Tag Archives: featured

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.

wpid-P1020390.jpg

 

wpid-P1020391.jpg

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.

wpid-P1020400.jpg

 

wpid-P1020398.jpg

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.

wpid-P1020402.jpg
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.

wpid-P1020412.jpg

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.

wpid-P1020418.jpg

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.

wpid-P1020420.jpg

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…

wpid-P1020422.jpg

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.

wpid-P1020428.jpg

wpid-P1020427.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

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

 

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