The weather forecast for last Sunday (18th November 2012) was looking dry and a hike in Snowdonia was on the cards. After consulting the map a couple of routes looked likely, either up Snowdon via the Pyg Track or up to Glyder Fach from Capel Curig. I decided upon the latter, having not taken that route before. Arriving a Capel Curing the weather was sunny and the air was crisp. Perfect! The route follows a fairly broad ridge most of the way up to the summit, so I thought that there would not be too much navigating to be done. After a little uncertainty finding the initial start point of the trail, I headed up in generally the right direction and soon found short sections of path to follow.
On the lower hillside the sun felt quite warm while I was starting to gain height. Using the #socialhiking hashtag I’d tweeted about my planned route and received a warning from @SmirnieOutdoors about the Vintage Welsh bogs between Gallt yr Ogof & Y Foel Goch. Despite this sage advice and much testing of the ground with my walking poles, I still managed to lose my feet under the peat a couple of times. There were several boggy sections along the route and gaiters would have come in handy on this hike.
The Right Way Up
Looking over to Snowdon I could see that there was a big cloud hovering over the summit, so I was glad that I hadn’t chosen to go there. The terrain became steeper and the wind colder heading up towards Gallt yr Ogof. One of the best parts of the walk was reaching the top of this section, when suddenly the east face of Tryfan comes into view. Looking further round to the left I could see Glyder Fach with a thin cover of snow on its rocky summit. The path heads up to Y Foel Goch at 805m before dropping about 50m through another bog. Approaching Glyder Fach a few scramblers could be seen on Bristly Ridge.
Glyder Fach Summit
After a quick lunch on the summit of Glyder Fach I decided that time would not permit a continuation onto Glyder Fawr and so I began to head back to Capel Curig. By this time clouds were starting to cover the summit in places but it was still easy enough to head off the summit in the right direction without consulting my compass. I kept to the northern side of the ridge since there seemed to be a firmer trail through the bog.
A short while after crossing back over the summit of Y Foel Goch the clouds had completely surrounded me. By this time I felt that I was a bit too far over to the north of the ridge. Although I was on a reasonably well established path, it was not the same path that I came up. So I left the path and headed south, up over the top of the ridge. To my surprise the ground dropped away sharply and there were several rocky outcrops that seemed unfamiliar. After brief glance at the map it was obvious that I had started to head along the outcrop of Gallt yr Ogof. The route that I should have taken had veered off to the right.
The Wrong Way Down
My options were to either head back up the way I had come to re-join my original route or continue along Gallt yr Ogof. Four factors came into play in my decision making process. The first was that I did not want to have to go back up hill again. The second was that since I was charting my route on Social Hiking, if I back tracked it would be obvious to other people that I had made a navigational error and I didn’t want to look stupid. Thirdly, going back a slightly different way would add a bit of variety to my walk. Finally, the alternative path that I was on seemed well trodden so there must be a sensible route down. Clearly I had forgotten to pack my brain.
Gallt yr Ogof
So I continued along the Gallt yr Ogof spur for a short while before the path disappeared and I was knee deep in heather. Ideally I wanted to come down on the Capel Curig side of the spur to save a bit walking. There were cliffs at the top of the spur, but maybe this would be an option further down? Walking through the heather was not easy, but before long a path crossed from right to left in front of me. The path led to a style across a barded wire fence. Proceeding downwards, again the path disappeared. Then it was time for a bit of a shock. Over to my right was a nasty cliff. Prior to finding the above mentioned path, my course would have taken me straight over the edge. By this time I down out of clouds and visibility was fairly good, so the chances are that I would have seen the cliff top and avoided falling over it. Had the weather conditions been worse perhaps that would not have been the case.
To the western side of the spur the ground dropped away more gradually, so I headed that way. Upon reaching the bottom of Gallt yr Ogof I walked around to its eastern flank, heading towards Capel Curig. From ground level I was able to look back at my route and consider where I could have ended up. There were nasty cliffs all along the eastern and northern sides of the spur. Upon consulting my map again, I noted that these cliffs were clearly marked. Whilst I did get down safely and the route I chose did an extra element of adventure to my hike, I had clearly taken the wrong way down.
Navigation – Lessons Learnt
My lessons learnt for the day are as follows:
- Before setting off study your map carefully. Think about where navigational errors could be made. Make a note of hazardous features.
- During the walk consult the map to check your location.
- If you go the wrong way retrace your steps even if it involves going back up hill.
- Everyone goes the wrong way sometimes so don’t worry about mistakes on your Social Hiking route.
- Trails can disappear, especially if they are not marked on the map.
Please feel free to leave any further advice in the comments section below!
Share Your Adventure
Using Social Hiking you can chart your position online using the GPS on your smart phone. Disappointingly, I managed to accidentally turn off the GPS application (ViewRanger) before heading along Gallt yr Ogof, so that part of my hike has not been charted. An additional benefit of using Social Hiking is that, should you have an accident whilst on the fells, it can aid Mountain Rescue in locating you, but not when it is turned off!
More photos can be seen on Flickr: Capel Curing to Glyder Fach