All posts by roddy

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Lenticular Clouds?

While packing up early yesterday morning from an overnight camp in the Carneddau, I saw these distinctive strange-looking clouds. I *think* they’re some kind of Lenticular formation – but they didn’t hang around long. 10 minutes after taking this, they’d dispersed.

These were taken from above the Dulyn reservoir, in the lee of Foel Grach. There was just a light breeze.

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Velbon V-Pod Tripod

After reading the review on Hendrik’s blog,  I’ve just got hold of a Velbon V-Pod tripod. It’s incredibly lightweight (< 280g on my scales) yet stable. The only downside I’ve seen (compared to conventional tripods) is that the lack of clamps means that each leg section must be either fully extended or collapsed, so setting it up on uneven ground is not so easy. You just have to put up with it at an odd angle and adjust the ball head to compensate.  Continue reading Velbon V-Pod Tripod

Ordnance Survey HD mapping

When you’re using maps (digital or otherwise) , the quality of the underlying information is all-important. For LandRanger and Explorer digital mapping, the OS has always provided data at a resolution of 254 DPI (Dots Per Inch : with 254 DPI, one ‘dot’ equals 5 metres on the ground). This is fine for most uses, but the shortcomings of this comparatively low resolution are apparent in a number of places. Continue reading Ordnance Survey HD mapping

Carn Hyddgen

I’m sitting at home with at least six inches of snow outside, an almost-unheard of avalanche warning for Snowdonia, and a glass of wine. Unless you love wading through thigh deep powder, not a good day to be tackling the hills. Instead, I realised I’d yet to write up this walk from February : a good day in mid-Wales in the hills north of Pumlumon.

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If you’re walking from Maesnant into Cwm Rheidol, the twin bronze-age cairns on Carn Hyddgen stand proud on the skyline across the river, keeping a watching brief on proceedings. And there’s been plenty for them to watch over the years : Owain Glyndŵr’s famous victory over the English in 1401, The construction of the Nant-y-Moch reservoir, and the sea of encroaching windfarms. From a distance the cairns look reminiscent of Adam and Eve, the twin monoliths atop Tryfan – But that’s a trick of alignment and perspective : the cairns stand 6 metres tall, and 20m apart, so the ‘freedom’ of Carn Hyddgen can’t be easily gained.
Continue reading Carn Hyddgen