Mind and body pushed to the limits at altitude
The Christmas shopping streets of Ipswich, Stowmarket and Bury St. Edmonds were
left deserted; Blacks and Millets went into administration; the tea shop on the
corner of Museum Street saw no business at all, in fact global consumer
capitalism as we know it was more or less brought to its evil knees as the good
and simple folk of the Ipswich Mountaineering Club headed like a mighty legion
of post apocalyptic warriors for the hills of North Wales.
I think there was about twenty of us altogether and there wasn’t a bunk to be had
(apart from that one in the kitchen area attached to the wall by a single rusty
nail) at the Cwellyn Arms bunkhouse.
Martin, Sue, George and I went up on the Thursday night, ready for a full day on
the Friday. We did the classic N-S Tryfan scramble in cold “wintery” conditions.
That is to say there were the odd flurries of snow, but no need for axes and
crampons. Tryfan- the rock, the aspect is superb. There’s a hundred different
lines to choose, all for yourself, but always taking you higher. It’s sustained
without ever being committing. I love it. We all loved it. The four of us got
into Bwlch Tryfan about 2pm and decided not to attempt Bristly Ridge in what
little day light was left. We did slog up the scree slope to Glyder Fach, and
after a photo session on a cannon stone descended due east towards Llyn Caseg
Fraith and then due north into Cwm Tryfan and back to the car by about 4.30pm.
Having left at around 10.30am, you will note that we weren’t going at record
speed, but a very satisfying day indeed.
Saturday was the big one. An attempt on the country’s highest mountain via the
unconquered, some have said unconquerable south west ridge. Actually it’s a very
pleasant walk up the Rhyd Ddu Path straight out of the bunk house. Maddy, Al,
Adrian, Sue, Jon and I summited in time for lunch. The views at the top were
spectacular. At one point I was able to see as far Al eating a cheese sandwich
next to me. The cafe was closed and the train wasn’t running so we had to walk
down. We did so via the Ranger Path and took a detour up to Clogwyn to pay
homage to Johnny Dawes and the Indian Face. As we sat looking up at the
magnificent wall of granite, enjoying a flask of tea, Adrian suddenly dashed
towards the inscrutable blank face of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. Al and I gave
desperate chase. We knew it was madness; not in this rain, not in those boots,
not in the failing light. He was 50 yards ahead, now 100, it was impossible,
around the lake- disappearing into the mist. At last Al and I fell exhausted at
the very foot of that towering E9, but it was too late. Adrian had already
touched the slab and blown the on-sight. [None of this actually happened.
Jeremy was obviously affected by the altitude. Thankfully, his mental condition
improved marginally once we got nearer to sea level. -Ed]
Sunday was an altogether gentler affair, along the Nantle Ridge- I suspect a
little trodden outpost of Snowdonia. From Rhyd Ddu head to the top of Y Garn and
the Ridge presents an obvious line stretching south-west. The visibility on
Sunday was poor, but occasionally the skies cleared to reveal views across
Caernarfon Bay. It rained and rained and then rained. But this did not deter
Nessie or her handlers. There are a two or three gentle broad ridges running
south east off the Nantlle Ridge. We took the first of these descending off Trum
y Ddysgl, but staying west of the woods until picking up the footpath at
Bwlch-y-ddwy-elor and heading north through the woods. It looked easy enough to
get lost in there, but happily Hannah knew the way. [Eddie and I did get
lost in there the previous year. – Ed] This was a great hill walk, but I
think if you go further along Nanttle Ridge it does get more serious.
[Actually, the party had done the scrambling section. The rest is easy walking.
Arguably one shouldn’t return to high altitude so soon. – Ed]