QMD Blog

Snowdon Summits Challenges

Snowdon Summits Challenges

A QMD that took in all of the Snowdon summits (the Snowdon range) has been on my mind for sometime. I’ve worked on various routes trying to find the optimum route without dumbing down the challenge. The two routes i came up with are presented here (on the Challenges Page: Scroll down to them). There is a Traverse and a Circular Route. Unfortunately other commitments mean I haven’t had time to do them yet myself. However, I decided to make them available on the site.

The RDs and Routes provided have not been ‘walked on the ground’; they have been developed from maps. At the time of writing there is to the best of my knowledge no record, as yet, of these challenges having been completed as QMDs. I welcome any feedback, tracks, comments, and so on. Both routes can be escalated in difficulty by taking the goat track from Bwlch y Moch and ascending Crib Goch via North Ridge.

Only listed summits of 610m+ have been included. Y Lliwedd has three listed summits (?). A sort of Three-in-One bonus.

There are two versions of the Snowdon Summits Challenge: The Circular and the Traverse. Both challenges take in all 12 summits of the Snowdon range and include some route finding, some grade one scrambling, and steep and rocky ground. These routes should not be underestimated. Both challenges are at least equal in difficulty to the Welsh 3000s (not traditional route), if not more so. This is based on: 1) the ratio of miles to meters of height gain including a set starting point (see below); 2) the amount of steep and rocky ground and Grade One Scrambling required, and; 3) the amount of route finding and decision making required and time off paths.

The Snowdon Summits challenge is far from remote (but then the only really remote section of the Welsh 3000s is from Carnedd Llewelyn and Yr Elen to Carnedd Gwenllian). There are escapes throughout the route. It should not, though, be underestimated.

Both routes have a series of listed waymarks, given as grid references, that must be ‘logged’ in order to complete the route. These include, but are not limited to, all the summits. Missing any of these listed waypoints is an automatic Did Not Finish (DNF). Both routes are designed to be completed in a single journey, and that is part of the challenge.

The Traverse can be started at either Moel Eilio or Yr Aran. How you reach the first summit is up to you. The Circular can be started from any point on the route. How you reach that point is up to you. The recommended venues to reach a start point, for both routes, are Behtania and Llanberis. Other options include Pen y Pass, the 610m route from Nant Peris, or Moel Eilio from either Plas Isaf, Ystrad Isaf, or Llanberis. However, these latter routes involve extra distance and climbing compared to the Bethania and Llanberis options.

There are limited water sources on both routes so careful planning is required to ensure adequate hydration.

Only limited use of electronic navigational aids is allowed but this is strongly discouraged except in an emergency or dangerous/risky situation. These restrictions are as follows:

  • No mobile phone apps allowed with the exception of OS Locate (NOT OS Maps).
  • Only the GPS ‘Locate’ (grid reference) and GoTo function to be used on a GPS device and/or the compass.
  • Use of a Mobile Phone App or a GPS device to follow a Route or Track, PRoW, or any other path results in immediate DNF. Note that if a GPS device is used for to follow/find a path/route/location due to bad weather conditions and in order to reach safety and/or for rescue purposes this will be classed as Abandoned for Safety Reasons (ASR) rather than a DNF.
  • Use of a Mobile App other than OS Locate results in an immediate DNF (this is for safety reasons).

The Traverse is around 15.2 miles with 2673 metres of height gain (1:189) (starting at Bethania). The route finding sections are: 1) From Gallt y Wenallt to Craig y Deryn and on to Bwlch y Moch, and ; 2) from Llechog cross the big cwm to Bwlch Cwm Brwynog.

The Circular is around 21 miles with 3238 metres of height gain (1:155) (starting at Bethania). The route finding section is from either of the Afon Hwch crossings to Moel Eilio. There is some nominal route finding from the Mine Path up to Gallt yr Wenallt but there is a faint FP here (easy to miss), and similarly from Yr Aran down the ridge line (handrailing the wall) to Clogwyn Brith and down on to the Watkins path.

The Welsh 300s is around 24.4 miles with 3670 metres of height gain (1:150) (starting at Pen y Pass; not including the finishing leg from Foel Fras). There is no route finding required on the Welsh 3000s.

