Thursday, 29 August 2013

Day Thirteen - Ogwen to Conwy. 18 miles.

Wednesday, 28th August.
Total ascent 1525m (5003ft).

The Grand Finale! Mike made a good call yesterday when he suggested walking round Llyn Ogwen to knock a mile off today's distance. He made another this morning when he woke me up at 7 ready to go. So it was an early full Welsh breakfast (my only blow out) and we were off. I wish I'd stayed in more B&Bs to be honest because Bron Eryri was excellent compared to most of the pubs I'd stayed in. Relaxing and friendly.

We parked by Ogwen and the plan was simple: we would do the first 3 mountains together, then Mike would loop back down to his car and head off home and I would continue over the 637(ish) remaining peaks to Conwy.

The weather was glorious, another bonus for starting early (it wasn't too warm on the very tough initial climb), and stayed glorious until we split on top of Carnedd Llewelyn, though mist was starting to wander in by then.

Tryfan and Llyn Ogwen on a glorious morning.

I'm standing on Pen Yr Ole Wen but I can touch Snowdon! Ho ho ho!

Once Mike went east and I went north (it was odd saying goodbye to someone at 3000ft!) the mist closed in on me for a good hour. This was because it's such a high level ridge and I simply wasn't dropping below it. The path was good though and the route was straight so a compass wasn't needed.

Jennie asked me the other day what I think about when I'm walking. Since then I've tried to remember things but they often just seems to disappear, like my dreams do. My mind drifts most in mist and rain, which is certainly a bad thing, so I tried to remain conscious of it in the mist today. Top Fives are a common one though, as mentioned earlier in the blog. Eg:

Top 5 Kraftwerk songs.
1. Trans-Europe Express/Metal on Metal (the greatest piece of electronic music ever written*).
2. The Man Machine.
3. Home computer.
4. The one whose name I've forgotten off Tour de France.
5. Autobahn (long version).
*Note hyperbolic comment which always accompanies the number one.

Another is talking to myself, obviously, or guessing how long it will take to get to a particular thing ahead of me. Or calculating the radius a dead sheep has been spread out over. The possibilities are endless!

I also tend to be over-surprised by things that wouldn't usually surprise me, and there are some things that never cease to amaze me. Rams' testicles are a good example. Towards the end of the day I saw two (that's two testicles, one ram), and they truly are a wonder of nature. Unlike sheep the ram didn't run away when I passed his field. He just stood there trying to look intimidating, though I knew he was actually unable to move because his testicles were too big. I wondered how many sheep he was expected to service per day. I reckon at least 30, with a bit to spare. Impressive.

After a while I did indeed drop down out of the mist and was striding along at quite a pace. I was hoping for a 6 o'clock finish but Tony Drake played his final Dark Side card, sending the route over an unexpectedly big, lumpy hill, then over a series of pretty but also pretty irritating switchbacks. It could have finished me off but I regained my composure by stopping straight afterwards for a very late lunch.

The weather during the latter stages was beautiful again, so when I finally reached Sychnant Pass, and a road, I totally failed to get past the ice cream van sitting there. I sat down with a cornet 2 miles short of the finish and watched a girl running behind the van every minute or so for a wee, then returning to her mum and telling her she couldn't go. It was a bit off putting so I ate fast and left.

All that was left was to wander over the heather and gorse covered Conwy Mountain to complete the walk.

Aaaaw, pretty!

The final descent to Conwy.

I had to touch Conwy Castle to officially end the walk, as I had at Cardiff Castle to start it last year. On the road leading to it I checked my total ascent for the day and was horrified to discover that it was 1523m, which is 4997ft, so I ran up a nearby flight of steps, waited to check I'd hit 5000, then finished!

I decided to go for a celebratory pint of shandy, and as is traditional every year I chose a pub from hell, this time the Liverpool Arms on the riverfront. It was packed with very drunk people at a worryingly early time, so I downed the pint and made a hasty retreat to the railway station and home.

