UK Mountains Walking, Mountaineering and Equipment Reviews
North Wales Training Weekend

Towards the end of July I booked into Idwal Youth Hostel in Snowdonia for a weekend of even more serious walking and trying out some new equipment; my pillow, plus Nalgene Bottles. Idwal is ideal for many different days out. My plan was an easy walk up to Devils Kitchen above Llyn Idwal on the Friday evening, Saturday the Glyders via Tryfan North Ridge, then Sunday a trip up Snowdon via a route I had not used before; the Snowdon Ranger path. To get the real feel of a trip, I had elected to camp which, on arrival in the Ogwen Valley seemed like a bad move - it was raining heavily!

There was no choice but to get the tent pitched. Having an old MSR tent which I had not used for some years, I was a little concerned about getting wet, so elected to leave my sleeping bag in a waterproof bag until later just in case! I need not have worried, it was fine, although the design being some years old, requires the (non-waterproof) inner to be pitched first which means some water does get inside but thankfully nothing unmanagable.

Off up to Llyn Idwal in the pouring rain, I elected to leave my rucsac behind as I would only be out for an hour or so and if I needed a drink, well, there were plenty of streams to choose from. It was glorious being out, there is something about really bad weather that is quite invigorating and I enjoyed the solitude - clearly not too many people think like that as I had the place to myself. Idwal slabs were running with water and the waterfall at Devils Kitchen something to behold. Visibility was poor and I couldn't see across to the Carnedds, less than a mile away, nor could I see Tryfan. If this weather continued, an ascent of the North Ridge would be far too dangerous and an alternative would be required.

Saturday morning dawned a beautiful day; not a cloud in the sky, well, a few but they were all nice and white and very high up. My plan was on! Boots on, pre-packed rucsac shouldered and I walked the mile or so down to the start of the ridge looking forward to the day.

The North Ridge of Tryfan is impressive, coming, as it does, almost down to the road which means that the uphill starts quickly, but on a reasonably easy going path with steps. The trick is to know when to branch off to the right onto the Ridge Scramble. On reflection I think I started a little early but there are many routes up and I soon encountered worn rock, a sure sign of previous traffic. The route combines some straightforward steep walking up through heather with some mild rock climbing, nothing ever too difficult. The trick is that if it looks hard then it is probably not the way, although there are a few gullies crossing which do require some climbing ability and a head for heights.

Eventually I found myself on the summit - famous for the Adam and Eve stones which seemed to look closer that I recalled. The challenge is to jump across them - it is only a few feet but there is huge exposure on the Eastern Side so not for the faint hearted and definitely not recommended in anything other than warm dry conditions - a slip would be fatal. Stopping for a break I located a sheltered spot and dug out a goodie bar and drink.

Next on the list was the ascent to Glyder Fawr. One option is Bristly Ridge, another scramble and one I have done a number of times. Today I decided to drop down a little and take the scree route to the top - this was supposed to be a training weekend so 'easy' routes were out of the question. The scree route was tough, no doubt about it with some very loose rocks - as I discovered when I stood on a large one which gave way and caused me to slip - luckily only pride and one shin were damaged.

Eventually I emerged onto the summit area and walked over to the Cantilever Stone which is, for me, an irresistible attraction to walk to the end of. From there I could see Glyder Fach not too far distant, but also, and only the second time ever, I could see as far as the Snowdon ridge and enjoyed a few minutes watching the train chugging its way up.

The Cantilever Stone, Glyder Fawr

Between the Glyders is the 'Castle of the Wind' which looks a little like Superman's Fortress of Solitude and requires either a scramble over the top, or better, dropping down on the left hand side to follow the path around before ascending again to Glyder Fach. Neither summit has a 'trig point' so there is no real marker point for the actual summit and several places could be considered to be the top so I picked what looked like the high point and went to that.

From here I dropped down in the direction of Y-Garn. This route down to the lake is just horrible - more scree with a thin path, quite steep and unforgiving. I was pleased to be down.

I had decided I would drop down Devils Kitchen rather than ascending Y-Garn so turned to the right and followed the path, another steep one that seemed to get more obscure the further down I went, but then recovered lower down to join the circular path just above Idwal Slabs, where, amazingly, there were climbers - wow, that dried out quickly!

Nice easy walking soon bought me down to the Youth Hostel and the end of the days walking. Total journey time was about 7 hours and total distance covered was about 7-8 miles which was acceptable since I was either going up steep or down steep for most of the day.

Sunday proved to be another nice day as I drove around to the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel and Car Park. The path starts across the road mid-way between the Hostel entrance and the Car Park Entrance and heads up, crossing the railway line, then zig-zags its way up gaining height quite rapidly. There is a long steady, but easy walk up to the start of the ridge, and today, the start of the mist, then some more steep but easy underfoot ground leading up to the mountain railway. Continuing up is a further 15 minutes or so until the summit is actually reached, which seemed further than it really was; often the way when the destination can't be seen. Today the wind was blowing hard and cold so a quick ascent to the actual summit and then into the cafe for a well-earned coffee before donning Rab jacket and gloves for the return - yes, it was that cold!

I had to keep all the gear on until I dropped below the cloud line and out of the worst of the wind. Even then I replaced Rab jacket for new Stellar windproof - which was proving to be amazing; incredibly lightweight and packable, but incredibly effective at blocking the wind.

Finally down to the car again. My journey time had been two hours up and 1 1/2 hours down so well pleased with that.

So far, my kit choices were proving to be good ones. My boots unfortunately are starting to leak a little so I may try either reproofing them or investing in new ones, although with the time available I'm not sure new boots are a good idea and the amount of rain that is expected won't really warrant it. I'm currently wearing FjallRaven walking trousers which are amazing but I think I will need a lighter weight pair for lower down as they can be quite warm, even with the zips fully open. On top I have a Stellar Equipment mid-layer which is awesome and a Stellar Equipment windproof which is beyond belief! It packs into a sunglasses bag but keeps the wind off in all but the worst weather. Stellar Equipment are also providing the waterproofs (not for free!) which are also pretty good.


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