Category Archives: Wales

Minfford Trail to Cadair Idris

Cadair Idris 13/3/2014

Newtown, being right on the Severn was full of valley fog when I drove through, but by the time I’d reached Corris there seemed to be nothing but blue sky – a stark change from Sunday’s low clouds on the ascent.

It’s a long, steep climb up the well-constructed steps that start just past the new (but closed, today) Tea Room at the foot of Cadair Idris,  but with the sound of the stream rushing down the mountain you gain height very quickly. Shortly after crossing a stone wall the trees are left behind and the open hillside beckons.

A more gentle climb from here takes you to the shores of Llyn Cau – somewhere that’s so stunning it always makes me feel good to be alive –  and likely as not, yours to savour alone.

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To reach the lake shore, you’ll need to leave the main path briefly – but this gives a chance to catch your breath before the climb onto the ridge.

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The path from here is heavily cairned in places, but has spots with dizzying views down to the llyn far below. The sun was beating down now, and there was hardly a breath of wind.

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Looking towards the sea, the fog was trying it’s best to roll in, but the sun wasn’t giving it much of a chance.  Eventually you’ll reach the ladder stile and fence, with the summit of Craig Cau immediately beyond, giving great views of Penygadair – the next objective.wpid-DSC_0276.jpg

wpid-DSC_0291.jpgThe trig point was busy, so I headed towards Mynydd Moel before grabbing a quick lunch. There was still some snow in the north-facing gullies, but nothing at all on the plateau.

After pressing on to Gau Craig, I looked at return routes., and decided to try a path following a fenceline to the southeast, which would then let me follow the old track parallel to the A487 back to the car. The path is steep and loose at first, with some scrambling required to wind through the crags on the East face.

wpid-DSC_0292.jpgFrom here, a much gentler path continues down to the road,  and the old track through Cwm Rhwyddfor avoids the road for most of the way.

The Toad Chorus

Glasgwm and Aran Fawddwy. 8/3/2014

Combinations of work, lack of motivation and the ridiculous excuse for a winter meant that today was my first day on the hills this year. The forecast looked too good to miss, with little rain and cloud free summits on offer. MWIS were forecasting high winds in the north of the park though, so a visit to the Arans seemed a  good idea.

After an early start I was on the hill by 8.00, following the stream up behind  Bryn Hafod in Cwm Cywarch. The forecast wasn’t entirely right, as there was still a good amount of low cloud around and visibility dropped right down as I reached the sheepfolds just beyond the head of the cwm.

The wind had dropped completely, and all was silent apart from a strange, almost mechanical noise which appeared to be coming from the large swampy pond by the fence junction. Convinced that my ears were playing tricks, I edged closer and the sound resolved into the unsynchronized ribbeting of dozens of large toads in and around the pond. I crept closer, but I think my orange fleece gave the game away and the pond was instantly silent.

From here, the out-and back visit to Glasgwm was uneventful, but the summit was still in the cloud. A few patches of snow remained on the scree, but with temperatures rising dramatically they’re unlikely to stay for long.

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Following the fenceline to towards Aran Fawddwy,  there’s an interesting selection of duckboards intended to help keep your feet dry. Some are useful , but many more are just plain dangerous – either rotting, or unbelievably slippery. The best one acted as a see-saw:  as soon as I put weight on it, the far end lifted up as my feet sank deeper into the water.

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But, as I negotiated this section, the weather began to clear. Slowly at first, with just occasional glimpses into the middle distance. I stopped for a bit to eat near another large reed-filled llyn, and was again greeted by the sight and sounds of hundreds of large toads.

wpid-DSC_0219.jpgThis time I was quieter (and less orange) so was able to take some pictures. The fenceline from here continues almost to the summit – passing a lower subsidiary top a few hundred yards before the trig point perched on the edge of the cliffs above Creiglyn Dyfi

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Arriving at the trig, the cloud was still all around, but a few minutes wait was rewarded with gorgeous blue skies, with clouds around and below in all directions. Grinning wildly, I headed downhill past the Drws Bach memorial cairn before taking the long gently graded path down Hengwm back to the car.

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Moel Hebog

Snowdonia, 4/10/2013

The forecast for the day wasn’t great, and the reality was even worse: Hill fog, rain and some brisk winds, The weather should make this a “Quality Mountain Day” for Mountain Leader Training purposes , but most sane folk would dispute the use of that adjective.

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I left the start as late as I reasonably could as the forecast did imply things would get better later in the day, but eventually set off from Beddgelert around mid-day, aiming to take in Moel Hebog and the two outliers to the north: Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn. The return would be via tracks through Beddgelert Forest near the Welsh Highland Railway.

The camera stayed away almost the whole day, coming out briefly to try and capture some droplet-covered grasses and impressive pillow lavas on the short scrambly section of the ridge onto Moel Hebog.

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From the trig point, it’s a steep descent following a handy wall to Bwlch Meillionen, then upwards through an impressive rocky cleft onto Moel yr Ogof. The climb to the top twists and turns a bit, and I arrived at the summit cairn somewhat disorientated. I triple-checked the bearing onward to Moel Lefn and picked up a path pretty easily.

