Wales | (not so) fast-packing through Snowdonia
After a succesful fastpacking experiment in Luxemburg, it was time to try out this set-up in Wales. I again chose the Conwy - Barmouth route because of the combination with family-visit and logistical simplicity. And because it's simply an outstanding route of around 100k and 9000m elevation, crossing most of the highest summites.
Leaving Conwy, I go over Drum to the Carneddau, Tryfan, the Glyders, Snowdon, the Moelwyns, Clip and the Rhinogs before descending to Barmouth. Going lightweight also gives some possibilities to include some scrambles along the way (check Steve Ashton's "Scrambles in Snowdonia" for all the details).
Taking the train from Antwerp, I arrive in Conwy at 2:30pm in unusual sunny conditions. 20 degrees and sunshine at sea-level, prefect visibility... The first afternoon and evening I manage some 30k and 1800m elevation to get to the south side of Llyn Ogwen. The terrain is fairly easy, and I make a small detour to include a scramble over Crib Lem to get to Carnedd Dafydd. The first 28k go smoothly and I have the hills and the sunset all for myself. The descent from Pen yr Ole Wen is a bit more troublesome in the dark and I find myself wading through bogs and knee-deep heather, navigating between boulders. Croeso y Cymru! The almost full moon and the clear skies provide a lot of light, so I don't even need a torch to pitch my tarp.
The next days starts with a short climb to Bwlch Tryfan to continue to Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr, followed by a descent to Pen-y-Pass, up to Snowdon and down along Rhyd-Ddu. Only 23k, but around 2000m elevation. A nice alternative would be following Tryfan North Ridge to Bwlch Tryfan and continuing over Bristly Ridge to get to the Glyders, but with a backpack I tend to stay on the paths.
Descending from Glyder Fawr is pretty boggy and pathless and a huge contrast with Pen-y-Pass, where the crowds gather to get to Snowdon. "Crowded" is often relative in the mountains, but not today. I planned on following Crib Goch to the summit, but seeing the crowds, I just want to get this over with as quickly as possible. The descent along Rhyd Ddu is also too crowded for my liking. On the one hand I'm all for people going into the mountains. And if everybody goes to one place, that leaves the other hills empty. Seeing the amount of trash left it does makes me wonder why people go up there.
Once south of Snowdon, the character changes. On the other side of Glaslyn, paths are more rare, the terrain is rougher. Leaving the valley and the last farms behind, there are loads of nice camping spots.
I wake up the next monring in a proper Welsh world. Mist and wind, which will continue throughout the day. Early in the morning, I can still make out Moelwyn Fawr, but this disapears in the fog during the morning. After the boggy moors at the foot of Cnight, I arrive at Rhosydd, an abandonned slatemine (active between 1830-1948) with buildings in various stages of decay. From Rhosydd a grassy climb brings me to the rounded summit of Moelwyn Fawr, where I almost get blown off. Ultralight does have its downsides.
Descending from Moelwyn Fawr I reach the saddle between Moelwyn Fawr and Fach, to descend steeper to Llyn Stwlan and continue to Maentwrog and Llyn Trawsfynydd, where I pitch my tarp. Although it's pretty windy, the Trailstar doesn't move.
From Trawsfynydd, I follow a really fun route over some nameless summits, each only around 600m, but with a nice wilderness feeling. There aren't much paths, so I have to look for the best route myself, clambering up and down unnecessary mini-summits, just for fun. There has to be a better way of descending Clip to Cwm Bychan, but I manage my way through the heather. From Cwm Bychan I follow the Roman steps (which aren't Roman at all) to continue to Rhinog Fawr. The descent from Rhinog Fawr also isn't all too clear, and with some delay and a rocky descend, I go up Rhinog Fach until Llyn Cmw Hosan. This is really one of the wilder parts of Snowdonia I know of.
From Rhinog Fach I have only 20k left, and the next morning I hurry along this gorgeous route to Barmouth in time for a full English breakfast. Or two.
I've done this route a few times now, and I am aware there is probably a whole lot more to see in Snowdonia and Wales, but the scenery and variation just never stops to amaze me, pulling me back every time.