List of Summits with height in Metres (in ascending order of height)

  • Gallt y Wenallt               619
  • Foel Gron                       629
  • Moel Cynghorion           674
  • Llechog                           720
  • Moel Eilio                      726
  • Yr Aran                           747
  • Lliwedd Bach                 818
  • Y Lliwedd East Top       893
  • Y Lliwedd                       898
  • Crib Goch                       923
  • Crib y Ddysgl               1065
  • Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa 1085
Elan Valley and the Teifi Pools

Elan Valley and the Teifi Pools

PDF of post Here

There is a track of our journey, and a suggested route and RD for a full QMD under Teifi Pools Circular. The GPS files are also on the GPS Routes and Tracks page

I’m pleased to see the the Mountain Training Dlog now lists all of the mountains in Mid-Wales. But as well as the summits there is fantastic remote country with four bothys in the Elan Valley. This is a brief take on a wander around the Teifi Pools. In my earlier days I would certainly have logged this as a QMD. Now, with more experience, I logged it as a QHD. But the country should not be underestimated, and neither should the route finding challenges across rough ground.

The country around the Teifi Pools is bleak, charming, and a welcome change for the Disneyfied country of North Wales and the Brecon Beacons. It’s not the sort of country that attracts the adventure-in-a-bun crowds, thankfully, as you need to have at least some decent mountaineering skills and be prepared to work for your day out. Amazing views, vast open spaces, plenty of wildlife, and, best of all, no people. This is the land of dinosaurs. We saw frogs, a nest with eggs, and the fossilised backbone of a dragon. In the harsh depths of winter and/or bad weather this country will test your mettle as much as any other mountain country.

Our day was very much a spontaneous look around. We camped on Friday night in a strange little campsite on the edge of a council estate in Pontrhydfendigaid. In the morning we drove up to the Coed Troed-y-rhiw Car Park and wandered up the valley then went for height and summitted the 459m Disgwylfa and took the tops around to the trig point on Llan Ddu Fawr. The original plan was to head north past Domen Milwyn and circle back round to pick up the path at CLaerwen where the river enters Claerwen Reservoir. However, we cut it short due to slow going over rough ground and the bogs. Besides, this was a mini adventure and a quick look round. We weren’t looking for a big day, just getting a feel for the country.

Consider that we had an 11-mile wander and achieved 770m of height gain, which is decent. A little bit of a longer route and we could have doubled that height gain. There isn’t quite the height as available elsewhere, but we spent a good part of the day between 400m and 500m, which isn’t bad. A lot of rough ground and route finding. Not much steep ground or rocky ground.

It’s straightforward with good visibility but in the mist, dark, and rain this would be challenging navigation indeed. A huge mess of contour features gives you plenty to work with but there is an awful lot of them. It’s a ring contour and re-entrant theme park with every possible variation you could ever hope to imagine all liberally interspersed with difficult, boggy, ground and small crags. The boggy ground can be avoided by staying high and making use of the watersheds, if you know how to do that. There’s also plenty of quadbike tracks – too many if anything and they become seductive paths for the unwary. Nestled deep inside the country is the Claerddu bothy opening up the possibility of a solid two-day QMD exped with an overnight at the bothy, which has a flush toilet! (Or even a multi-bothy day across the four bothys in the area.)

The key thing with this country is keeping the height and finding the watersheds in order to avoid the bogs. Descending is generally good alongside the streams but you need to find the right distance from them. That is, if you are handrailing a stream to descend you need to keep a certain distance from it to stay on the drier ground. Spurs are generally good for descents as well.

It takes a particular mindset to get the real value from this country. It doesn’t come pre-packaged, over-hyped, and crawling with people shouting to each other and dropping litter everywhere. It’s a quiet, gentle beauty, desolate and magnificent. There is truly a sense of being alone in open space that is at once benign and challenging. There is little protection from the elements, whether that be sun, wind, or rain. The ground underfoot can change rapidly with little solidity at times. Thankfully the grass is only a little twmpy but there is a fair bit of bracken later in the year. The lower fences do have barbed wire tops but the higher fences seemed not to. That having been said, with a little effort and thought most the fences are avoidable. Within the expanse of the Elan Valley, taken from it’s southernmost post around the Drygarn Fawr and Gorllwyn, all the way up to Y Garn, there is probably 5-8 QMDs to be had with ample scope for two-day expeditions and real wild camping, to say nothing of the bothys. (Although you wouldn’t really want to try and squeeze more than 2-3 QMDs out of the area if you were going for an ML Award.)

Confidence Roping: A view on.

Confidence Roping: A view on.

(NOT an instructional document!)

PDF Here

When in the mountains people sometimes use a technique known as confidence roping on steep slopes and crags. Confidence roping is a form of short roping, which is an essential Alpine skill. However, in the UK confidence roping is distinguished from short roping. Confidence roping in the UK is defined as unplanned rope work where the consequences of a slip are minimal and will not result in a fall. Short roping, by contrast, is planned rope work.

