Tuesday 6 January 2009


New years eve saw me heading across country to North Wales. Once again it was a meet up with a small group of people. This time I had even managed a lift. The idea was for a few of us to meet at the Minnffordd car park and head up the path to see the new year in by Llyn Cau. Five of us met at the car park at around seven in the evening. It was cold and little time was wasted in shouldering rucksacks and putting on head torches. The initial start up the path up to the Llyn was steep and then settled down to a steady plod. As we cleared the tree line the headlights of cars stabbed the darkness in the valley bottom far below. Pausing for breath I briefly wondered if anyone saw the beam of our head torches as we contoured the hillside. It would have been fun to walk in darkness, however, care was needed, water ice lay thick on parts of the path. The sky was clear with myriads of stars shining brightly. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we finally arrived. Tents went up swiftly on an area of fairly flat ground right next to the llyn. With the ground frozen tent pegs where a tad difficult to place. Down jackets where the order of the evening. Also, I had been requested to bring one of the wood burning stoves. There is something magical about sitting under a clear star lit moonlit sky, warmed by the flame of a real fire. At midnight Auld lang syne was duly sung, voices echoing around the rocky cym. Shortly after folk headed for bed. It was bliss to snuggle deep in to the warm cocoon of my sleeping bag. Thursday morning was a chilly start with a digital temperature read out of minus twelve. The Llyn had a layer of ice on its surface. Later there was mention of the temperature dropping even further. The plan was to leave the tents where they where and head up to Cadair Idris and then collect them on the way back. The morning was still and calm and as we progressed up through a break in the rocky crags to the ridge above the Llyn We broke out of the drifting mist and cloud cover to a wonderful cloud inversion. The scenery was awesome. Unfortunately my camera refused to work due to the cold conditions. We had a brief break on Craig Cym Amarch. Despite my water bottle being in the rucksack the water had semi frozen. Several groups of people all had the same idea of heading up to the summit of Cadair Idris. The views were spectacular. However, time was pressing. We had to return to Llyn Cau to pick up the tents and time was pressing. Heading down I began to develop a severe headache, something I am prone to. probably a combination of the flue I had the previous week and a touch of dehydration. All of us had problems with water freezing. Back at the tents I managed to thaw a little water and took some medication. Taking the tents down was interesting, they where well frozen. However, as we headed down towards the car park, I began to feel progressively worse.. Several times I had to stop and have a break. Possibly at one point I passed out. The others came back to see where I was and found me weaving slowly towards the car park. My original intention had been to get dropped off on the way across to Llanberis where the others where heading for. There was little option though but to join them at the climbing hut. Despite managing to down fluids I was still violently sick on the way. A couple mugs of tea and a seat by a hot coal fire saw me partially recovered. On the Friday I decided to rest and just potter, taking a walk from the climbers hut at Deiniolen. headed across toward Dinorwig and around to Llanberis. Picked up a few supplies I had been asked to get, had a mug of tea and a bite to eat in Pete's Eats. Deciding the seven miles or so that I had walked was enough, I opted for the lazy option of catching a local bus back toward the village. On the Saturday a few people had decided to go for the north ridge of Tryfan. a classified rock scramble and quite a strenuous one too. Feeling better, I thought I would give it a go. A good breakfast and copious amounts of tea seemed to be the order of the day. From the A5 by Llyn Ogwen The north face of Tryfan looks intimidating. There is no easy, warm up start. From the road it a case of heading straight up. The cold had us moving swiftly up the flight of large steps that lead to the first section of ascent. Breath rasping in the cold air, lungs heaving, limbs protesting at this assault. There is no one direct route up the ridge. It is a case of picking the best line and following it. often it was a case of directissimo.. Hands and feet working in unison. The route is a classified grade one scramble, in places though it is rated as grade two, depending on which way one goes. In all probability we did some of the grade two bits. An hour passes, two, three, time is of no concern at the moment. Arms reach high, hands searching for holds, bare fingers curl over a lovely jug handle of rock, knee raises high, toe of boot placed delicately on a nobble of rock, a heave and a pull, other foot searches for a purchase, pause, eyes searching for the next hold and the movement is repeated. A slow but steady rhythm leads ever on upwards. Picking a way up a steep rock chimney, glancing back down and wishing I had not. There is no actual ground, just a void. The exposure can be daunting. As we gain height so the rocks become even colder. My fingers grow cold but I am reluctant to put on my gloves, preferring to actually feel the rock beneath bare fingers. In that way I can feel the hand holds. The others where somewhere ahead of me but I was content to pick my own way up. A last steep piece up a narrow rock chimney and I was on North top. Some delicate shuffling over ice covered boulders to Far South top. A low, pale wintry sun in my eyes made things a little tricky. We had started late and now time was pressing, we wanted to be down before dark. After a short break we descended easy slopes to the Heather Terrace. A broad curving ledge that descends the side of the hill. Care had to be taken, in places the path was covered in thick layers of water ice. Crampons would have been no good, it would necessitate putting them on, cross the ice, stop remove them and continue to the next patch and repeat the process. Instead it just meant some delicate maneuvering to shuffle around them. Finally the valley floor was reached just as darkness fell. A weary walk back to the cars in the cold evening air and back to the hut for a welcome hot shower, a meal and loads of fluids. The others where indulging in mulled wine and and various other such beverages, being teetotal I stayed on soft drinks. Sunday morning and temperatures where still way down. Unfortunately we where heading back. It was tempting to fore go my lift and stay for another few days. Conditions where excellent, cold and clear, rivers and lakes totally frozen. The landscape white and pristine in the grip of the winter freeze. However, the sheer cost of coming back on public transport was far too expensive. it was a pity to have to leave.
Kit wise, I was using my heaviest rucksack, a macpac and in the event of things I was glad I did. It stands up to abuse well. Stove was an msr simmerlite, lighter than the whisperlite, a half litre fuel bottle. it proved beneficial, a few folk where struggling with gas and I brewed for them as well.My heavier valandre sleeping bag and boseman light cover. prolite three quarter sleeping mat. it is not best suited for cold conditions and I used newspaper underneath it. A Montane down jacket, a Patagonia thermal vest, Mountain equipment soft shell and a Montane waterproof. Paramo cascada trousers, also carried a berghaus soft shell pullover. Two pairs of gloves, two wooly hats, spare socks and one change of clothing, wash kit, first aid kit etc. Camp crampons, Black diamond raven ice axe. Also carried up to the Lnyn a wood burning stove as was requested, plus fire lighting equipment. Dried food for three days, packet soups, porridge, nibbles, snacks etc, camera and spare batteries. Petzle myo head torch and an e light as back up. Maps, compass, whistle etc. Pocket knife, opinel. Tent was a Golite shangri la 2 with a shangri la 1 floor, trek mate carbon trek poles also where used to support tent.

