Not being a big fan of early starts, I headed for the nearby Berwyn range around mid day yesterday. Intending to take advantage of the decent forecast and take in a peak or two. The Berwyns are outside of the Snowdonia National Park and despite rising to a respectable 2700'+ the mountains are something of habitue of a discerning handful of outdoor activists. Lacking the craggy grandeur of the northern peaks, the range has a reputation as being a boring expanse of rolling heathery upland. Few paths break the perceived monotony, leaving the more remote peaks as grueling heather and bog trots. However, the range does contain a lot of ground which does offer more than solid hillwalking. Look carefully and you'll find climbing crags, underground trips, waterfalls and winter gullies. Mountain bikers and ski tourers can also find some classic tours through the range.
Yesterday, however, it was just supposed to be a quick blast to the top and back down. Parking up in the Dee Valley between Cynwyd and Llandrillo I took off on a back lane which quickly becomes a good track heading up into the mountains. The heavy snow of the past 7 days had, however, left the track a sculpted maze of snow drifts. These were over head height in places. Progress was slow but by diverting out of the tracks and onto the fields,I could move at a better pace. Higher up though, it became impossible to circumnavigate the deep drifts. I reached a section where at every step I sank up to my thigh in soft snow. Eventually, I ended up crawling on my hands and knees in an attempt to spread my weight. Still, my arms would push through on occasion and I'd be left ploughing the snow with my chin!
This was hopeless. Snow shoes would have helped but it still would have been gruelling walking all the way to the top and back in snow shoes. Despite the clear blue skies, the wind was slicing through me and the poor dog was suffering with compacted snow between his pads. Tired by now-it had taken me about half an hour to cover 100 yards-I sat with my legs encased in frozen snow and swigged on an energy drink and stuffed a flapjack in my mouth. It's easy to see how people get hypothermic. The cold really sucks the energy out of you. With an energy boost through I struggled on until I reached a fence line. Hoping it would have meant a drift on one side and clear hard ground on the other.....Nope!
It was after three by now. At this rate it would be after midnight when I reached the summit. Checking my GPS, I was only at 1800'..nearly 1000' of height and about two miles of distance to cover. Impossible! No more food, no spare clothes and a limping dog...great stuff!
I can't remember the last time I was thwarted by the elements on a hill walk but there you go. Call it a learning experience. At least the light was good to get some shots of the ancient stone circle on the way back, although it was getting dark when I reached the car which rather confirms the futility of carrying on.