Featured post

Snowdonia Peaks

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Hartsop to Aria Force 17-3-2018

We had booked a weekend tucked away in the small hamlet of HARTSOP, near to ULLSWATER in the Lake District, hoping for a bit of good early Spring weather as we said goodbye to the so called "Beast from the East" that rolled in over the early part of the month. A few days before, I ventured in to Wales to do Snowdon in what was a good still warm day so was really looking forward to the improving weather continuing into the weekend. This however is the UK and mid March can be as brutal as mid December/January as the weather can turn in an instant!!. Roll on "Beast from the East" part 2!! Cold winds and snow showers were the order of the weekend but fortunately no big snow dumps or blocked roads that can happen in this neck of the woods quite often. In fact, over the course of the winter, the KIRKSTONE PASS has been closed on a few occasions and as our base was at the bottom of the pass, we were grateful for that. The one real walk that we did was a case of resorting to plan B, as plan A was to catch the Ullswater steamer from Glenriding across to Howtown and walking back to base via the ULLSWATER WAY. However, because of the strong winds the Steamers were cancelled for the day, in fact the whole weekend, so we decided to walk to ARIA FORCE for a look at the waterfalls before back tracking the same way, all along the Ullswater Way.
The walk was around 16 miles in just under 6 hours in all sorts of weather.  Hail, snow, strong cold winds and sun making for a good adventurous day straight from the front door. A very easy to follow path with only a very small section that goes on the road so a bit more care as there is no footpath on this section but the rest is all off road on easy paths along the shore line, though fields and wooded areas.
View from the lane with Arnison Crag as the backdrop
Angletarn Beck Waterfall
Past farm dwellings
Sort sharp snow shower
No Steamers this weekend
Good sunny views across Ullswater
Snow shower on the way
Blue skies again
The wind making waves on Ullswater
And yet another snow shower
And back to blue skies
Ullswater from Aria Force
Aria Force Bridge
Aria Force

After a walk round the woods and a hot drink from the cafe, we back tracked going back the same way, encountering more or less the same weather conditions and at one point taking shelter behind a wall as we were in direct fire of the wind and sleet blowing straight down Ullswater.
Snow shower blowing straight down Ullswater
Taking shleter from the elements
Tree icicles
Sun coming out again
On the way back along the track under Dubrow How & Fall Crag, near to our base, we spotted a herd of Red Deer that roam the area. Apart from when we stayed at Haweswater a few years back, this is the first time we have seen any deer in the Lakes, although they are quite common. There was around 20 and they hung about all weekend on the same slopes. Good to see :-)
Sun snow & green fields
Back through the woods
And the farm
Red Deer on Fall Crag
Red Deer on Fall Crag
Angletarn Beck Waterfalls
Angletarn Beck Waterfalls
A really good day in changeable but not difficult weather. It would be good to go back and walk the whole of the Ullswater way one day as it is quite straight forward and quite popular with great scenery and views.
On the Sunday, we woke up to a covering of snow that had us thinking we may get snowed in, but luckily by midafternoon it had all but melted. We had a drive up to Pooley Bridge where we had a short walk along the Ullswater way and it looked like this area had had a lot more snow than back in Hartsop. I also had a look round the village of Hartsop and the disused Myers Head Mine. It was earlier this year, in January, that I first visited this area, taking in the high fells of Hartsop Dodd, Stone Covey Pike and The Knott  (CLICK HERE ) and saw the lodges that gave me the idea of a long weekend in the area. A nice quiet place with plenty of varied walks from the front door
Sunday morning snowfall
Hartsop Dodd
Snowy Pooley Bridge
Alpacas @ Pooley Bridge
Snowdrift @ Pooley Bridge
Frozen Angletarn Beck waterfalls
Looking down on basecamp
Hartsop Dodd above Hartsop Village
Pasture Beck Valley
Part of Myers Head Lead Mine
Myers Head Lead Mine
So yet another great weekend away seeing parts we've not seen before and defiantly worth another visit in the not too distant future 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Snowdon via the South Ridge & Watkins Path 13-3-2018

