A weekend in Snowdonia
It’s amazing how much you can do in North Wales in 72 hours. For me, the mountains of Snowdonia are the ultimate adventurer’s playground. I fell in love with this rugged landscape almost at first sight, and when presented with a free August bank holiday weekend, we seized the chance to make a flying visit. Carpe diem, right?
We packed the car full of adventure kit – basically, two multi-day packs including the tent so we could wild camp somewhere, plus the inflatable canoe, just in case the opportunity to paddle around a llyn or two presented itself. Oh, and some spare pants.
On the drive up, we swiftly hatched a plan, which was duly executed – we’d find a campsite on Friday night, wild camp somewhere on Saturday night, and treat ourselves to a night in the famous Pen-y-Gwrd hotel on Sunday before heading back on Monday.
What’s that old adage about the best-laid plans? Finding a campsite turned out to be trickier than anticipated – incredibly, almost all the usual sites were full. We drove to at least three different campsites before we found room to pitch up. Luckily, we found our salvation at the campsite in Nant Peris.
The next morning, after a slight false start, we headed up the path that runs roughly alongside the Afon Gafr to reach the Glyderau range, just south of Foel Goch. We followed the ridge line over Y Garn, past the Devil’s Kitchen to Glyder Fawr, then past the Nameless Cwm and over Castell y Gwynt to Glyder Fach.
From there we headed down to the bwlch, where we had to convince a goat with some pretty fearsome-looking horns to vacate the ladder stile so we could get over it.
After negotiating the goat, we ascended mighty Tryfan via the Far South Peak. Plucking up the courage to hop between Adam and Eve at the summit, we came down off the Heather Terrace and followed the track to Llyn Caseg Fraith, where we’d planned to camp in glorious isolation, beneath the brooding bulk of Tryfan. But of course, it was a bank holiday weekend, and by the time we got there three other tents were already pitched at various points around the lake. Ah well! We found a not-too-boggy patch of flat ground as far away from anyone else as was practicable, and pitched the WickiUp anyway.
We watched the sun set behind the unmistakeable hump of Tryfan, and with growing concern observed lights from head torches twinkling until the early hours across the valley, as the mountain rescue helicopter droned overhead – they’d obviously had a call-out. Safely cocooned in our tent, we drifted off to sleep, feeling vaguely guilty and hoping no-one was in serious trouble.
On Sunday morning, we packed up and headed down the old miner’s track, crossing the fords of Nant Ddu and picking our way down the steep-ish mountainside.
As the famous Pen-y-Gwrd hotel hove into view, the sun emerged, and our minds turned to that question that we always discuss when approaching a pub or inn – “what are you going to have to drink?”
A crisp gin and tonic seemed the ideal option for early afternoon, we decided as we crossed the footbridge at the stream that feeds Llyn Cwnffynnon. We ordered them at the famous hatch, sunk the first ones and checked in. We enjoyed a second round out in the garden, and couldn’t resist a dip in the little pool that serves as the hotel’s swimming pool.
Sitting in the Smoke Room is a privilege reserved for hotel guests, and we made the most of the opportunity, enjoying pints of Guinness and crisp lager as we soaked up the hotel’s unique atmosphere.
A climber’s institution, the Pen y Gwryd hotel is chock full of Snowdonia history, as well as Everest memorabilia from the 1953 British expedition.
On day three, we bid farewell to the friendly staff at the P-y-G, taking a copy of Tales from the Smoke Room and a couple of souvenir mugs with us as mementos of an unforgettable stay. We vowed to return, and soon. We drove along the A498 through the Nantgwynant valley, and parked up at Llyn Gwynant. The wind had picked up, and unusually there were no other kayakers on the lake. But we didn’t want to head home without getting the canoe in the water, so we inflated it and pushed out from the lake shore. Paddling around its edge turned out to be a lot more arduous than anticipated…
We made a slow and somewhat haphazard circumference of the water, fighting a headwind, but eventually got back to the car without capsizing. It was a small triumph, but felt a fitting end to a great Welsh weekend.