Friday, 22 March 2013

Snow and Snowdon

A couple of weeks full of family and travel and no blogging!  This last week we have had younger son and his wife here with their black labrador.  Son and his wife are both keen cooks and lots of fabulous food has been cooked and eaten.  It has been great just to have time to catch up and to chat, to sit by the woodburner and drink tea and wine and talk and read and snooze.

Chris has never been up Snowdon so on Tuesday we decided to have a go.  Snowdon, for anyone reading outside the UK, is the highest mountain in Wales at 1,085 metres or 3,560 feet.  If you live in a mountainous part of the world this might not sound like a big deal but Snowdon is a true mountain, the highest in the UK outside of Scotland, and people die on it every year, mostly by making mistakes about weather conditions.  In fact there was a rescue only yesterday.

The Welsh name, Yr Wyddfa, means the tumulus.  The mountain is within the Snowdonia National Park, a spectacular mix of lakes and mountains and coast.  In Welsh, Snowdonia is known as Eryri, variously translated as land of eagles, or simply highlands.  It is certainly a much higher, wilder land than our own softer hills.  I love to visit but inevitably I suppose, I am glad I live here in the gentler landscape of the Clwydian hills.

Winter hasn't lost its grip even here and we knew there would be snow on Snowdon but we decided to go and have a look.  This is less cavalier than it may sound.  While we knew there would be snow,  Ian has done a lot of walking in snow, on his own and in groups,  and we have all walked a fair bit and were properly equipped.  The idea was to see how far we could get with due regard to the weather conditions.  Today it is iron cold and the snow outside my window is blowing in wind that cuts to the bone.  Nobody in their right mind would go anywhere today.  Today is a day to sit by the stove.  On Tuesday though it was considerably warmer with practically no wind.  It was worth a try, principally because Ian knows what he is doing.  Don't mess with mountains in snow if you don't.  Mountain rescue crews all over the world risk themselves to rescue those who have got it wrong!


Down by the carpark winter had bleached all the green from the grass, leaving multiple shades of brown and grey.  Grey also lay around in pieces of slate.  Slate was mined all over Snowdonia and there are slate workings higher up the mountain.  We were walking up from Rhyd Ddu (black ford) where the Welsh Highland railway cuts through the spectacular heart of the mountains, running from Caernarfon on the north coast to the west coast at Porthmadog.

In the summer I am spending a week building dry stone walls as a volunteer for the National Trust with the friend with whom I walked the Offa's Dyke Path four years ago .  I need to be able to work all day handling stone and also to walk in and out to Cwm Idwal, a high hanging valley in northern Snowdonia.  I am pretty sure most of the participants will not be small, slightly overweight women in their fifties with a love of knitting and a weakness for a glass of wine or two (this description is me, not my younger, slimmer and fitter friend!).  Better get some training in so as not to embarrass myself entirely.  Tuesday was both training and a reminder of how much fitter I need to be.  Son and daughter in law practically skipped along while I slogged away determinedly at the back.  There is nothing like that extra thirty years to slow you down!



Keep climbing steadily and you are walking on snow while the valleys and mountains open up around you.


Flora the labrador loves snow.  She also loves water, sticks and balls and food.  But snow is a particular source of fun.


Sometimes, if you are a dog,  you just need to run round in circles for sheer joy.


The top of Snowdon was covered in cloud and the snow was deep.  Time for discretion to be the better part of valour.  We turned back.  This is the second time I have almost climbed Snowdon and been defeated near the summit.  Ah well, the mountain will always be there for another attempt!

Today driving snow and bitter wind are keeping us inside.  It was the vernal equinox on Wednesday, the first day of spring.  Somebody needs to tell the weather.

53 comments:

  1. What a wonderful and challenging afternoon that must have been. I'm glad to read that you all took care and came down when you did. In the past week there have been several rescues in the mountains here - successful and unsuccessful. Not everyone is as prudent as you and your climbing family.
    I loved the photos!

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    1. Quite tricky to write about Pondside. You don't want to encourage people to take stupid risks by going out without the right equipment or experience but if you have both, it is a great thing to do.

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  2. Such beautiful scenery. I remember when we drove from England to Wales years ago it felt like going into an open and wild country. Your pictures are beautiful and I can understand how exhilarating it must have felt to be on this mountain.

