I came down to the Leicester/Donington Rally last Friday and decided I could roll that in with an extended stay at mother’s and climb a biggish Welsh lump. Mother was pleased as she doesn’t see enough of me (she needs wide angle glasses!) Having chatted with my fellow lump ascender (Brian G4ZRP) we decided on Moel Siabod though I can’t remember why. It all depended on the WX which was predicted as bad for Thursday evening (driving down), good for Friday (Donington), bad for Saturday (free) and good-ish for Sunday (Siabod day).
The drive down was a nightmare as I was forced to 30mph on the M74/M6 at times due to the wind and rain. Friday was lovely and the rally was good too as I met fellow SOTAists Rob G4RQJ & Audrey, John G(W)4BVE, Jim G0CQK and Jack G(M)4COX. Saturday was a bit damp in Liverpool but b***** awful in Wales and Cumbria. Of course the BBC was delighted with the stories about OMM in Cumbria. Having no new bad financial news over the weekend it hyped up some problems to ridiculous levels. Just read the reports from the people who were actually there to get a more balanced picture.
Anyway Siabod Sunday came. WX report was a little rain in the morning clearing up with the odd shower in the afternoon. Good visibility out of the rain but cold and a bit windy. So I met Brian and off we chugged. The further West the more obvious the WX from Saturday became. By the time we were descending the A5 into Betws the roads were a bit like rivers with significant run off in the gutters. The river in Betws was impressive and Brian said wait till we get to Pont Cyfyng. We parked just before the stone bridge at Pont Cyfyng in the car park. At 10.00am it was half full! By eck! It’s busy in Snowdownia irrespective of the WX.
The river was in full spate and jolly impressive it was. There was a steady stream of cars either with walkers or mountain bikes or canoes. So we booted up and wandered off with Brian setting the pace. The old sod’s been exercising a lot and without 16kgs on his back he set a good rate. Also he doesn’t have the extra 20kgs I have on my belly either which helps! So we crossed the bridge and took the 2nd right and followed the sign up the hill. The woods are really nice, proper old mixed woodland and with the chill temperature but quite strong sun it was a great start. We followed the path on the diversion around the farm and popped out back onto the track and kept on climbing on the busy route.
Now the Pont Cyfyng route is normally up to the abandoned quarry lake, around it and up to Llyn y Foel then up the scrambly bit to the summit. I don’t really enjoy scrambles. Or much exposure to be honest. I like a nice walk where I can keep my hands in my pockets. So instead of following the path to the quarry lake near SH723562 we went straight up the ridge. There’s no path as such at the start but just steep grass. After a flatish bit we started climbing again. Brian assured me there was a path up the ridge and we just had to find it. But as it was 28 years since he was up here he wasn’t exactly certain of where it was located. I confided in him that I had been up here before, Spring half-term 1974 when aged 12 and I didn’t remember the path either!
So we kept on going up with Brian occasionally finding the spots where gravity was extra strong by falling in a heap and then enriching my vocabulary with a stream of phrases that would make a trooper blush. Then we found the path. A good, well worn path in the grass that wound it’s way up the rocks. In places the rocks were well polished suggesting many boots but apart from a couple a few hundred yards in front we were on our own. We sheltered by some big rocks for 10mins during a shower but the WX was nice really, just a bit cool when we stopped. After a final push up a very wet bit with lots of loose rocks we were on flatter ground. We could see the track to Plas y Brenin. You can’t miss it, a knee deep brown trench running up the mountain. Judging by the number of people working their way along it I though someone was selling tenners for just five pounds at the summit.
It was an easy trudge from here to the double ladder style and then up to the boulder field proper. I hate boulder fields. I could smell the trig ( you can smell them when you been up enough hills) but couldn’t see it. Brian was off like a greyhound across the boulders and in another 5 minutes or so we were at the summit explaining why we had bits of plumbing and fishing rods with us. It was far too windy on the top to stay so we dropped down and started playing radio whilst having lunch.
I started on 2m FM using the VX170 which went pear shaped early on. I managed to get it into Internet mode and it would send some DTMF before I could speak. After a few contacts we got the HF dipole up and immediately started working a good pileup on 60m. I worked 4, then Brian did 4 so he could claim the summit too and then I continued. We finished off on 2m FM again with John GW4BVE and Jordan M3TMX. Time to pack and we were done in double quick time. Up to the trig for photos and then time to go.
We reversed the route and after a few minutes the heavens opened. On with all the GoreTex and off we plodded. Rain and hail lashed us but after 15 minutes it all stopped. The wind on our backs was strong enough that after only 20 minutes I was well on the way to being completely dry. Down the rocky ridge. I did wonder if Brian had developed some new fetish the way he took every opportunity to roll on his back in the muddy bits. My suggestion he invest in some proper boots was not well received.
OK, it was payback time for all the smart comments. Brian said “It’s slippy here” as he got up yet again. So I came down the very slippy grass bank using both poles and stopped where he had got up. “I though you said it was slippy”. Barely had I finished when I was on my back with a leg bent underneath me. There was a nasty cracking sound which I hoped wasn’t bone but was actually my poles hitting each other. “I hope you can walk as I’m not carrying you” said my concerned walking companion. “I hope I can walk as all the rescue dudes are up in Cumbria!” After resting for 10 minutes I found I could walk as long as I didn’t twist the leg. Walking was just about OK but twisting was a vicious assault with knifes and flames.
So I limped out the last 2 or so kms. By the time we were at the car it didn’t really hurt unless I twisted the joint. Driving wasn’t a problem either. So I think I was incredibly lucky really. Of course during the night my ankle had swollen up and the next day I had to steal my mum’s walking stick to get about. It was too short so I looked like an old biker with a smashed up pelvis as I stood all lop-sided and limped around. It’s still tender now when suddenly changing direction. I think a weekend off will be prudent. So I’m hoping the WX will be awful so I don’t feel I’m missing out. Sorry if you have something planned. Well I’m not sorry to be honest if I can’t play aswell!
The route we took was SH735571, SH734571, SH732567, SH723562, SH714557, SH713555, SH706550, SH704546.
Total walked: 8.2kms, total ascent: 705m, distance driven: 670miles
Pictures on Flickr (Flickr: The Summits on the Air Photo Pool Pool). Full pictures at http://www.moosedata.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=5095