Victory favours the Prepared.
It’s something we’ve all heard before, along with the age old ‘be prepared or prepare to fail’. The sentiment is all the same though, and it can be the difference between having the time of your life and being in a world of trouble when up in the mountains. The unpredictability of the wilderness can magnify any issues tenfold, and the more aware of this we are when approaching challenging situations, the more likely we are to be ‘victorious’ in our ventures!
Being prepared can take the form of a few things; the appropriate equipment can take you a long way for a start, but knowledge and attitude can fill in the gaps. There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness, with the latter more prone to getting people in trouble.
Or so we found out on an outing in Snowdonia.
The route was recommended on the OS maps app as a relatively challenging route, peak hopping along the edge of the Llyn Cowlyd Valley, it was to be one of our first routes ‘getting back to it’ after a few years of neglecting the opportunity. Starting in Capel Curig, the route starts off making its way through a small forest, emerging with Clogwyn Mawr on the left-hand side. Heading straight up Clogwyn Mawr provides a nice scramble opportunity, and also allows for the first proper view of what’s to come.
From this point, Crimpiau and Craig Wen can be seen in their rugged form dominating the skyline in front. With good visibility, the route is easy to follow across to Crimpiau and onto Craig Wen, sticking to good ground and snaking between crags and heather to reach the top. It’s often easy to get distracted continually looking in the same direction to which you’re walking, but the real treat is behind you on this route – spectacular views of both Moel Siabod and Glyder Fach can be had here.
On the day we navigated this route, the cloud decided to descend, and descend fast, as we started to peak hop along Creigiau Gleision. This made it all the more interesting, as the ability to gauge distance travelled and distance to travel was impeded massively. But an unforeseen consequence of the change in weather was the time delay it placed on the remainder of the route. Checking and re-checking bearings, layering and de-layering, and wandering into soft ground all meant that, as we descended out of the cloud to the freakishly quiet reservoir, daylight was fading and fading fast.
In this situation there’s a number of things that you can do, but they fall into two categories; full panic mode and keep calm, carry on. As we arrived at the dam, the most amazing sight of the day was captured, as the clouds continued to descend down the lonely reservoir valley, there was sheer silence all around. If I had been told at that moment that we were the only two people left on the planet, I could have believed it. We set about setting up the stove and made ourselves some hot drinks; nothing improves morale better than a hot drink. 20 Minutes later, we broke out the big torch and set about making our way up and through the now threatening valley, following the pathway along the waterline.
At this point, visibility became limited to barely a few metres. The fog was the sort that make car headlights more of a nuisance when you’re driving. Soon, a well-defined path made it up and over the far ridge of the valley and all but disappeared into what could only be described as a bog. During the day, there is no doubt this bog would be easily navigated with the wealth of footbridges across the wet expanse. But, when visibility was down to zero, a repetitive call of “Bog, Bog………Footbridge!” could probably be heard for miles around that evening along with a continuous check of bearings and positions.
Eventually the route intercepts the main road back into Capel Curig, a short walk and you’ll be back at the car to take stock and head home – be sure to have a quick scout around for the local pubs, there’s some corkers in the local area!
It could be interpreted that, for a want of a weather report check, an unplanned night-time return leg would never have happened. But being prepared for that very eventuality paid dividends in this case. A combination of a good torch, a brew kit, good quality insulating layers and gore-tex boots, amongst other bits and bobs, made the difference between making it back to the car – all be it 3 hours over time – and spending a cold, wet, miserable night in the wilderness. Knowing how to approach the situation and having the confidence in your ability to do so ensures that a change in circumstance doesn’t ruin your hike.
For this route, the parking was free behind Joe Brown/Climbers Shop (which doubles as a perfect money hole for some last-minute purchases!) with public toilets too. There’s no ‘stop-offs’ or top-up places along your way so pack everything you need regarding hydration and food and enjoy the wilderness proper.
Follow my Route
Remember to always carry the paper version of the map you’re using! I like to add a trace of my route and date it, providing a record of all the places I’ve been!