And so I'll finish, as a former Flintshire County Council colleague would surely approve of, by briefly reflecting:

Yes it is the hardest long distance walk I've done (my total ascent over the 186 miles was 13,523m, or 44,366ft), and thanks to the terrain and especially the weather it's definitely the best. I wore my waterproof for a day and my fleece not at all - amazing. And I used my compass twice. Tony Drake did a fine job planning the route, even if it really plans itself after Dinas Mawddwy, and I can look back on his Dark Side interventions and laugh now. The Doethie Valley on day 2 this year was a real find, but pretty much all of it was interesting at worst and fantastic at best, except the rest of day 2 and the dreadful forest and valley which followed the wind farm.

As for guidance, I transferred the route from the well drawn sketch maps in the guide book onto my OS maps before I left with a highlighter, and used them. My only gripes with the book are that it encourages you to find the most enjoyable route for you, then insists that you visit certain check points (far too many). I wasn't really bothered about these and visited quite a few peaks and places not in the book. Of course I even followed a better looking walk, the Beacons Way, for part of last year.

The book also refers to me not as a walker but a Mountain Connoisseur! This was quite ridiculous and would have made me sound a right pillock if I'd used it ("Serve me next please barman, I'm a mountain connoisseur.")

The website is great, and rightly gives little detail to make sure you buy the book, but is bang up to date with route changes and diversions. But great as it was, next year I'm going to do something easy!

Last but not least, the dog. I have to say that it was the first time I'd ever walked with a dog of my own and it was great company. In particular I was delighted that after just 10 days it was fully trained, as you can see below, to ignore both sheep AND Blaenau Ffestiniog.

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Day Twelve - Pen y Pass to Ogwen. 6.4 miles (+5 back to Capel Curig).

Tuesday, 27th August.
Total ascent 858m (2815ft).

Today turned out far, far better than expected. But first the necessaries. Mike arrived at the quite lovely Bron Eryri B&B just after 6. Carole made us a pot of tea (yes I drank tea!) and gave us some superb cake before we set off to explore. Incredibly, between Capel Curig itself and the B&B (about a mile) there are three pubs and a cafe. We went for a pint in the first pub, then the second. It was obvious by now that I wouldn't get to see the match so we returned to the first pub, Tyn y Coed, to eat. I had a mighty fine beef curry and we chatted and drank for several hours.

So this morning Carole kindly gave us a lift to Pen y Pass and we were off up the Glyders. It was good to have company and especially Mike, who has been a great walking companion over the years and is still a strong walker despite the injuries.

I was expecting a cloudy day but not the drama we actually got, which was mist at various times above us, below us and around us. So on the way up we had fantastic views of Snowdon surrounded by mist, and on the way down we had fantastic views of Tryfan and the Carneddau surrounded by mist. It was the middle bit though which was the best.

We reached the top of Glyder Fawr with ease, but headed off quickly for the far more interesting summit of Glyder Fach. It's such a great summit that we lingered for quite a while, the entire time in thick mist. We clambered up Castell y Gwynt (castle of the wind), a spiky rock formation, posed for photos on the cantilever and ate a superb Bron Eryri packed lunch. And watching rocks and whole mountains looming out of the mist then disappearing just as quickly was fascinating. It was so different to any other time I've been up there.

Once down we had a cuppa (tea again!) at Ogwen cafe and walked around the lake to knock a mile off tomorrow's epic, before walking back to Capel Curig in glorious sunshine. We managed to avoid one of the 3 pubs on the way back but not the other 2. So I'll end prematurely because it's time for food and more drink. It'll be odd finishing tomorrow but it will be a heck of a climax across my favourite mountain range.

So here are a few photos from today, though again the zoomed ones will probably be blurred.

Mike, aka Fatman, with Snowdon behind.


Me! On top of Glyder Fach.

Me again! On the cantilever.

The summit of Tryfan.

Tryfan and the Carneddau.

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

Monday, 26 August 2013

Day Eleven - Beddgelert to Pen y Pass. 10.4 miles.

Monday, 26th August.
Total ascent 1100m (3609ft).

What a strange day.

I had originally intended an early start but decided that however early I started the summit of Snowdon would be swarming. So I opted for a normal start (for me that's up at 8:30 and away at 10) as I only had 10 and a half miles to do. I hadn't considered the third option, which was the fire alarm going off at 7 (it could have been worse I suppose).

