Escape from Snowdonia…


I spent last weekend up in Snowdonia with a dozen or so fellow pilots from the Avon Club. Most were staying for the whole week, but with my ten day trip to Slovenia for the British Open coming up soon there was no way I could do both. Nick picked me up at 6am and after an easy drive up we arrived at the Avon house (at Pen-y-Gwyrd) at 10am just as people were moving out of the house to walk up the nearby south facing Glyders. We unpacked quickly and got ourselves sorted out and were pretty soon following everyone up the hill.

To cut a long story short the Glyders weren’t the place to be on Saturday as the prevailing wind ended up being a light northerly as Nick and I found out as we did an epic 3.5 mile yomp up the hill and around the Glyders until we eventually found a safe into-wind takeoff on Y Foel Goch a couple of kms east of the photo below.

Looking NW towards Tryfan – a perfect breeze but not a takeoff option

We took off – I managed to soar for about 30-40 minutes before getting a couple of hundred feet above the top and flopping over the back for a 5km flight down the Llanberis Pass, Nick however went down and walked back up but couldn’t find a suitable spot to take off and fly down to the south side of the Glyders so ended up walking down 😦

So a 5.5km walk (and 2,000′ ascent) for a 5km flight. Hmmm… Fun but knackering sums it up! We were hoping for better things on Sunday…


With the wind forecast to veer from SW to NW during the day we headed to the site above the Llanberis slate workings. It was breezy driving down the Llanberis Pass, and also on the way up the hill too. At the “Garrett” car park it was windy enough to put half the team off walking up at all. But not to be deterred I lead a group constisting of Tom, Nick, Ben, Paddy and Jon up the hill. It was still quite breezy at 550m and with another 250m to climb up the side of the hill Nick and I did the decent thing and left our gliders with everyone and hoofed it to the top, where surprise surprise, the wind was light and seemingly perfect. I chatted to our local guru, David, again, who said this was typical Alpine conditions with stronger valley winds and much lighter winds aloft. After 15 minutes we decided that it was going to be worth the final push up the hill with gliders so we legged it down to tell the rest of the team.

By this time the guys who were down in the car park had given up and were checking another nearby lower site, Moel y Ci (which turned out to be blown out), and Ben had been talked out of it too, so it was just five of us who staggered up the 45 degree slope to the top.

The SW’ly takeoff area is a nice grassy bowl between Elider Fach and Elider Fawr, and by 1330 I was fueled, watered, un-watered 🙂 and ready to go.

I’m going to let the following few pictures do most of the talking – I’m sure you’ve had enough of my ramblings by now anyway!

SW'ly takeoff on Elidir Fach with Snowdon on the left
I took off first at about 1330 followed shortly afterwards by Tom. The wind strength was fine, and the slate mines below weren't as feisty as the nay-sayers were predicting!
After a little while Tom and I gained enough height to hop over the first ridge and head downwind towards Y Garn and Glyder Fawr…
By now we're out of the mountains and past Capel Curig. You can just see Tom a fair way away in the centre of the photo. Click on the photo to see a higher res version

North of Betws-y-Coed looking back towards Snowdon and the high mountains
Making good progress
Following a nice line of clouds
I've got to have a picture of my trusty wing – too bad Tom's higher than me though!
We we're flying in a convergence line – the prevailing wind plus a bit of sea breeze from the south hitting the sea breeze coming down from the north
Llyn Brenig in the distance – we were getting pretty low before it but found a nice climb over the wood and wind farm on its eastern bank
It's probably about 4pm now and the clouds had pretty much disappeared to the south, east and north of us!
Looking back to where we'd come from – you can see the line of clouds, with completely clear air to the south
We landed in the same field maybe five or ten minutes after this I took this photo

We landed within five minutes of each other at about 1645 after more than three hours in the air and a straight line distance of 53km. It was a cracking flight, and lovely doing the whole flight with Tom. In fact it was my first xc flight where I’ve flown the whole flight with someone else – it worked really well with both of us taking it in turns to lead out when we’d maximised our climb. What would often happen is that one of us would go on a glide and find some lift, then the other would head over and find a better bit of lift and then we’d both core it and climb nicely. Two minds are definitely better than one in this instance!

The retreive worked really well with Nick driving to meet me in Corwen so we could continue on home, and Gary coming to collect Tom to go back to the Avon house. Well, it was going really well until we’d got just past Oswestry when Declan phoned wondering where we were. Bollocks!! We were supposed to be giving him a lift back to Bristol… It was past 7pm at this point and he wasn’t even back at the house after trying some coastal flying! Being a decent sort of chap though, he very nobly opted to stay another day in Snowdonia and come back on Monday! Thanks mate, I think I owe you a pint or three…

Oh, and did you get back ok?

Sadly I don’t have a nice track log to look at in the XC Player as my GPS batteries were playing up, but you can click here to see a slideshow of higher-res versions of all the photos.

One response to “Escape from Snowdonia…”

  1. munchausenadventuretrails Avatar

    great photo,s

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