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    1. It was exhilarating - exactly the right word!

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  3. Gorgeous photos Elizabeth, particularly that last one. Isn't it great when you catch a moving dog in a good position! I haven't been to Snowdonia since my geography 'A' level field trip in 1982. I have fond memories of measuring the wetted perimeter of some stream or other as RAF jets shot over our heads!

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    1. RAF jets absent this week! I hate the noise but suppose it is necessary!

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  4. Oh my, that looks like my kind of day! I would enjoy the summer trip, building the dry wall too. Gorgeous vista . . . Great post!

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    1. The views are amazing. Here's hoping to be strong enough to make the best of the dry stone walling week when it comes!

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  5. Hi, I came to your blog through a link on Mark Charlton's blog. I enjoyed reading about your jaunt up Snowdon, I was there myself earlier in March and it was crisp and blue and beautiful, though even then I didn't make it to the top. Instead, I walked to the shoulder of Yr Aran and ate my butties with the ravens. I live near the Clwydian Range too, in Rhydymwyn. I'm fairly new to blogging and blog about enjoying a 'slow' life, exploring my own backyard and my experiences as a new veggie gardner, so your blog is perfect for me. I love the lay out and the look of it. I think it's back to the drawing board for me! I'm waiting, very impatiently to plant onion sets and potatoes! I wish the weather would improve so I can get on!
    I'm Sarah at www.sleepysparrow.blogspot.com

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    1. You are just up the road! You must also be having some deepish snow then. Perhaps we can meet up when the thaw comes, if it ever does.

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  6. I've always wondered why Snowdon has 2 names in Welsh - any ideas?

    I've only managed walking there on a bright blue summer's day with temperatures in the 80s on the lower slopes - still chilly at the top though! I'm mightily impressed with your winter's efforts! Stone walling sounds fun too :)

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    1. Ah it is a bit confusing. Snowdon the mountain is Yr Wyddfa (the tumulus) while Snowdonia the area is Eryri (land of eagles)!

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    2. Aha - thanks for clearing that up :) We're singing in Welsh at choir at the moment - Ar Heed Y Norse (I'm typing that from memory, so ignore my spelling). Singing the double L is quite tricky!

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  7. My goodness, having been reading / looking at this I now need to light the fire and get a hot drink (mind you, I probably need to do that anyway). Turning back was very sensible - maybe climb it later. Some time without snow and with an open cafe...

    (That's if there ever is a time without snow. Am beginning to doubt it.)

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  8. And the latest is an avalanche warning for Snowdon and its valleys, plus a mother and son airlifted from the summit. Hmmmmm.

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    1. We are quite good at turning back! Yes, saw the rescue reported and there is a link in the blog. Easy to get it wrong!

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  9. Great photographs, reached the top twice last year both times in rain. Climbed Ben Nevis in June, and there was snow on the top with poor visibility. I am a fair weather walker, trouble is we don't get much fair weather!

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    1. I would love to be a fair weather walker and a fair weather gardener too. Just need some support from the weather!

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  10. Wonderful descriptions, Elizabeth. Maybe you should write a novel about all the ghosts of Snowdon's past. Yes Labradors and snow. But my heart goes out to you slogging up the mountain in the cold and no doubt icy wind.

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    1. There was very little wind surprisingly Fennie. Not like today when the wind here is ferocious!

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  11. I rather resemble that 50something, a bit heavier than I'd like, knitter with an affection for wine.
    Thanks so much for treating us to a walk up the mountain. I truly enjoyed the journey.

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  12. Fantastic pictures Elizabeth, it looks beautiful up there. I have to confess I am struggling with the weather now. Winter has outstayed its welcome.

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    1. Oh yes, totally agree. I have had it up to here with winter. I want to feel some warmth on my back.

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  13. Your photographs are stunning; I love the dog's joy in the snow. I've walked in this area (I have close friends who live just outside Llanberis and when I visit we go walkng) but I've not walked in the snow. It looks wild and beautiful.

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    1. Photos are son's on his iphone. Quality is amazing. I may just give up! Next time you go to Llanberis let us know you are coming to Wales.

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  14. No challenging mountains in my neck of the woods... I admire you for getting as near to the top as was safe.
    We're leading a walk in the gently undulating fields and woods of the Cambs/Suffolk border on Sunday - the snow and wind chill will nevertheless be quite a challenge for me.

