main page > 2008 > 2008 03 28 North Wales Castles Mountains

2008 03 28 North Wales Castles Mountains

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Link to Robert's pictures

Over the weekend, I joined Robert, Colette, and Stu for a weekend in Wales. I take EasyJet to Gatwick where they pick me up.

Our first stop after ~4 hours is the town of Chester. There you would find a large Roman Coliseum (you have to imagine it a bit) and the Rows. You can think of these as elevated and recessed walkways - you can do your window shopping in the rain!. The story as told by Robert is that the ground is very hard to build caves (cellars), so they put them on the ground floor and then they built the stores and their facades on the first floor... The town also has a very large Roman Wall.

In the evening we arrive at our destination, near Bangor, our base camp for the weekend. This is a nice little town that lived off the slate mining. There is now a museum there, although there is still a large active mine behind the old one. Among our first stops, we inquire and obtain a map for climbing Snowdon, the largest and meanest mountain in all of England and Wales!

Snowdon Mountain
Among the many trails that climb up the mountain we chose the Pyg Track. Stu didn't know what he was getting into, although he was game for it. I wake up at 7am, and wake everyone else, but it turns out to be MY 7am (French time) and thus 6am England time, no wonder everyone but me felt a little they didn't get enough sleep. But they will later thank me for this "mistake" (well not really, they will not really say it, but they definitely think so ;). We arrive at the parking lot, not many people there, yet. The initial weather is somewhat covered, but not too bad. We bring gear for the worst conditions. Since, I didn't bring boots (someone only told me to bring "cold weather gear" after being subjected to the previous' week cold spell, but nothing on "mud weather" gear), I used my Spar sponsored water isolators (i.e. plastic bags in the sneakers).

The first hour was nice, the trail was wide, and the lakes were pretty. At the end of the flat section, we see a small group that goes up the rocks. We follow suit. At this point, it starts "drizzling", as we go up, it starts snowing and/or raining. As we gain the higher path, it starts gusting, so much that Robert's hat takes an early retirement vacation. Stu starts to realize what he is getting into. Fortunately, we are not too far from the summit, and the "ballade" should only last a couple more hours, no more. We finally arrive at the summit ridge, to have nice flashbacks of our "home" Mount Washington, in New Hampshire...including a cog railway to the summit!!. We make it to the summit, under the snow for a flash picture before starting to head down. As we go down in what one would consider crappy weather, we cross lots of people going up and starting to go up... that is what happens in England's largest mountain, or the fact that for them, this is probably balmy weather :).

In the afternoon, we continue our exploration with a non-mountain activity, a UNESCO World Heritage Site!.

Slate Museum
On Sunday, we visited the Slate museum in our town. They have conserved a lot of history and documents from the place, including pay slips and tools. There is also a large still working water wheel from the 19th century. It is incredible how thin these things come off. One now understands why all the houses around town are made of slate.

Conwvy Castle
We continue our cultural immersion with a visit of the Conwvy or Conway Castle. There we opt for the guided tour which turned out to be a very good idea. Among the interesting tidbits is the fact that there are 8 towers with spiral staircases, 7 counter clockwise or anti-clockwise (in British English), and interestingly, one clockwise. The reason behind this is that anti-clockwise staircases are easier to be defended by right handed swordsmen, and there is one clockwise staircase for the small percentage of lefty soldiers.

We also learned the cleaning methods for robes, or where the word wardrobe comes from. So, in the middle ages, the robes were sometimes made of animal skin. This skin would pick up lice and ticks along the way. So when you arrive to a castle after a long travel, you would hang it over the toilet. Note that the toilet where simply holes on the castle's side walls. The way it "cleaned" the vest, was with the ammonia fumes from the human waste products. This seems to kill the ticks found in the vests. Note, Conway Castle is also a UNESCO world heritage site :)

Monday was our last day. We tried to convince Stu to join us, but unfortunately he had to work, so we dropped him off on the train station at 6am. This day, we got repaid for the rainy weather we had gotten, because we had a beautiful day (pictures do it justice). We opted for the north ridge which provides a quick nice scramble to the top of the mountain. The rock is really nice and solid and ever gets too steep (unless you really search for it). On the summit there are two rocks call Adam and Eve, and the game is to jump from one to another. This turns out not to be too difficult, but the consequences of over jumping are not to be imagined.


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