Wild Walking UK

LEJOG Chapter 8: Dolgellau to Snowdon

The story so far: I’ve been walking for 26 days now, and I have had one day off to sit out a storm. Each night on the route has been spent in my tent, wild camping. You can read chapter one here. This leg of the journey takes me to the top of Snowdon and into some truly disgusting weather…

Day 27: Friday 15th March 2019

Well, it rained all night and I woke to a tent covered in slugs. They are everywhere – even inside. I’ve been struggling with my inflatable pillow needing to be re-inflated every night, but now my NeoAir mat has got a slow leak too. It didn’t go flat in the night, but the low pressure meant parts of my body were on the ground. It was pretty cold, and made me very glad that I made the late decision to change sleeping mats and bring the Exped mat too. I could have been even colder!

Normally I would be packed up and away by 6.30am as it gets light, but with the rain coming down I decided to use the last of the water for coffee. I tried to eat something too; I struggle to eat breakfast first thing when I’m walking, but I couldn’t see me stopping later in this rain so I was worried I would end up just not eating anything.

I think my good luck card is losing its power – I considered burning it to keep warm, but it’s too wet…

The damp has really got into my sleeping bag. I realised it hadn’t lofted properly during the night when I woke up cold and had to put another top on. It was still so cold this morning that I had to warm the meths and stove between my legs before it would light! My meths supply has done very well – 500mls purchased in Bristol has lasted nearly the whole of Wales.

I was in no hurry to move on this morning as I was hidden from the road and the path was very little used. Usually I see dog walkers and runners in the early morning, but I can’t imagine too many of them would be out in this weather.

When I finally headed off it was a miserable start in the rain, along a mix of roads and tracks northwards to Pistyll Cain and Rhaeadr Mawddach (waterfalls) in Coed-y-Brenin Forest. This was a lovely walk through the woods, apart from a rough climb from the waterfalls to rejoin cycle route 82.

An advantage of all this rain – Rhaeadr Mawddach

I climbed up high with good views, and dropped in and out of numerous valleys. Hopes were high for a pub in Trawsfynydd, but my luck was running thin today. Just a shop and a sandwich.

My route then zig zagged around a bit to stay off the roads, and this made it a pleasant walk through a nature reserve and power plant to Gellilydan. There was a pub – it was shut – and a Caravan Club site that I recognised from a visit years ago.

I continued on, feeling exhausted, to Maentwrog, resigned to the fact that the hotel would probably have finished serving food. I arrived in the lovely village and was delighted to discover that they served food all day – what a life-saver. The rest was badly needed as both my ankles were hurting with all the hard road surfaces.


Maentwrog

After a very nice curry and a pint, I carried on up the yellow road above Rhyd towards Croesor. It was a lovely walk with views of the sea and Snowdon in the distance. I camped at Penrallt, leaving the road on a forestry track and footpath. My tent was tucked out of sight, so I could sit out some of the bad weather if I chose to tomorrow.

I had to put up a wet tent so stopped early (5.30pm) to allow it to air a bit at least. The rain returned at about 8pm and the wind arrived at midnight.

Camping spot at Penrallt

Day 28: Saturday 16th March

The wind and rain woke me numerous times in the night. I waited until it got light before I made coffee, and made it to 8am before I got completely bored. Just as I thought I should get moving, the wind battered the tent again. A wee bottle was a godsend in this weather, so I didn’t need to keep going outside the tent (I used a lucozade bottle with the sticker removed, just in case I got muddled…)

I tried listening to my iPod for a little while. My phone was 100% charged yesterday, but since phone calls home, texts and pictures sent to Emma, it’s dropped to 74%. This was a bit worrying, as I use my phone for the mapping and GPS too. I hope the battery isn’t on its last legs.

I finally left at about 10am, driven out by necessity as it is Sunday tomorrow – I was worried that the shop in Beddgelert may be shut and I was low on food. There didn’t seem any point putting dry socks on as my feet would be wet in seconds in this weather, but it was still nasty putting yesterday’s wet socks on my dry feet.

Wet feet.

It was quite an interesting walk along lanes, tracks and paths to Nantmor from where I planned to follow the path by the river to Beddgelert. However, I couldn’t find the path initially and had to walk back up the hill and down again. I eventually followed the road for a while then found the path on the other side of a barbed wire fence. I made a mental note to check the map more often. It ended up being a moot point anyway, as the river had washed the path away. I retraced my steps and followed the road to Beddgelert.

My path was on the right

I made it to the hotel at Beddgelert at 12.30pm. A pint and a respite from the incessant rain was my lot, as there was no food service until 6pm. I spent the time making a decision about my route up Snowdon, given the weather conditions.

When I left the pub about an hour later, I was still undecided. I walked further through the village and found a pub that wasn’t on the map, and luckily was serving food. I sat and enjoyed my lunch watching the rain hammer down outside. It made putting my wet tent up later on a bit easier – at least there would have been no point drying it, even if I’d been able to! I retired early, ready for a summit attempt tomorrow.

You can just see the flooding behind me

Day 29: Sunday 17th March

I set off at about 4am, cold and hungry, aiming for Snowdon. All was fine until I hit ice, then sleet / snow layer and very strong winds about 300m from the summit. I was a bit worried about whether it was safe to continue, but I pushed on. It was absolutely freezing and I used my PHD down mitts for the first time on the trip. My coat, leggings and socks wet from yesterday were on my pack, and had frozen completely solid by the time I reached the summit. They still had ice in them when I got to the Snowdon Cafe at the base!

On my way up

My path from the summit was the Llanberis tourist route, and this was very icy for a long way down. It made for slow going. I made it to the Snowdon Cafe and had a nice chat with the owner, who gave me some great advice. It was a great feeling to have Snowdon done so I can get on with aiming for John O’Groats again. I was looking forward to walking as far as liked or was able to again, as I had felt restricted by the weather window for Snowdon and I don’t like to walk like that. The weather had been good so far, just windy and cold but no rain.

Nearing the summit

The rain returned at 11.45am and was heavy, so I stopped at Pete’s Eats for breakfast and a coffee. I was very grateful for the massive portions! I made the decision to head directly north, and use the coast path all the way out of Wales. I felt free to move, but I will miss all the countryside I’ve been walking through. My next stage will be quite different, with much more urban walking. This will bring a new set of challenges.

Summit of Snowdon – 8.35am

I managed to walk from Snowdon all the way to the north coast of Wales, near Conwy, before I camped tonight. It really felt like I’d achieved something today.

You can read the next chapter of my adventure here.

Camp 29 on 17th March – I made it to the coast

My 11 Wild Camping Rules.

Read the next installment here.

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