Cracking winter day out in North Wales

Two summits Mwdwl-eithin GW/NW-047 and Foel Goch GW/NW-039.

Mwdwl-eithin GW/NW-047
I made the decision not to use the snowshoes on the first hill as there is a lot of heather and two fence lines to cross. On balance I think I was probably wrong. They would have helped and it would only have taken a couple of minutes to take them off and put them back on when we crossed the fences.

It was quite a slog in the deep snow. But well worth it when we arrived at the summit. Sue (my XYL) and I had arranged to meet another couple who were out doing a circuit of Llyn Alwen. We had made only loose plans for this but amazingly they arrived at the summit from the opposite direction only 10 minutes after we did.

The 2m co-linear antenna went up inside the well built and spacious summit shelter and was connected to my trusty FT-270 hand held. I had a summit to summit contact with Simon GW4TJC/P on Moel Elio GW/NW-022. He surprised me by indicating there wasn’t too much snow on the north ridge that leads to the summit of this hill. Six more contacts came through in the next 15 minutes and then they dried up. A quick bit to eat and drink, followed by farewells to our friends and we headed back to the car. Retracing our steps in the snow helped speed our descent.

Back at the car we headed for the start point for the next hill. The last part of this is up a very steep lane, which was snow covered. The Subaru Outback AWD with winter tyres on didn’t slip once and we were soon parked at the end of the road.

GW/NW-039 Foel Goch
This time we put the snowshoes on straight from the car. A bit of overkill I thought, but within a couple of hundred metres they were paying dividends in the deep snow. There was a thin crust in places and the extra “spread” on the snowshoes allowed me to stay on the surface a lot of the time.

Sue turned back after a while as she was a bit tired after the slog on the first hill, so I continued alone to the summit.

The wind was bitingly cold and I had to do everything in my gloves which slowed my set up. It doesn’t help writing in the log either! I got reports that I was a bit muffled. I’m wondering if I’d got some snow in the hand mic on the previous hill. I’ll see if it will dry out.

Six quick 2m FM contacts and then that was it. I was getting cold in the strong wind and so didn’t want to linger. The light was now improving so I took some quick photos and headed down, arriving back back at the car just after 1600.

A truly wonderful winter day in the hills.

Click the link below for the photos.
Flickr photo set


Hi Gerald.

Nice to work you S2S yesterday.

It did seem odd that Moel Eilio and the ridge hadn’t collected much snow. Mynydd Mawr had a good glaze and the Glyderau looked very well covered. On Saturday the A5104 and A494 took me through some very snowy scenery, still with a road closure at one point.

Nice photos!

I will have some pictures of the Arenigs to post shortly. I’m not sure I’ll have the courage to post a “selfie” video struggling through the snow! I might want to consider snow shoes at this rate. Any recommendations? I procured crampons, but haven’t happened upon any suitable conditions to start practising with them yet. One couple up Moel Eilio had ice axes - I think they will have been dissappointed.


Hi Simon,

I bought my snowshoes “cheap” in France. At the time this was way cheaper than buying them in the UK.

I use a relatively inexpensive pair of mid range TSLs. You can pay silly money for Snowshoes - the MSR ones are crackers! Although mine are plastic they have been robust. I probably only use them 4-5 times a year, so they should last a long time. They are quick to put on and take off.

Sue has a really cheap pair of Decathlon own brand Quechua ones and they work well. Although we did lose a pivot bolt on these. Easily replaced out of the spares/repair kit I carry though.

Do ensure they have heel raisers for going up hill.

Finally, don’t expect too much. You still sink a bit (sometimes a lot if there is a lot of fresh powder) but it is a lot better than boots. If you are following a big path, well trampled by others, then it’s not that useful. They come into their own where you are first along a route.

Decathlon (being a French company) do sell a lot of different models in the UK. (Other retailers are available!)
Decathlon Snowshoes

EDIT: Just searched for MSR snowshoes, Wow! The new models are way down in price! Worth a look as MSR always had a good reputation. Still dearer than most TSL models though.

Thanks Gerald - all noted.

You certainly can pay silly money. I might just be looking for some old tennis racquets and string! :wink:


I could do with some of your advice / recommendations on Ice Axe’s ? if you wouldn’t mind Gerald.

I was lucky I didnt need to self-arrest this past weekend, I came too close when I found the traverse onto the summit was solid ice.

Btw Denbigh Army surplus boots 10/10 worth every penny, so thanks for that local tip !


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Ice axe is a very personal thing.

But… I’ll stick my neck out with some general observations.

Don’t get one too long, it’s not a walking stick. If it is too long you can’t efficiently self arrest and worse still you are likely to catch the spike (the bit at the bottom of the shaft) when you try to self arrest and it could make you tumble or lose your axe. 55cm-60cm is fine unless you are very tall.

Something like a Grivel Munro or a Grivel Helix.

This next bit will start a big debate! Be careful using a leash. On a walking axe you should be using it in the “uphill hand” all the time, which means swapping from hand to hand a lot if you are zig-zaging up or down. Also, if you do fall and lose your hold on the axe you don’t want it attached to you flailing about as you slide. The counter argument is that you are less likely to simply drop it if you have a wrist loop. I compromise and have a leash attached, but usually gathered in my hand on the head, ready to attach to me if I need it (rarely).

The temptation is to get a very light axe, but don’t get one with a very light head. If you need to use it to cut steps with the adze or use the pick directly to make progress, then the very light headed axes “bounce off” hard snow/ice.

You should be looking at crampons too. Depending on your boots, you probably need fully articulated and strap on only ones.

Something like a Grivel G12 Classic.

Other brands are available and I am not paid or sponsored by Grivel. (I do use their crampons though - but my ice axe is a 1980’s Snowdon Moundings Curver - sadly not in production)

Finally, using this kit effectively is not as intuitive as might be thought. Proper technique is best learned from someone who knows what they are doing, be it a properly experienced friend or on a short winter skills course. You can get a lot done in just a day.

In particular self arrest techniques need practice, lots of it. Otherwise when you most need it you will find it doesn’t work. I’ve done Self Belay and Self Arrest just a couple of times. Basically, if you are using your axe and crampons properly you should never need Self Arrest. The biggest mistake is waiting too long to put crampons on in the first place.

Just a few thoughts… suspect this may start a debate!

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