Flying Greens & Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Trip Start Oct 10, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Wales,
Sunday, January 27, 2013

It takes a couple of hours to drive over to Bala from Stourport. Rory took the back-road, aquaplaning his Astra through the melt water in the valleys, spraying it in an arc from his tyres as he raced through small Welsh villages. We (me, Rory, Vince, Dan and John) met new members Paul and Nicole and their handsome black labrador Max at the start of the path. I have no idea how they found it, but there they were, waiting for us at a random field gate along a tiny back road.

The wind was blowing quite chill and strong already. I had thought I would leave my down jacket behind, but I thought better of it once I got out of the car. In the end I put it on, and didn't dare take it off for the rest of the day.

The path heads up in a gentle rise for a mile or two, past sheep and icy puddles. After half an hour or so, we arrived at a small bothy; a stone hut reserved for people who need a bit of shelter on the mountains. Six people were just packing up their bivvy bags, having spent the night in the hut. The fire was still smoldering. They must have been very crowded: there was hardly standing space for six people, let alone sleeping space. They said they had been very warm with all the body heat.

Behind the bothy, a fierce stream was draining from the lake. The challenge was to get across it, without getting either wet feet or swept away. Someone had placed a climbing ladder across the raging torrent. It wasn't actually hard to get across, just a test of confidence. We all managed it, except Max, who leapt across instead. 

The path started to rise more steeply from this point, and as it did so, the wind started to blow more strongly too. The higher we got, the stronger it blew. At the first coffee stop, Paul's lunchbox caught a thermal and flew off into the air. He chased it half way back to the bothy before pinning it down. Not too much further on, John's hat was whisked off his head by the wind. Paul, once again, hared off across the heather to retrieve it. 

As we got closer to the ridge, the gusts from the wind became so strong, they were not only making us stagger, but occasionally necessitating hunkering down and waiting for the blast to pass, otherwise we would have been blown over. There was a lot of adopting the brace position as we climbed higher. 

By the time we hit the ridge, the brace position was every few steps and hunkering down meant kneeling or sitting on the floor, occasionally holding onto some conveniently placed rock to avoid being blown away. When I tried to eat my sandwiches, bits of lettuce and tuna flew off into the distance and disappeared over the edge of the ridge - flying greens and tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe - they whistled away but didn't stop.

The top of Arenig Fawr (854m) has a walled sheltered area. There is a trig point and a memorial to a squadron of American pilots that crashed there during WWII. There is also a panoramic view of the Arenig range, and despite the wind, the visibility was excellent.

After our sterling work getting up to the summit, we headed straight back down. The gusts eased as we got lower, but Paul still ended up chasing his gloves more than once and everyone had to hold on to their hats.

We recrossed the stream, revisited the bothy and headed back down to the car.

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