wpid-P1020781.jpg

Overnight on Snowdon

The prospect of an imminent week in Amsterdam made focus on getting out for a day. The forecast was good but the inevitable traffic faff and late departure meant that it was almost 7PM before I got to Llanberis. The late hour meant I was tempted to cancel plans for a wild camp and use the excellent Llwyn Celyn Bach campsite, but the moon was full so I reckoned I’d be well up  the hill before darkness and tiredness struck.

wpid-P1020766.jpg

The sun set behind me, casting a deep red glow onto Snowdon as I made my way up the Llanberis path. Just a few folk were still coming down – happy faces after a beautiful day. As the sun went down, the full moon came up, disappearing behind  the cliffs above as I dropped off the path towards Llyn Du’r Arddu. Head torch was needed now for the first time, as I scouted around for a dry, flat and rock-free pitch. One located, it was time for a quick meal before bed.

I woke  briefly at about 2am to find the tent much brighter than  when I’d gone to sleep: the moon was now above the cliffs, illuminating the whole cwm below.  By 0600, it was properly light outside so after admiring the cliffs above I quickly packed up. My initial plan was to cross below the cliffs to the bwlch below Moel Cynghorion, but the weather looked good enough that a diversion to Snowdon summit (hopefully sans crowds) was appealing.

wpid-P1020776.jpg wpid-P1020772.jpg

Rejoining the Llanberis path, the sky was a patchwork of cloud, and the sudden views into the Llanberis path after Clogwyn station were a joy.

wpid-P1020781.jpg wpid-P1020779.jpg

As I neared the summit, my hopes of it being empty were dashed. I could make out a lone figure by the cairn. The views of the cloud bank rolling over Crib Goch, and a sea of cloud below me stretching out to sea were good compensation, though.wpid-P1020788.jpg

wpid-P1020789.jpg

The guy at the summit was  by himself – and seemed cheery enough, asking about the route down to Llanberis. Only then did he drop a bombshell: He’d walked through the night from Pen y Pass for 11 hours (no torch, and no obvious map, and you can guess the footwear), and he had two mates somewhere below on the steep screes at the top of the Watkin path. They’d had enough, and had called Mountain Rescue – and a helicopter was on the way.

On cue, Rescue 122 flew in over the cloud from Valley, and winched up the two below.  By chance, an ex-NEWSAR leader had arrived at the summit with some clients, and he led the third guy back down, while the Sea King headed off with his mates.wpid-P1020796.jpg

wpid-P1020797.jpg

Peace at last. I had the summit to myself for a good 15 minutes, before the first two trains of the day (first one: cafe staff; second one: water!) arrived.

wpid-P1020801.jpgwpid-P1020804.jpgThe rest of the day was less eventful: Down the Snowdon Ranger path, with my shadow  surrounded by a solar glory. The angle was never quite right for a full Brocken Spectre.

wpid-P1020811.jpg

A brief diversion to the top of the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu cliffs allowed me to look down to last night’s camping spot,  then up over Moel Cynghorion (tick!) and Fron Goch, (tick!!)  with a pause to watch ravens and (I think?) a peregrine falcon soaring over the cliffs.

wpid-P1020813.jpg

wpid-P1020817.jpg

Finally, onwards to Moel Eilio (tick!!!) in the sun, and back to the car via the maze of little lanes and fields above Llanberis.

wpid-P1020819.jpg

wpid-DSC_0374.jpg

Return to the Rhinogs

31st May 2014: Rhinog Fach, Y Llethr and Diffwys, South Snowdonia

My only previous visit to the Rhinogs was four years ago. It started well with a walk in from the east to camp high by Llyn Du, and ended badly with searing heat, an empty water bottle, and the descent of Rhinog Fawr via a never-ending boulder field. I promised myself I’d be back, but unsurprisingly always found an excuse to go somewhere a bit less challenging.

