Hail and happiness

Any opportunity to get out has to be taken. Especially when the snows have been falling heavily and the ground is apparently freezing.



Definitely a worthwhile excursion, but to begin with, a few flaws to the trip. Firstly, I was limited to time from the beginning, I was hitching a lift with my Mum and Dad who were going to Wales for the day to attend to some other issues. This gave me a 10am drop off and a 3pm collection. The second thing was the weather, this had become increasingly warm and the snow was now very much unconsolidated and beginning to melt.



Nevertheless, I was still excited at the prospect of a few hours in the mountains. I got dropped off just before the old Arenig quarry and informed my Dad to collect me at the agreed time some way down the road towards the hamlet of Llidiardau; at the point where a faint path met the road by a gate and cattle grid.



Right from the beginning, driving over the moors in the car on our way into Wales we were met with strong winds and absolutely torrential rain that only worsened as we got closer to my drop off point. Dampened by the fact that my hopes of having some good quality snow to stomp on were severely down the toilet at this point. It only got worse when we pulled up at the side of the road, as I put my boots on it began to hail. Admittedly, there were a few moments were the thought ‘what on earth are you doing?!’ crossed my mind. Nonsense. Wear a smile and get on with it I told myself.



Off I went into the abyss, trekking uphill on a good track out of the quarry. Then up the steep incline towards Daear Fawr were the track disappears into nothing. The terrain was quite frankly – disgusting. Big sopping wet mounds that regularly swallowed a leg, some of them covered in snow, others just slush. Not only was this tremendously hard going and energy sapping, it was so demoralising, looking back to try and ascertain how little progress had been made through the driving rain. Visibility zero, soaked to the bone by rain and sweat, complete with a lashing of painful hail, all while attempting to walk uphill. I do this for fun you know!



The visibility was pretty much zero as well and becoming increasingly aware of my lack of progress through the sodden terrain I tried to lift my spirits and remember where I was – in the mountains, at home. I met the little rocky scramble that signalled the crag edge, albeit on loose rock, but it was something else than those relentless bogs. I gained the ridge easily and started my traverse. Deep wet snow made breaking trail very hard going, hip deep in places progress was slow. It was still raining hard making visibility poor, I had to dog-leg my compass bearings in order to not fall off the edge at Simdde Ddu. This really was miserable going, the weather didn’t seem to be letting up either.



Hail that stung your face as it was lashed into you at speed, my only defence was my, now saturated, shell jacket and pants. So vulnerable in the jaws of this seemingly worsening storm, yet I felt so alive. I took solace that I was warm and dry(ish), and started to really enjoy it almost becoming accustomed now to the horrendous conditions. Still slightly tainted by the fact that this would be a very pleasant perch to enjoy the beautiful surroundings if only the raw power of the great Welsh weather would allow it for just a moment.



However, at last the precipitation appeared to be easing off as I continued on up to the summit cairn of Arenig Fawr. But uninterested by the lack of reward for my hardship confronted by dense cloud I quickly about turned and was met by a strange phenomenon unravelling before my eyes. The rain and hail seemed to be passing over to the south and would you believe, blue sky seemed to be beginning to poke through. Beautiful. I think this was a first, never had I been in such bad conditions and it changed so rapidly before. This was like something you hear about in the Rockies! Someone up there must be smiling on me, the views began to open up, finally.



I started to descend down the ridge of Y Castell, down to the tiny bothy by Llyn Arenig. I could hardly believe it, I could see right back across the ridge and further now over to the Arans and beyond. It did cross my mind to nip back up to the summit and take in the spectacular change in weather from a better vantage point, but pushed for time I thought better of it. On my way down the ridge huge snow drifts lay all around almost making access more or less impossible unless tackled head on.



Descending with the rivers of snow melt I tried my best to avoid the slushy snow down the ridge. As I descended into the afternoon air the sky steadily cleared with the wind still buffeting me, cold but helping dry me out. I stopped for ten minutes, finally with dry air and now quite frankly, stunning views, I stood wide eyed filled with exhilaration and admiration for the landscape before me.



I took refuge in the small bothy by Llyn Arenig to further help the drying out process. I pulled on my down jacket as I hung my shell by the fireplace and stood outside with some hot chocolate enjoying the now clear surroundings. The sound of the streams and rivers around me filled my ears with the smell of burnt firewood hanging thick in the air. These times really are a privilege to me and I truly appreciate every last second, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world. The morning conditions all worth it!



Finally, I was set to leave the mountains, making my way off in the foothills, there was no real sign of a trail that was marked on the map. I knew it would be only a faint one but there was nothing to go off. I took a bearing and headed off. Quickly I realised the terrain became very much like what I had started the day in, horrendous sodden lumps with hidden bogs and marsh covered by slushy snow.



Nevertheless, I stomped off, following my bearing with a happy grin covering my face, suitably rested and dried out, truly inspired by the weather events endured. Even regularly losing my leg up to the knee didn’t seem to slow me down too much, a new found energy almost, enthused by the richness of the day’s experiences.



I continued to enjoy the landscape making my way back to the road and was even treated to a little dog-fight in the sky above. The RAF were screaming through the valleys at low altitude on training manoeuvres. I stood and watched the aircrafts dance in and out of the peaks, screeching over the moorland upside down and twisting this way and that chasing each other across the sky. What a fantastic way to end another suburb adventure.

Watch the video of my day HERE.


Author: Starting Point

My blog captures a range of outdoor adventure, each from its starting point, giving a first person account to the highs and lows of each exhilarating adventure. From climbing, mountaineering and camping to mountain biking, water sports and endurance type challenges. These are all my experiences brought alive to you through stories, pictures and video. Enjoy!

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