Snowdon on New Year’s Day

Snowdon on New Year's Day

Boots and a packed lunch in the car, we were following the twisting roads across Wales to the highest peak in the country. It’s not a mountain I am familiar with as the only thing I knew about where we were heading was the car park at the bottom of the Watkin Path. We’d ventured up to one of the first waterfalls on the path last summer, taking a dip to cool off on a hot blue sky day.

The 1st January 2019 obviously looked very different; deciding on how many layers to wear by looking between the seasoned walkers and those less experienced in the car park. I’ve learnt from my mistakes of over-estimating how well my body copes with the cold, so I opt for more layers than less.

Laces tied we cross the road to the stone pillar reading ‘Watkin Path’ that shows the start of our New Year’s Day wander.

The winding roads had already brought us far from any sort of noise that daily life seems to entail these days. Yet, walking up through the trees pushed it all further away.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

We reached the waterfalls that we’d came across last summer. The water still looking just as enticing to jump into. The water so clear, yet it still has a colour you only find from water in the mountains.

Whilst we weren’t expecting to have Snowdon to ourselves, we were glad to have chosen the less popular route to the top. We might not have been able to see much of it with the clouds hanging so low and rain coming down, but it still offered sights to remember. A mountain-side teeming with history and tough work, but now it is something used for leisure.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

At first we were following the river and crossing railway sleeper bridges, but soon we found ourselves ascending steps made up of perfectly placed rocks. We mainly walked alone but did come across other walkers every now and then. Some in two’s, but others in groups with their four-legged friends.

500m.

600m.

700m of elevation.

We were slowly edging closer to the peak.

Fog making visibility difficult and way markers few and far between, we took a turn on what we thought was the path. When walking turned to scrambling, we only then started to think we’d taken a wrong turn. You know, past the point of being able to turn back…not like us at all!

Snowdon on New Year's Day

The only thing I will say is that I feel sorry for the poor guy who followed us thinking we knew where we were going.

Two became three whilst we got ourselves out of the pickle we’d found ourselves in.

A few points of brushing off our bouldering skills later, we all looked at each other when the sound of people reaching the summit came into ear shot.

It was one time I was actually thankful for fog as it meant we had no clue how steep the mountain-side actually was. Although, without the fog maybe we wouldn’t have made the slight navigation error in the first place…

Snowdon on New Year's Day

The thought of being able to have lunch kept me moving up the mountain. We climb the steps to the official summit by doing that typically British thing of forming an orderly queue on the steps and waiting our turn to see the grand total of bugger all. You’ve got to love Wales. Even when the weather’s against you, it can still put a smile on your face.

We head to the side of the closed cafe in order to get out of the howling wind. Our planned lunch stop turned into a quick sandwich break only for us to get moving again.

Our scrambling adventure meant I had to ditch my thick gloves, so the mountain sapped out any sort of warmth my hands had. I was relieved to come across a sign for the Watkin Path that pointed us away from the steep ascent we had just climbed.

This confirmed we had definitely strayed away from the Watkin Path.

We left the swarms of people that had climbed the Pyg track behind and began to feel more human again the warmer we got.

We passed groups on their way up.

We were overtaken by those swiftly on their way down.

But all of a sudden about an hour had passed without us seeing a sole.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

We stopped for a short while as the sun started to burn away the clouds. I threw my arms up in the air and shouted:

“Sun me!”.

The mountain we had just climbed slowly started to reveal itself. The rocks were jagged, but somehow still uniform. Their shadows came and went as the sun tried its hardest to come through.

The further down we got, the more the clouds started to clear. It seems we had quite literally had our heads in the clouds. Still drenched from our 5 hours wandering, we were fairly close to the bottom, only to pass a couple saying:

“We must be over half way now!”

Ryan and I looked at each other and smiled.

Back to the railway sleeper bridges and waterfalls, we breathed a sigh of relief. Then burst out laughing as we followed train of sheep down the path, with one attacking, going for the breakaway.

