Monday, May 20, 2013
Unfortunately, today dawned with a good deal of cloud hovering low over Snowdonia, which meant the upper reaches of Snowdon itself were not easy for first-time climbers to reach. So, Dad and I put off the climb, and decided to head north toward Dinas Dinlle and Tre’r Ceiri.
Dinas Dinlle is an iron-age hill fort built on the southern coast of the Llyn Peninsula, facing into Cardigan Bay. Dad and I followed our GPS’s directions to the beach, which was marked by a sign with a duck on it, indicating that the area was a good one for bird watching. We made our way west along the beach, through a metal gate, and then along a “grippy wooden path” that led up the side of the steep hill and through the remains of the fortress. The sea has claimed back about a third of the Celtic fort, and a fence prevents visitors from getting too close to the steep drop to the beach.
The fortress consisted of two ramparts on either side of a ditch. Some scholars suggest that livestock would have been kept in the ditch during troubled times.
The Rivals and the Hunt for Tre’r Ceiri
We then made our way a little further north to the base of the Rivals. Somewhere on top of these three, barren mountains is the hill fort of Tre’r Ceiri, which was in use up to circa 400 AD. Dad and I had downloaded directions from the internet, and began our trek up a grassy moorland. To either side, the hills fell away to what would likely have been extraordinary views of the coasts of the Llyn Peninsula, had the valleys not been filled with clouds.
Following the directions and the yellow arrows, we wandered upward, across moderately rugged moors, through a field of sheep, and toward a gate. At the gate, we met a farmer with his dogs. We asked him if we were heading the right way, and apparently we weren’t. He walked back up the sheep field with us, and pointed us in the right direction—further uphill, through a kissing gate. Supposedly, beyond this point, the track continued straight, over a creek and a bit of rocky ground, to a second kissing gate, where a path would lead to the hill fort itself.
No such luck. We made our way through gate 1, over the stream, and along a very, very rocky path. It was difficult for me, not being able to see where I was placing each foot. I slipped and stumbled my way behind Dad, pushing through gorse bushes that lined the tiny, rugged trail—leaving only enough space to put one foot in front of the other. As the trail grew more difficult, Dad left me waiting by a large rock while he “scouted on ahead,” since by this time we couldn’t see more than 100 yards in any direction with the cloud cover (more like fog at this height). There was no sign of Tre’r Ceiri, and since the clouds were growing worse, boiling up the valleys from the sea and tumbling over our hilltop, we decided that safety had to come first and retreated to our car.
Tre’r Ceiri, I’m told, is a very impressive site if you can find it: a hill fort so large it contains the remains of more than one hundred round houses. I was keen to reach the spot, since I’ve arbitrarily decided that it is here that one of the key players in my novels held court. Maybe if the weather clears, we’ll try again.
Unfortunately, our struggles on the slopes of the Rivals has shown me that, while I would probably be physically capable of climbing the Snowdon Ranger Path (the path up Snowdon that I’d really like to take), the men
tal endurance required to deal with the stress of never knowing what type of footing I’m going to find the next time I take a step is likely too much at this time, especially since the Ranger Path is supposed to be one of the more rugged ascents. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on getting to the top of Snowdon, just that I’m going to relent and take an easier path—but not the train! (For those of you who don’t know, there is a nineteenth-century steam train that takes visitors to the top of the mountain; I flat out refuse to use this, as it feels too much like cheating :P)
Dad and I did drive around to the base of the Snowdon Ranger Path, and walk a few hundred yards up the trail to get a sense of direction and layout (I need it for a scene in one of my novels). We spent a bit of time on the shores of Llyn Cwellyn, a cigar-shaped lake at the foot of Snowdon.
We met a couple from Coventry descending the Snowdon Ranger Path just before we headed out for supper, and paused to chat with them about the ascent. They were regular climbers, and had made this particular ascent 5 times before. Today, they set out at 1 pm, and were just finishing their hike at 6:30 pm. This was encouraging, and the hikers said that while it was indeed more rugged than some of the other paths—like the simple Llanberis path, or the popular Pyg or Minor’s tracks—it probably wouldn’t be impossible for me to do it. This trip, though, we’ll stick to an easy route so we can reach the summit. Next time—and hopefully next time will be soon—I’m going to make my way up the Ranger Path. Just because 😛