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Y Garn and Elidir Fawr - a Sunday Soaking

Y Garn and Elidir Fawr - a Sunday Soaking


Postby Riverman » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:32 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Elidir Fawr, Y Garn (Glyders)

Date walked: 02/03/2014

Time taken: 6

Distance: 12.7 km

Ascent: 1150m

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Sunday saw me back in Snowdonia. Optimistically, I was hoping that for my first solo winter walk I might encounter some of the great snow conditions I'd enjoyed on the Carneddau 2 weeks back. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated over the week and I scrapped my over-ambitious plans of taking on Tryfan and the Glyders and instead selected a route up Y Garn and along to Elidir Fawr. I had hoped to tag on Foel Goch and Carned y Filiast as well but conditions on the day forced me to alter the planned route slightly.

Setting off from Ogwen cottage at 08:30 I could see just a handful of people pulling on boots for a day in the hills. Most had had the good sense to stay home. It was already drizzly and the clouds covered the summits. With some trepidation I set off towards Llyn Idwal. On my way I could see one other walker maybe a hundred metres ahead of me. As I started the climb from Llyn Idwal the winds were absolutely ferocious. The MWIS forecast had indicated 30-45mph with gusts in the 60 range. I was prepared for 30-45mph but the wind I was experiencing was stronger and seemed gale force. About half way up the climb I wondered about turning back but I could still see the fella in front of me, I felt sure on my feet with my poles and thought I would press on. Near the top there was still a small amount of snow - but soft and sloshy. I crossed it with axe in hand but was soon on boulders again for the final push to the summit. As it turns out, I had about as much need for axe and crampons on my first solo winter walk as I did for suncream!

Image
Above Llyn Idwal


Image
Approaching the summit of Y Garn

At the summit shelter I met the other walker who was tucking into his sandwiches. Checking my watch I was pleased to have arrived only 15 minutes later than expected - 1hr 45 minutes from the car. The wind had slowed me down - but not by that much. After exchanging a a few words with the other walker who headed back down towards Devil's Kitchen, I decided to continue onwards to Elidir Fawr. By now the rain had picked up as well as the wind and I felt like I was being beaten and lashed by the weather. My plan had been to take the easternmost of the two northward paths and cross the summit of Foel Goch but such was the wind (and the fact that visibility was so poor) I felt much safer on the lower path which hugs the 750m contour. I really didn't want to walk close to anywhere I might get blown off! Despite being on the safer route I will still admit to sensations of genuine fear while continuing northwards. The feeling of being on a mountain top alone, in highly inclement weather and poor visibility was certainly unnerving. The grey and damp is one thing but it's the wind that was the most terror inducing. But I had confidence too. I had studied the route carefully beforehand and knew where I was going. I also found that putting on my snow googles was a welcome respite from the driving rain. What little of the landscape I could see looked quite nice behind orange lenses!

En route to Elidir Fawr I began to notice that my waterproof layer was failing somewhere below the hips. Earlier at Y Garn summit I noticed a feeling of water on my legs as I sat down. Now, it seemed, all that water had trickled into the top of my left boot and was sloshing around at the bottom of my boot. Squelch, squelch. Instantly I felt downbeat. I've never had the misfortune of water in my boots before and I was amazed how much it takes the wind out of your sails. Somewhere below the summit of Foel Goch (which was invisible to me) I sat down and retrieved a dry sock from my dry bag. It gave me about 15 minutes of comfortable walking before the boot filled up again. By this stage my right boot had been affected too. I've been scratching my head over what might have been the weak link in the waterproofing chain and I now think that it was probably the Paramo trousers that I was wearing. They had been washed recently but not re-proofed with NikWax and the first feeling of rain water I got was definitely above the knee. The fabric is not a hard shell and I think that under the conditions it was definitely admitting water that soon headed straight for my feet.

