mountains

"PAL-entines" trip: A long weekend walking in Snowdonia

It was approaching Valentines day and as I have never ever actually received a valentines card I decided waiting by the front door letter box would probably be a waste of my time. So it didn’t take much persuasion when two friends, Erin and Meg (who I met in the Pyrenees with Love Her Wild UK) proposed we bumbled off to Snowdonia for a long weekend…. aka our PAL-entines retreat!

Lake Ogwen and Tryfan, February 2019

Lake Ogwen and Tryfan, February 2019

We stayed at The Rocks Hostel in Capel Curig. We went off season so I think it was about £20 / night. It was super luxurious. The rooms, beds, kitchen and lounge areas were great and really comfy! I loved the decor and snuggly blankets you were given for in your little hostel dorm bed pod. It was really nice knowing that we were going back to somewhere so cosy after a day on the hills!

Armed with all our winter gear - ice axes, crampons, helmets, rope, boots we were ready for anything February in Snowdonia can through at us! I carried my kit up to Snowdonia in my Snugpak Kitmonster (70L) which had loads of pockets for all my bits and bobs, plus comfy enough to use as a bag pack when lugging all my gear off and on trains. I used my day pack for walking and will write a blog post on what I pack in that soon!

However, despite our preparedness and hopefulness for snow, we were blasted by summer weather and ended up walking in t-shirts. All the gear, no idea. So sadly winter passed without getting out into the snow. 2019/20 BRING IT ON!

First day, Meg and I walked up the Carneddau range to the top of Pen Yr Ole Wen (978m) and the round the ridge to Carnedd Dafydd (1044m). We parked in a lay-by just off to A5, the route started at Til y Llyn Ogwen, a group of cottages at the very Easterly point of Llyn Ogwen. Initially the route is a bit of a slog up a national trust pathway, ending where we then went past the lake, Ffynnon Loer that I dived in last year. The walk was really pretty. Then you get a good fun with a bit of scramble up onto the ridge. The scramble wasn’t too challenging, I’d call it more walking with a few rocky bits to clamber up, but you do need to be able to route pick. Although if you use a keen eye you can spot where crampons have scratched the rock in the past!

Ffynnon Loer - I dived in that lake for Mission High Water, 2018!

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Scramble up Pen Yr Ole Wen

Late afternoon sunshine on the Carnedd Dafydd view of Tryfan and Snowdonia with Meg missioning off downhill whilst I faff about taking pics! Haha…

Late afternoon sunshine on the Carnedd Dafydd view of Tryfan and Snowdonia with Meg missioning off downhill whilst I faff about taking pics! Haha…

The second day was probably the best day I’ve had outdoors in a long, long time… my first ever scramble up Tryfan. What a fantastic day!!! Problem solving, route picking and shimmying over (in places some rather exposed) rocks was brilliant. At the top are two big rocks called Adam and Eve. Traditionally you should jump from Adam to Eve, however, in light of the strong wind I decided it would be a little safer to avoid. Maybe my nerves got the better of me for that one - but next time! The eeeby jeebys were a little too much!! We were so lucky with the sunshine as you can see.

Having a break half way up Tryfan to enjoy the view

Final scramble on Tryfan up to the summit point

Final scramble on Tryfan up to the summit point

Striking a pose on a nice slab en route up Tryfan

Striking a pose on a nice slab en route up Tryfan

Lunch and coffee time at the top by the infamous Adam and Eve rocks!

The view from the top of Tryfan over to Y Garn and Elidr Fawr

Stunning views to the East from Adam and Eve as well! I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather! Tryfan, Feb 2019

Stunning views to the East from Adam and Eve as well! I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather! Tryfan, Feb 2019

BONKERS!

BONKERS!

We finished the trip off on our third and final day with some wandering around Ogwen and a dip in the sea!!! It was freezing but utterly hilarious!!! I feel so alive when I wild swim, probably because I am so cold. It was bleak, grey and I got a lot of weird looks stripping down to my swimming cossie on the beach! I can imagine its glorious in summer. Perhaps not on the day we went in - the weather had turned from blue skies to grey drizzle… Never mind!