One of the unanswered questions is: how much rope should be between the leader and the client when confidence roping? There has been little research done on this, but as ever there is a wealth of assumed expert opinion. What research has been done has been in relation to short roping, and includes confidence roping. It is this research I draw on in this tiny weeny post (see below), as well as Langmuir. I refer only to confidence roping in the context of the MLS award here. Of course, inevitably someone will make the argument that this reference is not relevant. I think it is. I have, however, tried to balance this by referring also to Langmuir (2014).

First, confidence roping can take place uphill, downhill, and while traversing either up or down. Second, the risk of both parties falling if one party slides or falls is high. Third, the length of rope between parties is variable and there is no set distance that is either better or safer, although when traversing as short a rope as possible is recommended. In sum, there is no right or best length of rope between ML and client, only suggestions and recommendations. This is open to further debate but also depends very much on the clarity of understanding of confidence roping. Within the MLS context confidence roping is almost always applied to descending.

Langmuir provides excellent clarity of confidence roping in the ML context. ‘This is a technique normally used descending steep vegetated or mixed ground…[as opposed to steep rocky ground]…where the leader has evaluated that there is no risk of a substantial fall should a slip occur and that they personally will be secure…The leader should be as close to their charge as practicable so as to ease communication and minimise complications and stretch in the rope – as distance of about a metre is normally fine…with the leader staying in a braced position at all times as they move…The minute the leader feels uncertain of their ability to hold a slip because of the terrain they are on then consideration should be given to using the rope to belay members of the party.’ (pg. 168)

The purpose of confidence roping in the UK for Mountain Leaders is for confidence, as much as to prevent a slip or fall. As such, it is appropriate to try and direct the client to the easiest route with the least risk of a slip rather than attempting a route where a slip is highly likely. For the sort of ground MLs cover most of these risks can usually be managed. Thus, as noted above, the rope is primarily for confidence. Within the MLS context it does seem to make sense to keep a short distance of around one metre as long as the ML has secure footing and as long as the descent is neither too steep nor to complicated and the risk of slipping is small. I will now consider the three scenarios in turn.

Traversing

You can traverse, zig zag, up or downhill. Traversing reduces the gradient and increases footing. When traversing the ML should, in principle, always be above the client and keep as short a rope as possible. What the ML does is to parallel the client on the traverse. However, this is not always possible on steep/rocky slopes and, indeed, on some rocky slopes is probably the wrong thing to do.

How short ‘as short as possible’ means is open to question. As ever it means that the ML and client are able to move independently of one another and yet the client feels safe. A rope that is too short allows for no recovery or adjustment time and in that situation if one goes both go. By too short I mean the one person literally cannot move without the other person moving, although there may be situations where even this is the most appropriate thing to do.

Uphill

When travelling uphill, and not traversing, it may be possible to keep a very short rope between ML and client (around 1 metre). The ML works the pace to suit the client and they go uphill together. Again, with a rope this short if one goes both go and the ML needs to be keenly aware of their client’s movement.

Downhill

Supporting a client downhill without traversing is perhaps the trickiest aspect of confidence roping. In an ideal world you would always traverse, but this not always an option. One key aspect of downhill confidence roping is to guide the client around obstacles and to avoid areas and features where a slip is likely.

It is common sense to realise that if the ML cannot brace their footing they have no chance of preventing a slip by the client. Thus if an obstacle, such as a particularly steep section of a small bit of rock, is unavoidable the ML should remain above the obstacle while the client descends and only then follow the client down. In order to do this you clearly need not only a good length of rope between you but also to be able to pay out more rope if needs be.

General Guidelines

  • Confidence roping is used in the ML context to instil confidence as much as it is to prevent, or manage, a slip.
  • Secure footing for the ML is everything in confidence roping. If the ML is not secure in their footing they cannot keep any tension on the rope and if the client slips, trips, or stumbles that the ML is likely to follow suit.
  • The principle behind confidence roping is the help the client find secure footing and to avoid any unnecessary obstacles.
  • The length of rope between ML and client varies depending on the situation and the type of ground. There is no one set best or right distance. There are only suggested and recommended distances. A commonly agreed distance is around one meter assuming there is free movement across the ground and the ML has secure footing.
  • Keeping a short distance between ML and client is generally advised for going uphill and/or traversing. However, if traversing a boulder field or scree slope, for example, it may be appropriate to have a longer rope between ML and client.
  • When traversing on a steep slope the ML can be above the client as long as their footing is secure. On rocky ground you should not at any time have one person directly above another.
  • When confidence roping downhill it is at times a good idea for the ML to have additional coils of rope in hand so that they can play it out to allow the client to avoid unnecessary obstacles.
  • Recommended distances for confidence roping seem to vary from between one metre to around three metres depending on the situation and the ground.