Back in Snowdonia taking advantage of the fine weather forecast between some wet and wild days on offer. There had been some very snowy, cold and icy conditions for a week or so that the more experienced winter mountaineers had been taking advantage of as we had the so called "Beast from the East" sending the UK into a winter meltdown!! Nothing too serious for the colder countries of Eastern Europe but if you take any notice of the UK news, it was more like Armageddon had come to these shores. Yes, there was some pretty bad snow falls of up to 8 inches in parts of the UK, high winds whipping the snow around and causing some big snowdrifts, temperatures as low as -10, lakes, rivers and waterfalls freezing over and that's in the low lying areas, while in the mountains, it was just a good old fashioned winter of days gone by :-) Anyway, there had been a gradual thaw and the forecast was for a settled few days with Tuesday looking the best day with a chance of hill fog clearing to leave a good dry day. So a quick recheck of mountain forecasts and conditions told me that Snowdon would be a good chance to have a good dry fine day and with it being midweek, a little on the quiet side, perfect :-) I had decided on a route that I haven't done fully but have been up and down the paths on separate occasions over the years so thought this would be a good opportunity to tie the two in. This is also a good way of getting the most of this area and also away from any crowds. The WATKIN PATH, my part ascent & my full descent route, is a fairly popular route up as it is a good picturesque way as it passes through a wood, passes waterfalls, through an old quarry and various other points of interest that I'll mention later. It is also the longest and steepest way up Snowdon and comes out around the 1,015 metres (3330ft) one way. The South Ridge ascent is my favourite way up to Snowdon, apart from Crib Goch, as it has some of the best views on offer.
As daylight is now stretching out abit with sundown going past 6pm I don't have to get up in the middle of the night to be off the mountains before 4.30pm so a later start and finish is now the order of the days, one great advantage as spring/summer come into view. I was parked up and set off walking up the Watkins Path around 10.30am in good clear conditions with Snowdon in full view, not what was in the forecast so I was hoping it was to continue like that. As I said earlier, this is a good varied way up as you ascend through the woods of Hafod y Llan and then follow the Afon Llan and the waterfalls until you reach the Weir at the head of Cwm Llan where it gathers water for National Trust's small hydro-electric scheme.
My route for the day
Looking up to a distant Snowdon from the car park
Start of the Watkin Path
Through the woods
Bridge over the Afon Gorsey
Waterfalls of Afon Llan
Old quarry tramway incline
Afon Llan waterfalls
Afon Llan Weir with the South Ridge in the background
Afon Llan Weir
From here, I took the path to the left that heads up to the old tramway before heading off up into Cwm Llan in a fairly straight line heading for a wall and old slate heaps the bring you out at the bottom of the steps and the start of the Allt Maenderyn, South Ridge path.
On the old tramway path
Straight ahead towards the old slate heap
Looking down on the disused quarry with a clear Snowdon in the background
Following the part laid out path
On the approach to the slate heaps and into the blue :-)
Up the old slate heaps
View back down in to Cwm Llan and my ascent path
The wall and path going up the South Ridge
From here it's straight up the stone steps before eventually turning into a more rough path snaking its way though rocks, boulders and rough ground passing rocky outcrops but staying away from the steep drops in to Cwm Llan. As it was quite warm with only a light breeze, a few stops were needed but as the views are good, that didn't really matter. This side of Snowdon, as well as being the more quiet side, does offer some fantastic views all round and was another day to take it all in. I reached the first major patches of snow just before I came to the ridge line above the Rhyd Ddu path, nothing too serious and easily passable using the foot marks of other walkers. Quite a few large patches but in the warming weather large parts of it was quite soft as a thaw had set in. There was still some consolidated patches but again, these were easily passable. I mentioned before that this side is usually the quietest side to ascend Snowdon, well the warm weather must of bought people out as just as I reached the ridge looking down on the Rhyd Ddu path, there was a party of a bout 30 making there way up and up to this point I only saw 4 other people coming the same way as me!. Oh well......
View up to Snowdon
South Ridge Path
South Ridge Path
View over to the Nantile Ridge & Mynydd Mawr
Snow patches on the South Ridge
A clear Snowdon from the South Ridge
Looking down on other walkers on the Rhyd Ddu path
Admiring the view from the South Ridge
View down into Cwm Clogwyn from the South Ridge
After a short rest on the South Ridge I decided to get ahead of the group coming from Ryhd Ddu as I didn't want to get held up on the path over Bwlch Main as it makes it's way through the rocks which has a bit of snow cover. It's a single track that isn't too difficult but with snow added to the mix, a bit more care is needed and I didn't fancy sharing it with 30 youngsters who looked like they were part of a school/club trip. I managed to get pass them and enjoyed a quiet way with some very light scrambling as you make your way through the rocks following a quite distinct path that leads up on to a wide area just below the summit cafe. Again, there was quite a large area of snow here that again posed no problems. Although I had my spikes with me, I didn't need them and saw no others wearing any as the snow was slowly thawing.
The way forward over Bwlch Main
Looking back towards the South Ridge
My way forward over Bwlch Main
Looking back
The Snowdon summit cafe
Looking back from the cafe
The entrance to the cafe showing how much snow has fallen up here
As luck would have it, the first wave of the group I got in front of, caught me up just as I reached the summit so I had to quickly get to the summit trig before it became more like summer than winter up there. As it happened, over the course of the next twenty minutes, there must of been about 50 youngsters altogether as another party ascended from the Llanberis path so it got pretty busy with them taking over the trig area. I stayed on the summit for about half an hour and if it wasn't for the kids it would of been quite quiet as there was only about 20 others milling around. Hardly any wind, the sun shining and the air clear made for some great views stretching all round for miles and miles. I've been rather lucky all the times I've been up here, as I've mostly had some great clear days and it does make it all worth while. An extra treat today was a Chinook Helicopter flying around and looked to be on a training exercise as it flew in and out of Cwm Clogwyn and also treated everyone on the summit to a fly past as it circled and the troops on board all gave us a wave, great to see :-)
Snowdon summit views
Snowdon summit views
Snowdon summit views
New kids on the block
Chinook flypast
Snowdon summit views
Snowdon summit views
Snowdon summit views
Summit seagull
Snowdon summit views
Snowdon summit views
New kids on the block
Chinook in Cwm Clogwyn
Chinook with Anglesey in the background
Snowdon summit views
Snowdon summit from the Llanberis Path
Looking up to Snowdon from the Llanberis Path
Lots of snow at the summit train station
View back up to Snowdon on my way back down
I made my way down by the Watkins path but making a detour over the rocky outcrops of Bwlch y Saethau rather than sticking to the main path. I like this way as it gives you good views down on to Glaslyn and today was a bit special as there was a coast guard helicopter on a training exercise going over Glaslyn and Llyn Lydaw as it hovered close to the rim, flying in and out for a good twenty minutes. A great thing to see from above. You also get great views of the rock face of Y Lliwdd  which is a good climbing area although I didn't see any climbers today. The top of the Watkins path was also the place where I encountered the worst of the lying snow as it is quite sheltered here and was quite solid. A lot of old deep footprints made it a bit easier but the main problem was the melt water was turning the soil quite muddy and slippery in places and there is quite a drop of. A bit of care and attention got me passed without mishap but it does show it's not always the snow and ice that can cause problems.
Making my way back down
The finger post at the start of the Watkins path
Snow on the Watkins Path
Snow on the Watkins Path
Looking back on my ascent of the South Ridge
Glaslyn far below
Helicopter over Glaslyn
My route over Bwlch y Saethau with the main path below on the right
Helicopter over Llyn Llydaw
The twin peaks of Y Lliwedd
Watching the helicopter
Helicopter flying over Llyn Llydaw
Helicopter flying over Llyn Llydaw
After being entertained for a bit, it was time to rejoin the main Watkins Path as it headed down to the old disused quarries. The path is straight forward as its mainly paving stones and heads straight down. Since I left the summit and made my way down this way, there was only two other people I saw and they were always a few hundred yards in front of me making it a quiet and peaceful descent. The wind had virtually stopped making it very pleasant and good for another rest just above the quarries. It really had turned out to be a great early spring day.
Back on the main Watkins Path
Old quarry dwellings
Slate spoil heap with Snowdon in the background
Pano of the South Ridge, Snowdon and my descent route with Y Lliwedd on the right from above the quarry
Further down the route is where I passed the Gladstone Rock, which bears a plaque commemorating a speech given in 1892 by William Ewart Gladstone, the then 83-year-old Prime Minister, on the subject of Justice for Wales. The plaque reads ;  