Then there was a stop Ryan had already anticipated when his eyes fell on a black Labrador who I would soon be giving all of the attention to. We chatted to the family of four, then covered the last stretch back to the car park.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

We got changed out of layers, then stopped at the closest cafe as during the walk Ryan had realised his coat wasn’t exactly waterproof anymore. We sat in the Moel Siabod Cafe with our hands wrapped around cups of coffee desperately trying to warm them up. We were also munching on cake I’d bought after feeling guilty I’d eaten the Mars Bar Ryan was planning on eating…

The cafe was full of friends, families and their woofers in tow. There were no Instagram perfect selfies going on here. It was all wind-swept hair and damp clothes, but it was perfect in the real sense of the word. Everyone was smiling, chatting and completely disconnected from the digital world.

 

 

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

It’s all well and good being the queen of planning a Bank Holiday weekend, but then me and Ryan tend to have our best days out which have been completely spontaneous.

Our spontaneity meant we found ourselves at the foot of Cadair Idris, which has quickly become one of our favourite places.

Walking up Cadair Idris

The sky was hazy but the sun still heated the exposed rocky steps that started the route up one of the many mountains within Snowdonia. Despite dripping in sweat I felt privileged to call Wales my home. Some walkers were coming down, their dogs eager to get to the shade of the trees and the river at the bottom. Some ascending, and like us, completely under-estimated the temperatures that would be present climbing such a steep mountain.

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Over a crest we’d find the never ending steps behind us and more of Cadair Idris revealing itself. All I wanted to do was quicken up the pace to find the lake I fell in love with a few years ago, despite not being able to swim in it yet. Our last time here was our first holiday together. Camping in Dolgellau, which is still one of my favourite holiday memories.

The pace not speeding up quite enough due to me being distracted by an army of Labradors that made me wish Jenson was with us, and a Westie loving life in his owner’s back pack watching the world go by. A previously adventurous dog, but his ageing legs meaning he can’t quite get up the mountains anymore. But you can’t leave him at home can you? He could still come out on the flat after all.

The lake finally came into view.

Blue. Clear. Still. And in the shadows of the crag that led to the top of Cadair Idris.

My body wanted nothing more but to jump in, but the desire to see what the view was like from the top was greater.

Walking up Cadair Idris

Our path got steeper once again, but we did pause every once in a while to take in the view. As much as we rush through our daily lives, we shouldn’t rush in places as beautiful as these.

Now the only thing that stood between us and where we would climb to was loose rocks. So naturally we had to take our time up these.

Coastguard at Cadair Idris

Walking Up Cadair Idris

Coastguard at Cadair IdrisWalking up Cadair Idris

Over a stile we joined families already at the top. Young kids battling with their curiosity to get close to the edge, but being scared to at the same time. Taking photos and making memories. It’s been a while since I’ve seen kids exploring the outdoors and being so happy about it. The parents had no phones, they were just spending time with their kids.

Walking up Cadair Idris

Looking down at the lake, I was eager to get in it so after some photos we made our way back down.

Photographing Cadair Idris

The lake side dotted with others fully immersed with being outdoors.

Skipping stones. Taking a quick dip before the cold water getting the better of them. Brothers trying to push each other in.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

I squeezed into my wetsuit that Ryan had been lugging around in his backpack. He pulled the zip together so I could get it around my shoulders. Then it was time to see if I could beat the demons that stopped me swimming here last time.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

Not confident in my ability (or lacking of) to swim and unsure how my body would react to the cold. A few years on after learning to swim, a Triathlon and a few open water swims around my belt, I was in a bit of a better position than last time.

But it was still a lake up a mountain. It was still going to be cold and I still didn’t think I was a strong swimmer.

So I didn’t get in straight away. Ryan got in before me.

I was looking at the water before me. The darker it got, the deeper it got. The water giving me shock every time it squeezed inside my wetsuit.

After a few dunks of my body in the water, I was finally started to get use to the water.

Ryan waited and let me build my confidence up on my own.

I suddenly found myself pushing off through water and I slowly moved through the water. The coldness of it making it exhilarating. The battles my body has when it gets cold, swimming in such cold water was massively out of my comfort zone.