NOTE: As an addition someone commented that a common problem with confidence roping is how tight to have the rope between the roped parties. That was not the question I set out to address, as noted at the start. However, it is an interesting question and there are all sorts of recommendations and variations on how to hold the rope, whether or not to secure the rope to the leader and if so in what way, and so on. Langmuir goes into this. But what is interesting is the Alpinism paper goes into it by saying, with regard to the amount of tension required on the rope, the rope should be ‘gently tight’ at all times.

ADDITONAL NOTE: Following further discussion about how taught/tight the rope should be I refer further to Langmuir, the rope should be kept, ‘…taught at all times…the arm† should be kept bent and the body in a flexed position…with the leader staying in a braced position at all times whilst they move, using the bend of their arm to lengthen and shorten the distance between them…’ (pg. 167). However, when you look at the evidence presented in the Short Roping paper you will see that while, in translation, confidence roping may be suitable to prevent, or manage, a minor slip on steep ground where there is no significant risk it provides no guarantee. The Short Roping paper gives consideration to advantages and disadvantages of various techniques and while this goes beyond what most MLs will work with it does highlight the risk of assuming confidence roping will ‘prevent’ a slip from occurring per se. It may indeed help but the fact remains that if either party actually slips and goes both parties are likely to go.

Conclusion

Overall there is not one right or best length of rope to have between ML and client during confidence roping. It depends on the ground, the situation, and whether or not you are going uphill, traversing, or descending. It seems that between one and three meters is usually recommended, but more distance may be appropriate in some situations. For any confidence roping the ML needs to have firm and secure footing at all times. If the client actually falls or slides the ML is almost certainly going to go with them so the point is to prevent this in the first place. This is achieved by keeping the correct degree of tension on the rope to provide some stability and security for the client. One of the key considerations is to avoid unnecessary obstacles rather than to assume the rope will provide protection for the client on the obstacle. If actual protection from a rope is required then you will need to anchor and belay and that is the next step after confidence roping.

References

Langmuir, E. (2013). Mountaincraft and Leadership. Mountain Training England and Mountain Training Scotland.

Short Roping. Gottlieb Braun-Elwert. http://alpineskills.com/pdf_forms/ShortRoping.pdf

The Welsh 3000s

The Welsh 3000s

A PDF of the write up, RD, and the GPX files can be found here

The Welsh 3000s is an iconic challenge with a somewhat inflated reputation for its difficulty. Truth of the matter is that the route is pretty straightforward and pretty much all on good paths. There are a number of water sources along the way (streams and a reservoir) and two road crossings. On a busy weekend large parts of the route resemble Oxford Street on a busy Saturday.

That having been said, it’s a route where small mistakes, nominal deviations from the route, unanticipated rests, and a lack of cardiovascular fitness will cost you dearly. A small deviation from the path could cost you an hour. If you blow the Elidir Fawr climb you won’t finish. An unnecessary scramble will sap your energy and add hours to your time – when it counts most.

What the challenge requires for successful completion – a summit-to-summit time of 15 hours or less – is discipline and cardiovascular fitness that allows you to climb consistently at a good pace, all other things being equal. It does require careful planning for where you take rest breaks and feeding breaks and where you are going to source water. The summit-to-summit completion time is estimated as a time for the average Hill or Long Distance Walker in a London Hight Street shop in reasonable-to-good weather without support. It assumes, as noted, that the said person is disciplined, sticks to the main paths, and has planned their route carefully in case the weather comes in. For the more experienced walker/mountaineer the expected completion time all other things being equal would be around 12 hours.

The main route is straightforward, as said above, but there are number of minor variations for the ascents and descents of the first and third leg. The Route Description (RD) and GPX files give these variations. Water sources and support points are noted below and on the RD and on the relevant GPX files.

For the true Welsh 3000s challenge you’ll want to do it without any support other than drop off at the start and pick up at the finish. That means carrying all your own food and water and the minimal necessary mountain kit.

The challenge is readily broken down into three legs. The Snowdon leg, the Glyderau leg, and the Carneddau leg. The Snowdon leg has a small Grade One scramble across Crib Goch and has two main variations. The Glyderau leg is pretty much fixed although the transfer to the Carneddau leg has two options. The Carneddau leg is pretty much fixed but there are a number of options from the finish to leave the mountains.

The Snowdon leg can be started at either Crib Goch or Snowdon. These two starts give two very different routes with different ways off the mountain. Either route means a strong climb to the start, the first summit, followed by three summits in quick succession then a long descent to the valley. The advantage of a Crib Goch start is that the descent is straightforward with two simple options. A Snowdon start means descending from Crib Goch and using North Ridge followed by a longish stretch on the road, which does have the advantage of giving your legs a rest and means you can make good time.