It just so happened that, not for the first time this trip, my room was also the fire exit (2nd floor). I was expecting people to start running through my room screaming but nothing happened. As I couldn't smell anything I got dressed, went to the loo, washed, cleaned my teeth, brushed my hair, added DO and hay fever eye drops, put on sun tan lotion, filled my water bottles, packed my bag and wandered out of the fire exit and across a metal bridge. I then sat down on the hill behind the hotel and waited. I then got up and ran back in again because there were midges everywhere. Fire or midges? I know what I'd choose.

It was now 7:45 so I went down for breakfast. The dining room was packed with very awake people and a landlord who had obviously been hoping to start a bit later than this! I only wanted scrambled eggs on toast so I was served quickly. When they arrived I strained a strange liquid off them, had a few mouthfuls, couldn't taste anything and opted for jam instead.

Not a great start to a day I wasn't expecting to be great. I was walking by 8:45, spookily enough along a shady lane followed by a riverside path. Both were better at this end of the day, though I had the cobweb problem again on the riverside path.

The iPhone at full zoom! Enlarging picture not recommended.

After an hour or so I was at the bottom of my one and only target today, Snowdon. I was heading up the Watkin Path initially, then veering up west to a bwlch and along the Clogwyn Ridge to the summit. The Watkin path starts at just 40m so it's quite a climb.

The day was dominated by 3 related (on the day) things: sun, water and children. Firstly it was noticeably warmer than yesterday and there was no shade to be found. Or breeze for that matter until I got onto the ridge. Secondly I drank 3 litres of water going up (albeit with a large rucksack), filled up at the top and drank 2 more on the way down, plus a can of ginger beer. Thirdly, oh God, thirdly. I'll come back to it when I'm mentally ready.

Climbing out of the valley was tough and the ridge was steep, but I made decent progress. I knew I was getting near to the end of my trek when I met the man from Buckley pet shop! To be honest I'd seen very few people so far so was quite happy, but knew it was about to change because I could see ahead to the summit, with some impressive mist to my left. Of course I couldn't see the actual summit because so many people were sitting on it. I clambered over yet more rocks and I was almost there, and everything did indeed change.

Impressive mist.

My brief was simple - get to the 'almost as gruesome as the old cafe' cafe, fill up with water and, in true Monty Python and the Holy Grail style, "run away, run away!" The first two were easily achieved but the third was tricky, because I would have to queue up to run away, in fact I'd have to queue up to do anything.

I forced my way through to the railway line and began my descent, then at the junction where the paths split had a perverse desire to sit down and people watch. So I did. Most people were suffering. Those having the most success seemed to be coming up the wheelchair ramp from Llanberis. It may be a long way and begin low down but it's one of the easiest walks in Snowdonia, and it was in the breeze.

Those coming up the Miners' / Pyg Track however were not having any success at all, despite starting much higher, nor any sort of breeze. This was my descent unfortunately, and as it was only 1:30 I found myself going down the carriageway the wrong way.

Crib Goch and more mist.

Preachy time. It's simple. If it's as hot as it was today you do not take your kids up Snowdon if none of you are capable of walking up it. Because it's hard! And it was obvious that pretty much everyone thought they would get themselves and their children to the top, even those lying comatose and groaning for water 1500ft from the summit.

I have never seen so many children crying, or adults arguing, in one place in my life. And as for blatant lying: "How far is it now Daddy?" "Oh we're nearly there." NO, YOU'RE NOT NEARLY THERE AT ALL! LOOK, THERE'S THE TOP, YOU CAN SEE IT! IT'S THAT POINTY THING RIGHT UP THERE AND IT'S MILES AWAY!

See, it is miles away! The summit, as seen from the M6.

I wanted to hold up a big placard like the man in the middle of Chester and shout, "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" But I didn't have one. Relief came when the Pyg Track forked away from the Miners' Track, but I was still within sight of Pen y Pass, the end of the walk, when it was finally peaceful enough to stop for lunch!

So I finished at 3:15 and caught a bus straight down to Capel Curig, where I am staying for 2 nights in a B&B (no, not a pub!). This means a day sack only will be needed for tomorrow's 5.4 mile, er, saunter over the Glyders. Capel Curig is, in my head, the centre of the Welsh walking universe. It consists of a t-junction, two walking shops and a cafe. It just feels so perfectly located for everything that is enormous around here. I'm sitting at the cafe now, eating their fantastic Welsh cakes, drinking coffee and watching the world go by. In fact it feels as if most of the world has gone by in the last hour.

