2005.06.13I wanted my hiking report to be dated 2005.06.13! My original plan was to arrive in Manchester around Noon on Monday and immediately head out to the mountains. Unfortunately, though, the bag with all of my gear didn't make the connection from Gatwick to Manchester so I was left with a pair of jeans, t-shirt and of cource my work clothes which wouldn't do me any good in the cool, damp hills of Wales. The airline pledged to have my bag delivered later that day, so the week wasn't a loss. Still, it was frustrating to see mostly clear skies out toward the usually rainy high-country as I milled around the walled city of Chester. After seeing the city's history, which dates back to Roman times, I left for my hotel in Rossett, Wales to turn in early. The bag wasn't there despite the airline's pledge.
2005.06.14During the night, I had dreamt that I let someone in to drop my bag off. When I awoke, it turned out to have been reality as the MRB (monster-red-bag) was sitting right in the middle of the room! Since I now had all of my provisions, the week's hiking / climbing plans were looking up.
On Tuesday afternoon, I found myself with some free time and surprisingly sunny skies. I called Carol to let her know of my plans to climb either Tryfan or Pen Yr Ole Wen that day, and told her that I would check back in when I got back to the hotel. Setting out for the mountains in Northern Wales held some really beautiful scenery! I slowly made my way up the narrow, serpentine roads, finding considerably more sheep than people. I neared the car park on the western edge of Llyn Ogwyn, and the skies were still relatively clear, though based on the damp roads, it had evidently been raining earlier in the day. The exposed ridge-climb on Tryfan would be a no go in these conditions.
Somewhat disappointed, I still believed that the South Ridge on Pen Yr Ole Wen would be manageable despite the moisture. It was already 19:30, but the Sun shone brightly and was still relatively high in the sky. I took my headlamp anyway. My desire was to continue past Pen Yr Ole Wen to Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewellyn, which would have me returning well after dark.
The trail began a rapid ascent up the rocky ledges of Pen Yr Ole Wen's South Ridge. Due to the numerous sheep in the area, a "trail" in Wales carries a very different connotation than those found elsewhere; side paths diverted and intersected the main track every few hundred feet, which made it pretty difficult to stay on route. The trail itself was often covered with enjoyable wet scree. When it petered out, the hiker is left to find the path of least resistance upward.
After crossing a wide but minor saddle, the scree and angle increased. Views off of the ridge were breathtaking, with ancient glaciated valleys filling the panormas. It was easy to get into a rhythm on this stretch as the angle and direction were fairly consistent. I only got off-route once by running into an enjoyable Class 3+ scramble up a jagged gulley; the crux of the true route would be a few connected Class 3 moves up and around a boulder that diverts the trail.
The upper portion of the route is easy rock-hopping on the tundra slopes leading to the flat Sawatch-esque summit. Note that a false summit with a cairn is very good at causing a false sense of completion. The west face of Pen Yr Ole Wen is a dramatic drop-off over which views to Ireland are possible on clear days. I followed the precipice up to Pen Yr Ole Wen's round summit just as the sun was setting. Carnedd Llewellyn was still quite distant, so I made the decision to just descend and maybe try for the other summits later in the week. I watched the sun set peacefully below the horizon while eating the food I had brought and finishing off my first liter of water. With dusk looming, it was time to begin the descent.
The upper part of the peak was easy to jog down, though after a few minutes, I got to the steeper and slicker parts that required more attention. Route-finding was much easier on the descent, and I bypassed the gulley that I had climbed on the way up. Even though the sun had set, there was still plenty of light to safely navigate the trail.
I made good time on the way down, especially since I wasn't stopping anymore to take pictures. I soon found my way back to the road just as it was getting dark enough to warrant a light. Out of pointless pride I had decided to leave the headlamp tucked away until it was absolutely necessary; I hadn't brought a watch or anything else electronic, so I wanted to complete a full Amish ascent. As I fired up the engine of my rental Vauxhall Astra, the time was just passing 10:30! Here is was nearing 11, and there was still enough light to see. I like northern latitude summers!