The Glyderau leg is pretty much fixed. From Nant Peris you take the direct ascent up Elidir Fawr then follow the main paths round to the next valley. This leg has most of the big climbs and big descents. The climbs are unrelenting and come in succession and need to be carefully managed. This is not a leg to push on. It needs a measured pace and a low, steady, effort. The risk with this leg, as it is with the first leg, is getting caught up with trying to do too much rock – scrambling – on the Glyderau themselves and Tryfan. This will burn up energy and time alike and is unnecessary. With the exception of Castell y Gwynt the paths take you within the required distance of the summits and there is no need to stop and mess around at each one. Managing this middle leg is crucial to the success of the day. There are a lot of climbs and a lot of potential distractions and deviations from the main path. Blowing the climbs will rob you of the energy you need for the Carneddau and straying of the main path can easily cost you hours in time. The main pinch points in terms of straying are Foel Goch, which you avoid by staying on the main path, and losing the path after Glyder Fawr and getting caught up in Castell y Gwynt and Glyder Fach and on the smaller paths up Tryfan. It is also important to stay in West Gully on the descent. The gully is eroded and full of slabs of rock. There is a small path to the left as you descend, but this should be avoided as the gully itself is easier and faster to descend.

The Carneddau leg has the final big climb at the start. The climb can be softened if you take the Glen Dena path (see Alternative Leg Three below) but that adds an extra .4 – .5 of a mile. Once the climb up Pen yr Ole Wen is completed it is an undulating route with one little kick up from Yr Elen to Carnedd Llewelyn. The main challenge on this leg is sections across boulder fields. They are short but greasy in the wet and there are a good number of them. However, if you keep a steady pace and focus you are through them quickly. The Carneddau leg is the one where you can afford to push the pace and look for a good strong finish and make up any lost time.

When you reach the finish at Foel Fras there are four possible descents off the mountains: Bethesda, Aber Falls, Bwlcyh y Ddeufaen Car Park, and the Llyn Eigiau Car Park. The shortest route is to Llyn Eigiau, but this is also the most difficult route. Bwlch y Ddeufaen is a simple route and virtually the same distance as the Llyn Eigiau route. It can be much shortened if you know the way across the open access. The simplest finish is to the Aber Falls Car Park. This requires no effort and follows a broad track. The Bethesda finish is the longest finish with some focus and concentration required.

The challenge varies markedly with the time of year, the weather, and between weekends and weekdays. The optimum day would be in late April early May in good weather during the week. The mountains will be quiet, you have enough daylight if you get an early start and stick to the pace and the plan, and the weather is at its most stable. Weekends can be noisy and crowded, especially on the Glyderau section, and once past June the weather is starting to turn. If you are a masochistic, experienced, die hard with phenomenal fitness and mountaineering skills the cold, wet, dark, winter days are of course an option. But its not a challenge to take on in either the rain or in the snow or strong winds. The risks are simply to great and a realistic pace is unlikely.

What follows is a description (not an RD) of the summit-to-summit route starting at Crib Goch. When I completed the challenge I took a slightly different route but I’ve done every part of the route outlined here with the exception of cutting corner around Carnedd Llewelyn. At the time I rather foolishly thought cutting corner to Yr Elen first made sense and became fixated on that option – to my cost. Similarly for the Tryfan Dash route.

The Welsh 3000s route from Crib Goch

Leg one; Snowdon Range; Three summits

From Pen y Pass you take the Pyg Track up to Crib Goch (1). Its important to take it slow and easy especially as if you want to get round well you need an early start (sunrise). Take the easy route up to Crib Goch, keeping to the right, with minimal scrambling. Cross over and again minimise any unnecessary scrambling. The objective is to move at steady pace and don’t do anything you don’t have to do. Go across to Garnedd Ugain (2) on the right hand path and follow the track up to Snowdon (3). Take the Llanberis path from Snowdon and after Clogwyn station leave the path and continue on the ridge to the 610m ring contour.

Cross over the stile and descend on the path, which is on the left and then cuts right, and as you near the bottom bear left to the stile over the wall. Be careful not to keep on with the path on the spur for too long otherwise you come to a steep bit that is very difficult to get down. The 610m descent is a little tough on the knees and in wet weather can be very slippery as it is all on grass.

After crossing the wall there is a good path to the footbridge to Nant Peris. This is the first road break.

The water in the stream at Nant Peris may not be good water as there are many campsites upstream. However, there is water within the next hour as you ascend Elidir Fawr.

Leg Two; Glyderau Range; Five, or Six, summits (depending on whether or not you take in Castell y Gwynt)

The key to this leg is a measured pace and sticking to the main path like glue.

If coming from the 610m turn left as you come onto the road, cross the road, and take the first road right up past Raw Adventures (also signposted to a campsite). Follow the road around to the left and keep on until you see the footpath sign. It is pretty obvious which path goes up towards Elidir Fawr.

