The Beast From The East - Jay Birmingham

The Beast From The East

I thought I had seen the last of the snow for the year when I left Glencoe, but I was wrong. Over the last week, the country has been battered by the ‘Beast from the East’, and snow drifts and high winds have transformed the way that places look.

A few months ago, we had booked the weekend in North Wales, and had been trying to decide whether or not to go over the last few days, as travelling looked difficult, and North Wales had suffered some severe weather (80 boats sank in Holyhead harbour because of the winds). However, we decided to give it a go – just in case we had to spend the night in the car, I packed an emergency kit of sleeping bags, extra layers, water and food, and my wife downloaded a film on the iPad (Jurassic Park, in case you’re wondering).

Fortunately, the worst bit of our journey was actually in the town we live in, and the roads were much better after that, so we arrived in Bangor relieved, and excited to go exploring. In the morning, we headed to Llyn Ogwen, which is a lake nestled in between the Carneddau and the Glyderau. It is pretty shallow (for a lake) – about 3 metres, so we were excited to see it frozen solid. Unfortunately it was extremely windy, so the pictures weren’t quite as we wanted, although we did head back briefly the next morning to try and catch it in slightly lesser winds. The snow settling on the ice looked very cool, and the boathouse was a nice bit of foreground interest.

We then walked up to Llyn Idwal, which wasn’t as frozen as Llyn Ogwen. The low clouds were lacking in detail which made photography difficult. There was a tent there, so presumably some climbers had spent the night there. It was very cold, so I didn’t envy that!

On the way down, we came across some of the Carneddau ponies - which are a unique breed of wild pony. They looked beautiful in the snow with the mountains behind them.

Snowdon is of course always worth visiting in the snow. At 3,560 feet, it is likely to have at least a smattering at this time of year. We didn’t plan to go to the summit, just to see some lakes. However, we did end up ascending higher than we planned, and until the visibility dropped to almost nothing there was some interesting lines in the ice to look at. We took a stroll on the ‘Miner’s Track’, as it meanders through several lakes- Llyn Teyrn, Llyn Lldaw, and Glaslyn. In Welsh folklore, King Arthur asked Bedivere to throw Excalibur into Glaslyn. Although we didn’t see it on this occasion, it does seem a place where you could lose something forever if you wanted to (there was heavy mist on this part of the walk, so we could hear people walking through the snow past us, but we couldn’t see them!).

For sunset, it was time for the beach. We usually visit the Anglesey for this sort of scenery but decided on one on the mainland – Dinas Dinlle. This is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), and the beach stretches for miles. It was quiet and peaceful, and good to contemplate the beautiful surroundings, as the sun shyly set.

The next day, the forecast wasn’t brilliant, but we had a couple of places we wanted to go. We watched the sun rise over the Menai Suspension Bridge. There wasn’t much colour in the sky at all, but it is always an impressive bridge to look at. It is one of Thomas Telford’s projects, and before it was finished in 1826, people had to travel to Anglesey via ferry.

Finally, we had a trip to Aber Falls. We visited this waterfall many times whilst studying at the University of Wales, Bangor, but never before had we seen it like this. It is a 120 foot waterfall, so when it is caped in snow, with ice for decoration, it just looks phenomenal. We found it hard to believe we weren’t in Canada, as UK waterfalls don’t often do this. We think it might have looked like this in 1986 last (if anyone knows, I’d be interested to hear). Anyway, we felt very honoured to have seen it like this. There had even been ice climbers on it over the last few days (doing ‘The Angel’s Tears’ and ‘Whippersnapper’s Route) – I bet they were pleased to have that in their log books, as it seems the opportunity doesn’t present itself very frequently!

We have another trip to North Wales booked in a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see if we get snow or sun (or, most likely, rain!).

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