White Griffin Run 2016

North Wales - May 2016.
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This was the 31st White Griffin Run hosted by Bryan Wilcox. This year's Griffin Run took place on the 71st anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day, an auspicious date that was rewarded with splendid warm sunny weather after heavy overnight rain. In a break with tradition, our destination was known beforehand and was to be Electric Mountain in Llanberis in Snowdonia. This was a previous venue for the Run in 2007 - repeated, not because we are running out of places to visit, but by popular demand from potential participants. Tearing ourselves reluctantly from the hospitality of the Drovers, we set out along the road through the Clocaenog Forest and onto the historic stagecoach route of the A5 to Betws-y-Coed, dubbed "The Gateway to Snowdonia". We paused in a lay-by just outside the village to take in the scenery near the Conway Falls, before pressing on through the popular little tourist spot towards Capel Curig. Once through Betws, the scenery changes dramatically and the pleasant wooded valleys are left behind in favour of sterner, more rugged mountain landscapes. After Capel Curig, the Snowdon Horseshoe is always in view as you travel towards Pen-y-Gwryd, where the road branches to take you up the Llanberis Pass. The climb to the highest point of the Pass (Pen-y-Pass) was the first real test of the cars; all surmounted it effortlessly and then began the long test of brakes (or, preferably,your engine braking technique) as the Pass winds steeply downhill towards Llanberis. The Pass at its topmost point is 1169 feet; Llanberis Village is at 343 feet about 4 miles further on. Herewe were rewarded by the fine mountain scenery of this impressive Pass, littered with massive boulders up to the size of a small cottage. Luckily,visibility was much improved from Saturday (a very hazy day) and we had great vistas down the Pass - though drivers needed to concentrate rather than gaze too much abroad! Llanberis Village owes its origins to slate mining, and it was the mountain scarred by redundant slate mines that was used to house the titanic power station that makes up "Electric Mountain". However, the quarries themselves have a fascinating history. The Dinorwic Quarry at Llanberis, now the home of Electric Mountain Visitor Centre, was the second largest slate quarry in Wales, indeed in the world, after the neighbouring Penrhyn Quarry. The slate industry in Llanberis developed during the 18th century, as far as Dinorwic Quarry was concerned, production peaked with some 3000 men being employed in 1898.The first half of the 20th century saw a decline in the slate industry. That which remains of the slate mountain remains as a permanent visible memorial to the quarry men, many of whom were killed or injured whilst employed. During World War II, cockpit and nose sections for the Avro Lancaster bomber were assembled at Dinorwic. Over 2500 people were employed for this period; parts were also made for Stirling, Wellington and Halifax bombers in Llanberis. On this visit, our destination was the Dinorwig Power Station and we all boarded the tour bus to head deep under the mountain to view this fantastic feat of civil engineering. Begun in 1975, it was officially opened in 1984 and is the most stupendous technical achievement. Fundamentally,this is a rapid-response power generating facility that can go from standstill to full power generation in seconds, so compensating for sudden power demand surges and preventing blackouts in the National Grid system. Simply put, this is done by releasing water from an upper lake down tunnels inside the mountain, dropping 1650 feet vertically to drive massive turbines. The water collects in a lower lake and is pumped back up at night when demand on the Grid is at a minimum. This bare description, however, in no way conveys the staggeringly vast underground network of shafts and caverns big enough to contain St. Paul's Cathedral. After the tour, we headed back up the Llanberis Pass towards the foot of Snowdon; the Pass is nearly as impressive to ascend as to descend. Dropping back down towards Capel Curig again, Bryan had selected a fantastic stopping point in a lay-by by the twin lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr, where we could take pictures with the famous mountain view of the Snowdon Horseshoe up the valley behind us. Over half the Runners were able to return to the Drovers' Arms for a celebratory meal, which was as delicious as we have come to expect. We finally had to break up the party and wend home, but not before thanking Bryan and Marie for once again organizing a wonderful day out for all Brian Wilcox (041)