Follow the path up Elidir Fawr to the stream crossing. This is a water source straight off the mountain. It is the last reliable water source until the next road crossing and there is a tough leg ahead. Cross the stream and follow the path up Elidir Fawr (1). This is the toughest climb and needs to be taken at a steady measured pace. Blow this climb and you won’t finish. It isn’t as demanding as it seems but it is mind numbingly boring and relentless.

From Elidir Fawr there is a good path that skirts below Foel Goch and goes around and up Y Garn (2). There are around four false summits up Y Garn. It is a good easy to follow path. From Y Garn you descend to Llyn y Cwn. There is a steam leaving Llyn y Cwn towards Devil’s Kitchen and again this is a water source although it can dry up in summer.

Then comes the climb up to Glyder Fawr (3) which is steep but not as demanding as it first seems. From Glyder Fawr follow the path to Castell y Gwynt (4), take it, then keep on the main path to Glyder Fach (5) then on to descend down the scree slope alongside Bristly Ridge.

Keep on the main path up Tryfan (6). Make sure you stick to the main path as any deviation will cost you a lot of energy and time at this point.

From Tryfan you descend Western Gully and then onto the path and down to the road. It is possible to cut the corner by bearing left right at the very end. Turn left down road towards Idwal Cottage. There is a water source in the reservoir on the far side of the road and in the stream leaving the reservoir. There is also the stream leaving Llyn Idwal. This is the last good water source before the finish and the Carneddau leg is a long leg plus a finish.

Leg Three; Carnededau Range; Seven Summits

From Idwal Cottage cross the road and turn left then the path is almost immediately on the right. You cross the stream here. Follow the path up Pen yr Ole Wen (1) again avoiding as much of the scrambling as you possibly can. The easier path is slightly to the right and skirts the worst of the boulder fields. Again, this is a place to work on a steady pace and minimise effort as much as possible.

Once up on Pen yr Ole Wen it is straightforward to Carnedd Dafydd (2). After Carnedd Dafydd there is a boulder field at Cerfn Ysgolion Duon. The path runs just below the boulder field and is pretty straightforward. Continue with the main path up to Carnedd Llewelyn (3).

From Carnedd Llwelyn take a line directly across to Yr Elen (4). This is almost a complete out and back. On the way back from Yr Elen stick to the main path and as you come off the climb the main path bears left. Follow this bearing left and it will cut the corner around Carnedd Llewelyn and take you on to the main path to Foel Grach (5). This is an easier route than the one directly from Carnedd Llewelyn which crosses boulder fields.

There are no more real climbs from this point on. Keep on the path to Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian (6), and finally Foel Fras (7).

Alternative Leg Three; Carnededau Range via Glen Dena Route; Seven Summits

From Tryfan descend Western Gully then EITHER turn right down the Tryfan Dash route (NOT ADVISED unless you are a mountain goat). Note that this is a steep descent best managed along the stream bed but in wet weather the rock can be like ice. It is a long descent and unless you can descend extremely well on tired legs it is going to be slow. OR Descend Western Gully and just follow the path down to the road and TR along the road.

At the road turn right. Cross the road. Turn left up the footpath past Glen Dena. Continue on the path across the stream towards Cwm Lloer. As the path reaches the pass it bears left past Ffynon Lloer and goes up Pen yr Ole Wen with a very short scramble.

Keep to left as you ascend Pen Yr Ole Wen.

This path is .4-.5 of a mile longer than ascending from Idwal Cottage. It is, however, a simpler and clearer path. It is debatable whether it requires less effort than the Idwal Cottage approach. There is a good water source on this route.

After Pen yr Ole Wen it is straightforward to Carnedd Dafydd (2). After Carnedd Dafydd there is a boulder field at Cerfn Ysgolion Duon. The path runs just below the boulder field and is pretty straightforward. Continue with the main path up to Carnedd Llewelyn (3).

From Carnedd Llwelyn take a line directly across to Yr Elen (4). This is almost a complete out and back. On the way back from Yr Elen stick to the main path and as you come off the climb the main path bears left. Follow this bearing left and it will cut the corner around Carnedd Llewelyn and take you on to the main path to Foel Grach (5). This is an easier route than the one directly from Carnedd Llewelyn which crosses boulder fields.

There are no more real climbs from this point on. Keep on the path to Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian (6), and finally Foel Fras (7).

Coming off the mountains

From Foel Fras you can either double back and descend to either Bethesda or Llyn Eigiau or continue to either Aber Falls Car Park or Bwlch y Ddeufaen Car Park.