The early finish has allowed me to type this post early, before Mike gets here. He's staying for two nights and just doing tomorrow's walk because he's got knee and Achilles injuries (yes, we're all at it!), and of course because he's scared of the last day's walk. He'd just moan if I started blogging, and I don't want him moaning any more than he will when I tell him we need to find a pub showing the Utd v Chelsea match.

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Day Ten - Maentwrog to Beddgelert. 13.6 miles.

Sunday, 25th August.
Total ascent 1224m (4016ft).

I was a bit dubious about breakfast this morning. My cornflake milk was past its best and my sausages were a bit soggy looking and had exploded. The coffee was great though, which is always the top priority. Thinking back to last night, I met the landlord after I'd checked in and had a bath, and when I went down to the bar to order my now customary pint of milk I wasn't sure he was going to oblige until he realised I was a resident. Then he became even more obliging when he realised I was on my own. Did he think I was a hotel inspector disguised as a bedraggled wreck? Either way I received excellent service from the waitress (no, not that sort of excellent!) and decided to take a clipboard with me on future walks.

Oh yes, the milk. I can't remember if I've mentioned this in a previous post, but recently when I was at mum's house there was a programme on telly where half of a rugby team were given power drinks for recovery after a match, and the other half were given milk. The milk half recovered much more successfully, so I started drinking a pint after every long run I did. I have now extended it to this walk, so have asked for a pint of milk in every place I've stayed (apart from the Star at Dylife, as I could picture her getting in the car and driving 15 miles to find one!). All have been obliging, aside from the initial hesitancy yesterday. It's amazing how many people stare at you if you drink milk as an adult in a pub, though even a few stalwart drinkers sitting at the bar in a couple of places have commented, "Oh, that looks good", or, "You can't beat milk." And you know what, they're right, a pint of milk does look great and it's gorgeous.

I snuck my soggy sausages up to my room and prepared for a Bank Holiday Sunday in the sun, over the marvellous Moelwyns. My initial ascent was through a lovely wood, and I was the first to pass through it that morning. I know this because by the end I was completely wrapped up in cobwebs, which the spiders had worked all through the night to irritate me with. Oh and I saw an impressive goat and took a probably blurry photo.

The Ffestiniog steam railway passes through the Vale of Ffestiniog (appropriately enough), where I was this morning. At one point it does a 360 degree loop to gain height, and I found myself in the middle of that loop when a train was due, so I waited to see it. Even though I'd been on one as recently as my day off last Wednesday I was still excited, but not as excited as several other men with big cameras and long lenses, who were positively sweating with anticipation. Anyway here is the train on the loop.

The train on the loop.

I waved as it went past, and lots of passengers waved back, seemingly unaware that they were being taken to Blaenau Ffestiniog. When they got off the train they would be forgiven for thinking they'd been dropped off in an open prison.

If you look a map of Snowdonia National Park there is a hole in it. This is Blaenau Ffestiniog. Snowdonia National Park didn't want it, so its sole purpose is as the town at the end if the Ffestiniog railway. Half an hour later I met the railway again, and this time a train was coming back down to Porthmadog. This time the passengers sported expressions which were a combination of relief mixed with disbelief.

Another train. Full horror of Blaenau in far distance.

I sense a bumper photo post today, as (nearly) everything looked good in the sun. My first climb up Moelwyn Mawr was steep and sunny, but at least the breeze was now coming from the east so it kept me quite cool. After faffing around for ages watching trains I worked hard to make up time and positively powered to the summit.

The Moelwyns are one of my favourite ranges and remind me of a royal crown, with all the main peaks round the outside and a spongy centre. Unfortunately this monarch's crown has been brutally cleaved between Moelwyn Mawr and Cnicht, leaving a long walk round to get from one to the other. I dropped down to some old slate mine buildings, a huge feature of the area, then uphill to within yards of a small lake Jen and I had wild camped at a couple of years ago. It's hidden from the path in a secluded, raised dip (imagine a potty!) and was a wonderful spot to pitch a tent.

