Friday, 11 March 2016

Snowdonia Winter 8h Epic - Glyders and Moel Siabod

We'd been planning this day out for a few months. I think Chris n me started talking about it, I can't quite remember, but Saul / Chris / Matt were orignally coming too but unfortunately for them they had excuses!
The route with 3 Climbs : Moel Siabod, The Glyders, and Cwm Tryfan
The rough plan was to be out for 6-8hours and run through some of the best of what Snowdonia has to offer. Marcus knew the area a bit, but Karl not at all. What we hadn't quite banked on was the amount of snow. Belper was completely clear when we left and even as we approached Bethesda there was only a little to be seen. As we rounded the corner though at Ogwen, we could see snow on the roadside which gave us a very sombre hint of the conditions up top !
This is the first descent off Moel Siabod. It's very long and very runnable. It's ace. Above this there were drifts where you could lose a car (or 3 fell runners!)
After a very memorable stop for loo and coffee at a Little Chef (memorable for all the wrong reasons) we hopped out of Marcus's Chelsea tractor round the back of Joe Brown's at Capel Curig. A free car park - how refreshing after being in the Lake District so often where everywhere is now solar powered charging ! Our plans for the day had already changed about 3 times - mainly as we didn't know how icy the tops would be. My plan was to tackle the lowest and easiest peak first (Moel Siabod). If that went bad, we would adjust accordingly. If it went well, then we'd do the full route.
Approaching the best weather of the day - near the end above Cwm Tryfan looking to Snowdon.
Moel Siabod was full of excitement - we were soon in snow and we loved every second. What lay ahead ? Had we bitten off more than we could chew? And more importantly would we be back in time for the cafe ??!?!? As it happened the summit was snowy with a little ice, but we just had to be careful and thankfully it wasn't crampon type running. The descent was enormous fun - huge drifts on the lee slope followed by the photo near the top of this write up - a lovely long runnable ridge with a big area of wilderness off to our left. We all got a big buzz out of this one!

We descended through very very cold water (slush) to the Pen y Grwyd Hotel (where the name "Pyg Track" came from). Civilisation again and people - we'd not seen anyone all morning. Very refreshing. About 930 now. The climb ahead of us was straight up to the summit of the Glyders. The Glyders are very spiky rocky peaks - they're also over 100m higher than our first peak so could be icier than Moel Siabod. Nevertheless, we pressed on - determined not to give up until we were forced back by the conditions. The conditions on the this climb were the high point (or low point!) of the day. We were in deep snow not on a path but through rough heather and boulders the size of fridges. One minute you'd be ankle deep, the next you would fall through the snow and your leg would have slid through the middle of two boulders. Very tiring and dicey!

As we approached the summit the icy wind really hit us - head on too! Quite soon we were at the first Glyder summit and Marcus and me had one of the really horrible moments - where we both knew which way we thought we should go (and we agreed on it) but the compass told us we were 180 degrees wrong - SCARY!!! This always knocks me for 6 when this happens. The internal map in my head now had to be completely ripped up and thrown out. Within a few minutes my GPS (well, Viewranger on my phone) confirmed we were moving in the correct direction. It was a good job. Conditions were now absolutely treacherous. All boulders were plastered in snow, Visibility was 10m and there were icy winds. Not a place to hang around certainly !

We moved on with trepidation. Every step was dangerous - you could easily break right through the snow and lose your leg down between two boulders at any point. The traverse to the next Glyder was very dodgy. We were at points in a complete whiteout - we didn't know if the ground in front of us was going up, going down or not even there. I love situations like that !!!

By the time we'd reached the next summit we'd passed another group of guys coming in the opposite direction - all with axes and crampons on (not necessary - running trainers were clearly adequate!). This meant that we could follow their snow steps - saving a lot of energy too. Karl had now gone very quiet - anyone who runs with Karl will know this is a very very rare situation. I didn't know whether to savour the moment or not ? My conscientious side got the better of me and I asked him how he was feeling. "Cold" was the reply. "Cold hands" to be more specific. He was clearly ok, but we needed to just keep moving through the whiteout and boulders.
Above Cwn Tryfan on the way to Y Foel Goch (805m). I'm not sure if Karl was covering his ears from the snow spindrift or whether he was adjusting his hat ! Very windy and cold.
After a few more dicey moments we approached the small tarns at the top of the Devils Kitchen. Time for a quick snack stop before pressing on down into Cwm Idwal, past Idwal slabs and back into civilisation and more people! Very strange seeing people after not seeing anyone for hours - again, a sensation that only long days in the hills can give you.  Lyn Idwal was littered with people - families, climbers roped up, photographers with tripods out. As we got lower it got warmer so this was our first proper stop for about 3-4 hours. And relax!!!

In front of us along the Ogwen valley - we could see glimpses of sun through the dark brooding clouds - thankfully the sun and conditions just improved then for the rest of the (2h) run. We were very lucky to finish the run in absolutely stunning conditions - sunlight through cloud. The mountains looked fantastic and we were lapping it up! Whats more, we now realised there was every chance the cafe might still be open and perhaps even Joe Browns shop to have a look at gear for Karl!

8 hours after we started we plopped back into the car park we'd started earlier that day with trepidation and excitement. We finished exhilarated and thankful for one of the best hill days we'd had perhaps ever !
My favourite view - Perfect sunlight from Mt Snowdon direction right near the end of the run. The descent had been such great fun through snow drifts!!

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