It is possible to grow to dislike a mountain. A hill, even. Perhaps it’s making a mountain out of a molehill (ba-dum tish!) to start to dislike inanimate objects, especially ones of significant age. But by the end of 2011, I was beginning to dislike Carnedd Llewelyn.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I respect the hill. At just a few metres shy of the height of Snowdon, Carnedd Llewelyn is a decent size, and sits perched in the centre of the Carneddau ridge, amongst other respectably tall hills. No, I respected the hill. I just couldn’t make it to the top of the bloody thing.
Back in early spring 2011, Dave and I were still full of Canadian-style enthusiasm for getting outdoors at every opportunity. We climbed Moel Siabod with snow on the ground, and so set off in March to try and climb up Carnedd Llewelyn from its northern side. On a cold, blustery and sleeting day, Dave and I plodded up from the car, got as far as the abandoned slate mine under the hill’s flank before deciding to retreat. The sleet had turned to snow, the wind had picked up and the peak was shrouded in fog. We took shelter in the ruined buildings, ate our lunch in the rapidly worsening weather and then trudged gloomily back to the car. 1-0 to Llewelyn.
The months passed, and with my birthday approaching, Dave asked what I’d like to do on the day itself. Another crack at Llewelyn seemed on the cards, this time accompanied by Steph & Ben Van Loo (Dave’s sister and her husband). The shorter autumn days left us struggling to make the most of the daylight, and although we had a beautiful day’s walking in glorious sunshine, we’d set off too late and decided to make a tactical turn around at 2.30pm. It was lucky we did, as darkness had entirely fallen by the time we made it back to the car. We settled for drowning our sorrows with some delicious prosecco to wash down the birthday meal of fish and chips. Llewelyn was thrashing us: 2-0.
When 2012 dawned, I decided that I wasn’t going to be beaten. I wanted to walk up Carnedd Llewelyn – damn it, I was going to enjoy it too! So in the first few weeks of January this year, we found ourselves back at the foot of the Carneddau, approaching from yet another direction, but this time with a secret weapon. That secret weapon? Not Kendal mint cake. Not walking poles or a fancy GPS. No, our secret weapon was my mum’s sister, Lesley. With the power to summon us from our beds at a reasonably prompt hour of the morning, multiple previous ascents of the hill (thus requiring no navigation from us) and a cracking route to the summit, Auntie Les was the key we’d been missing. We started from Ogwen, climbing steadily out of the valley while the sunshine bathing the hills started to thaw the frost which iced the turf and stones.
The fantastic shape of Tryfan behind us as we climb from the valley.
Our first peak was Pen Yr Ole Wen, before we continued along the ridge to Carnedd Dafydd. Not only were we going to bag Llewelyn – we were seeing the tops of two other 3000ers for good measure!
Auntie Les and I stride off into the distance. The walking group leader from Plas Y Brenin said to Dave and I (separately) that we were setting a cracking pace. Of course, Auntie Les was setting the pace, which I think he knew…
The route was a triumph. We’d scrambled, we’d climbed slowly and steadily and we’d stepped out along a stunning ridge with glorious views in every direction. The skies were clear and the sun was shining as we climbed the last few metres to the top of Carnedd Llewelyn, and I was so glad to have had such a beautiful day to finally make it to the top.
We slowly and steadily returned to the valley; the sun faded and the temperature dropped. As we walked, we started to eye up other peaks, with Auntie Les egging us on every step of the way: “Ooh, you’d like the north side of Tryfan. And once you’re up there, you can do the Glyders. Have you thought about doing all the 3000ers in 24 hours?”. This way lies madness – either that, or we keep giving the impression we like a challenge!
So we got there in the end, but despite it taking three attempts to finally get to the top, I can’t feel bitter. I wouldn’t have swapped all the walks we’ve been on over the last 12 months. Now to get on to the rest of the list…