Eventually I reached the summit of Cnicht, one of the finest places on Earth. A pointy, rocky and grassy place with tremendous views. It also has the benefit of looking like a Welsh Matterhorn, though only from the west, as to the east it's just the end of a long ridge. Today I was approaching from the east and descending the steep bit. I had a late lunch at the top (and despite the breakfast sausage incident my gammon ham and cheese salad sandwiches were the best packed lunch of the walk so far) before dropping down towards Beddgelert. It's not a descent to be taken lightly, a couple of bits are scrambles, and a few people were struggling (yes there were other people around at times today!). I had a chat with a woman who was with a younger couple. She seemed far more experienced than they did, so I was a bit concerned when she was told to head right at a fork, when the path was very obviously left. I didn't see them again.

Moelwyn Mawr from Cnicht.

At 16:31 I was put in the shade by a cloud. This was the first of the day and it lasted less than a minute, as did the second at 17:01 and the third at 17:14. There were no more. I'd rationed my 3 and a half litres of water really well though, and still had half a litre for emergencies.

Looking back to Cnicht.

So I got to the bottom and came to a road. I had 2 miles to go, 1 along a road and the last along the riverside path to Beddgelert. I was pretty exhausted though and ready for a gentle ending. I wasn't prepared for the return of Tony Drake's dark side:

Hi Kevin. Did you enjoy today's walk?
Yes Tony, it was magnificent, thank you.
And are you ready for a relaxing mile along this shady lane?
Yes Tony I am.
This shady lane that goes up and up and up.
No Tony, please.... no more!
Then down and down and down.
Oh thank you so much Tony, I feel better now.
So you'll be ready for a stroll on the riverside path then?
Oh yes please, Tony!
This path which goes up and down, up and down, up and down.
Oh no Tony, don't do this to me.
And here come some couples, Kevin.
No, not couples!
Yes Kevin, and they're coming towards you. And they're all brand new relationships.
No, please, anything but brand new relationships!!!
Yes Kevin. And you know what that means. It means that however steep the path is, however narrow it is, they will insist on holding hands.
Aaasssaarrrrgggghhh! Stop this Tony, please! I'm exhausted and I'm going to be pushed into the river by a brand new relationship! I give in! Help!!!

And at that precise moment the valley widened and the path levelled, leaving a gentle stroll into Beddgelert. I may have sold my soul to Tony Drake but I could have sold it to someone worse, like, say, Jimmy Saville.

Beddgelert is the prettiest village in Snowdonia by a country mile, but also one of the busiest, so I was straight into Touristland. The first people I saw were a family of 4. Dad was putting a baby in a buggy and an older child was sitting on the grass, screaming for mummy. Dad was telling him that mummy had gone to the toilet. Mummy was behind a tree with her head in her hands, crying. I moved on.

Beddgelert may be pretty, but its pubs aren't up to much. I'm staying in the dubious Prince Llewelyn but ate a good chicken enchilada in the better Tanronnen Inn. I had a chat with a man who has actually done the Cambrian Way, the first I've ever met. After our chat I was even more grateful for the weather I've had!

Oh and I forgot this other little train sort of thing, which was the first to pass me this morning. I still don't know what was going on (is it fourth class?) but the man at the front kept blowing a trumpet and they were all singing!

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day Nine - Cym Bychan to Maentwrog. 9.5 miles.

Saturday, 24th August.
Total ascent 828m (2716ft).

I phoned Mike today at 5pm about coming to join me for a day or two. He was at home in Otley and it had been raining all day (and Sophie is at Leeds Festival which is nearby. Oh dear). On the Rhinogs it had just clouded over after being sunny for all but the very beginning of the walk at Cym Bychan (where Jen dropped me off again before her and Liz headed home). Still I knew I'd been lucky because the cloud was down on most of the inland peaks, leaving just a strip of sunshine along the coastal areas.

The wonderful Cym Bychan. With sloping sea!

I moaned a bit yesterday about the Rhinogs but today, on similar terrain but in sunshine, things were vastly better. The problem with the big Rhinogs is the lack of opportunity to safely walk where you like, so on the little Rhinogs today this wasn't a problem. I was able to hop, skip and gambol to my heart's content over five fun lumps. Visibility was fantastic too, and I could make out the towns on the Lleyn Peninsula, as well as Portmeirion nearby directly below me.