It isn’t just me, either: Ronald Turnbull in the excellent “Granite and Grit” writes…

“These Rhinogs are part of the Snowdonia National Park. does this mean that we can expect ice-cream shops, reconstructed footpaths and interesting leaflets? It does not. the bad-tempered Rhinogs are being left in their corner to sulk. There will be no car parks: get there at dawn for your two metres of muddy verge, or walk in from beyond some dismal bog. There will be no waymarks: in the Rhinogs you haven’t really lived until you’re lost. There will be no ice-cream.”

Skipping the delights of Barmouth, I drove up the narrow lane into Cwm Nantcol. The stone walls crowd in on both sides, and I was lucky only to meet one oncoming car. Lots of gates, too.  After the sixth episode of “stop, get out, open gate, get in, drive, get out, close gate, get in, drive” I’d had more than enough and the cattle grids on the last two fields were a blessed relief. There’s plenty of parking at Maes-y-Garnedd farm (£2 for the day) and path into Bwlych Drws-Ardudwy is well signed.

My initial plan was to head off path to Llyn Hywel and get some navigation practice in on the way, but the beautifully built stone walls topped with barbed wire scotched that. No loss though, as the path towards the Bwlch is stunning, and the walls seem to keep the area mostly free of sheep. There was a gorgeous selection of flowers and mosses near the path including Heath Spotted-orchids, Lousewort, Butterworts and Tormentil.

wpid-DSC_0325.jpg

wpid-DSC_0330.jpg

The bwlch widens out into a natural amphitheate, and here – at last – there are ladder stiles to cross over to Rhinog Fach on the south. A steep path scrambles up a gully alongside a stream, easing off as you pass close to Llyn Cwmhosan.  A Drinker Moth caterpillar sat motionless sunning itself on the rock as I passed by.

wpid-DSC_0337.jpg

wpid-DSC_0341.jpg

Rhinog Fach towers over, but a good path continues up the side of the cwm towards the stunning Llyn Hywel: a large, remote and natural lake in an incredible mountain setting. There’s real ‘wow’  moment as the path levels out and the lake suddenly jumps into view.

wpid-DSC_0346.jpg

I stopped here for lunch, eyeing up Rhinog Fach above the lake on my left. There’s meant to be an “interesting” approach directly up the screes followed by a scramble up to the summit, but my route was more conservative – crossing the screes by the side of the lake before climbing to the col below Y Llethr, then steeply up beside the wall to Rhinog Fach.

wpid-DSC_0350.jpg

From here, the wall would be my guide back to the col and all the way on to Diffwys. One last slog to the summit of Y Llethr, with great views back over Llyn Hywel and the hard work is done. There was a lot more distance to go, but most of it downhill and over surprisingly grassy tops and ridges. 

wpid-DSC_0353.jpg

The trig point at Diffwys is just on the south side of the wall, overlooking Mawddach with the Cader Idris ridge across the valley. I watched cloud scud over the top of Penygadair while the lower tops remained clear.
wpid-DSC_0361.jpg

After heading seawards over the subsidiary  top to the west it was time to cut down into Cwm . I was aiming for Pont Scethin – a convenient bridge shown on the OS maps. Before you reach the bridge there’s a rather nice memorial on the trail above. I’m not normally a fan of these, but the location and wording somehow gave a boost for my slowly fading energy levels. Courage, Traveller!
wpid-DSC_0364.jpg

The bridge is incredibly narrow, considering this was once the main coach route between Harlech and London.  From here, one last off path section took me to the col east of Moelfre, where a path leads down to the road at  Cil-cychwyn.  One last mile on the road back to the car, then it was time to do battle with the gates again… Fish and chips in Barmouth felt well deserved.

wpid-DSC_0374.jpg

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page
wpid-P1020445.jpg

Vale of Ewyas

Black Mountains, 7/9/2013

The imminent prospect of a week spent in the mountainous terrain of Amsterdam meant that I leapt at the chance of a quick day out today, despite a fairly dire forecast. As the worst weather was in the north, a quick drive south to the Black Mountains fitted the bill, and I was parked below Hay Bluff before mid-day.