I continued on to Elidir Fawr feeling fairly miserable. All the while in my head I kept telling myself that if I wanted to climb mountains in the British Isles then I had better be prepared for foul weather and learn to cope with it. So on I went. The route to the top of Elidir Fawr was very bouldery and hands were definitely needed. Being a worrier by nature I kept imagining disaster scenarios. The rocks and boulders were so slippery that a twisted ankle would have been all too easy. Maybe it's excessively gloomy to think like this but I think in a way it is helpful to be highly aware of the risks and dangers - provided that you don't allow it to lead to panic. Better I should be concentrating on the route ahead of me step by slippery step in these conditions than, say, thinking about the football scores. The awful weather also meant that I took virtually no photos all day. My mind was focused on the route and on safety and I didn't really want my camera to get a soaking either.

In the summit shelter on Elidir Fawr I ate my lunch and enjoyed a drop of very nice, aged Guyanan rum before a good few gulps of water to rehydrate. Exiting the shelter the wind felt like it could knock me off my feet. I moved carefully down from the boulders to again find the path at the 750m contour where I passed a couple heading for Elidir Fawr - the only other people I saw all day apart from the chap at the top of Y Garn. I knew that if I wanted to continue to Carned Y Filiast I needed to be higher up but I couldn't see my route clearly and by now, having bagged two of the Welsh 3000ers, and with wet feet, I honestly couldn't be bothered to press on. I could see a path running off the hill onto quite mellow, grassy ground beyond which lay the Ogwen valley. I decided to take the path to get off the mountain as quickly as possible. I would either descend to the valley floor or contour along the mountainside a bit. I decided on the latter, passing Cym Coch. The terrain was pretty gentle, mostly soft grass. It was amazing how much safer I felt having descended below 600m. Although the weather was still dreadful the fact that I could see my route back to Ogwen and to be off the mountain top was highly reassuring.

After navigating a couple of fences and streams I was back at the car before long. The descent in wet boots had not been fun. Whilst I felt something of a sense of achievement at having completed a good route in challenging conditions, my satisfaction was definitely diminished by the soaking. The day was not the winter baptism I had hoped for (crampons stayed in the bag the whole time). Nevertheless an important day in the hills for me. The fact that I navigated successfully and altered my route to suit conditions has given me a lot of confidence. With any luck I may get a chance to practice my snow skills again in Scotland later this month although quite possibly, I will continue to focus my attention on Snowdonia and the Lakes. Much as I would like to be bagging munros every weekend, the logistics of a trip from London are such a pain. It's good to set achievable objectives and I think my hill bagging objective for the rest of 2014 might well be to knock off the rest of the English and Welsh furths before I head back to Scotland.

This morning, I awoke to glorious conditions in the Ogwen valley. Typical. I strolled up the path towards Llyn Idwal to snatch a couple of photos of yesterday's objective in fine sunshine. Above me I could hear jets playing around at high altitude. I spotted the silhouette of one, very high up. Being a big kid (who enjoyed flying in the Air Cadets as a teenager) I was really hoping that one might drop down and blast through the valley. I was not to be disappointed. Heading back for the car I was startled as a black Hawk training jet buzzed low through the valley, the mountain tops above it, before thundering into a near vertical climb. What a buzz.

5 hours later I was sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 and an hour after that enjoying a nice cuppa at home. Tomorrow it's back to reality. So probably time to start planning my next mountain adventure!

Image
Y Garn in rather better conditions than I climbed in

Image
Y Garn in rather better conditions than I climbed in
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Riverman
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 283
Munros:60   Corbetts:5
Grahams:1   
Hewitts:87
Wainwrights:4   Islands:4
Joined: Dec 31, 2013
Location: Belgium

Re: Y Garn and Elidir Fawr - a Sunday Soaking

Postby ChrisW » Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:34 am

Great write up Riverman, it's a real shame your efforts weren't rewarded more kindly, after a 10 hour round trip, I'm not sure if it was better or worse that you got to see it in great weather the very next morning....but it certainly made for a couple of beautiful photos.

Congratulations on your winter solo anyway, it's great to get it out of the way and be home safe :clap:
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ChrisW
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Posts: 4940
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Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Y Garn and Elidir Fawr - a Sunday Soaking

Postby Riverman » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:59 pm

Cheers Chris. If only we had more often the sorts of conditions you enjoy across the pond. Love the photos of your trek to the lake. Breathtaking.
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Riverman
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 283
Munros:60   Corbetts:5
Grahams:1   
Hewitts:87
Wainwrights:4   Islands:4
Joined: Dec 31, 2013
Location: Belgium

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