My Second New Year in Snowdonia
Snowdonia has become a wonderful refuge for me, especially over Christmas and the New Year, when, after losing Bobbie at the end of 2007, I really do not want to be at home. So I’d arrived on December 23rd for a trip that was to last to January 4th. The main intention was to walk the Welsh mountains in the area around Beddgelert. A wonderfully warm and welcoming village where I do feel I have become “part of the family”. A sentiment no better illustrated by the way I have fitted into “Bistro Life”, at the Beddgelert Bistro run by Ron and Sheila. A couple of circa my age who are no strangers to hills and mountains: they had not long returned from the Everest base Camp walk when I arrived in December.
The Bistro is the physical and social centre of the village. It stands proudly opposite the famous bridge that crosses the river at the junction of two main roads.
Pre-dawn light on the Glyders as I drove up to Pen-y-Gwyd
A bridge on which a party develops around midnight every year: 2009/1010 being no exception. Wonderful fireworks, music and dancing, and myself deputed to pour bubbly on the steps of the Bistro for close friends and those who had enjoyed the wonderful many course meal that Ron and Sheila provide every year.
Suffering on and off all my trip with the damned mystery virus SP’ers are becoming familiar with, (but not by catching it!), I hadn’t touched alcohol since mid November, and did not make an exception on New Year’s Eve.
That had no impact on my enjoyment of the festivities, but it did mean that, after going to bed at 01.30 on New Years Day 2010, I woke at 07.30 fully fit to drive. And a quick look out of the bedroom at a dawning clear blue sky meant drive I did! To start a long day that was to well and truly allow me to see the new decade beginning in the best possible way. Looking at, and walking amongst snow topped mountains.
Dawn by Llynnau Mymbyr
The valley was free of snow, (it is close to, and not much above sea level), but I needed some time to scrape the frost off the car before heading away from Beddgelert. I drove up past the Snowdon Horseshoe, then the famous Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel.
Driving past the hotel I thought of those famous climbers who had stayed there when learning and then sharpening their climbing skills on the cliff face of Y Lliwedd., (part of the Snowdon Horseshoe). Mallory stayed there in his early climbing days. And Sir Edmund Hilary and others from the 1953 Everest expedition based themselves there for a while during their preparations for the successful attempt on the world’s highest peak.
Y Lliwedd just before dawn on January 1st 2010.
I knew exactly where I was going to catch the first rays of the sun on the new decade: the East end of the lakes Llynnau Mymbyr near to Capel Curig, which has a wonderful view down the lakes and onto whatever part of the Snowdon Horseshoe the cloud base has decided is on public view.
A snow covered Crib Goch catches the first rays of sun on January 1st
The Snowdon Horseshoe at dawn on January 1st
I wasn’t alone there as we watched the cloud obscure Snowdon’s summit, but thankfully it gracefully allowed us a view of Crib Goch and Y Lliwedd catching the first rays of sun in 2010. I spent sometime there and then hurried part way back down to Pen-y-Gwyrd to get some closer shots.
Crib Goch seen from near Pen-y-Gwyrd
Moel Hebog, with Llyn Gwynant in the foreground.
The sun was now starting to rise higher, and I could see more and more cloud heading in at speed. Typical mountain weather where I could certainly not rely on that clear blue pre-dawn sky lasting for very much longer.
But my next chosen photo spots were towards the South East, and the cloud was arriving from the North West. So the race was on!
I stopped briefly to capture a shot of Moel Hebog, (Beddgelert's Home Mountain), standing proud as a backdrop to the very still Llyn Gwynant.
That certainly gave me an idea, so off I went. Racing not just advancing cloud and snow, but also the first gusts of wind that would remove that glass like surface on the deep lake.
So I was off, hurrying as best I could in the icy conditions to stop right by the still waters of Llyn Gwynant as I descended the pass back to Beddgelert.
Moel Hebog reflected in the still waters of Llyn Gwynant.
Moel Hebog, with Llyn Gwynant in the foreground.