For Aber Falls you simply follow the main path along the wall off Fole Fras and it becomes a track that takes you to the Car Park. For Bwlch y Ddeufaen you keep to the fence line. Eventually the fence line turns right and you follow it down to the Roman Road and turn right to the Car Park. There are peat bog streams at regular intervals along this route.

Water Sources

Knowing how to source water is a key mountaineering skill. Generally speaking water should always be sourced from running water, the faster the better. Always check upstream for around 50m to ensure no dead animals. Bodies of still water carry a higher risk and the smaller the body of still water the greater the risk. Large bodies of water are generally drinkable but in places, such as the Brecon Beacons, even large bodies of water, other than reservoirs, are contaminated. Reservoirs tend to have drinkable water.

Water can be filtered or treated with chlorine tablets if uncertain or if there is no other water available. Small, lightweight, filters are inexpensive and chlorine tablets are equally inexpensive. However, in the case of water contaminated by human faeces or by leptospirosis boiling is the only viable option. This sort of contamination usually occurs in still bodies of water such as ponds and small lakes where there are a lot of sheep and/or where people camp/wild camp and/or on rivers or streams below campsites.

There are number of water sources on the Welsh 3000s listed below. Given the above it is not possible to advise that the water from these sources is suitable for drinking purposes.

Leg One

Make sure you start with plenty of water for Leg One. There are two water sources at the end of Leg One/Start of Leg Two.

Source One.  This is downstream from a campsite and is not advised. As you reach the FB crossing the river just before you go into Nant Peris. SH 60367 58270

Source Two. Actually at the start of Leg Two. As you go into the OA on Elidir Fawr you come to the washed away FB and cross the stream. This falls from the mountain and is fast flowing. SH 60845 59577

Leg Two

There are three water sources on Leg Two including one at the end/start of Leg Three.

Source One. As you go into the OA on Elidir Fawr you come to the washed away FB and cross the stream. This falls from the mountain and is fast flowing. SH 60845 59577

Source Two. There is a run off from Llyn y Cwn at the base of Y Garn before you ascend Glyder Fawr. The path actually crosses the run off and it can be followed downstream for a little way. SH 63660 58562

If the run off has dried up there is another source to the north of Llyn y Cwn. As you reach the Llyn turn right and follow the main path. After a hundred metres of so it reaches a small stream and runs parallel to the stream. SH 63362 58435

Source Three. When you come off Tryfan and take the standard route up Pen yr Ole Wen you come to a FB over the run off from Llyn Ogwen just after Idwal Cottage. You can source water from Llyn Ogwen or from the run off. SH 648 605

Leg Three

Leg Three has no good water sources other than at the start and is s longest leg with the least options so make sure you are well stocked up. There is a possible water source at Bwlch Cyfryw-drum but it is not straightforward. On the Glen Dena route there is water all the way up to the left turn onto Pen yr Ole Wen.

Source One. The FB over the run off from Llyn Ogwen just after Idwal Cottage. You can source water from Llyn Ogwen or from the run off. SH 648 605

Source One Glen Dena Route. You can get down to Llyn Ogwen or from the road. Look for an obvious route over the wall just by the big rocks. SH 664 604

Source Two Glen Dena Route. The FB follows the stream up towards Cwm Lloer and the water is fast flowing. Don’t leave it too late though as higher up the sides are steep and the stream is difficult to access. SH 66757 61194; SH 66541 61917

Possible further source. There is a potential source to the LHS as you come down into Bwlch Cyfryw-drum. As you reach the flat place, just before the crescent wall on the path, there is a small path to the LHS on CB 320. After around 50m this path passes above two re-entrants. SH 68122 63956. Tl and make your way down for 50-100m to the re-entrant SH 67945 63870. This is not straightforward and is time consuming over some rough ground.

Windspeed: Does it matter?

Windspeed: Does it matter?

PDF of post Here

This post is a little more rough and ready than I’d like, and I haven’t been able to put the sort of time into refining the explanations I would like. Nonetheless, the ideas are pretty straightforward and, I hope, of some use. If there is a message it is a simple one: Learn to use the weather forecasts in relation to windspeed, and learn to understand the impact of windspeed in context.

Wind, or to use a more relative term, windspeed, is one of the significant weather features in the mountains. The impact of strong wind on high ground can range from uncomfortable to deadly. Judging the impact of windspeed relative to the nature of the ground is important for your own safety and that of others. For example, a windspeed of 25mph on low ground may have little effect but it may make it too dangerous to cross a rocky ridge. And a windspeed of 25mph on low ground could translate to a windspeed of double or triple that, maybe more, on the high tops.

