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Home arrow Meet Reports arrow Plas-y-Brenin, Snowdonia

Plas-y-Brenin, Snowdonia

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Following a week of vicious and deadly temperatures across Russia where dozens lost their lives in sub-Arctic conditions, anticipation of a consequent eastern chill hitting our shores caused high excitement in the days preceding our annual winter weekend trip to Plas-Y-Brenin. The fact that it was snowing in London on the early Friday evening seemed to justify the hasty inclusion of ice axes and crampons so it was with some disappointment when driving through Betys-Y-Coed we were met with the usual wind, rain and miserable conditions more suitable to mallards than Siberian snow geese. Forecasts for the weekend were so conflicting (anything from +3 to –15 degrees) that little was arranged on the Friday evening as we went to bed. In fact the only thing predictable was the ongoing phenomenon that is a certain soft palate vibrating with varying degrees of loudness throughout the night.

As we lay in our beds (some in the land of Bunkhouse Nod, others struggling to find this mythical place), a light snow fell on higher ground and temperatures dropped leaving a misty, cold stillness that greeted us in the early morning.
Tanya, Tom, Marianne and Ian headed for the Watkin path leading to the summit of Snowdon from the South-East, while Clare, Sandy, Julie and Edward made their way to Llyn Ogwen for a day in the Carneddau (fragmented somewhat by differences in walking pace resulting in a confused finish). Jeremy and Derek were first to leave the bunkhouse in the hope of securing
a car-park space at Pen-Y-Pas before spending the day on the Snowdon horseshoe whilst Wayne and I were grateful to Karen and Chris who dropped us off at the same spot before they set off for Cnicht and we headed for Snowdon via Crib Goch.

Apparently quite keen to see the back of us, Roger hung around until we were gone before "doing a hill in the morning" and something about "doing the coast in the afternoon”.

Crib Goch is hardly unfamiliar territory for most of us but few previous excursions could have equalled the beauty of this one - looking down into icy mists and clouds as the sky opened above us into a vast ocean of sparkling blue. In those few magical minutes we even saw Brockenspectres. Remaining alert to the slippery snow-covered rock beneath our
feet on this precarious ridge, the clouds rose rapidly and disappeared leaving a perfect 360 degrees panorama of Snowdonia bathed in bright sunshine that remained with us for the rest of the day.

The summit of Snowdon served as a temporary meeting point as Ian's group, Jeremy and Derek, and Wayne and I all converged almost simultaneously. After a few minutes the four of us continued round the horseshoe enjoying spectacular views and  glorious sunshine, even stopping to rest a while in the sun-trapped lower slopes of Lliwedd.

Several of the group ate in the Bryn Tyrch pub in Capel Curig while others cooked in the bunkhouse before congregating in the main Plas-Y-Brenin bar later in the evening. Those of us who attended the Saturday night lecture were introduced to the world of rescue dogs and their training and importance to the mountains of Snowdonia. Steve (the handler) entertained us with his slides and Tilly (the dog) entertained herself by pretending to greet us all one-by-one, when in fact doing a recce on what beer she might snaffle later on when we weren’t looking.

Tilly, a ten-year-old Border Collie approaching retirement, has saved just one person in a "successful" 8-year-long career, begging one to question whether two years of labour-intensive training (involving countless games of hide-and-seek in the rain) was really worth it in the long-run. I was personally left wondering whether Tilly's apparent drink problem was related to her actual lack of real success in the mountains or the boredom that afflicts so many young folk growing up in North Wales. Despite all that, I know who I would rather snuggle up to if suffering from exposure on a lonely ridge, and it wouldn't be Steve.

There were a few banging hangovers the following morning, little surprise as the bar is literally within crawling distance of the cottage. The fantastically clear blue skies and bright sun of the day before, accompanied by a much colder chill, felt like the perfect tonic as most of us took the same gentle pace towards the frosty summit of Carnedd Moel Siabod after packing gear and leaving the bunkhouse. As we fragmented into smaller groups with the journey home in mind it was generally agreed that this was one of our most successful meets in recent months as perfect conditions coupled with a good-natured atmosphere (and nearby bar) made for a memorable weekend with some great walking enjoyed by everyone.

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