As I drew back the curtains of our room the sun came blazing in, a deep morning red. It was going to be a glorious day.
The weather forecast was good for North Wales, the sun streaming into the hostel bed room confirmed it. I was raring to go.
What was not to like, I had slept well, Andy had started cooking a full English breakfast down in the kitchen. The views of Conwy from the YHA hostel were great, and we were going to climb some mountains.
As I walked through the dining room of the YHA in Conwy, the smell of frying bacon and sausages met me. Breakfast was under way. I wandered in to the kitchen to give Andy a hand that was not really needed, and make a cup of coffee.
I think a full English breakfast is the best way to start a day’s walk. There is plenty of fuel there to burn on the trail, and a few cups of coffee flushes out the last cobwebs of sleep.
A slight diversion
Conwy with its medieval castle and walls, is a fascinating small town on the estuary of Afon Conwy, if you enjoy history or old architecture. It is impossible to stay there a night and not at least have a quick drive round, through the ancient gateways and along the massive walls. The medieval fortifications are really impressive, and I would love to go back and walk around them one day. Today though the mountains are calling so it really was a brief tour.
The Welsh 3000’s
There is no way that I am fit enough to do the Welsh 3000 Challenge, but I still want to climb all 16 of them (in my own time). I had 7 left to do which conveniently can be split into 2 walks. This time we are doing three. Foel – fras, Carnedd Gwenllian and Foel Grach.
I also wanted to try out two new bits of kit, The North Face Men’s Canyonlands Half Zip Fleece, and Ospreys latest version of their Men’s Stratos 36 Backpack.
It’s a steady start
We parked the car in little car park about 2 miles Southeast of Abergwyngregyn, next to the Afon Anafon. From the car park it is a steady up hill trek for about 2 miles along a tarmac road, this merged into another stone track that goes up a valley to Llyn Anafon (reservoir). It was surprisingly warm, and it was not long before we were stripped down to our tee shirts.
About half way up the valley we met four guys, who had camped over night amongst some stone sheep pens. Andy was talking to one of them, and staring at something at the base of one of the stone walls. It was a dead foal, it looked as though it had been there for a couple of days. The guys said that it had freaked them out, when they had first stumbled across it by torch-light last night. It was a sad reminder that although the mountains can be beautiful, they can be harsh, and need to be respected.
The other guys had just finished packing up, as we were talking. We talked a little bit about wild camping and then went our separate ways. We carried on up the valley, they set of in the opposite direction with what looked like heavy rucksacks, heading for home.
Next a steep climb
Drum was my first target, I thought there might be a rough path up the valley side from the track by the river, but as we got nearer and nearer to the reservoir, we realised we were going to have to simply make our own way up. Andy saw a small water course and decided we would follow that up, so up we went.
It was a steep climb that required a few view breaks (always a good excuse,) but when we got to the top it was well worth it.
I can see for miles and miles
The views from Drum looking west were breathtaking (my photos are a poor reflection). The Isle of Man stood out from a clear blue sea like a mystical vision. To our right we could see the snow ‘iced’ peaks of the Lake District. “And yes, just about” – we could see the East Coast of Ireland in the distant haze.
All bathed in a pure blue sky, brushed with white wisps of cloud, sitting in a deeper blue sea. Contrasted by the rusty coloured mountains of North Wales.
We stood for quite some time trying to absorb such an amazing view, and believe that we could really see so much. If that had been the end of our walk it would have been enough, but really we felt that we were still at the beginning.
On to the 3000’s
It is not far from Drum to Foel-fras, the path is clear along a wide grass and stone ridge. It is the final up hill walk of any significance, which made reaching Foel-fras seem like a slog. All three of us were glad to reach the trig point, our destination at the top. It was around 1pm when we sat down on the top, our stomachs were telling us that it was time for lunch for sure. The fry up had been ‘used up’.
The top of Foel-fras has a slight desolate feel about it. It is covered in harsh grey rocks and there was still patches of snow around. The wind made it colder on top, time to slip on my micro down jacket as I settled down as (best I could,) among the stones to hot chocolate and cheese and ham sarnies.
Carnedd Gwenllian is a bit of an enigma. It is lower than Foel-fras and looks more like a giant hump than a mountain. There is a dramatic rock formation on top though, which looks like something out of Middle Earth.
The walk between the two peaks is easy – relatively gentle, which was quite welcome after eating our lunch. There were quite a few people on this ridge walk. We leap frogged various parties along the way, forming mutual relationships of encouragement for our common goals. The temporary camaraderie that is formed among fellow walkers, is one of the things I enjoy on trips like these.
Foel Grach was our final summit. All three peaks Foel-fras, Carnedd Gwenllian and Foel Grach are all within about one and a half miles of each other. Although it is a bit of an uphill slog to get to the ridge line they sit on. Once you have arrived, it is an easy walk along the wide, grass and stone ridge, which has huge and varying views. It is a pleasant sojourn and well worth the initial climb.
A wrong turns out right
When it comes to map reading laziness is my biggest problem (er – ok fault!). Looking at the map and the terrain it all seemed pretty obvious to me. I was too lazy to check the compass bearings to make sure that each feature, was the one I thought it was.
However blindly and carefree, off we set on our journey back to the car from Foel Grach. “the path goes over the ridge there somewhere and down the hill” I said vaguely waving in a direction towards a path that was obviously the right one!
After about 20 minutes the path we were following disappeared a into a water-soaked grassy slope with no specific direction accept down. At this point I need to say that I was glad I had chosen to wear my Salomon GTX Hiking Boots, I was going to wear my hiking shoes, both of which are lightweight and great for mountains. If I had worn shoes, by this time my feet would have been soaked. Happily I finished the walk with bone dry feet.
After some consultation between the three of us over the map, we decided where we were. The result was a steep climb down the wet, grassy slope to a footpath that was part of the ‘North Wales Path’. The unforeseen benefit of my lazy map work was that the route was shorter than my original plan, and that the path took us past the Aber Falls
Somewhere on the way down on one of our breaks, Andy left his phone on a rock. We spent about half an hour wandering up and down this wet slope trying to find it. Jumping from one tussock to another or sinking in a hidden bogs, but sadly we did not find the phone.
The Aber falls are truly spectacular falls. There was quite a bit of water flowing over them, probably from the melting snow above.
The path back to the car from the falls is a well made, touristy path. So it was a swift and easy walk to finish. We reached the car about 6pm. A bit sore and weary but we all agreed it had been a perfect day.
Just four more 3000’s left to do, hope it is as good a day for them.