The day out on Tryfan made me want to carry on scrambling and exploring new places. I cant wait to go on another adventure with the girls soon! I also want to head back to Snowdonia and go for a mission up Crib Goch - although I might wait a bit till the crowds die down over the summer months. Bring it on!!!!!!

All up at the top of Tryfan in front of Adam and Eve - mid-shelter from the wind!

My three year mission to the top of Ben Nevis...

My Ben Nevis story started a long time ago. In 2013/14, my mental health had declined enough for me to voluntarily agree I should be admitted into hospital.

“You don’t fall up, you just fall down”

A significant factor in my mental health recovery has been falling in love with nature and the outdoors once again. Initially forced by family and friends to get outside, I now would much rather be exploring the countryside! Having grown up going on walking holidays as a family, my sister Beth and I decided to go on holiday to the Lake District last year. I’d gone back to work properly only 6 months before so this was my first holiday in a while. I was unfit with sore joints and minimal self-confidence. I didn’t really believe much was possible, but Beth assured me that I wouldn’t know unless I tried.

Me, April 2016. 

Me, April 2016. 

We successfully got to the top of the Old Man of Coniston (803m). The views were spectacular! We decided on the way down that we would do some more mountains one day. I also internally decided that if I was going to do more mountains, I should get a lot fitter. I didn’t quite fancy huffing and puffing all the way up again.

Fast forward to May 2017. Beth and I are driving up to the West Highlands, I am the happiest I have ever been and am 6 stone lighter. We decided that should we be lucky enough with the weather we would try to climb Ben Nevis.

Affectionately known as ‘The Ben’, it stands at 1345m above sea level in the Grampian Mountains, West Highlands, Scotland. It’s fame for being the highest mountain in the U.K attracts 125,000 people to the summit and a further 100,000 people partial ascents each year. With the vast majority heading up on the mountain track that works out at 4327 people / week, 618 people / day. Beth and I decided that we wouldn’t trundle up the Ben with the masses and would instead go via Càrn Mòr Dearg (CMD) (1221m) over the CMD Arête and then up to the Ben.

Off we go up Carn Mor Dearg with the beautiful sights of the Ben cliff face!

Off we go up Carn Mor Dearg with the beautiful sights of the Ben cliff face!

On the Thursday of our holiday up in Scotland, we were blessed with clear skies and sunshine. We followed the route on walkhighlands.co.uk. The blurb describes it as “a truly spectacular route incorporating two Munros. It will live long in the memory and does true justice to the mountain.” We started with what felt like a never ending slog up the CMD slope and then had a glorious walk and scramble round the ridge and across the arête. The route really allows you to take in the enormity of the northern cliff faces of the Ben. The views the entire day were absolutely spectacular – we could even see to the Isle of Skye!

Beth looking over to the arete and up the Ben! Stunning!

Beth looking over to the arete and up the Ben! Stunning!

At the top of Ben Nevis, 1345m.

At the top of Ben Nevis, 1345m.

Beth and I at the summit

Beth and I at the summit

This route would have been unimaginable to complete a year ago. The route is over 20km and after getting to the top of the Ben it is a long way back. Despite this, it was one of the greatest days walking I have had in my entire life. I was elated at the summit of Ben Nevis – but I was emotional upon arriving back to the car. This mountain had been at the back of my mind on every walk, swim and (almost) every meal for a year. I did it with the greatest walking buddy in the world, my sister Beth.

As for falling down, I now have strategies to protect both my knees and thoughts from slipping. To save my knees I use two poles when walking downhill. To look after my mind I draw and go into the outdoors. 

So there we go. To many more mountains. Cheers!

Sarah

P.S. I am also very sorry to all those on the Ben mountain track on May 25th 2017 for I sang multiple Disney songs at the top of my voice on descent round Lochan Meall an t’Suidhe. I was overjoyed to be walking on soft boggy grass compared to knee compacting gravel. I am sure you could tell…