Mark Rowe's walk in Snowdonia: Day one
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Environment and travel journalist, Mark Rowe, brings you his experiences of day one of a two-day walk in Snowdonia's National Park.
The valley floor: Gwen Gof Uchaf car park
A playful mist was swirling up and over Tryfan as I set off up the valley, tracking a path to the east of both Tryfan and its smaller sidekick, Tryfan bach. Tryfan metamorphosed as I walked up alongside it, first a knife-edge ridge, then becoming a tower of granite oblongs; later, as the path rose and I was able to gaze back down at it, serenely beautifully. In aesthetic terms, this is the archetypical mountain.
The track up to the ridgeline is a classic, dwindling to a vanishing point that makes it look from the bottom of the valley like a razor edge affair. Close up it is broad enough, though still something of a slippery scramble through scree and stream-splashed rocks. I had several feral goats for company, whose beautiful huge horns made them look like beasts dropped in from the Himalayans, though in fact they have been part of the Snowdon landscape for centuries.
Along the top: The cantilever and Glyder Fach
The walk along the ridgeline is straightforward in clear weather but in fog you’re better off biding your time in a pub in the valleys. Emerging on the ridge close to the lake of Llyn Caseg fraith, I headed west. The views of Tryfan managed to get even more breathtaking and were all the more atmospheric for the fleeting mist that came and went. Jagged peaks mark the landscape, chaotically emerging here and there, forged from volcanic rocks pushed up from an ancient, prehistoric seabed. They stuck out of the land at odd angles like the masts of shipwrecks.
This is a monochrome world of grey and white. Some of the rocks here are the size of buses The first spectacle you come to is the cantilever, a diving board shaped exposed stone that overhangs thin air. The summit of Glyder Fach (994m) was next and I then veered to the left of the shattered rock fins that make up the Castell y Gwynt (the Castle of the Winds). Passing the superbly named Cwm Cneifon (The Nameless Cwm) I plodded on to Glyder Fawr (994m).
The Devil’s Kitchen
The boulder-strewn summit slowly merged into a more grassy landscape. It was time to head back downhill. Descending from Llyn y Cwn, which I passed coming down from Glyder Fawr, I took the stirring path known as Llwybyr y carw, which translates as the Deer footpath. Reaching the steeper section, the Devil’s Kitchen, a large crack in the cliffs with dark wet ledges becomes apparent. I slithered down the knee-cracking trail past this deep cleft, with views opening up of the delectable Llyn (lake) Idwal and its cwm, which was designated as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve back in 1954. The rock faces of the Devil’s Kitchen get their name from their blackened appearance, as if indeed smothered and charred by fire and soot,
'The rock faces here face northwards so they get very little natural light,' Dewi Roberts, the lead ranger for the National Trust estate, explained later.
Somewhere up on the high crags hereabouts you might spot the Snowdon Lilly: it’s elusive though, and you may have to settle for simply knowing that it is there.
Llyn Idwal is an idyllic spot: Darwin eulogised about the lake’s glacial imprints and the manner in which the ice sheet gouged out the land and left the mesmerising Nant Ffrancon valley behind is easy to see. The whole of the Carneddau-Glyder range is riddled with legends, and Idwal is no exception. You could easily imagine the lady of the lake thrusting Excalibur upwards for Arthur’s inspection (this is set elsewhere, and one version claims nearby Lake Ogwyn is the setting). The tale is more sombre and the story goes that Idwal, the 12th-century son of Owain, prince of Gwynedd met a suspicious watery death here. Listen closely during a storm, you may be told, and you’ll hear a voice crying out over the centuries