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    1. The last week has brought snow to keep anyone off the mountains! Hope your walk went well

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  15. Last time I went up Wyddfa we had to turn back just below the summit due to snow. It amazes me how many people try to go up there in inappropriate clothing. Pumps, sandals, sun dresses! I'm sure people think it is a tarmac path
    Good luck with the stone walling. I'm sure that you will be fine. Slow and steady at our age is the name of the game.

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    1. I agree. It is odd how people sometimes have no sense of the power of a mountain.

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  16. so lovely to see the snow, your photos are wonderful, We drove aroud Snowdon on our brief trip to Wales a few years ago, looks so impressive with the snow.

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  17. We have similar issues with tourists who walk up Table Mountain. It is in the city. Visible and accessible. There are easy routes up, and more difficult ones, and people get lost. What they forget, or don't know - is how quickly the weather can change. When the Southeaster blows the tablecloth over the mountain - it is too cold for T shirt and sandals.

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    1. A mountain is a serious thing and always needs respect, however benevolent it looks!

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  18. It looks as if you are in Colorado! We here on the eastern plains, no mountains in sight, live at a higher elevation than your lovely Snowdon. And we may soon have as much snow on the ground, if the forecast is correct. Sixteen inches tomorrow! But, the problem will be the wind. That means BLIZZARD conditions. I need to be getting some walking exercise so I'll be able to work in my garden when this snow melts. Have a great weekend.♥♫

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    1. The wind makes the difference. We have huge drifts up here still.

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  19. Elizabeth, how I have enjoyed this post and the earlier comments, too.

    This chance to vicariously enjoy a beautiful part of of the great outdoors in wonderful company is truly a treat.

    I'd love to hear more about the upcoming wall building. Just how heavy is the medium weight stone? I've admired so many of these walls all over the UK but never known anyone who's actually been a builder.

    xo

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    1. Not sure about the weight of the stone Frances, perhaps ten pounds or so? Hope I am up to working with it all day!

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  20. Stunning scenery and very brave of you to tackle Snowdon in such icy conditions. The dog certainly seems to be enjoying the unseasonal weather.

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    1. The dog loves being out whatever the weather but water and snow are particular favourites!

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  21. Tom keeps telling me we should 'do' Snowdon as he's climbed it and I've been up on the train. I'm waiting for the thaw and hopefully some fine weather before I tackle it! I did enjoy your photos - thank you for sharing them. For info Preseli Mags knows how to build a dry stone wall, she's another woman of many talents, like you!

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    1. Well don't go to Snowdon without coming to say hello. It's about an hour and a quarter away which is considerably nearer than you usually are!

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  22. That was quite an exciting account of a beautiful mountain climb. Not easy going, I should imagine. Good for you.
    Stunning scenery.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

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    1. Felt quite hard at the time but since then we have had such snow and drifting that I can't imagine how cruel and hostile snowdon must be.

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  23. Now that looks seriously cold and high Elizabeth. Well done on you for getting as far as you did and for carrying the flag for all ladies of a certain age :) I would not fare well as I suffer from vertigo. Himself has been up Snowdon a few times - once as a part of a sponsored 24 hours Three Peaks Challenge - I got dizzy just looking at the photos on his return. Hope that the recent bout of snow/wind has not done any damage in your neck of the woods.

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    1. We have lost a couple of conifers I think. They are leaning at odd angles and don't look likely to recover!

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  24. I don’t suppose you had another go at Snowdon since. It is still very unpleasant here in the comparative lowlands and I stay in most of the time. I find snow walking extremely tiring. You are obviously not nearly as unfit as you make out.

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    1. Certainly haven't been anywhere since this big snow! As to fitness I find it depends who I compare myself with as to whether I feel quite fit or a bit of a disaster!

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  25. We are blessed to have Snowdonia on our doorsteps :)

    I used to do drystone walling with the BTCV years ago ... it can be hard on the hands and the back, and you'll need strong boots as there's a small risk you could drop something heavy on your foot. You'll love it though :)

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    1. Sure I will if I am fit enough! If only it would stop being so cold I would go outside and improve things.

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  26. stunning photos! thanks for sharing. i'm looking forward to hearing how your wall building week goes this summer!

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    1. As you can probably tell there is a touch of apprehension here! It will be fine, as my family saying insists!

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