This was my first weekend walking with the Outdoors Magic people, and I was very much looking forward to it. In fact, I was so excited that I actually managed to pack all my kit on Thursday night and load it into my car before going to bed, which is a totally unprecedented degree of organisation for me!
I'd hoped to get away early on Friday afternoon, but unfortunately work intervened and so it was 5pm before I was able to get changed and leave. The traffic wasn't as bad as it might have been, and I had a fairly easy journey to the Dolgam camp site between Capel Curig and Betws-y-Coed. I missed the entrance first time round but I'd spotted the tents, and so after a quick change of direction at Capel Curig I was able to solve the riddle of how to get in on the way back down.
I soon got the tent up, and as I was doing so a bloke approached and asked if I was one of the OM people. "Yes!" I said. "Are you too?" I suppose it would have been a pretty lucky guess if he hadn't been :) Anyway, that was Conan, and soon afterwards Darren and Sarah arrived. They introduced us to Cara and Jezz, and then we walked up to the pub where I met Jules and Frank. Later, during the fish and chips, Stuey arrived. We sat around chatting and eating for a couple of hours, and then got a lift back down to the campsite.
On Saturday morning things started slowly, and for me they got slower and slower. I had a surprisingly warm and enjoyable shower in the toilet block, but then had to spend about half an hour attempting to scrub some sort of toxic, sticky black gunk off the bottom of my little kettley thing. The gunk had appeared during an attempt to boil milk for hot choccy the night before, which had resulted in a yellowish looking liquid with some sort of oily scum on the top... ugh! I'm not quite sure what happened there, but trying to scrub it away set me back a bit. I then found myself dashing around like a mad thing trying to get my bits together while Conan, Sarah and Darren waited - very patiently! - at the car. I hadn't realised that Jules, Stuey and Frank had gone on ahead, and by the time we got to the carpark they'd been waiting quite some time in the cold. Many apologies once again, everyone! (((Blush!)))
Anyway, we soon got going, and the plan was to go up a mountain the name of which I quickly forgot - Yr Aran, it was, though - thanks Dominic! - and then up Snowdon via the south ridge. It was a little unfortunate that the relatively bright and dry early weather was replaced by rain and wind as we got just a little bit higher.
We arrived at the top of Yr Aran more than ready for a rest...
...and then nipped down to the point at which the path took a left turn for Snowdon, and stopped there for a bit of lunch in the drizzly gloom.
We moved on fairly quickly - no-one wanted to sit for a long time in such icky conditions - and followed a path up the side of the hill to the point at which it met the south ridge. From there we pushed onwards and upwards.
Although I probably shouldn't have been, I was surprised by how much well-established snow was present as we got towards the top of Snowdon. I think I was probably a little precipitationally disorientated by the fantastically hot and sunny conditions I'd encountered in Borrowdale some 3 weeks earlier, where even shorts and a top felt like far too much clothing. In any event, the mist continued to grow thicker, and walkers ahead quickly faded to ghostly figures each time I stopped for a picture.
I was absolutely staggered by the beauty of the ice sculptures created by the wind out of snow adhering to rocks!
By this stage in the walk my useless 'Extremeties Windstopper' gloves were sopping wet and my hands were very cold, but I just had to stop and take my gloves off, to try to get some pictures of the amazing shapes around me.
It looks a bit like I was crying, but I was actually trying to smile: it was just that my face had frozen in that position :) A kind walker from another group then took a group piccy for us.
We then nipped up to the trig point just a little bit higher, walked up and round it and then back down to the cafe, where we decided to take the Watkins Path down to the bottom. That was pretty slippery in the compacted snow, but eventually we got down and stopped for a brief rest and snack.
After that we pressed on down to the car park. Conan and Frank are literally the fastest walkers I've ever met. I thought Darren and I were fairly speedy, but we were literally running along at the back to catch up on a number of occasions! Still, it was good training for Darren's impending half marathon, and also for my impending walk across Scotland. Besides all that, it was a bit of a giggle!
The car was certainly a very welcome sight, and upon returning to the camp it wasn't long before most of us made our way to The Mothership, where we found Cara, Jezz and Mikey making hot choccy and some interesting looking pasta based evening meals. We couldn't resist the lure of the hot choccy, so Darren and I had some too - Sarah preferred hot Ribena - and then, after a quick wash and brush up, we made our way back to the pub - Tyn Y Coed, I believe it was - where we settled down with cooling drinks and a most alluring menu. I'd been fantasising about veggies sausages with mashed potatoes and cabbage all day, having seen it on the menu on Friday evening, and the landlord was kind enough to agree to provide it, even though it wasn't actually on the specials board that night.
I had a lot of fun in the pub, chatting with people about interesting things they've done. We probably set off back for the camp at about 10.30 or so - I lost track of the time, without a watch - and I slept like a log again on my lovely Exped Down Air Mattress with real pillow, brought from home :)
On Sunday morning I woke up early to the sound of manically bleating lambs, and lay around planning a trip to the lovely walking shops in Betws-y-Coed. Eventually I got up and took a piccy of the tents - my Dragonfly, Darren's Dragonfly with extended porch, Conan's luxuriously large tent and the Mothership - and eventually I drove home, via a couple of happy hours picking up last minute bits and pieces - including some decent gloves, at last - for my upcoming Scottish walk.
This weekend was loads of fun, and I'm very grateful to all you OM veterans for being so friendly and welcoming to a newbie - particularly a newbie who kept you all waiting ages before the walk! I look forward very much to the next time :)