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Thread: The Lakes and Hills of Snowdonia - New Year at Llyn Gwynant

  1. #1
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    Default The Lakes and Hills of Snowdonia - New Year at Llyn Gwynant

    Its become a habit. Not that long after discovering canoe and proper camping, where the time is spent sitting around fires under a tarp, instead of just sitting in the local pub (there's plenty of room to do both!), and after a decade or more of pleasant enough but not at all memorable house parties, I rediscovered camping out to see in the New Year. 4 or 5 years of wild camps have morphed into a slightly more luxurious habit of heading to campsites by water. In the last 5 years the luxuries of camping at this time of year have included; biblical rain filling the lake quickly enough to require a rapid escape; knee high red, gloopy mud in a weird woodland somewhere in mid-Wales, campsites closed due to flooding, wind flattening tents and tarps enough to require moving into a stone shed, and even some pleasant paddling and walking. The common factor though, was time spent with friends, fire, beer/wine/whisky and enormous quantities of food.


    2014/15 Llyn Gwynant



    2015/16 The Welsh Somme



    2016/17 Frosty Lakes



    2017/18 Buttermere before the storm





    This year was to be no different. 3 years ago we camped at Llyn Gwynant, a friendly lake at the foot of Snowdon, that wanted to make our acquaintance. By joining us in our tents. Fortunately this was on New Year's Day, and the evening before had been excellent fun, with lots of cooking and socialising in a flapping "tarp city" that had grown organically as extra layers and wind breaks were added every time a squall hit. Sounded like the perfect place for a rematch.

    The group would be an exclusive few; Lynne and Tobey (11) (Darren was working), Nige and son Chris (17), and me. Bigger than last year when it was just Lynne, Tobey and me!


    Saturday 29th Llyn Gwynant

    I arrived on the Saturday, the day after Lynne, so had happily let her chose a camp spot. She chose a good one. At the top end of the site, well away from the friendly lake, a grassy area sits by the river bank, complete with a line of tarp-trees. Perfect.






    I threw my tent up, and grabbed the canoe, Lynne abandoning Tobey to his bike to join me, and we headed out to grab the last hour of light of the day on Llyn Gwynant.









    Stunning. Calm water and amazing scenery.















    Unlike 4 years ago, there were actually other people on the campsite. Lots of them, but the site was still only 20% full I guess, and nobody anywhere near us. What there was, though, was other canoes!


    Alan, our next-tent-neighbour-but-one





    And another surprise. A year ago, at Buttermere when everybody else bailed out and Lynne, Tobey and myself got no paddling in at all, Gary and Angela had come over from Wasdale to say hello. And who did we spy on the lake ahead of us; Gary!






    As a loose group, we paddled about slowly, chatting sometimes, breaking off other times. Overlooking us all, was the Great Elephant of Gwynant.






    As the light died, we headed slowly back to camp. The perfect start to four days in Wales.















    The three of us hung around for Nige and Chris, but guessed they'd stopped on the journey (there's no phone signal here, or in Beddgelert, at all). So we headed to the pub to eat. A slightly weird experience for, as we walked in at 2 minutes past 7pm on a Saturday night, the lady behind the bar practically barked at us that they were just closing the kitchen so we'd better order now. The meal was pretty good, but it did feel as if she wanted us gone ASAP!

    Returning to camp, we got the fire going and relaxed, joined later by Chris and Nige.


    Sunday 30th Llyn Padarn

    During the night we had our first visit from The Bear. Long after midnight, something sneaked into the porch of my tent, grabbed the carrier bag of cheese and biscuits, and ran for it. The bag and the cheese were still there. The biscuits were gone, complete with box.


    Nige and Chris had chosen to bring bikes rather than canoes (why not bring both, I did, Tobey did!), so were off for a walk (?!) somewhere.

    The biscuits were found, 30 yards across the grass, a bit soggy, but intact.

    I'd earmarked Llyn Padarn for a paddle on a day that looked a bit gloomy, and it was reasonably breezy at camp so we wanted something that might be sheltered from the South West. Lynne and Tobes would join me, and we drove in convoy through thick, atmospheric, hill fog over Llanberis Pass and down to the lakeside Padarn Lake park where launching is easy.