As with yesterday the first 4 miles took 4 hours, then I dropped down and could accelerate towards Llyn Trawsfynydd. The cloud cover arrived as I neared the lake, but I'd almost finished a short and pretty laid back day by then.

Despite the fun and frolicking, I did have a fall to contend with today. I was descending the third peak, Foel Penolau, and was virtually at the bottom. I went to step onto a rock which was about a metre cubed, pretty big, and the entire thing rocked. Thankfully it was surrounded by heather so I fell into that with my pack landing on the rock. I got away with it basically, apart from a grazed and slightly bruised left arm, but it could have been very different had there been more rocks around (and there are plenty up here!).

I'm staying at the Grapes Hotel in Maentwrog. I thought I knew it from a previous visit but when I got here I'd never seen it in my life! It's very nice indeed, the best I've stayed in on my own (and will remain the best, as I definitely know tomorrow's pub, then I'm in a B&B). My steak and ale pie was good, but not as good as the one in Dinas Mawddwy. As it's Saturday, I guess the only decent thing to do is order another pint of Evan Evans Cwrw and watch Match of the Day.

Oh and finally - I've totally confused myself in previous posts about the Snowdon day. It's Bank Holiday Monday, not Sunday, which probably won't make a scrap of difference to the number of people on top.

Oh and definitely finally a big "HELLO" to whoever is reading this blog in USA/Alaska, Russia, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Greece. I hope it doesn't put you off visiting Wales!

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

Friday, 23 August 2013

Day Eight - Barmouth to Cym Bychan. 14.1 miles.

Friday 23rd August.
Total ascent 1545m (5068ft).

Well actually it was Cym Bychan to Barmouth, meaning I've done this section backwards. This is so Jen could drop me off at Cym Bychan rather than trying to find me there, which would not be easy. And I had no idea when I'd be there anyway, because these are THE RHINOGS!!!

Well, I've built them up, so maybe I need to knock them down (not literally, that would be hard, and after having said that their remoteness is extremely classy seeing as Shell Island is 8 miles away). The Rhinogs are lumpy, rocky and heathery. They aren't very high but they are very difficult to navigate. They are not remotely photogenic. They are not actually that much fun to walk in.

Will that do? Well possibly not. I'd been a bit worried about today, but that was wiped out the moment I looked out of the window this morning and saw that the summits were clear. Navigation would not be a problem, only lumpy walking. I suppose I've created my own contradiction here, because I wouldn't like to walk in the Rhinogs in mist because I could get lost, but maybe that's the most interesting thing about them.

Fortunately the lumpy stuff only makes up the northern and central Rhinogs and I was, for a change, heading south. Jen dropped me off at the wonderful spot that is Cym Bychan and I set off up the Roman Steps, a series of rock, er, steps. They are so named because the Romans built them, but controversy reigns. Are they Roman (or are they dancer?). Who knows but they make the ascent of Rhinog Fawr easier. Despite the lumpiness and rockiness and heatheriness I was soon at Llyn Du (that's a lakey, pondy sort of thing). I walked round it and decided to have a quick rest before the final pull up to Rhinog Fawr.

So here I was, in the Mecca of solitude. The quietest spot in the least visited mountains in North Wales. My mind and and body were perfectly relaxed. "Hello.", said a singy songy, French sounding voice. I looked in the direction of the voice and saw a couple waving at me. They were on the other side of the lake, where I'd come from, and they both had jumpers over their shoulders tied at the front. They were also both wearing trainers at best. I said hello but was utterly confused. Had they really walked up the path to the lake behind me without me noticing? How had they done it without boots? How had they done it looking like they were out for a picnic? Why had they called me? I shouted back, "Are you ok?" and they gave the thumbs up, so I set off again.

Half an hour later, at the summit, I was beginning to spook myself out. Would they be ok? Even worse, had they been a figment of my imagination? Were they the ghosts of a couple who had died in that very spot years ago, tumbling off a cliff wearing jumpers tied round their shoulders? Would they suddenly appear in front of me, say, "It's your time now." and carve me up with a chainsaw? They didn't, and I made a mental note not to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Picnic at Hanging Rock for a while.

