Flashback Walks: Creigiau Gleision 29/11/2014

On this particular November morning I awoke to absolutely blazing sunshine and decided today would be a perfect day to go out and do a bit of mountain hiking, with an already a decent sounding summit in mind. You see, I have a particular penchant for smaller little-known summits, so while some people enjoy scaling the 3000 foot peaks such as Snowdon and Carnedd Llewelyn, I am just as content hiking on top of some small unoccupied summit. So when I read about Creigiau Gleision, near Capel Curig, it sounded absolutely perfect. Since Gleision is only 2,224 feet I reckoned that it would only take a few hours to climb, so I was in no rush to get out of bed. How wrong I was.

When I finally did set off, it was already shaking up to be an unusually hot winters day. Parking in Capel Curig, I set off from St Curig’s Church along a path leading through a semi-enclosed field. Passing the dry-stone wall at the end of the field, I took the right fork that led off into a small woodland. After a while I came upon a little wooden bridge and followed the path branching to the left, keeping the stream in sight. Looking back I was able see all along the valley to the towering peaks of Snowdon, miles in the distance.

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Snowdon rises above the morning haze

For this first part of the journey, the walk was extremely pleasant, however during all this time I gained very little height and the path kept on going. I must have been walking for almost two hours by the time I finally reached my turn off and it was already mid afternoon. The beautiful sight of Snowdon had vanished in a thick haze that would continue to obscure my view throughout this walk.

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I followed the length of the stream to the Crimpiau
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And the path just kept on going

I eventually reached the foot of my first ascent, Crimpiau, from what I had read, this ascent would lead me onto a ridge that would guide me onto the summit of Creigiau Gleision. It was fair to say that by this time I had lost all sense of direction and didn’t actually know where I was in proximity to the mountain, but I hoped that the view from the Crimpiau would allow me to get my bearings. Taking the path diagonally up the side of the Crimpiau, I was suddenly confronted by the first real bit of ascent in this walk. It was certainly a slog, but I soon made my way onto the Crimpiau’s summit. My heart immediately sank, what I saw wasn’t a ridge as such but instead a series of hills and cols rising and falling, one after the other, at the end of it all stood Creigiau Gleision.

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View of Craig Wren and Creigiau Gleision from the summit of Crimpiau

Already it was one in the afternoon and it appeared that I had hours still to walk. Nevertheless I pressed on, heading down the col, losing all that precious height, before slogging back up onto another hill called Craig Wren. The seemingly continuous height gain and subsequent loss of it, as well as the burning sun made walking a real struggle. Passing over Craig Wren, I soon lost the path among the scree and broken rocks and I was left stumbling around on my increasingly aching legs.

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One small upside was this lovely little foel

At this point I reached what I refer to as the ‘Walker’s Delirium’, during which I lost all sense of time and direction and couldn’t help but sing and murmur nonsense to myself, whilst my mind was filled with a constant desire to just give up; but somehow my legs kept on walking forward. Eventually I had no choice but to collapse and devour some lunch.

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Tryfan and the Carneddau range obscured by the haze

After this much needed rest I manged to continue onward to Creigiau Glesion’s summit, of which there are three, although they are pretty indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape, however a cairn does mark the highest point. By the time I had reached the summit the sun was already low in the sky and I was afraid that I’d soon be stumbling down this mountain in the dark. However the view from the top was unarguably beautiful, with the neighboring and wonderfully named mountain Pen Llithrig Y Wrach (the slippery peak of the witch being its English translation) dominating the view from northern side, with the low hills of the Carneddau spreading out to the south. Directly below me was the deep blue waters of Llyn Cowlyd, the deepest lake in North Wales. However with sun not far from setting I had little time to waste.

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The summit of Creigiau Gleision with Pen Llithrig y Wrach in the background

Coming off the summit of Creigiau Glesion, I headed east to where I believed a path would lead me down to the cwm. But instead I decided to take a short cut and cut down into one of the mountain’s many grassy gullies and head directly towards the lake. The undergrowth was thick and hid pools of water, so my pace was a lot slower than I’d hope but I soon found myself on the shores of Llyn Cowlyd with the sun still up, just.

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I reach the shores of Llyn Cowlyd

However I still had to face the long route around Llyn Cowlyd and back down to Capel Curig and about half way along the shoreline, the sun finally set on me. The light was quickly diminishing but I manged to reach the end of Llyn Cowlyd with still some light in sky, which was thankful because the path suddenly became a lot steeper and looser. Fortunately this was the last little bit of height to be gained for the day and I soon found myself heading downwards.

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My last few moments of light….

But by this time it had officially become night and I had to reach into my rucksack to pull out my head torch. At the same time the stony path had dissolved into an indented grassy knoll and was barely visible in my torchlight. On top of this my head torch’s screws were much too loose and every time I took a step the torch bean would fall down to my feet, completely obscuring my view, so I resorted to simply holding it, as one would an ordinary torch. Since I was no long racing against the light I took considerable time working my way down, constantly checking my map and examining where I was placing my feet. More than once I found myself stumbling off the path and having to carefully retrace my steps. The path itself was occasionally broken up by small wooden platforms that kept me out of the worse of the mud and these were instrumental in helping me find the path. Eventually after an hour and a half of stumbling down in the darkness I spied farmhouse lights and soon after I reached the style that led onto the main A5 road. So for the last fifteenth minutes I plodded back to Capel Curig along the roadside, fortunately I’d remember to pack my bright red coat, which made me feel a little safer on a road which was still busy with oncoming traffic. When I finally reached my car, I let out a huge sigh of relief; it had been around eleven in the morning when I started walking and it was now nearing seven at night, I was just glad that it was finally all over.

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Sunset on Creigiau Gleision

Without batting an eyelid I would say that this was the hardest single mountain walk I’ve ever done, but it also taught me a series of valuable lessons. Firstly when climbing a mountain, always get there early (especially in the winter), don’t wait around because a thousand things could go wrong and they will. Secondly night walking is fine as long as you keep calm and take your time. Thirdly just because a mountain is smaller than others doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own challenges. And finally when walking alone always make sure someone knows where your going and keep your phone with you at all times, fully charged. Whilst walking down that mountain I was constantly dogged by fears that if I’d fallen and twisted an ankle or broken something, then nobody would know where I was.

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Maybe I’ll just do Pen Llithrig y Wrach next time…looks much simpler

Thus concludes my tale, if you enjoyed this story feel free to write in the comments, or leave a like and thanks for reading.

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