    Though the mist was thinner, it was still a murky day. There was, though, no wind at all at this end of the lake. Perfect for a couple of hours easy paddling around the head of the lake.






    Just by the launch pontoon, there's a little slalom course. Had to be done!









    I've not paddled here before, and was a little worried it might feel a bit urban, being alongside both Llanberis town and the biggest old slate quarries you've ever seen at Dinorwic. No worries, it was actually very pleasant, and interesting too. It can hardly by unpleasant when the water is like this!












    At the top of the lake, a river comes in from above, partly from Llyn Peris, and partly from the flanks of Snowdon. It was ripe for investigation, so we paddled upstream against a very slight flow, on perfectly clear water. At the top, a gloomy black hole, or a weir. Neither looked attractive propositions, so we turned back to the lake.












    Back on the lake, we headed along the northern shore, a few other paddlers out and about now. We'd been looking for lunch since the start, thanks to a rather late departure from camp...






    The perfect lunch spot was soon found. A little hidden "cove" lies beneath old workings, reached under an arched bridge.









    Lynne and I were ready to just eat, but Tobey had other ideas...












    Eventually he returned to be fed, and we snacked happily away for a few minutes.


    There was an optional escape route from the cove. It had to be done.












    Whilst we'd been lunching, the mists had cleared, and conditions were now superb. Beyond, the flanks of the Snowdon massif loomed out of the hill mists.









    We paddled gently along, just enjoying being on calm water, surrounded by wonderful Welsh scenery.












    The push-me-pull-you was working well.









    We crossed the lake about 2/3 of the way down, the full circuit would wait until another time, and headed back, the light ever improving. Spectators watched from the banks.





















    Pulling back into the bay we had just enough daylight left to load up, before re-provisioning in Llanberis, and heading back to camp.







    The Bear came again in the night. This time it ran off with the kitchen roll...found down the field...with sharp toothmarks in it! Its a rubbish bear.


    The next day, we were planning on a different type of adventure, stay tuned...
    Last edited by Mal Grey; 10th-January-2019 at 11:01 PM.

  2. #2
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    Again and again you do it. What a fabulous blog and mind blowing photos...what a trip!!!

    (Founder of MalGrey fan club)

  3. #3
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    Default The Ascent of Snowdon

    New Year's Eve, Monday


    Today we would leave the canoes behind and head for the hills. Tobey and Chris were keen to climb Snowdon, and though the forecast was a bit claggy, the winds seemed to be within a safe range, and there wasn't much actual rain forecast. All five of us headed down the valley to Nantgwynant, for an ascent of the Watkin path. Unfortunately, this is the lowest start point of all Snowdon's main paths, so we had 3500ft of climbing ahead of us.


    The path winds easily up towards Cwm Llan, an old mining access route for here, as in every valley around here, there is an industrial heritage as well as a natural one. A lovely cascade falls from the Upper Cwm.









    The mining was for both slate in the main cwm, and copper in a higher mine on the steep slopes of Y Lliwedd above. That's not the only history here; in the cwm stands Gladstone's Rock, where said Victorian Prime Minister, retired and aged 83 once held forth to a crowd of 2000. The reason he was there was to "open" the Watkin path, and research claims this to be the first designated footpath in Britain!

    As the cwm opened out, we turned rightwards and began the long climb up the flanks of Lliwedd towards Bwlch Ciliau.













    Tobey


    Chris and Nige






    After the cwm, where a cold wind stopped us from hanging around for too long taking on snacks, we headed diagonally across the slopes of Yr Wyddfa, the summit pyramid of Snowdon. Mostly, this is a good path, but halfway there is a notorious steep and loose section, that has been a bit of an accident black spot over the years. We took this carefully, but it was easy enough.






    By now, we were in a windy cloud. As is so often the case on Welsh mountains! Gaining the final summit ridge, we headed on up to the summit, with its incongruous, and closed, station and cafe. Beyond, a very damp and cold summit cairn. We didn't stay there long.





    Picture from Lynne.