The climb up Hay Bluff isn’t long but it’s a rude wake-up to legs that haven’t got into the swing of things, and I was able to grab a couple of minutes at the Trig point to relax and enjoy the views over the escarpment. The trig point is painted white, and decorated with red Welsh dragons, The English border is just a couple of hundred metres away, and the next section south follows the Offa’s Dyke path.

wpid-P1020433.jpg

The path south over Black Mountain is well paved with stone for much of the way, and the dry weather had made the unpaved sections fast and easy too. A few spits of drizzle. and ominous clouds in the west, but everything stayed dry. After a minor navigational faff where I’d made the classic mistake of trying to walk down a county boundary, I was losing all my hard-gained height and heading down to Capel y FFin. There’s a good path all the way that weaves down through the bracken, and luckily the start is marked with a small cairn on the Dyke path. After the wide -but dull – views from the ridge, dropping down into the lush valley was a joy.

wpid-P1020435.jpg

After crossing the stream I walked down the road towards the chapel, admiring the antics of drivers on the single track road. When a 4WD that wouldn’t reverse met an oncoming driver that couldn’t, I was able to walk round them both while they attempted to resolve matters.  My plan from here was to head onto the ridge that would take me – eventually- back to the car, via Twmpa (AKA Lord Hereford’s thingamabob). The escarpment is almost vertical in places, but a good rocky path zigzags though the steepest sections, with good views back over the valley to the Black Mountain ridge.

wpid-P1020438.jpg

On reaching the ridge, I turned south towards Chwarel y Fan – another of those indistinct tops that are really just local high points on a ridge. I arrived at the cairn, and any prospect of a leisurely lunch was ruined as the black clouds finally started delivering the rain they’d been promising all day. Waterproofs on, and a grabbed sandwich and I was heading back to the North. For about 10 minutes the rain was torrential, and freezing cold. It then cleared almost as suddenly as it had started, leaving a briefly gorgeous rainbow over the Vale of Ewyas.

wpid-0123b6bb-58e8-4ad3-aebd-7fdec316404b.jpg

The long slog north to Twmpa is finally rewarded with great views over the escarpment to the north, with the hills of the Elan Valley and Radnor Forest clearly visible. From here it was an easy descent to the head of Gospel Pass, followed by a mile on the road back to the car.

wpid-P1020445.jpg

wpid-P1020443.jpg

I can’t resist quoting some of the lyrics from Half Man Half Biscuit’s “Lord Hereford’s Knob”

On touching the trig point, I found my thrill
To the east Brokeback Mountain, to the west, Benny Hill
I’ll give you the grid ref, you might like to go
SO224350
Could this be heaven, would that be the Severn
Twmpa, Twmpa, you’re gonna need a jumper
It gets a bit chilly on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob

 

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page

 

Provisional Welsh CROW mapping

Natural Resources Wales has just published new Provisional Open Access maps for Wales, following the first review in the ten years since the CROW act came into force. Some bits of good news – The Whimble, a delectable pointy hill on the edge of the Radnor Forest, and the RAC Boulders below Dyffryn Mymbwr will become access land.

NFU Wales are inevitably up in arms about it, obviously of the opinion that we should pay them their subsidies and keep our noses out of their legal business of buggering up the environment with wooly lawnmowers.

Still time for appeals, and to visit the few places that may be removed from the map!

