Return to the Snow

Looking at our route up the head wall
Looking at our route up the head wall

This weekend has been advertised to the Oswestry School cadets as a ‘Winter Skills’ weekend since September. The reality is that we never know what the conditions are likely to be in Snowdonia from one week to the next, never mind four or five months in advance. By Wednesday of this week, I was consigned to the fact all hope of any significant volumes of snow had gone and that the emphasis of the weekend would shift to summer walking or paddling. Having already packed my kit, it was only a couple of hours before we were due to leave yesterday, that I received a message saying, “Bring your winter gear” – the snow had arrived at the eleventh hour!

Being a cadet force, as part of the military system, we were able to take advantage of accommodation at Capel Curig Training Camp. Amazingly, we were the only unit on the camp so had the run of the place and, most importantly, no long queues in the cookhouse! The evening was spent issueing, checking and fitting kit before packing bags for today’s venture into the hills.

Ice axe arrest practice

When we left the Capel Curig this morning, the plan was to start our day from Ogwen Cottage and head up onto the Glyders. However, driving down the A5, we could see the Carneddau to the north covered in snow and sunshine. The combination was too much to resist, so we quickly changed plans and made our way up to FFynnon Lloer.

Looking for enough snow to give us chance to teach some crucial winter walking techniques, we headed for the the headwall at the back of the cwm, where the snow had accumulated in the northerly winds. We spent several hours on this snow slope, teaching and practicing the group in how to use their boots properly and using the ice axe to both prevent a slide and to stop themselves once already sliding.

The inverted rainbow!
The inverted rainbow!

We then finished of our ascent of the headwall. After 10 months of not being in the winter mountains, the climb through loose snow proved hard work and a reminder of the fact that I need to get out in it more often! However, Ali was at the front and having to do the hard work of kicking steps for the group, so I got off lightly. Once we’d topped out, we swung round to the left to take in the summit of Pen Yr Ole Wen.

It was while taking a short break at the summit cairn that we found ourselves looking at at inverted rainbow. I’ve never seen one before, and I’m sure that some will think that this picture has been ‘photoshoped’, but I can assure you that this is genuine. I’d love to know if someone can explain the science behind this unusual sight.

Once the rainbow had disappeared, we made our way round to the top of Carnedd Dafydd, which seemed straight forward enough after our slog up the headwall. With the afternoon disappearing quickly, and the promise of a cooked supper back in camp, we made a fairly speedy descent back past the eastern side of Ffynnon Lloer and on the the minibus.

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