And with a pun fully intended I stood by the lakeside reflecting on the beauty of the local mountains!
I had won the race against the expected wind that would destroy the clear reflection.
But I had lost to the advancing clouds as the clear blue skies that had started the new decade surrendered to more normal Welsh weather.
The Southern Moelwyns
Now the sun was starting to illuminate more and more of each mountain, so I hurried through Beddgelert, though the Aberglaslyn Pass and down towards Porthmadog.
Left above, Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach. Center is Cnicht and right is Moelwyn Bach.
I was intent on seeing the latter stages of the dawn sun shining on the Southern end of the lovely Moelwyns. An area that has become my personal favourite for hill and mountain walking in Wales's Snowdonia.
It is a wild and desolate area of countryside by Snowdonian standards, and seemingly the best kept secret in the area as I rarely see many other walkers up there. Except on Cnicht, the “Welsh Matterhorn”, which is a small but very popular and, on some routes, quiet a challenging mountain.
Typically the cloud was already starting to obscure the summit of Cnicht. That mountain may be small but it does somehow seem to attract any passing cloud. Maybe it it that distinctive shape that does that.....
But Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach were still clear as I finished my “dawn” photography of the new decade and headed back to Beddgelert.
Moel Hebog, seen from the lovely Welsh village of Beddgelert.
There I enjoyed the view of Moel Hebog standing guard over the village before Sheila so kindly cooked me a full English breakfast: despite the late night she had just had ensuring all of us at the Bistro enjoyed a superb New Years Evening.
My first 2010 ascent
I took a short break, but was determined that my new decade should start with more than just a car based photo reconnaissance of the area.
And where better for my first walk of the new decade than the steep and scrambly track that starts right in the village and heads up to just under 1000 feet up at the mini summit of Mynydd Sygyn.
So after a short doze, and with the benefits of my abstemious New Years Eve I donned full winter gear, grabbed my 90cm walkers ice axe and started up the steep, rocky, and partly ice covered walk/scramble that climbs steeply above the village. A real favourite of mine. One I have done a good few times now, more usually as a warm up after arrival at Beddgelert for a new trip.
Not a new trip now as I had been in Beddegelert since before Christmas, but it was a new decade in a New Year.
WHR train in the distance, heading away from Bedgelert.
Sadly it was now that the weather decided that I had enjoyed enough full sun photos, and felt it was time to remind me what winter was all about.
With advancing black clouds indicating some heavy wind driven snow was on it’s way I got high enough to enjoy just a few more clear views of the village below me.
With my timing perfect, (total luck) as a Welsh Highland Railway steam hauled train added to the New Years atmosphere as it headed along the valley below me. With the snow topped Moel Hebog and neighbours providing a nice background.
The snow dully arrived after providing a dramatically dark background for the Nantlle Ridge, and I had to concentrate on the final stages of my ascent, which had changed from full color in the earlier sun, to monochrome.
Day one of 2010 ends
Descent from Mynydd Sygyn to the valley floor near to Beddgelert.
I headed along the top in wonderful hill walking countryside in weather that varied from just dull and windy, to spells of driving snow.
I had the choice of a number of descents to the valley floor. But I had been up celebrating the New Year, albeit abstemiously, until the early hours.
And I had mananged to photo the start of the new decade in mountains I love from dawn to dusk.
So, as evening was not far away, I took the easy option and the nearest track down to the valley.
A steep and rocky track that went past the old Sygyn Copper Mine to reach the valley floor.
The first day of the new decade fades into late dusk near to Beddgelert.
Then it was a gentle river side stroll along the valley floor back to the village, pausing only to photo the last light of the day as the mist rose to start obscuring Moel Hebog.
Light snow starts to fall on Beddgelert. Photo from my bedroom window!
Back in my room I looked out over the bridge where we had seen the New Year in, and saw that the valley floor had finally surrendered it’s status as a snow free zone. Gentle snow was falling as winter increased it’s grip on the first day of the new decade in an area that I have come to love so much.