A strange turn of events led us back to the "Slippery hill of the witch" on a Sunday with time and a few sponds, it was Erics idea he practically begged me to come back, I was going to go to the Near Peak district, but he was adamant, he wanted to have another crack at that mountain that defeated him last time, and he wanted to bring his mate, whom for reasons that will become apparent will remain nameless.
We parked in the Ogwen valley by the entrance to a farm that is on the way to the cairn topped mountain. As the walk started we first had to cross over a cattle grid, Eric's mate looked at it strangely and said "what's that?" he wasn't kidding either it was the first time he'd seen one, he crossed it gingerly in his wellies, and me and Eric exchanged glances.
After the farm had been passed we made it up to the nice to walk beside weir/canal, Eric changed out of trousers and into shorts, it was that warm, i've never seen anyone climb a mountain in shorts and T shirt before, strange days indeed.
When the weir reaches the small valley between Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach we head up to the saddle between the two (Bwlch y Tri Marchog) following the stream uphill. On the way we saw two small brown smooth lizards and some mountain ponies.
At the top of the Bwlch y Tri Marchog we could look down into Cwm Eigiau, the perfect glacier made valley, and up to Carnedd llewelyn with the narrow ridge linking it to the lower but no less lovely Pen yr helgi du. It was a heavenly place to sit and consume some butties, and catch our breath, two mountains a week is perhaps close to my limit.
Then it's up to the summit, through a rocky path that is well worn and has the best view of The Carneddau that there is to my knowledge. Whilst photographing this Snowdonian spectacle eric stayed with me as a loving son is wont to do, but his mate carried on up on his own, he left the only two people who could help if nessasary, I was a tadd annoyed but tried not to show it.
Finally we caught up to the loner at the top, it was very gratifying to finally get to the top, the list got shorter for a change.
The cairn is I think if anything getting smaller, I can only hope that the bump the small pile of stones is on is the main part of the cairn. We all take up residence at the cairn even going so far as to take our shoes off, really making ourselves at home. I lied down propped up on shoulders surveying the haze that can't hide the better half of the national park. Behind me coming back to the fore is what the kids are doing behind me, to my absolute horror Eric's mate was seeing how far he could throw stones over the edge, I sternly reminded him there was a footpath down there, with people walking on it, and those stones are from someones grave that has been there for 4000 years and your just chucking it over the edge to show how cool you are. I was not impressed, I made them go away from the cairn and collect some more stones and replace them on the cairn, Eric wasn't impressed with him either, and Eric's mate wasn't impressed, with me. Really, even though educated into what's what some people don't care, last time he comes out with me I can tell you.
That said not even a naughty mouthy kid can spoil my enjoyment of this place, the weather is amazing so warm and dry and those views are to die for, the eye is forever torn up to the Carneddau, especially llewelyn and the narrow ridge down to Pen yr Helgi Du, Ive never seen the mountains look so enticing, one day me and Alken will walk it, and properly enjoy the wonderful beauty of this place.
On the way down I try to find Bwlch Cowlyd but I cant even remember what it is i'm looking for, oh well someone will find it one day i'm sure.
This was to be Eric's first real mountain climb, his slack jawed expression of disbelief when I pointed out where we were going wasn't very encouraging.
We parked as close to the dam on Llyn Cowlyd and started the walk, we probably spent too much time at the dam, messing about as children are wont to do, but then we got going.
There is no certain path from where we started, so we were free walking a path of our own choosing, through bogs across deep icy snow drifts, it's his first snow of the year so this was particularly fascinating. (long drawn out wistful sigh)
All the way up thus far the low clouds had veiled the summit, and Eric had his first taste of mountain walking, that is, when you crest a ridge thinking your nearly there and then thump, still loads left yet.
We got right under the summit, only a 150 vertical meters to go and Eric had his second mountain lesson, heights are scary.
So scary in fact that he didn't want to go right up to the top, I tried some gentle persuasion, some bribery, then some reverse psychology, but he had become firm, Pen Llithrig Y Wrach summit would have to wait for another day.
He said at the bottom, back at the car, that he regretted not going all the way to the top, Daft head Bear Grylls was on the radio after and he convinced Eric to trust his Dad and give it another go, so the first Sunday with money and good weather, we'll give it another go, only without the two mile stone hunting walk beforehand.
Ah, the 'Slippery Hill of the Witch'. Hasn't that just got to be a contender for best name ever? Although at 2,622ft it can hardly be called a hill... unless you're a Scot, that is, in which case even the incomparable Black Cuillin are 'hills'....
I last visited the summit cairn of Pen Llithrig y Wrach almost exactly four years ago, approaching from the south near Bron Heulog. This is perhaps the preferred way up, since it gives the traveller ample opportunity to take a look at several other monuments en route. Unfortunately, however, thick cloud and atrocious conditions moved in whilst I was but half way up back then. Hey, these things happen in the hills, sorry, mountains of Snowdonia. Don't they just? To be honest I had no intention of having another look today, my mind set upon a tentative ascent of the Creigiau Gleision opposite, a wary eye upon the cloud base. However, upon arriving and parking at the Llyn Cowlyd dam, following a drive up what might possibly be - in places - the steepest public road in all Wales (seriously) from Trefriw, improving conditions prompt a snap decision. Let's go see the old witch again, then.
So, leaving a couple of workmen actually working - yeah, I know, it freaked me out, too - upon the dam (demonstrating that hopefully we've learnt our lesson from the catastrophic failure of the Llyn Eigau dam in 1925...) I head westwards to ascend the long north-eastern ridge of the mountain. At the crest there is a sort of path, although diversions to view the aforementioned Llyn Eigiau render my approach to the summit a trackless, boggy, heathery slog. Never mind, since the views across Cwm Eigau to Carnedd Llewelyn and the central peaks of The Carneddau are sublime. A final grassy scramble and there is the summit cairn... clear of cloud this time around.
As with most North Walian Bronze Age summit funerary cairns, the construction of this 'un - low, earthfast, with overlying supplementary modern additions - will not blow you away in itself. However the positionning, towering above the forbidding, black jewel of the Llyn Cowlyd reservoir, with the 'grey-green crags' of Creigiau Gleision shimmering beyond, is truly breathtaking. The 3000 footers of The Carneddau sit beyond Pen-yr-Helgi-Du (peak of the black hunting dog) to the approx north-west, mostly crowned by their own Bronze Age monuments, whilst the incomparable Tryfan dominates Ogwen to the west, despite being in the company of numerous other serious mountains. There can be only one Tryfan, cairnless, but surmounted by its unique pair of stone sentinels. Shafts of light pierce the increasingly dark cloudbase above Moel Siabod to shine a myriad spotlights upon Dyffryn Mymbyr, scene of yesterday's visit. Then, to the north beyond Llyn Eigiau, I pick out the one and only Tal-y-Fan, the hillfort Pen-y-Gaer and Drum, site of yet another funerary cairn. Needless to say many other monuments remain unseen at this range. Is there anywhere they didn't go, these people?
The weather begins to deteriorate, the light also. Several used flare cannisters are a prescient warning. Time to leave, then. As I approach Cwm Cowlyd, vicious hailstone fronts beginning to sweep across the reservoir, I notice one (perhaps more?) possible hut circles/disturbed cairn-circles. Not sure.
Needless to say, darkness approaches.. and time has run out, the prevailing conditions now not the best.. and I've still got to negotiate the road back to Trefriw. Luckily the access gate, despite appearances to the contrary, has not been locked before me. It is a relief. Or perhaps the old witch took pity and sorted it for me?