Margaux Smale proves you can still find solitude on a busy mountain


I COULDN’T TELL you what Y Garn really looks like, but I could tell you this was definitely one of the most memorable walks I’ve done in a long time. It was misty and blowing a gale, seemingly typical of Snowdonia of course. We may have started on a well-trodden path, but on hitting clouds at 600m, the weather turned. The poor visibility gave us a real sense that it was just us and the mountain – the Holy Grail of every seasoned walker.

There’s no denying the Glyders are beautiful and for that reason incredibly popular. Personally I don’t like being another ant following the trail. So on reaching the top of Pinnacle Crag, we quickly diverted southwest towards Llyn Clyd, disappearing into the mist and leaving the well-worn path behind us.

The lake is an easy enough target, even in misty weather. It’s also a great spot for wild swimming if you’re brave enough. Wandering along the grassy yet slightly rocky terrain, we could have been anywhere. Clouds are underrated I think. Not only did they give us this sense of remoteness, but they hid the steep incline ahead of us, which I may never have attempted, had I seen it fully.

The route we picked to the top of Y Garn was a steep scramble, and the gale-force winds and at times loose rocks got the heart pumping. I hadn’t realised just how steep it was, but from a standing position, I could touch the ground we were climbing up. With damp, moss-covered rocks on the verge of toppling down the mountain at a wrong foot placement, this route isn’t for the faint-hearted.

I’ve been told the views of Ogwen Valley from Y Garn’s summit of 947m are something to behold. I couldn’t comment on that, but I can tell you that when all you see ahead is white and the wind is trying to blow you off the edge, it sure is exciting. To our delight, as we emerged from the clouds on our descent, the wind died down and we were rewarded with stunning views.

A recent article by the BMC’s Hillwalking Officer, Carey Davies, reminded me that mountains can be so much more memorable on a stormy, gusty, cloudy day. And he’s right. Although we’d hoped to break through the cloud on Y Garn’s summit, it was an adventure I won’t forget. We fought to stay upright, held on to fence posts (and each other) to avoid a sudden plummet, watched the wind whip clouds up through the gullies and gasped in awe when the clouds did break enough to catch a glimpse of the land below.

This time of year really highlights the beauty, ruggedness and remoteness of Snowdonia. It’s a place to escape the hectic bustle of technology-mad life and drink in the fresh air, colours and views.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

  • From the car park at Idwal Cottage, follow footpath to Llyn Idwal.
  • Continue on footpath around N side of lake, then pick the path up the shoulder of Y Garn.
  • When the route turns sharply N, leave the path, continuing SW towards Llyn Clyd.
  • At the far side of the lake, head S and pick a path up the steep incline.
  • On topping out, follow the path to the summit and over until you reach a fence.
  • Keeping the fence to your left, continue to the saddle point below Foel-goch.
  • Head E for half a kilometre and then descend into the Cwm.
  • Continue descending, heading SE until you pick up the wall.
  • Follow wall to the path and the path back to the car park.

 

Y Garn, Snowdonia

Details

  • Distance: 9km/5.5 miles
  • Ascent: 800m/2500ft
  • Start/ Finish: Idwal Cottage (GR: SH 64886 60367)
  • Map: OS 1:25,000 Explorer Sheet OL17 (Snowdonia); Harvey’s 1:40,000 British Mountain Map (Snowdonia)
  • Information: Betws-y-Coed Information Centre, 01690 710426
  • Public Transport: Snowdon Sherpa buses run regularly (check gwynedd.gov. uk). Nearest train stations are Bangor and Betws-y-Coed (see traveline-cymru.info)
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