descending heather terrace ,


From top of Tryfan

View from Tryfan. The Llyn below is frozen


  1. Dawn,

    Congratulations on this trip. An inspiration, as usual. I know those places well, even though I haven't been back for 20 years.

    What you wrote about crampons strikes a
    chord. You can carry the damn things for years, puncture your bedding, your tent or your skin and never put them on
    your boots. And then another day comes when you feel silly without them.

    I hope you soon resolve your health difficulties.

    John Green

  2. DAWN!!!! AWESOME!!! North Wales is my favourite place. I lived in Capel and worked in Ellis Brigham and the Bryn Tyrch for a while. Amazing times!

    One of the best scrambles I've ever had was going up the north ridge of Tryfan on New years day in a blizzard! Well, I say best, half of our gang came down with hypothermia on the way down, but it was exhilarating and beautiful all the same!

    Loved reading this Dawn, thanks!! I was glad to see pictures at the end of it too.


  3. Dawn, Hi, sounds like a great trip. I have been following your Blog for some months now and find it fascinating.
    I do have a question....you mention in your kit that you used a Golite Shangri-la 2. How did you find it? I have just taken delivery of one, but owing to family commitments have not had a chance to use it yet. Maybe in early February.
    Happy trails,

  4. Hello there Fenlander. In regards to the Shangri La 2, basically I find it a good roomy tent. Easy to sent up and stable. Condensation is minimal, adjust your height according to weather conditions. However, I would suggest you use the extra guy points in windy conditions. I added loops of very thin dyneema line. One negative point, and it seems to be an issue with recent Golite tents, seam seal. The tent leaked badly when I first used it. Thus I have had to go over every seam with sealer. Oh and if using trekking poles, remember, the can sink in soft ground.

  5. Hi Dawn,thanks for the info. I have experienced the same problems with a Shangri-la 3 so was planning the seam seal. Where are Golite going wrong at the moment? Their system 'in theory' should work perfectly...it used to in the '70's and 80's with other companies.

  6. Sadly it is often the case. As companies expand and grow, so quality goes in the other direction