Monday, January 20, 2014

Snow Joke in North Wales

This winter's most popular activity.Scoffing a chip butty in Pete's Eats!

Winter certainly has a long way to go before it has run its course, but this winter, the lack of snow and ice in the mountains has been pretty consistent. Although there is some white stuff on the very tops above 2.500’ , the lower hills and upland valleys are totally bare. Driving through to the coast yesterday, it was remarkable that even the normally log jammed parking areas around Pen Y Pass were pretty quiet. Not surprisingly, the crags in the Pass were empty apart from a couple of lads playing about on the Cromlech boulders. The previous week I had wandered over the back of Siabod onto Carnedd Cribau. The ground was saturated and the air temperature distinctly balmy, despite reaching almost  2000’. Looking over into the Snowdon Horseshoe, there was little sign of snow apart from the very tops although I’m sure some winter activists, driven to the point of desperation, were giving the Trinity Face a go!

As far as walking and climbing goes, the winter of 2013-14 has been pretty rubbish. Too damp to trad climb and too warm and wet to winter climb or enjoy a snow crisp amble over the tops. Even mountain biking is little fun, grinding along through churned up mud. By contrast, it looks like the Scottish Highlands are enjoying a traditional season. I’ve noticed Andy Nisbet continues his one man blitzkrieg on the winter cliffs with an inexhaustible haul of first ascents. Meanwhile, south of the border in the Lakes and Wales...has anyone done anything of note so far? I expect the only outdoor activity down south that has benefitted from the weather is white water paddling. The parking areas twixt Pentrefoalas and Betws y Coed were pretty full yesterday with paddlers and there was no end of the number of cars to-ing and fro-ing up and down the A5 with kayaks strapped to roof bars. Unfortunately, despite enjoying a bit of sea kayaking, I’ve never been a white water paddler so I can’t make the most of this one positive aspect of the weather.

 A smattering of snow in the Glyders yesterday

For winter climbers there is hope though. Last year, we experienced the heaviest snowfall I’ve experienced in  the last twenty years in north Wales, in March. It started snowing in the first week and it lay thick on the ground for weeks. Making  back lanes impassable, closing schools, and isolating remote farms. It’s worth pointing out to those who do pray for snow and perfect winter conditions that there are those who last year paid a heavy price for those very conditions which make the winter activist’s heart sing. Thousands of sheep were lost last March with conditions so severe that farmers couldn’t bury their animals for weeks. It was pretty catastrophic in the marginal uplands so spare a thought for those who pay most heavily when the mountains and uplands are under a blanket of snow.

Perhaps though, this winter will be the winter which never was? A dank and sullen season of swollen becks and waterlogged paths. A winter of faces pressed up against cafe windows. Of wet dogs steaming in front of pub fires and drowned rats parading up and down Llanberis high street, wishing they were anywhere, but anywhere than in north Wales right now!
The Pen y Gwryd.Not exactly Everest training conditions hereabouts at the moment!

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