From Moel Lefn, the terrain gets more complex, and there are steep crags between you and the old quarry at the bwlch. The path I was on was heading in the right direction until it suddenly turned 90 degrees right: I eventually ignored the path, continued carefully down and was relieved to pick up a second lower path winding through the crags. I was briefly below the cloud now, and there were some glimpses down into Cwm Pennant below. From the bwlch, there are some boggy paths through the forest that take you back onto the open hillside, then it’s down through a narrow (and wet) forest trail until you reach a wide and well signed track near Hafod Ruffydd Uchaf. It’s best to ignore the map and follow the signed trail to Beddgelert now, as the path layout has been changed since the last OS map update.

Heading back towards the car the tops were still covered in cloud, but it was lifting and breaking on the drive back to Betws, with Cwm Dyli and the Glyderau looking great in the late afternoon light.

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Moel Siabod and the Red Route to Glyder Fawr

Snowdonia, 31-Aug-2013

After a month of inactivity, I finally planned a overnight camp, and a visit to Moel Siabod and the Glyderau seemed long overdue. Overnight parking around Ogwen can always be a worry, but the NT car park behind Joe Brown’s in Capel Curig is usually a good start. The loos here have been significantly ‘upgraded’ since my last visit – the downside is that you have to pay 20p for the privilege of using them, and there’s a singularly pointless combined soap/water/air-blower thing which does all three jobs badly. If your hands are still soaked after the blower has given you 5 seconds of cold air, do not put them back under it. It will then just cover them with soap again…

Sense of humour was restored once I was on my way, cutting across the river opposite the excellent Moel Siabod Cafe and following the path along the bank to Pont Cyfyng. I’d been up Siabod from this side a couple of times before, each time scrambling the Ddear Ddu ridge which drop you out by the trig point. Today, armed with a heavier pack I headed up the long northwestern ridge instead. There’s plenty of easy scrambling and rock-hopping, and occasional views straight down the south face to Llyn y Foel.

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The rocky ridge continues a long way, before joining into the boulder fields that surround the summit. I ducked into the windshelter for a snack, and to consider my plan for the rest of the day. I was going to head down the west ridge, and look for a suitable camp spot, but hadn’t really planned where. Llynau Diwaunedd had looked appealing on the map, but from the ridge it looked dark, cold and unwelcoming. Arriving a Bwlch y Maen I could see the glimmer of a small llyn, and while the water didn’t look suitable for drinking I still had plenty with me, and there was an inviting and well-sheltered pitch nearby on a knoll in the lee of the ridge. Couscous, coffee and flapjack consumed, I wandered around the ridge watching the sun go down in the Llanberis pass.

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The next morning I was up early and heading down towards the road near the Pen Y Gwyrd hotel. The flat plateau above the road showed the marks of grazing by cattle – grass grazed much higher than wooly lawnmowers would do, and the ground churned up in places with ankle-twisting postholes where cattle had walked.  The forecast cloud was high, but still touching the peaks of Lliwedd and Snowdon.

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Lichenomphalia Umbellifera in sphagnum moss

wpid-P1020410.jpgI planned to just pop into Pen y Pass to check the weather forecast for the day. Ducking through the full car park and streams of three-peakers, I found the cafe was open, and I miraculously had enough loose change in my pockets for an excellent breakfast and an espresso. Fortified, I set out on the climb up towards Glyder Fawr, leaving the crowds on the other side of the road. The route isn’t marked on maps, but I’d read about it in Peter Hermon’s Hillwalking In Wales. Red dots daubed on rocks mark the route, which – apart from a few short loose sections, is mostly on grass from Pen y Pass to the summit of Gylder Fawr.

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I’d asked one of the wardens (Helen Pye) if the route was still marked in this way, and she seemed to think not, so I was surprised when a red dot on a rock about 100m up from Pen Y Pass loomed into view. The dots are mostly small and usually faint, and in most places you won’t see the mark ahead until you’ve left the previous one behind. Useful in good visibility, and very comforting in mist as long as you stay on track. Between Pen Y Pass and Glyder Fawr, I saw just one person – a fell-runner descending at speed to the east of me. Cloud was covering the Glyder Fawr summit tors when I reached them,  and after a snack break and a chat with a couple who’d come via the Devils Kitchen, I set off for Glyder Fach.

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With the cloud, this was like a moonscape, but as soon as I ‘d lost a small amount of height I was below it, with stunning views to Cwm Cneifion, Tryfan, and the Gribin ridge.

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Approaching Castell Y Gwynt, I made the mistake of thinking that the top could be reached by scrambling from the western side. I’m sure it could, but not by me: I reached the edge of my comfort zone just below the summit rocks, and retreated. I was followed in my failed attempt by the couple I’d been talking to earlier. In hindsight I have a feeling that they thought this was Glyder Fach at first…

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I headed past the summit of Glyder Fach to the Cantilever stone, for once without anybody posing on it. From here, my route was an easy, sunny walk down the long spine of the Glyderau back to Capel Curig, via the two tops of Y Foel Goch and Gallt yr Ogof.

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