“You get among the best views of Snowdonia from Capel Curig,” Christian instructed me as he welcomed me to The Rocks.
In fact, that is one thing you would possibly anticipate to listen to from the co-owner of a Capel Curig hostel. Nevertheless, even an previous Snowdonia hand like me needed to admit that the view from the hostel of the Snowdon horseshoe, the ridges on the mountain’s jap facet, is certainly fairly spectacular.
It’s now 70 years since Snowdonia in north Wales turned a nationwide park. To rejoice this milestone, I cycled 5 miles from Betws-y-Coed railway station to spend a couple of nights in a hostel that’s even older. The constructing has served as a hostel for 75 years and was a YHA property till 2010. Now styling itself as Snowdonia’s solely five-star hostel, The Rocks at Plas Curig was taken over by Christian and Annie three years in the past. They gave the place an intensive makeover and added quite a few ornamental touches comparable to Annie’s eye-catching semi-abstract panorama work.
There are 59 beds unfold over 14 rooms, although all of the dorms are being booked out as non-public bedrooms whereas Covid prevails. Thus I had a four-berther to myself. The cubby beds, organized in two bunks, every had a helpful little shelf and studying lamp and fashioned 4 cosy cocoons. This isn’t a partying hostel, so the blissful silence at night time was damaged solely by the cry of a lone tawny owl. The room additionally had a reasonably positive view of the steepling Clogwyn Mawr, with rabbits feeding on buttercups within the subject under my window.
Downstairs I discovered two lounges and a big, ethereal eating room stocked with loads of board video games. A tiny store within the reception sells Welsh-made merchandise together with soaps, spirits, beers and ciders (I invested in a little bit bottle of Blue Slate gin from the Dinorwig Distillery in Bala). There’s a shed for bikes and a elaborate firepit for barbecue-lovers. In the meantime, Covid measures embody a four-person restrict within the monumental, absolutely outfitted and sparkling-clean visitor kitchen; every lavatory being allotted to 2 particular bedrooms; mask-wearing indoors; and loads of hand sanitiser.
I spent my first full day biking round Gwydir Forest Park. A few miles from the hostel, on the west facet of the Conwy valley, it accommodates two apparently wonderful mountain bike trails. Nevertheless, on my fragile street bike, I caught to the quiet single-track lanes that haul themselves over this hilly forest. I nosed round Llanrhychwyn church, a cool, darkish cave of a constructing usually stated to be the oldest place of worship in Wales. Close to Llyn Crafnant I sat amid the calls of cuckoos, whereas a redstart hopped from tree to tree shut by, its orange tail all aquiver. Having acquired a picnic within the small market city of Llanrwst, I ate it within the firm of a little bit egret trying to find its personal tea within the Afon Conwy. And after I returned to base within the early night, fellow hostellers Claire and Karen regaled me with the story of their sighting of the day: a golden eagle over Snowdon. Claire had stayed on the hostel in its YHA days – “It was way more austere again then” – and declared herself very happy with the present improve.
On my second morning I went overseas on foot. My information for the day, Hero Douglas, was born and bred in Capel Curig and this summer season is launching an area micro-adventure service. As we walked from the hostel to the foot of Tryfan (917m), she crammed me in on tormentils, “map lichen” and the native lore. “Round right here, they are saying ‘Snowdon’s for walkers however Tryfan’s for climbers’, as a result of it’s important to use your arms regardless of which approach you go up.”
Each George Mallory and Sir Edmund Hillary skilled on Tryfan earlier than taking over Everest. Nevertheless, as a grade one scramble (the best stage), it additionally makes for a wonderful check of the newbie’s mind, eye and foot. There are myriad attainable methods up the north face and, with out Hero’s steering, I really feel sure I’d have by accident climbed into one of many gullies from which scramblers are continuously saved by the native mountain rescue workforce. On the summit, Hero climbed one of many two 3m-tall rock monoliths – named Siôn and Siân – and leapt fearlessly onto the opposite, thus gaining the liberty of the mountain, in accordance with custom. A lover extra of unbroken legs than of freedom, I declined her provide to present it a go.
After a satisfyingly extended ridge stroll we dropped right down to swim within the surprisingly heat (nicely, not chilly) Llynnau Mymbyr earlier than I rolled again to the close by hostel to deposit my drenched garments within the drying room and my drenched physique in a scorching bathe.