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I only ventured so far before turning back, but each time I got a little bit further.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

All of a sudden I was getting lost in the beauty of seeing the lake from a different perspective. The crag looked bigger. And the sun catching the surface of the water to make it glisten, contrasting against the deep blue water. It was so quiet, yet my mind completely switched off.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

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My legs may have turned to jelly when it came to come out, but I had the biggest sense of relief. Despite the things I’ve done since, not being able to swim that day a few years ago stuck with me. I kind of knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I’d gone back to Llyn Cau up Cadair Idris.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

There were demons there I needed to conquer.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

Walking back down the mountain I was in the best mood I’d been in for a while. Already planning my birthday so I could come back and swim again.

Swimming in Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

 

Cadair Berwyn

When my alarm started blaring out early on a Sunday morning I wasn’t the most enthused about getting out of bed. But when Ryan said it was blue skies outside, I knew I’d regret turning over and falling back to sleep.

We chucked some sandwiches in a bag with our walking stuff and made our way to Pistyll Rhaedr, which isn’t too far from Llangynog. I was expecting the car park to be full, but we were the first ones there! The cafe wasn’t even open to pay to park.

Cadair Berwyn, Wales

We changed our shoes and started to head out of the car park and up into the hills. We could go left to the top of the waterfall or straight to end up at the top of Cadair Berwyn, which is what we wanted to climb.

Cadair Berwyn, WalesCadair Berwyn, Wales

There was nobody else on the path but us and the skies were clear blue. Not even aeroplane trails in sight.

Cadair Berwyn, Wales

With a lot of climbing, stream hopping and bogginess later, Llyn Lluncaws reveals itself. Looking back on the paths we’ve just walked, there no civilisation in sight. No houses or busy roads, just rolling Welsh hills.

But we weren’t at the top yet. We were about to have our breathe taken away once again.

We had the ridge line to climb to say we were at the top, so it only got steeper.

I’m not going to lie, it was tough going, but at the same time it was so pretty up there we just couldn’t wait to see what the view was like from the top.

We finally made it to the top, and had a 360 degree view from the top. Again still on our own.

The rest of the walk we were following in Trail Magazine meant we went up and down nearby hill tops. The next one we got to had a little fort on the top, which meant we could get out of the wind for lunch.

By this point we were both knackered so we’re glad we’d packed an Easter egg to share at the top. And yes we split it straight down the middle!

The later it got through the day we started to see more people making the most of the weather. We even saw a family on one of the peaks and offered to help them take a family photo. I’ve never seen two young boys so happy to be up such a steep hill! We couldn’t let them get a photo without heir Dad in too!

We may have deviated off the path, but we never got round to figure it out. We got caught out in snow drifts we though were solid, but swallowed Ryan’s legs up to his knees! We got stuck in bog and wandered across a hill trying to get back to the path.

As spontaneous as it was, Cadair Berwyn is yet another hill that captured my heart to stay in my collection of memories forevermore.

Going into the hills is such an escape from everyday life. Polar opposite to what I fill my weekdays with. The weekend is when I can explore.

Exploring Dolgellau:Hike & Swim

My bucket list is endless. My curiosity always gets the better of me when it comes to wanting to try & experience new things. One thing I’ve managed to tick off this list is open water swimming … that happened to be in a lake at the top of a mountain! Meaning there was a hike up to the top first! That path just kept going up…and up…and up! Step after step. Getting up there was a workout in itself!

There was Ryan’s family of experienced swimmers…and me…who nearly put on the wetsuit backwards. What could go wrong? Ha!

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What am I doing?

So there was the battle of getting into the wetsuit and then 2 swimming hats. And then the challenge of getting into the water…which not very surprisingly was rather cold!

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I can swim. I’m just not a very strong one! Some sports I naturally just do better at and swimming isn’t exactly one of them. But you’ve got to try these things right?

Front crawl is about as good as it gets. Breaststroke with my head out of the water? Not a chance. This is water you’re suppose to do so your body gets use to the temperature of the water before putting your head in. Whilst Ryan’s Mum had already swam the length of the lake, I could barely swim a metre. Despite the look on my face…I did actually enjoy it. It was more frustration I couldn’t swim properly in there. But it has given me something to work on this Winter and maybe try again next Summer!

So that’s last the part of ‘Exploring Dolgellau’. Thanks to Ryan’s family for letting me tag along and for showing me round Dolgellau. I loved every minute of it.