Winter in Snowdonia with The Junior Sherpa   8 comments

The evolving tale of my son’s love for the mountains reached a new marker. He’s been wanting to head to hills in proper winter conditions and luckily the Xmas holiday gave us a chance. Heavy downpours of rain and sleet in the Midlands translated to heavy snow in North Wales. Combined with a cracking sunny day forecast it was time to head to Snowdonia and climb a “proper” mountain in the snow. I needed a summit with a big mountain feel but little in the way of objective danger. The Arenigs fitted the bill perfectly and we were away from home before 7 for it’s a long drive. We stopped for a very chilly outdoor breakfast of bacon sandwiches in a picnic area by Llyn Celyn. I hadn’t realised how hot my stove was, clearly hot enough to push the defence alerts up to Defcon 2. We were strafed by fighter jets but they clearly realised we were no threat to western ways of life and left us alone.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

I was slightly paranoid about what the conditions would be like so we set off with a full complement of ice axes, spikes and crampons which makes for a very heavy pack. After an inordinate amount of faffing about we were on our way. It was a mighty cold day and the brisk road walk to the start of the track warmed us up a bit. It took us a few minutes to reach the sunshine when the snowy mountains revealed themselves. It wasn’t quite the cloudless blue sky the forecast promised. In fact the high tops, including our target were masked in cloud. However the sky was blue all around and the sun beating down. Nothing better than a crisp cold winters day with the crunch of fresh snow underfoot.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

After a brief detour to the tiny Arenig Fawr bothy – TJS had never seen a bothy before, this one is not the best example – we started up the broad Y Castell ridge. Its not particularly steep but with Llyn Arenig Fawr cradled below it does give it the air of big mountain especially in winter

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

There wasn’t as much snow on the climb  as looked from below but that changed dramatically as soon as we crossed the 600m contour. Suddenly the snow cover was total and up to a couple of feet deep. TJS has never walked in full deep winter snow and wondered what it was like. Now he knew – hard work, very hard work. There were some trails bashed out but it was still tough going. There are no steep sections but it does mean it’s a long plod.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

As we reached the summit plataeau the wind came into force and it was bitingly cold.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

We reached the summit and exchanged grins and thought about lunch. It was far too cold so we stuffed in a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes between us by way of both celebration and sustenance and pressed on. The views were magnificent, blue sky and snow-capped mountains spread below us. When I was planning the day I’d had half an idea to take TJS up Snowdon as I’ve been promising to do for a few years. Whilst it’s an easy walk to a summit populated by ill-equipped tourists in summer it’s a serious proposition in winter and I revised the plan. It was a good move as the whole Snowdon range was capped in cloud so we’d have missed the views we were now enjoying.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

Just below the summit where the ridge narrows to a rockier crest we found a sheltered spot and sat for a good hour to stuff faces, drink hot chocolate and tea and generally feel pretty darn chipper about the day. Full winter conditions seem something of a rarity these days and we thanked our good fortune that it was delivered under a blue sky in a holiday period.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

Moving on we followed a group of guys down over the rocky knolls and hollows of Craig y Bychau, glad to follow their trail of steps and their locating of the soggy bog hidden cunningly under the snow. I had thought we could take in the splendid summit of Moel Lyfnant as I did on my previous visit, but in deep snow and with a short winter day that was clearly ludicrously optimistic.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

Instead we settled for an easy stroll down to the very broad col. The sun was already starting to set and created the usual dazzling array of light effects on the drifts of snow. We passed they guys whose trail we followed, thanked them for their hard work and promised to leave them a beer on the bar for their trouble

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

From there it’s a long, in fact a very long walk back down the valley.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

Word of warning for this route. The path is a well made track for most of the way but around Amnodd Wen it deteriorates into a swamp and the path pretty much disappears into brown sludge. At one point the whole hillside seems to be flowing. We consoled ourselves with some gorgeous low angled sunshine and light effects as darkness crept them swept across us.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

As we followed the disused railway line back to the road and the car we had a couple of final sunset shots to bid the day farewell. It was pretty much dark when we reached the car. Its a long route this one, over 10 miles so in the deep snow a pretty tough one, probably TJS hardest day so far but he coped easily.

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

arenig fawr, bothy, craig y bychau, llyn arening fawr, llyn celyn, Moel lyfnant

A long drive meant a very long day indeed. Pretty much 12 hours door to door with a full on day in the mountains squeezed in between. TJS was well pleased with his efforts. He was a real winter mountain man now and ready for new challenges north of the border

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8 responses to “Winter in Snowdonia with The Junior Sherpa

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  1. Stunning photos, as usual!

    Like

  2. Beautiful views from the summit! Always love the late afternoon light, especially hitting the snow. Glad you guys had a great day and a great winter hike!

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  3. What a grand looking day 🙂

    I suspect it’s probably my imagination, but all this snow we’ve had for weeks has looked much whiter than snow usually seems to do!

    Like

  4. Magic! White hills, blue skies, a bit of green (or blue water) in the valleys. What can top that? Fantastic.

    Like

    beatingthebounds
    • Was a bit special even if I had to get up at 6 and drive 5 hours round trip for it. Well worth it. The Arenigs are pretty good mountains. Isolated so they are a cracking viewpoint

      Like

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