I tackled the Rhinogs this weekend. I had them billed in my mind as great training for the Yorkshire 3 peaks but they turned out to really challenging in their own right. To find them not challenging, I would have had to have been a bit fitter and also not so plagued on a couple of steep boulder climbs with that old demon, fear of falling.
Apart from being fantastically done-in at the end of the 10 hour walk, I learnt some new things along the way – but more of that later.
We camped out on Friday night in Cwm Bychan, A small, basic but great campsite in the middle of the Snowdonia National Park. It would also be the end point of the walk.
To ensure it was the end point we had a logistical plan to take one of the vans down to the nearest train station then head down to Barmouth and walk back from where we’d come from. Traversing over the mountains (Rhinog Fawr, Rhinog Fach and a couple of others) of course.
So, we got the train on Saturday from single track Llanbedr station to Barmouth at 7.20 a.m, which meant a 5.30 start, as the campsite was a few miles away down a narrow, twisting and turning lane. 5.30, I ask you. But that’s good practice for the 4.30 a.m start I’ll need for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.
Barmouth looked nice as an seaside town. But we didn’t get to explore, we walked steeply out of the town and up to the start of the Rhinogs region. The first mountain isn’t actually a Rhinog but (its called Diffwys I think?) it was as high I think, at around 720 metres. It did have clear paths, easy to follow though, unlike the 2 Rhinogs themselves.
The countryside at that point was moors grasses wild flowers, with and cotton grass tufts that echoed the whiter than white skittish sheep that were everywhere. It looked great. The dry stone walls are taller than those we get in West Yorkshire on the whole and the gun metal coloured stone with splashes if lime green lichen were really something to see.
When we got to the named Rhinogs, they turned out to be made up of scree-strewn steep paths or boulder/ rock fall fields. No easy walking here. The Rhinogs are to the south of Snowdon, their Victorian-promoted, more user friendly cousin. I know parts of Snowdon are really hard but The Rhinogs definitely felt more rugged and remote.
I found the boulder/rock field parts really challenging.. its way more tiring ascending or at times pulling yourself up a rock field, than it is to follow a path that winds its way steeply uphill. More so when part of my brain (the part that fell down a Swiss mountain many years back ) was telling me the rocks could easily collapse under me and avalanche down or I could fall backwards. Irrational, but fear usually is. Doh.
So it was hard work for me but as I used to say to my kids, its all ‘character building’. My character didn’t want to sob in front of the other guys, one of whom has been in the English orienteering team (I think I have that right) and a couple others climb Scottish mountains and free climb Munroe rock faces for fun. So, I held back on the whimpering.
Like I say, the bits I was tempted to whimper like a child at, were the steep ascents up the rock fields, with a strong wind having the (vertigo- imagined) ability to nudge me off and drop me down a few metres. There was never more than maybe a 4 or 5 metre drop once or twice. But who’s counting after 3 metres?
I sat at the top of the final named Rhinog (Rhinog Fawr, the most northerly for us) and was glad I’d got there but I would have liked some clearer skies to enjoy the imagined view with. After that we headed back down another scree path and had a debate about whether to tackle another hill.. although I’d already decided along with one of the other guys to call it a day. At that 9 and a half hour mark, I was pretty done in and two of us headed back to the campsite whch was down a path called the Roman Steps. They may be roman or actually medieveal (I’ll have to google that another time) but they’re really old in any case and led conveniently back to the campsite.. and some cold beer 🙂
The other 4 guys planned an excursion up another hill but actually came back to the campsite before another hour had passed.
The thoughts on that and the rest of the day from Richard, are great to read and are here:
We’d had a great day and I probably slowed them down a bit on the boulder climbs but they all seemed in good spirits. So thanks to Ali and Richard for organising, Andy and Chris and Jeff for good company and putting up with my boulder climbs 🙂
I’m really pleased to have done it and it was great training – and when the mist occasionally cleared the views down to the valleys were spectacular.
I only grabbed a few photos but they are here on Flickr if you want to have a look
Stuff I learned this time round:
– make sure your newly bought hydration pack is the right way up in your rucksack. I was wondering why it was getting harder to get water into the mouth piece until friend Jeff had a look in my backpack for me and turned it the right way up. Ah, the tube should be at the bottom? Gravity and all that.
– if you wear any kind of rings (I have 2 silver ones), then maybe tape a band-aid around them if you’re going to use your hands to climb rocks. both are a bit scratched up now.
– Don’t take more stuff in your bag than you need .. I needed some money for the train to Barmouth, but took my wallet with about £10 of coinage in it. That weighs quite a bit by the end of 10 hours.
– (this sounds horrible but I knew this already) .. cut your toenails before you do a long walk. The steep descents mean your feet rammed into your toe line and it would have been harder on my feet if I hadn’t read that tip on someone else’s blog.