 

wpid-P1020217.jpg

Cwm Gwerin, Pumlumon

By 5:30 I was parked at above Maesnant, at the far end of the Nant-y-Moch reservoir. Cloud was obscuring even the minor tops, but down here it was clear dry, and just a little breezy.

wpid-P1020212.jpg

Today’s route meant that wet feet were going to be almost unavoidable, so I opted for trail shoes instead of boots, on the basis that they’d probably dry out faster anyway.  The path on from Maesnant heads downhill at first, and a footbridge gives you the option of crossing the Afon Hengwm. On the spur of the moment, I crossed over and headed up the Hyddgen valley, with Glyndŵr’s ‘Covenant Stones’ visible on the far side of the river. I followed the track all the way to the edge of the forestry, where two old and probably rotten fire-beaters stand proudly. The ground here is so wet you could probably drown just trying to reach them.

wpid-P1020214.jpg

I returned the same way, making the most of the good track before re-crossing the river and following the faint and boggy path to the ruined house where Cwm Gwerin meets the Hengwm.

wpid-P1020218.jpg

I stopped just long enough to wring water our of my socks, as I could see the cloud had lowered up the valley and the wind was carrying a fine spray of drizzle.

wpid-P1020217.jpg

Cwm Gwerin is a delight – the rocky crags towering over on the western side grab the attention as you slowly gain height, past waterfalls and with Wheatears for company. The cwm widens out at the top, and finding a dry path is a challenge. My photographs don’t do it justice, so I need to come back when the light (and weather) is better.

wpid-P1020220.jpg

wpid-P1020221.jpg

As I climbed upwards towards the plateau, I realized how much the cwm had been sheltering me from a very strong westerly wind. I was in the cloud now, with the steady drizzle reducing visibility even further, making navigation difficult.

I stopped just below the crest and took advantage of a lull to have some breakfast and repeat the dance of wringing out the socks.

I struck out across the plateau, heading for the windshelter on Pumlumon Fawr. Given the conditions, I was glad to be on familiar ground. I was able to find the faint path down towards Pumlumon Fach without trouble, and soon below the worst of the weather.

The reservoir track from Llyn Lygad Rheidol was sheltered at first, but after it turns to the left I was back heading straight into the wind, so I took a downhill shortcut to the car after passing the three small lakes.

While the rain had never been  that heavy, It was enough to completely wet out my Marmot softshell in a few places, so changing into dry clothes for the drive home was very welcome.

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page

 

wpid-P1020122.jpg

Northern Carneddau – Pt. 2

Carneddau, Snowdonia. 19/6/2013

The night had been dry and warm, and the sun was brightening the interior of the tent well before 5. I made some coffee and watched the sun breaking through the clouds.

wpid-P1020128.jpg With the gear packed, I made my way upwards, following the course of the streams that run into Dulyn. This turned out to be inspired, as there was plenty of plant and bird life to look for. In the space of about 100m I’d found a Heath Spotted Orchid, a ‘colony’ of Butterwort, Starry Saxifrage mixed among profusions of an as-yet-unidentified short, smallish five-petaled yellow flower growing in the wettest patches. Marsh Marigold, maybe?

wpid-P1020122.jpg

wpid-P1020125.jpg

wpid-P1020134.jpg

wpid-P1020136.jpg

Looking east now, I saw two small lenticular clouds with distinctive shape and ‘layering’. They dispersed quite quickly

Once on the ridge, I bypassed Carnedd Gwenllian, going on towards the Berau. Bera Bach’s summit is easy to reach, but Bera Mawr’s needs a little simple scrambling to reach the top. The Cwm below was full of cloud, threatening to spill out over the plateau. The cloudbase above was also lowering – Foel Grach’s summit was now well hidden, so I was keeping a careful eye on the weather.

wpid-P1020143.jpg

wpid-P1020148.jpg

I walked to the N of Yr Aryg and Carnedd Gwenllian, aiming to intercept the main ridge path to Foel Fras. As I climbed, the visibility dropped, and I was glad to reach the stony path running up the spine of the hills. I followed the path on until it met the fence corner, which gave me a good navigational fix. The summit of Foel Fras was in the cloud now so I continued on towards Drum.