On the way down I met three other people. Two men who were Duke of Ed' instructors and were keeping an eye on the kids (did they really send them up here?) and a man who looked like the happiest person on earth. He insisted in taking a photo of the dog before bounding off up the hillside.

The next couple of hours were spent negotiating Rhinog Fach and the highest peak, Y Llethr at 756m, before the scenery changed completely, as did the weather (sort of). Suddenly I was walking on grass instead of rocks and the weather had closed in. I was, for the first time on the entire walk, in mist. Luckily the navigational difficulties were over because I was next to 'THE WALL', a stunning 6ft piece of work which I met on Rhinog Fach and which stayed with me for almost the remaining 9 or 10 miles of the walk.

The mist spent the next hour or so falling and lifting, falling and lifting, until it gave up altogether and the sun came out. Here are two photos of Y Llethr taken from almost the same place, 3 minutes apart.

Now you see it... you don't.

So I followed the wall over Diffwys and a host of other hills, gradually dropping, with the Mawddach Estuary on one side and the sea in the other, until I came to Barmouth once again.

It's our last night in the George III Hotel at Penmaenpool. Tomorrow Jen and Liz head off home and I head to Maentwrog. The Bank Holiday is upon us and I will be on top of Snowdon on Sunday. Hooray!

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Day Seven - Bwlch Llyn Bach to Barmouth. 12.3 miles.

Thursday 22nd August.
Total ascent 985m (3231ft).

What a day's weather that was! Does that make sense? Well what I meant was the weather was unexpectedly fantastic, which was great until right at the end when I'd drunk all my water and started to wilt.

I'll keep this to the point as Jen and Liz are here and won't want to watch me tapping all evening. I started from the bwlch with mist lurking on the shoulder of Cadair Idris, at about 2200ft. After climbing about 100ft I met two brummies having a rest and a fag. They obviously weren't walking, and at a level area another 100ft up were at least 30 men and boys, most with cameras. Were they paparazzi? And if so who were they waiting for on a mountainside? It transpired that they were waiting for jets to fly through the bwlch so they could photograph them. Jet fighters are quite common in the Snowdonia valleys, but not timetabled, so they could only wait and hope. This was at 10am. By 4 there had been just one flyover, but sadly not (I think) where they were waiting.

As Jen had dropped me off and was meeting me at the end I was able to take a much lighter day sack today, so I hammered up the east slopes to the summit. The last time I'd been up Cadair Idris it had snowed heavily the night before and was misty on top, a white mist which blended into the white snow and convinced me that I'd died! Today the mist cleared as I climbed so the top was clear when I got there. I hadn't expected this to be honest as the mist had been quite low and I was hitting the summit early in the day. As it turned out the mist didn't just lift, the clouds completely disappeared, leaving a glorious blue sky.

Cadair Idris - a beastie!

It very quickly became hot, and on the way down from the summit I bumped into a man who was about my age, hugely overweight and wearing shorts and a t-shirt. But that was it. He had no pack at all and looked shattered. I asked him if he was ok and he said yes. Then he asked how far it was to the top. I said about 1000ft and asked if he wanted a drink. He then drank a substantial amount of one of my water bottles so I told him to go down. It seemed a bit odd giving someone my own age a teacherly command, and he said he'd see how he was in a few minutes. Thankfully a few minutes later he did indeed do as he was told.

Looking ahead to Barmouth.

Another highlight today after I had descended were the Cregennen Lakes. I was wondering why the route was bothering with them but they were stunning, with the Cadair Idris ridge as a backdrop. Shortly after I dropped down to the railway bridge across the estuary to Barmouth. It's ridiculously long, at least a mile, and in the heat felt like longer. When I reached Barmouth I was desperate for shade, which I found, a pint of milk, which I also found, an ice cream, which I easily found, and Jen and Liz, which proved trickier but it all ended happily.

Cregennen Lakes - note fertile island!

As a quick résumé - yesterday was my day off so we drove to Aberystwyth and took the steam train to Devil's Bridge to see the 3 famous bridges I'd missed on Saturday because of the rain. The hotel we are staying in is great. It's the George III and it's right next to the river on the Mawddach Estuary.

So the next 2 days across the Rhinogs are the big ones. Not in terms of height but in terms of difficulty and navigation. And tomorrow's forecast isn't great. Still, survive those and I'm home and possibly dry!

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone