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A break in Snowdonia – Part 1

Back in September, I spent five days wandering around Snowdonia (my first ‘holiday’ for over a year!) with the dog. Here is a quick run through of the trip!

Very unusually for me I left home without booking a camp site or planning a single route – I just had a vague idea of wanting to walk in The Molwyns. It was approaching late afternoon by the time I arrived in Betws-y-Coed, the gateway into North Snowdonia – there had been plenty of rain in Wales over the last few weeks and the rivers were spectacularly swollen with ominous approaching dark clouds in the distance. My first idea was to head to Dolwyddelan and the camp site near the castle (I like castles and it is on the edge of The Molwyns) – unfortunately the recent rain had meant that the camp site was inaccessible and was closed. So much for not having a plan!

Shallow Falls

I returned to Betws-y-Coed, past the full caravan park in town, and continued down the A5. Just as darkness was descending I came across the Shallow Falls Hotel (and a reassuring camp site sign). It is a terraced camp site – although waterlogged in places (and worn as it was approaching the end of the season) I managed to find a fairly dry flat bit. The heavens opened just I began to get the tent out and the dog watched smugly from the dry car as I pitched the tent in the downpour in double time. Rather than begin my trip damp in the tent, I returned to the pub and pint in hand settled into a corner to dry off. Although the rain quickly eased I felt obliged to have another few pints and sample the pub grub (I was on holiday after all!).

Before heading off in the morning I took the opportunity to visit the Swallow Falls – judging by the roaring of the water audible from the tent I was in for a treat, and I was not disappointed!

Wild Camp in Moelwyns

The weather forecast was not great – although the day was going to start fairly dry with some hill fog, there were going to be heavy showers late afternoon and throughout the night with low hill fog. Not really the ideal conditions for my first solo wild camp. I headed to Croesor, where the peak of Cnicht was only partially obscured by the clouds, and decided to head out with all my kit and see how the conditions developed throughout the day.

I have climbed Cnicht before, so I made it up to the top in good time. The hill fog was patchy with some occasional good views, and there was steady strong wind blowing across the peaks. Just below the summit I stopped to decide my plan of campaign – so far the rain was holding off, so I decided to head deeper north east towards Ysgafell Wen.

Over a lunch of rehydrated potato and salmon in dill sauce I debated my options. I really wanted to wild camp, but I was also very aware that I am not a particularly experienced hill walker and conditions were likely to worsen considerably. Glancing over the map I spotted ‘Llyn Croesor’, a lake just above Croesor Quarry – from Cnicht I had seen the very obvious track that leads up from the village to the quarry. It seemed perfect -a seemingly wild and isolated lake, but with access to an easy to find safe route down the mountain if conditions are difficult.

Rather than retracing my steps, I followed the ridge line for a short while before heading south west along the banks of a (slightly flooded) stream to join the main path to Rhosydd Quarry. I spent a little while exploring the ruins of the water logged quarry trying to imagine what it would have been like in full production. Many of the buildings were demolished when the quarry closed, although some remain partially intact and water was pouring out of the mine entrance (much of the underground workings are permanently under water).

I found a nice flat, dry and fairly sheltered pitch on the shores of Llyn Croesor (it was reassuring, although a little disappointing, to find the lightweight tent peg of a previous resident). It was a bit early to pitch the tent but after a quick check of the route down and a phone call home, the promised rain began, the hill fog descended and a strong wind picked up, so I quickly set up camp. After an evening of reading, thinking and a rehydrated chilli con carni, I fell asleep whilst the elements raged around me.

I awoke to an eerie calm – the wind and the rain had stopped (judging by my broken sleep, just a few hours earlier) and I was surrounded by dense hill fog. After a breakfast of instant porridge I headed to Croesor Quary – the buildings gradually appearing through the fog.  I wandering the remains soaking up the feeling of isolation – it felt like I was in a void with everything around me dissolved to nothing. Eventually I took the easy to follow track back down the mountain –  the real world gradually returning as I dropped below cloud level – and returned to the car.

To be continued…

Comments

Nick Bramhall
Reply

Congratulations on the first solo wild camp! The whole experience looked like it was good for thoughtfulness and reflection and I think it was an excellent plan to have a safe route out – I did exactly the same thing for my first camp. It’s a shame you didn’t get too many views but the abandoned/flooded quarry sounds quite interesting and eerie at the same time!
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James Boulter
Reply

The first solo wild camp is always a memorable one. You can’t get much better an area than the Moelwyns. Did the dog enjoy it?

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