Two things spring to mind when I think of Wales, sheep, and dramatic mountain scenery and after last week, I can now add a third item to the list, Storm Aileen. Somehow, in the previous 48 hours, I had managed to miss the weather forecast, and this little oversight made for quite an interesting evening.
Googleing around before I left East Sussex, I found a very nice campsite just at the back of Llanberis called Camping in Llanberis. Their website has limited information on it but what it does have on the site are toilets and showers, very handy after a day walking around the mountains. Car packed, fuel tank filled, sat nav programmed, off I went. A fairly straightforward drive from East Sussex to North Wales, M23, M25, a few more M’s and an A. Six hours later I arrived in Llanberis with sore eyes hunting for a campsite which is described as being at the back of the village above the youth hostel, and this description was perfect as the site literally is right behind the youth hostel. Perfect campsite but be aware of the extra costs.
Car parked, Tent pitched, food heated up and now time to sit down, eat and take in the absolutely amazing view looking across from the base of Mount Snowdon to Dinorwig, worth every second of the long drive. Next on the agenda is a good night sleep ready for a day of walking and exploring Devil’s Kitchen over in the Ogwen Valley.
Sunrise brought with it bursts of rain with nice sunny spells with some added wind to get a nice blow-dry, which is quite nice for me but not my cameras who will be living in plastic bags during the downpours. I have to mention a local cafe, it is my favorite in the UK. I have been using it for many years and the cafe sits right in the middle of Llanberis, Pete’s Eats. Seriously, you must go there, it is the mecca for the climbing and walking community and besides, the food is great. So after I had my fill of a tasty energy filling breakfast, AKA Full English, I headed over to the Ogwen Valley to explore Devil’s Kitchen.
If you have ever imagined being in the high Himalaya with the sharp edges of rock faces and pointy mountains then this place is like a miniature version. To the left in the above photo is Mount Tryfan with huge bare rock summit and in front of me are the Idwal Slabs. It really feels like I could be any high mountainous area in the world. A truly breathtaking place. Just off to the left of the picture, there was a man fishing, not sure if anything swims in the lake but, he looked pretty happy and relaxed. After the Kitchen had been visited, next stop was the Swallow Falls down at Betws-y-Coed. I have passed by the falls many times before and never bothered to stop so I decided that maybe a visit was in order.
Entry cost me £1.50, and as a total surprise, worth every penny. There is nothing in Falls site itself apart from a path with some set places to take photos and the waterfall itself. Definitely worth a visit. From here it was back to the campsite.
The day so far had been a little breezy with a few bursts of rain (six times I got soaked and six times dried) with sunny spells so assuming that the night would be peaceful, drove into the campsite, met the owners, who were lovely and headed over to the tent. Cooked dinner, had a drink and settled down to read and listen to the wildlife and gently wind rustling the leaves in the nearby trees. At this point, a perfect evening.
The next thing I heard was a full-on, huge gust of wind rip through the trees. Thinking probably that this was a one off as this is the mountains I just carried on reading. Then there was another, then another and over the next hour, these gusts got stronger and stronger and the tent, well, was putting up a brave fight. I could hear objects lower down the hill being blown about and a loudly creaking fencing and by now, I am considering putting the tent away very fast and hiding in my car. I considered no longer and very fast (15 minutes) put every in the car, getting completely soaked and blown dry at the same time clambered into the driver’s seat, closed all the windows and doors and looked out into the pitch black, wondering what exactly was going to happen next.
Eleven long hours later the sun came up with a lovely blue sky and a gentle fresh breeze. The car still in one piece and more importantly, so was I. I headed down to my mecca and had a huge mug of coffee with a tasty egg sandwich. Behind me, two guys were talking about a storm, a storm that went through Llanberis the previous night, Storm Aileen.