part 3 - January freeze-up:
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15th has arrived with milder temperatures and rain here in western
Mid-Wales, as forecast, but - exceptionally - this cold spell has
justified three pages of photos and ramblings: this third one concerns
a bit of a driftfest up on the Machynlleth-Llanidloes mountain road.
The fronts moved in on the evening of the 12th, accompanied by
gale-force southeasterly winds. Although decaying steadily, they still
gave many hours of light to moderate snowfall in Machynlleth, although
with temperatures hovering just above freezing, only a few centimetres
accumulated in town. Up in the hills though it would be a different
game altogether: here, 10-15cm of snow would fall and in addition the
gale would remobilise the loose, powdery lying snow. There would be
some serious drifting going on up there!
Dull conditions with sleet, snow and an icy wind precluded any
photography on the 13th, but the 14th dawned still and frost-free,
albeit still rather cloudy. With rain forecast for the next day, this
was going to be the only chance to see what had gone on up on the hills
before a thaw set in, so I set off, with a view to seeing how far I
could get. It was only the third time I've used my vehicle this year -
the current lack of work means lack of diesel-funds, but the conditions
had the potential to be exceptional - it really couldn't be missed.
Slush with two clear strips for wheels was the order of the day from
Forge up to
the turning to Melinbyrhedyn, where the sign was present, in its usual
It was obvious that the road would be shut
at some point ahead, but how far ahead was the $64,000 dollar question.
I continued along in 4-wheel drive and was pleasantly surprised to get
right up to the 220m contour, where I had parked-up on New Years Day.
The scene beyond showed that the road had not been used (or even walked
upon) above here:
short distance up, it became obvious why! Road Closed!
I've seen big drifts along
this section of the road before, but not this big!!
The snow was variably consolidated, making trailbreaking extremely hard
work. Two or three paces on its surface, then suddenly up to the knees,
then out again, but progress was steadily gained upwards......
When walking I take a staff with me and on this occasion it doubled as
a depth-gauge: 4ft depth at this point!
Onwards and upwards I went,
wondering at the natural sculpture.....
In places, very rare places, the road was blown clear, but here there
was thick sheet-ice, which was no compensation really!
Over the crest of the first long uphill
section, at the 350m contour, with the view beyond into the frozen
On the start of the next uphill section: just beyond this
point, very deep snow reappeared. These drifts were particularly
Halfway up with the sun trying to make an appearance....
I plodded along for about another kilometre then went through a gate
and out onto the summit of Rhiw Fawr at 440m. The blister that I had
picked up a few days ago was starting to give me a bit of grief, so I
decided that this was far enough on this occasion! Here's the view NE
to Mynydd Cil-cwm. Visibility was generally poor with a lot of
fog-banks drifting around....
On the opposite side of the road, a steep sided valley gave way to more
steep grassy slopes. These had been in the lee of the gale-force winds
and so they were heavily banked-up with drifted snow, in places
completely hiding the fences and with a long cornice above the valley.
Big avalanche potential here:
Zoom-in to buried fences:
The descent was a lot easier. Out on the open hillside, the gales had
ablated most of the snow from the grassy slopes. Picking my way along
sheep-tracks I made fast progress back down....
...pausing for a quick look at the opencast of Bacheiddon lead-mine,
where the rich vein of lead-ore was originally discovered....
On nearing the jeep the
sheep were all eyeballing me in case I had any food. I could hear the
farmer's quad-bike coming along, so if they needed food they'd soon be
So that was
that: a grand finale to what has been an exceptionally cold spell
lasting the best part of a month. Charts from now on suggest milder
weather will be with us now for a week or two: at times there may be
overnight frosts but not the deep cold that has gripped the UK for the
past weeks. So thoughts turn to the first signs of the coming Spring,
and the need to get on with a number of jobs in the vegetable garden.
February will be a busy month!
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