Couch to 5 KM – (plus two mountains)

After our recent excursion to Conic Hill on the banks of Loch Lomond, we decided that it would be good to attempt a bigger hill challenge, perhaps either in the Lake district or Snowdonia.

I should at this point offer a bit of background detail to our previous wandering around the Peak District, where its perhaps fair to say, that Sharon has found anything beyond two hours walking a little bit of a challenge. Normally, it means she suffers from an aching hip joint, this naturally affects her walking style which I can only describe as being akin to Forrest Gump running with his leg irons on!

That’s the background, so now you will understand that the ‘Couch to 5 KM’ has been a mission she has undertaken, to improve her distance and walking capabilities in the anticipation that no further pain or inconvenience would be experienced.

Welcome to Snowdonia, which was our venue for Thursday’s attempt at something a little more challenging than either Conic Hill or the Peak District. Our first challenge, however, was trying to find a safe parking location in the Ogwen Valley, given that the ‘world and his dog’ had all decided that they would go there too!

Parking sorted, although now that our parking location was now at the East end of Llyn Ogwen, it required some dynamic re-routing!

We set off along the footpath near Gwern Gof Uchaf camp site and were soon heading south over Tryfan Bach towards our route along the Heather Terrace. It was good to be out, the air was fresh, probably helped by a strong breeze blowing through the valley even at this low level. Heather Terrace was stunningly beautiful with the abundance of purple heather everywhere, we even encountered a couple of feral goats along the way.

Soon we hit the saddle between Tryfan Far South Peak and the Bristly ridge, time for a picture or two. It was at this point Sharon decided to ask me about casevac (casualty evacuation) procedures and how on earth she would be able to tell any emergency services where on earth she was!!

Never one to miss a training opportunity, I described the usage of map and grid references, which I think went completely over her head, however I then produced my iPhone and demonstrated the easiest way to give a relatively accurate Grid reference complete with the proceeding two letter map prefix reference. (Pictures here of OS Locate, please note the grid reference is NOT for Tryfan!)

Onwards, we pressed on along the Miners track heading south-east until we hit the ridge towards Glyder Fach. I would point out here, that prior to us venturing out to play, my first job was to check the weather forecast for the area. My site of choice is the MWIS service (Mountain Weather information service). This is a MUST, before venturing out into remote areas, but even more important when you are accompanied by others.

The forecast was spot on, as we arrived at the summit the wind hit us!! Gusting at around 35 MPH, it makes walking a challenge and brings with it a reduction in temperature. No time to be hanging around now, we pressed on to our first RV point at the Cantilever stone!

My plan was to have our lunch stop here, but that proved difficult. Wherever we tried to find shelter from the wind, it seemed to change direction and find us!! Instead, we carried on towards Castell y Gwynt (Castle of the wind). This is a stunning feature, and you would be forgiven for thinking that you had just arrived at a scene from Lord of the Rings, arriving at Mordor!

Nonetheless, it proved to be our saviour for our lunch stop as we manged to locate ourselves on the East side in a relatively sheltered spot. Lunch was ‘inhaled’ as we were both famished at this point, the climb in itself is a challenge but is made increasingly more difficult by a full head on wind, which by now was probably at the limit of safe mountain walking where severe drops are present.

Glyder Fawr was in view as we had punched our way through the wind along the nameless Cwm, the wind chill was a factor that we were very aware of, and our new challenge was locating the drop off down to the Devil’s Kitchen.

We traversed down the slightly loose under foot track a bit gingerly and we were soon out of the wind and heading nicely downward.

This is a fabulous photo point offering views over Llyn Idwal towards Llyn Ogwen and the huge imposing lump of Pen yr Ole Wen directly in front of you, simply stunning!!

You can choose to take either path down around the lake, and on this occasion we elected for the left hand path which would offer views of Y Gribin and Tryfan beyond. Our final approach towards the information centre leads you past some spectacular waterfalls, which was a fitting end to this circuit.

All that was left to do was a short hop along the road back to the car, which was a positive breeze along the tarmac path and sheltered from a wind that had truly battered us throughout our little excursion.

In summary, this was a good Mountain Day, covering 13.23 KMs. 1710 metres of ascent over 4 hours, I can honestly say the prospect of a nice cappuccino has never felt so good!

So, the couch to 5KMs training has done the trick, no dodgy hips and no problems getting up or off the hill ! A positive physical and health investment definitely pays dividends.

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