Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Northern Wales

Here's the brief run-down of my recent trip to Snowdonia National Park in Northern Wales. I'll include more details later about routes, campgrounds, etc. Enjoy!

We arrived in Conwy and toured around the town and castle for a while before heading to a pub outside the city for some lunch. We must have lounged there for a good 2 hours talking to locals and staring at our newly purchased Snowdonia map before we decided to trek over Conwy mountain to get to some ambiguous campsite the map had shown. We hiked said mountain and were awarded with stunning views from the top. Our decent was was a bit spontaneous (and included  wild blackberries) and we stumbled out of some evergreens to find that  we were practically on top of a campsite with hot showers. Sweet as. Ran  up and down the nearby beach at sundown and laughed at our drunken  neighbors before calling it a night.

Caught the bus into Llanberis the following day. Llanberis is a dream: more outdoor stores than restaurants, sweet cafés, and climbers/bikers/hikers everywhere. We were pretty stoked. After buying some stove fuel and people watching (we definitely were not oggling over climbers) we got some hiking advice from a friendly store clerk and hiked down the road towards our next campsite. Explored a castle and sketchy cave on the way and got to catch the tail end of the Snowdon Mountain Run after playing around a stream for hours. The second campsite was even more glorious, nestled in a farm pasture in a mountainous basin. Beauty all around.

Caught the bus to Pen-Y-Pas the next day to hike the Snowdon Horseshoe. Conditions were perfect, which is rare. We met a lady later in the trip that told us out of summitting Snowdon 15 times she had only seen the view from the top once. We got a cloudless day with perfect blue skies.  We hiked Crib Goch which is easily the most bad ass thing I've ever done or ever will do.  Pardon my french but I think I deserve the term after straddling, shimmying, and scrambling over a sharp mountain ridge with 1,000 foot drops down either side. It was a bit ridiculous and completely surreal. Maybe the fact that it  was so surreal kept me from contemplating my immanent death, but I made  it through with only a few blisters, bruises, and a sunburnt nose. We  summitted Snowdon with the rest of the world (there is a train and café at the top).  I heard a fellow hiker mention that there should be a fenced-off area  for Crib Gochers - I agree. We were going to finish on the "easy route"  but got a bit off track and finished off with the twin peaks instead - a  walk in the park compared to Crib. We caught the last bus back to the  campsite and tried celebrating at the local pub but I fell asleep after  my steak & ale pie and single pint so we called it a night.

The next day Theresa wanted to climb more mountains. Instead we tramped into Llanberis again and passed out on bean-bag chairs after a full Welsh breakfast at Pete's Eats (I highly recommend their black pudding and the turquoise bean bag).
We woke up and ate some more (I also highly recommend their chocolate cake) and consulted the map. Once we had pinpointed "a green looking area with waterfalls" we jumped on a bus bound to Betws-y-Coed and camped (slightly illegally) at an RV park that night. All legalities were solved in the morning. Not gonna lie - sometimes it pays to be an innocent looking girl. Don't know if it's a fair trade off with being able to pee standing up, but ya can't have it all.

Hiked up to Swallow Falls in Betws-y-Coed. Ate more wild blackberries. Ruined some scenic photos for tourists (how were we to know our sunbathing was blocking the view? It's not like we were lying directly on top of the waterfall... oh wait) Ate more sardines and paté (one of the many benefits of hiking in areas with no carnivorous predators) and that was that.

On to Ogwen Valley -my favorite campground by far. We set up tent on a hill away from the other travelers and it felt like we had the place to ourselves. We also had a fire right, which was convenient considering our fuel depleted halfway through our noodle dish. Weather was gorgeous when we showed up but quickly deteriorated the next day. We planned to hike all the way to Tryfan via Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach but after picking our way carefully up the first peak (we could hardly see cairn to cairn in the fog and the ascent was all scree) we couldn't see any sign of the trail at the top. We sat cold, wet and huddled in a small outcropping rationing a pasty while contemplating life, love, and lousy compasses. We decided to turn back, and though feeling glum and defeated we soon met other hikers that had similar difficulties in the fog. Made some friends on the descent and found our way back to the warden station were we loaded up on hot chocolate. Spent the rest of the day trying to warm up in our sleeping bags. Thankfully the sun came out enough to partially dry some of our clothes before bed.

Back to Conwy the next morning. Ate another Welsh breakfast and hiked along the seashore. Dinner of fresh mussels and wine near the harbor. Serenaded by the Once soundtrack from a nearby sailboat (owned by a juggler with dreadlocks- we should have been friends).

Wales, Wales, Wales. Someday we'll meet again methinks.

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