglesey and Puffin Island and on the right Llandudno and Great Orme’s Head. In the middle of the bay, clearly visible was Dutchman Bank, a sandbank with obvious tidal currents around its edge.
Summit of Foel-fras looking towards Carnedd Llewelyn
After a short pull up the slope, I made the top of Foel-fras and the trig point, which was in the middle of an area of shattered rock. The summit was somewhat spoilt by the dry stone wall on the south-western side. After a few photographic experiments with my tripod, I moved on, sustained by a few well earned jelly beans and a slurp of water.
The track to Garnedd Uchaf
The wind had freshened appreciably and I measured a gust of 40 mph on my Silva ADC. Half way between Foel-fras and Garnedd Uchaf, I decided to put on my overtrousers. Minutes later there was a brief shower of rain. The clouds were kissing the top of Carnedd Llewelyn and there was a helicopter buzzing around in the distance.
Lunch on Foel Grach
I arrived at Foel Grach at around 12.00. I was surprised to see a mountain refuge. It was rather gloomy and unpleasant inside but I’m sure it would be very welcome in a survival situation. It seemed like a good place to have a spot of lunch and there was a convenient natural boulder seat to one side of the refuge. Unfortunately, there was also some litter amongst the boulders.
The lunch time view, looking north-east
Pleasantly sheltered from the wind I indulged in a few more photos with the tripod and then ate some lunch. Suitably fortified I bagged the top of Foel Grach before the trudge up to Carnedd Llewelyn, which was now fully under cloud. To my right was the spectacular Yr Elen and the crags and spires of its south-eastern face. The ridge to the summit looked spectacular and something to do on another visit. The tarn at the foot looks like an interesting place to camp.
After about half an hour I reached the summit shelter of Carnedd Llewelyn. By now I was in the clouds and the wind was pretty ferocious. A lady and her son appeared just after I took my pack off and I took a picture for them.
Summit of Carnedd Llewelyn
It was decision time. Should I head back east over the easy flank down to Cwm Eigiau or go along the south-east ridge to Pen yr Helgi Du? Stupidly, feeling confident, I decided on the latter. In mist and strong winds, it was more difficult than I imagined culminating in a difficult climb down a rock face to the col before Pen yr Helgi Du.
The “bad step”, I went down the left hand side
In the past I have climbed up this cliff with a day pack twice and not had huge difficulties. Descending with a heavier pack in high winds was much more taxing. The final move down was particularly difficult. One slip and I could easily have tumbled down the steep drop. Fortunately, my nerve held and my boots gripped. I was very happy to have made it down.
Looking towards Pen yr Helgi Du, Cwm Llugwy is on the right, out of sight
I could see rain coming towards me, so I decided that the arduous climb up Pen yr Helgi Du was not a good idea so I headed down the headwall path of Cwm Llugwy. The path was actually quite good, although steep and shaley in places.
Weather deteriorating in Cwm Llugwy
By coming off the “wrong” side, it meant that I would now have a long walk to my proposed camp and Eilio. There was nothing for it but to plough on. By now it was 3.30 pm and it seemed likely that I would be camping late. I exchanged a few words with another walker. Curtains of rain were now heading towards me from Tryfan. Looking down to the camp site at Gwern Gof Isaf, there were surprisingly few tents, given that it was the last week of August. Perhaps people had been deterred by the less than brilliant experience of Alan and I had back in March.
The last picture of the day, looking back to the col
I then made a very good decision. Crossing the path down to the valley was a leat. On the map I traced it around the mountain side to Llyn Cowlyd. There was a stile over the fence and a well worn footpath seemed to indicate that it was a legal route, although not marked a right of way on the map.
I decided to chance it as it would provide a level and comparatively easy path to Llyn Cowlyd (technically it was slightly down hill). Although longer than the alternative route, it would save descending to the valley floor then climbing back up again. It also meant that there were no navigational challenges. It proved to be an excellent choice and if anyone is looking to go from Llugwy to Cowlyd, it is well worth using.
The wind tried to pitch me into the leat and several heavy showers drenched me. The rain and wind lessened as I turned the corner but hit me again just before I made Llyn Cowlyd. This time it turned into an unremitting downpour with high winds and horizontal rain. The one saving grace was that it was generally at my back.
The path along the Cowlyd was as stony as I remembered and in most places resembled a stream. At the southern end I met a party of backpackers in orange waterproofs sheltering behind a boulder. The wind was whipping up waves on the reservoir.
Towards the northern end I began to feel a bit damp. However, my spirits were lightened by the sight of a party of youths coming towards me with large packs and shorts. Some appeared to wearing cotton t-shirts under their waterproof jackets. By comparison, I was considerably more comfortable than them.
Climbing over the ridge to Eilio made me more exposed to the wind. The route wasn’t entirely clear but I arrived at Eilio quickly. In the rain it didn’t look particularly inviting as a place to camp and there were signs of recent farming activity. With a heavy heart, I decided to push on to Maeneira in the hope that no-one else was there. Maeneira was also appealing as it would be more sheltered.
Although the path/track from Eilio to Maeneira was easy, it was a real trudge, particularly as there were regular evasive manoeuvres to avoid large pools of water. It was well after 7.00 pm by the time I reached Maeneira. Fortunately no-one else was there.
Although more sheltered than Eilio, the wind still gusted strongly, making it a challenge to erect the tent. It took a lot of discipline to sort everything out before finally getting in the tent. I decided to unpack my rucksack in the porch and dry off excess water from the stuff sacks before putting them in the inner. The Exped dry bag kept the essentials dry, but the silnylon sacks allowed some dampness.
After carefully unloading my sack, I then pealed off my jacket and overtrousers, storing them in the small bell end of one end of the tent. The storage space at either end of the Comp is a significant advantage over the Akto in poor weather. My base layer and mid layer had damp patches on the shoulders and midriff. I put those in a bag. My trousers also had some damp patches. I put on some leggings, a dry shirt and my Liv down pullover.
I was shattered. I had walked 16 miles and climbed over 1,100 metres in ten hours in high winds and latterly driving rain. I felt I’d done well, although I could have saved myself a lot of angst if I had not tried the ridge route. However, I’d given my gear a thorough wet weather workout and had found some valuable insights that I’ll share in a later post.
I was very glad that I had saved the beef stew as my last meal as it’s my favourite. After a couple of fig rolls and some dried fruit, I got into my sleeping bag. The gusts of wind were still ferocious, although the rain had become more intermittent. I consoled myself with the thought that it ought to be better in the morning.