Carneddau ponies were about everywhere – so many I lost count. They’d taken a hammering in the late April snows, and having seen only two the previous day, I was initially worried just how few had survived. But many of the mares looked like they were in foal, so hopefully the numbers will bounce back quickly.

wpid-P1020152.jpg

From here, the sun broke through again stronger, giving an easy and fast descent to the car by the Roman Road below Tal Y Fan.

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page
wpid-P1020084.jpg

Northern Carneddau – Pt 1

Carneddau, Snowdonia. 18/6/2013

I hatched a slightly last-minute plan for a night camping in the Carneddau, so after finishing the school run I was on my way towards Betws-Y-Coed and heading for the Roman Road into the hills by Bwlch y Ddeufaen. Anyone who expects Roman roads to be straight will be surprised by this single-track road, hemmed in between high dry-stone walls, between Tal Y Fan to the north, and the main Carneddau ‘massif’ to the south. Just always remember where the last passing space was, and pray you don’t meet anything coming the other way.

I’d parked up at the end in the small car park, and picked up a small trail over a rocky rib at the eastern end of Foel Lwyd, with a buzzard watching overhead. While the path gained height quickly, it soon deteriorated into deep and steep heather, and left me the wrong side of a wall near the summit. The walls here are all beautifully maintained, so I reluctantly and very carefully clambered over onto the ‘right’ side.

wpid-P1020075.jpgThe path onward to Tal Y Fan was short and easy, with a brief steep drop into a small col before the true summit and trig point is reached. A quick break, then back down directly to the road.

The signpost by the road looked had received some unwanted attention from a firearm, and was a reminder that Walkers aren’t always Welcome.

wpid-P1020084.jpg

Walking up the road back to the car park, the contrast between the sheep-devastated moorland of the ‘open hillside’ and the roadside verge was remarkable. On the hill, I’d really seen nothing flowering except Tormentil and some rather forlorn Milk-wort. But the verges were overflowing: Speedwell, Cuckoo Flower, Herb Robert, Foxgloves (not yet out) and many more… Possibly the walls and road give shelter and some extra warmth, but I’m sure the absence of woolly lawn-mowers is the main reason.

wpid-P1020091.jpg

Back at the car I picked up the tent and continued up to the bwlch. The whole area here is awash with prehistoric sites – a chamber tomb further down the valley, a stone circle (which I’d walked past without noticing – mostly hidden by the high walls) and the two standing stones after which the bwlch is named. The stones mark the highest point of the blwch and you can see the evidence where the power cables and gas pipeline have followed the same path of least resistance taken by the Roman Road, probably built on a much older highway.

wpid-P1020100.jpg

From here, the path up to Drum and Foel Fras is a long slog over grass, following the fenceline all the way. Two Carneddau ponies appeared, one rubbing its neck continually against the fence, the bizarre sound from the vibrations running along the fenceline almost 100m away.

wpid-P1020101.jpg
The sun had been beating down most of the day, and it was a relief to reach the top of Foel Grach.  The refuge looked pretty uninviting in these conditions, but has apparently been a lifesaver in winter in years gone by. Rather than following the path directly up to Carnedd Llewellyn, I sidetracked towards Yr Elen, with great views into the dark cwm and Fynnon Caseg.

wpid-P1020109.jpg

wpid-P1020110.jpg

Yr Elen would have to wait for another day, as I wanted to find a pitch for the tent before my legs gave out. I’d been thinking of using the bothy at Dulyn, but camping out in the fine weather seemed far preferable, and would save several hundred metres of descent and re-ascent the next day. Heading down from Carnedd Llewellyn, I aimed for the ‘nose’ between the two reservoirs, and soon found flat, sheltered and only slightly boggy pitch close to a small stream. Tent up, meal cooked, and I was out like a light before the sun had even set.
wpid-P1020115.jpg

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page

Hillwalking, and other frivolous pastimes