A windspeed of 40mph on high ground is often used as a benchmark for safety and is sometimes considered too strong to take a group on high ground, especially in bad weather conditions. This needs to set in context of nature of the ground and the experience of the group. If the high ground does not have steep and rocky ground, and/or if the group is sticking to well-marked paths, and it is clear weather, they may well manage with winds of that speed, possibly higher. However, the risk increases with steep and rocky the ground and if the group lacks relevant experience and capability.

Strong winds also gust, more so in the mountains, and gusts can be many times stronger than the wind. Good quality weather forecasts usually give an indication of the speed of gusts and these need to be taken into account.

One of the difficulties, of course, is that windspeed, wind direction, and turbulence can be heavily affected by local features. Wind can change direction in a mater of a few metres as it is affected by different local features, funnel up valleys, become turbulent over ridges and around rock formations, and so on.

For example, we’ve been out in winds of around 60mph but along a small section of a ridge (with a well-marked wide path) the gusts were reaching 80mph. We climbed down off the ridge and after we’d lost around 10m of height there was virtually no wind.

It’s important to be able to judge the impact of windspeed on both yourself and your group. This is not the same as being able to accurately measure windspeed, not least because it will change markedly with local features. And it is the impact of windspeed on you and your group that matters, not the actual windspeed. For example, you may be able to manage the effects of a 50mph wind on high ground, members of the group may struggle with windspeeds far less than that.

The Met Office mountain weather forecasts provide summit specific forecasts that include windspeed and gust speeds on specific summits. While these may not be available for the summits you are visiting you can usually get a good idea of overall windspeed from the nearby summits.

Mountain Weather forecasts may not be available for where you are going, and you need to be able to assess localised windspeed and its impact. Having a rule of thumb to assess windspeed can help your decision making.

A good rule of thumb is the Pint Rule. Most people find this useful as a general indicator not only of windspeed but of the impact of windspeed.

Simply put, the Pint Rule says that for the average person walking down Oxford High Street every 10mph of wind has the effect of one pint of beer. One Pint = 10mph = little effect. Two Pints = some effect, mild difficulty keeping to a straight line. Three Pints = 30mph = some effect = slight loss of footing. Four Pints = some loss of balance, unsure footing. Five Pints = loss of balance, disorientating, can’t walk in a straight line. Six Pints = 60mph = stumbling, fall over easily, hard to walk in a straight line, loss of orientation, hard work making progress. At Ten Pints = 100mph = flat on the ground and unable to move (and there are Mountain Rescue reports of people being blown completely off their feet and through the air by wind reaching this sort of speed).

The Pint Rule can be applied not only to estimate windspeed but also to estimate the impact of windspeed on the group and individuals. It makes it easy to understand why a 40mph wind can be dangerous. Indeed, it makes it easy to understand why a 20mph wind could be dangerous on some ground.

The Pint Rule also works in reverse. If, for example, the forecast is for 30mph winds but a member of the group is losing their balance and unsure of their footing in the wind then they are likely experiencing the wind as though it were, say, ‘40mph’. The point being that it is not necessarily the actual windspeed that matters but being able to judge the impact of the windspeed on yourself and group members.

This can all be summarised into some general rules:

  • Check a good weather forecast, preferably a mountain weather forecast if one is available, and note not only the windspeed but also the speed of gusts.
  • Check summit forecasts, if available, and look at the windspeed on several different summits all close to each other.
  • If no mountain weather forecast is available then be aware that windspeed tends to increase markedly with height and you need to take account of this. Windspeeds can be two or three times greater at height (c. 600m+) than they are at ground level.
  • As a general rule somewhere around 40mph is a threshold. Winds of 40mph or more pose a substantial risk on high ground. Indeed, 30mph may be difficult for some people. And on steep and rocky ground the threshold may be lower (e.g. a windspeed of 25mph may be too risky to cross a rocky ridge).
  • Put windspeed into context. The impact of windspeed varies with height, the type of ground, the experience and capability of yourself and the group, and the weather. Rain, mist, fog, and so on add to the risk posed by high winds, as does steep and rocky ground.
  • Put windspeed into personal context. While one person may cope with winds of 40mph another person may find them challenging.
  • Remember that windspeed is heavily affected by local features and can vary hugely over a small distance – a few hundred metres, or less – depending on the features.
  • Monitor the effects of windspeed on yourself and others as walking on high ground in strong wind increases both the mental and physical effort required.
  • Make use of the Pint Rule, or any other method that works for you, to monitor windspeed and the impact of windspeed. It helps understand the impact of windspeed on yourself and others.

When it comes down to it you are going to have judge the impact of windspeed on safety and that means putting windspeed into the appropriate context of height, type of ground, weather, and the experience and capability of yourself and your group. The core skill to develop is the ability to assess this impact from both weather forecasts and how it is affecting you and others when you are out on the mountain.

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