Battling the Wind

The mountains of Northern Snowdonia can be divided into 4 groups, each one separated from the other by individual valleys, they are from ,west to east, the Moel Hebog Range, the Snowdon Range, the Glyderau Range and the Carneddau Range. After climbing Elidir Fawr last September, I realized that I only had one more mountain to climb in the Glyderau Range, a rather unassuming peak called Gallt yr Ogof (The Cave Hill). At 2503ft Gallt yr Ogof is the smallest peak in the Glyderau and many consider it a sister peak to the nearby Y Foel Goch, which I summited during my ascent up Tryfan in 2014. When I woke up that morning, there were dark clouds in the sky and forecasts of snow later in the day, so I decided I’d take it easy and enjoy a snowy walk up this little peak as opposed to one of the larger mountains. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas.

I started the walk in Capel Curig, a seemingly tiny hamlet but a Mecca for climbers in the British Isles. It is home to the UK National Mountain Centre, which offers training in a wide range outdoor pursuits and Capel Curig’s position means it acts as a starting point for a range of routes into the neighbouring mountain ranges. Capel Curig is also officially the wettest place in the British Isles, and I was sharply reminded on that as I stepped out of my car and into a spray of drizzle. Fortunately this soon stopped, but it was obvious by the muddy ground underfoot that this was place where it rained far too often.

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Capel Curig from above

Following the tarmac track just outside of the car park, I quickly came upon a farm house and turned off into the wild country. To begin with there wasn’t much of a path to follow and I had to find my own way through the grassy rises and false summits, I didn’t have much in the way of directions with me as I was recalling this route from the memory of my walk up Tryfan, unfortunately the last part of that walk had been in complete darkness so it was only natural that I’d struggle to find the path at first.

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Creigiau Gleision

After a bit of wandering (just go up) I came across the path and from then on it was just a simple straight line to follow, all the way to the summit. I started to gain some nice views of the the surrounding mountains such as Creigiau Gleision, the twin peaks of Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du, and Moel Siabod, which looked particularly impressive.

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Moel Siabod
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Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach

After half an hour of walking or so, I reached the ridge known as Cfen y Capel and was greeted with my first sight of Gallt yr Ogof. I was also subsequently passed by a very hardy (crazy) fell runner wearing the thinnest of running shorts. Climbing onto this ridge also allowed me my first taste of what was a very brisk breeze blowing in from the south west. This sort of wind can be particularly hazardous to mountain walkers like me as it can make the temperature around you feel several degrees colder. I found myself trying to take photos of the landscape as quickly as possible, as a few seconds outside my ski gloves caused my hands to go numb. Not since my adventures in Iceland had I felt such a bitterly cold wind, but if some crazy fell runner can do it in shorts, then I can do it in my thick winter gear, so I pressed on along Cefn y Capel….

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My first sight of Gallt yr Ogof

…And then immediately wished I hadn’t as my foot sunk into a foot of water, I soon realized that Cfen y Capel is essentially one giant bog. It took a good hour of walking to navigate my way through this treacherous mire and in many places I simply had to abandon the path and head to slightly drier ground.

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The bogs of Cefn y Capel

I eventually reached the end of the bog and the path rose sharply upwards, into the snowy mountainside. I slowly slogged upwards, but with every bit of height I gained the wind got stronger. The path was very exposed to the elements and I was constantly have to cover my face from this tear-inducing gale. I eventually found a bit of shelter behind a dry-stone wall and devoured some much needed Oreo’s, whilst enjoying the sight of the Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Creigiau Gleision and Llyn Cowlyd.

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Llyn Cowlyd, nestled between Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Creigiau Gleision, makes an appearance
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The boggy Cefn y Capel from above

I soon had to move on though and kept heading up the path, however the wind was becoming unbearable and as I neared the summit I diverged from the path and sought a more sheltered route. Eventually, with only a couple of meters to the summit cairn the wind became incredible. For every step I took, I was blown back three more, my coat hood was constantly attempting to strangle me and drag me into the sky. At several points I lost my footing and was almost blown off my feet, if it wasn’t for my trusty walking poles I could have been potentially cast off the mountainside. The wind was so intense that I had to give up walking and crawl the last few feet to the cairn and even then I couldn’t even stretch out my hand to touch the cairn, meanwhile bits of ice, snow and small stones were being chucked into my poor face. In the end I had to literally throw my whole body over at it, claiming the summit, and prominently collapsed, exhausted, behind the cairn; which offered a degree of protection from the wind. Never have I encountered a mountain so determined to kill me.

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The summit…finally
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Looking towards Tryfan and Pen y Ole Wen

Crawling away from the summit, I found some shelter behind a boulder and ate some lunch. The wind, coupled with taking photos, meant that I’d lost feeling in my hands so I didn’t dare remove my ski-gloves. This resulted in the near comical scene of me trying to shove vital crisps into my mouth whilst wearing these thick gloves. I tried to admire the beautiful view before me, but all I could think of was how cold I was. I sat there trying to warm the feeling back into my hands, almost dozing from exhaustion, but I realized that I was only getting colder. I had to get back down the mountain.

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Looking to Carnedd Llewelyn
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A better view of Llyn Cowlyd
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Staring into the wind

Fortunately the way back down was much easier than heading up, primarily because the wind was behind me now. By the time I reached the dry-stone wall again, I’d regained sensation in my hands and was feeling much warmer, however dark clouds were massing over Moel Siabod and all too soon I felt the snow begin to fall.

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Caught in the snow flurry

It snowed numerous times as I made my way down, back through the boggy Cfen y Capel, but I didn’t care, I was just thrilled to be out of that wind. I retraced the path all the way back to my little car and collapsed in the driver’s seat, slapping on the heaters as fast as I could. I was exhausted and cold, but I’d done it, despite the mountain’s best efforts I’d conquered Gallt yr Ogof and thereby all the mountains of Glyderau range. I’d won the battle.

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Snow clouds amass

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

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19 Comments

  1. What a great commentary on the reality of hiking in mountains in weather! The photos are really wonderful – worth the challenges (even the blasted bog – how I hate it when that happens) …. and I thank you for sharing and reminding me that I REALLY need to get out this weekend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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