    Hiding behind the station walls with a crowd of others, cold and damp, with mud and litter about, was not the nicest lunch spot. It was, though, the only shelter about, so we shared out hot chocolate and got on with it. Soon enough, we were heading down again.


    We'd planned to take a different route down, over Bwlch Main and down the south ridge, thus completing a round of Cwm Llan.






    Conditions weren't entirely beautiful.






    Bwlch Main is a fantastic easy, but quite narrow, ridge. Its a shame we couldn't really appreciate it.






    The south ridge turned out to be a delightful descent, though. I'd done it (many) years ago, but had little memory of it. Steep but good going brought us to a short scrambly bit.








    Finally the mists were clearing, and the views were excellent.















    Reaching the shelter of the cwm again, we could relax for the final descent, knowing we'd made it to safe slopes before dusk. Tobey had so much energy left he was skipping down the hill, and badgering us all to let him walk, alone in the dark, the extra two miles back to the campsite from the cars.












    Reaching the main path completed the circle, and half an hour later we were back at the car just as dusk fell.






    This is an excellent way to do Snowdon, much wilder and quieter than the opposite side, and the Llanberis, PYG and Miner's Tracks. The short nasty bit might be best avoided by those unfamiliar with hill terrain, and certainly in icy conditions unless you're experts, but otherwise the whole walk was excellent, despite the clag.



    Now for the main event. New Year's Eve!


    The tarp was pretty sheltered, facing the river. It was just like wild camping, with nobody else nearby except for a friendly young couple about 30m away. We had LOTS of wood, so got the fire going. Over the course of the evening, we ate and drank. Baked Camembert was followed by my usual New Year chicken fajitas. Here Lynne's Muurikka fire pan/skillet thing was superb.












    Later, the guitar came out. We were also serenaded by Ben, one of our neighbours. He spent a year in the Appalachian mountains, and was so inspired by the music, he learnt the fiddle. The Appalachian folk tunes he played were so atmospheric, a wonderful accompaniment to sitting by fire and water. The stars came and went, at times a wonderful light show above our heads. With the binoculars, we even made out the fuzzy things that turned out to be the Andromeda galaxy and the Orion nebula.


    Photo from Lynne




    As so often happens, we were enjoying ourselves so much that we nearly missed midnight. No fireworks were seen this year, but the sounds of rockets reached us from the villages, bouncing off the mountain walls.






    The morning brought a relaxed start, in a lovely location. With bacon. And sausage. And black pudding (it had been haggis the day before). The Bear had been again, failing to lick clean the meat-juice covered plate we'd left for it.















    Nige and Chris were heading off, hoping to do something on the way home.


    Tobey and I went mountain biking, on an easy trail near Beddgelert, though not without some long climbs. The views, once out of the endless trees, were excellent.












    One final night spent by the fire was just as pleasant, if a little more restrained, and after another trip to a different pub to eat.

    The next day, the forecast was amazing. The tale of a final paddle on the wonderful lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr deserves a thread of its own, so I will finish here with a "Happy New Year" to everybody!

    Llynnau Mymbyr blog: http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...Llynnau-Mymbyr
    Last edited by Mal Grey; 11th-January-2019 at 09:17 AM.

  4. #4
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    A fantastic way to see the year in, Mal, with some great photos to capture the memories. The Watkin / South Ridge is definitely the nicest, quietest way to walk Snowdon. Crib Goch is fun in an airy way, but almost always busy. If you slip right off the Watkin path early on, there's a good route up onto sleepy Gallt y Wenallt, where perfect wild camping spots can be found approaching Lliwedd Bach. A cheeky way to have Snowdon to yourself for the night!
    Happy New Year,
    Jim

  5. #5
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    Fabulous trip and a brilliant way to spend New Year!

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    Excellent stuff Mal....I haven’t been to Snowdon since school days when we used to wild camp just off the Watkin path as mentioned by JimHou.....when knees permit I occasionally visit Tryfan though.

    As to the pub stopping food at 7pm, Joy and I regularly eat at such an establishment right on the coast at Caister-on-Sea......the only way the family can get the work/life balance right and keep costs down is for the mum to stop cooking before daughter needs, bath, bed, story etc.

