Yes, one of us had the great idea of going up to Dolgellau in North Wales in the middle of February to camp and photograph at the Mach Loop. I won’t lie, I had my doubts that the weather might be against us, especially as it was showing heavy rain in the forecast.
Bug and I drove up to the camp site on Sunday afternoon and met with my fellow Loonies. The first challenge was to learn how to put up the new tent before the sun set. After initially laying out the tent backwards the tent was up and the first cup of tea was brewing. We had a bite to eat at the Cross Foxes, after dislodging my car from the mud, and planned in which section of the Mach Loop we would go on the Monday; we chose Cad West as it is relatively less exposed to the elements than the other sections.
I had a few waterproofing issues with the flysheet of the new tent (I say new, I got it from one of the other Loonies as they have more square footage of tent than their home), but luckily the inner section of the tent wasn’t leaking. In the morning, I took Bug on a quick march down the country lanes and then got myself ready for a day on Cad West.
On Monday we had 1 x Lockheed C-130 Hercules, a couple of BAE Systems Hawks and a lone Tornado GR4. We also had sunshine, strong winds, and hail, and a ‘tip off’ that 8 sorties of Tornados were out! Luckily for me the Jetboil I purchased for the trip earned its keep and kept me warm with hot cups of tea 🙂 Bug and I huddled in the beach shelter while waiting for the jets to appear. As you’ll have noted, we only saw the one Tornado. The same guy that told us of the 8 sorties, told us as we were leaving that one was in the area and may be passing through in the next 20 minutes or so, it didn’t. That night we had fish and chips around the fire at the camp site in the rain. No, you didn’t misread that; instead of hiding in our tents we stayed outside by the fire hoping that the rain would go elsewhere. We decided that on Tuesday we would go to Cad West again as a cold snap was expected and knew that Cad West is easier to ascend.
On Tuesday it was a slow start, I woke up and found myself prisoner in my own tent as the zips had frozen shut from the heavy rain and subsequent freeze overnight. After defrosting, we headed off to Cad West. We saw ‘Tornado Boy’ as we dubbed him again and at one point during the day he said ‘At the risk of being nicknamed Tornado Boy, there’s a Tornado in South Wales and heading towards us’ luckily for him it did arrive; we renamed him the Tornado Whisperer!
We had two Hercules and a Hawk go through in the morning, and in the afternoon we had 3 Tornados and 5 Hawks go through. We celebrated by having pizza at the campsite, this time we sat by the fire with everything around us freezing. The tent was frozen by the time we went to bed. It was properly cold over night, everything was white when I woke up. Bug’s water was frozen as were all the taps at the camp site. We had breakfast while the sun came up and then moved all of our stuff into the sunlight to defrost and hopefully dry. We went down the Torrent Walk hoping for sunlight streaming through the trees so we could do a bit of birding. Somebody must have scared off all the birds because there was no sign of wildlife at all in the Torrent Walk. We headed back to the camp site to finish packing away the tents. On the way back we came across a sheep that had managed to get its horns stuck in the fence, MrGubby managed to free the sheep while I walked Bug on. We packed away the tents, had lunch, and agreed that we would reserve visiting the Mach Loop for when it’s warmer!