The Watkin Path, named after its creator Edward Watkin (a friend of Gladstone’s), was the first designated footpath in Britain. At the time of its construction, there was no path to the actual summit of Snowdon, only a path just over a quarter of the way up to a quarry. Over 2000 people gathered on the side of Snowdon in 1892 to witness Gladstone opening the Watkin Path. From on top of an impressive 12ft boulder, the Prime Minister delivered a speech on Justice for Wales, not to mention sung some ‘Cymric hymns’ himself. A plaque fitted to the front of the boulder commemorates what was sure to have been a memorable occasion, announcing that indeed William Gladstone had stood upon the rock.

Also on this stretch of the path I passed the old ruins of Plas Cwm Llan just above the major waterfalls. There are bullet holes on the side of this building as it had a function for commandos during WW2. The path by the waterfalls was also used in the film CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER back in 1968
Gladstone Rock
Plas Cwn Llan
Plas Cwm Llan
Back along the waterfalls and through the woods back to the car for around 5.30pm, made for a great 7 hours in fantastic weather in this most iconic of places. Another superb day
Afon Llan Waterfalls
Afon Llan Waterfalls
View ahead from Moel Siabod far left to Cnicht far right
From leaving the car park, I made my way to Plas Y Brenin to get another photo of the Snowdon Horseshoe that is my favourite view, only this time with there being no wind, the twin lakes Llynnau Mymbyr were like a mirror as the reflections were superb. It's not often you get it like this and the last time I saw it this still was about eight years ago on a still April morning. The photo that I use as the main picture on the blog was taken that morning. A fantastic end to another fantastic day doing Snowdon :-)
Snowdon Reflections
Snowdon Reflections
Snowdon Reflections
A video of the summit views and helicopter.