    Anyway, a Happy 2019 to you.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

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    Good to see the trip itself and a fast growing Tobey
    happy new year (again) mate. Here’s to another one
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  8. #8
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    Great way to see in the New Year. I’d be tempted to wild camp over New Year but not sure Jo would agree.
    John

  9. #9
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    Inspiring - makes me wonder if we should get the Bell Tent and wood stove out next New Year!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Sansum View Post
    Inspiring - makes me wonder if we should get the Bell Tent and wood stove out next New Year!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

    I was thinking similar things .... just don’t go with mal .... he snores and rattles pans a lot (I made the first one up)

    worse places to be for a new year though
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  11. #11
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    Wonderful. I went to University in Bangor and spent many a day climbing in the slate quarries (although an industrial landscape, still magical in their own way) or in the valley and walking up Snowdon or the other classic hills in the area. Looking down the valley is still one of the special visuals etched into my memory.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimHou View Post
    A fantastic way to see the year in, Mal, with some great photos to capture the memories. The Watkin / South Ridge is definitely the nicest, quietest way to walk Snowdon. Crib Goch is fun in an airy way, but almost always busy. If you slip right off the Watkin path early on, there's a good route up onto sleepy Gallt y Wenallt, where perfect wild camping spots can be found approaching Lliwedd Bach. A cheeky way to have Snowdon to yourself for the night!
    Happy New Year,
    Jim
    Looks like an interesting variation. I've only been over Y Lliwedd when doing the horseshoe, so it would be good to do it from the other side.


    Quote Originally Posted by AdrianO View Post
    Fabulous trip and a brilliant way to spend New Year!
    Thanks mate.


    Quote Originally Posted by Patterdale Paddler View Post
    Excellent stuff Mal....I haven’t been to Snowdon since school days when we used to wild camp just off the Watkin path as mentioned by JimHou.....when knees permit I occasionally visit Tryfan though.

    As to the pub stopping food at 7pm, Joy and I regularly eat at such an establishment right on the coast at Caister-on-Sea......the only way the family can get the work/life balance right and keep costs down is for the mum to stop cooking before daughter needs, bath, bed, story etc.

    Anyway, a Happy 2019 to you.
    Tryfan is one of my favourite mountains. Cheers mate.


    Quote Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
    Good to see the trip itself and a fast growing Tobey
    happy new year (again) mate. Here’s to another one
    The little bu88er is ridiculously fit for an 11 year old now. And his knees work.


    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Great way to see in the New Year. I’d be tempted to wild camp over New Year but not sure Jo would agree.
    This felt like wild camping, set up under the tarps with our backs to the campsite and the river in front. But there was a shower block and loos about 300m away...


    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Sansum View Post
    Inspiring - makes me wonder if we should get the Bell Tent and wood stove out next New Year!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
    You know the answer to that, don't you...


    Quote Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
    I was thinking similar things .... just don’t go with mal .... he snores and rattles pans a lot (I made the first one up)

    worse places to be for a new year though
    The Bear did the pan rattling for me....and possibly the snoring too...


    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    Wonderful. I went to University in Bangor and spent many a day climbing in the slate quarries (although an industrial landscape, still magical in their own way) or in the valley and walking up Snowdon or the other classic hills in the area. Looking down the valley is still one of the special visuals etched into my memory.
    I never climbed on slate, and had forgotten must how massive the quarries at Dinorwic are. 550m from lake to highest point on the flanks of Elidir Fawr...

    We train and bussed it from Mansfield to Nant Peris a few times, then walked to wherever we wanted to climb, eg over the hill to Idwal. Nothing more than basic V Diff multi pitch, we'd never done anything bigger than Stanage before!

  13. #13
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    What a superb way to see in the New Year.

    Fabulous.

    Have a wonderful 2019
    There are no bad days on the water......its just that some are better than others!!


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    Quote Originally Posted by glasshouse_bc View Post
    What a superb way to see in the New Year.

    Fabulous.

    Have a wonderful 2019

    Thank you, same goes back at ya!

  15. #15

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    Gorgeous country!
    Check out our North American canoe trips
    http://www.explorethebackcountry.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by stajanleafs View Post
    Gorgeous country!
    It is. Thanks.

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