Tryfan

July 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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With its knife edge perspective and gothic trio of peaks, Tryfan is an iconic Welsh mountain, holding the eye of anyone driving along the A5 near Llyn Ogwen.  You can even see from the road the narrow path along the eastern flank called the Heather Terrace that was our route to the summit.

I was with my brother and we started off in sunglasses, shorts and coated in sun protector.  Our optimism about the weather lasted until we reached the start of the Heather Terrace, when the mist started to thicken over the summit. We took a rather circuitous route up the heather to join the Heather Terrace – being a bit over-cautious about not missing it and taking the harder north ridge scramble.  But once on the track, it’s a gradual climb and clear route and only occasionally does it feel like you are on a narrow ledge a thousand feet above the valley.

We climbed the terrace in clear conditions, with good views of the eastern Carneddau on the other side of the A5. We also passed several groups of climbers tackling the cliffs rising above into the mist and the summit.

At the end of the track, we reached the stone wall running across the pass below the south ridge of Tryfan.  The weather changed starkly now, on the other side of the wall the mist was thicker and the wind stronger and colder. The mist was also starting to pass to the east covering the track we had taken up the hill. With visibility down to no more than 20 metres if that we decided to wait and see if things got any clearer before tackling the summit. As we sat talking we heard some scrambling in the rocks behind us, expecting to see other walkers or some sheep we turned to see a herd of wild goats. This was the first time I’d actually seen them on the hills in Snowdonia, and it was a pleasant distraction watching them grazing below us before clambering over the rocks and away.

After about 20 minutes, with little change in the weather, we decided to move on having spoken to a group of walkers coming off the summit who indicated the path and suggested we ‘just follow the crampon marks”. I’m not sure if this is advice to take too literally but as we scrambled over the rocks towards the summits, the scratches made by crampons did give some reassurance we were going in the right direction.

As we neared the summit, we watched some walkers clambering down on their bottoms over what looked like a more difficult section. This was the ‘technically difficult’ or tricky section that some of the books warn about. In fact, it’s a short section that need a bit more attention as you manoeuvre over the gap between the rocks. The real challenge is not being too conscious of the large drop to your right as you make your move. Once over this, the summit was straight ahead with its famous Adam and Eve monoliths.  The tradition of jumping from one to the other had to be honoured in the breach. I think I would have done it if my frozen shoulder hadn’t prevented my clambering up – but that may be wishful thinking. Anyway, it’s saved for another time, along with the north ridge path.

There were no views of course, but as we had had such good views of Tryfan on previous walks in The Glyders we couldn’t complain too much. From the summit we made our way back down the Bwlch Tryfan that runs between Tryfan and The Glyders. From here we followed the miner’s track to the ridge the leads up to Glyder Fach, but this time we went east towards Y Foel Goch. With thick mist all around we were relying on compass and GPS and making sure we kept well away from the cliff edges. The walking was now over track and bog and without the mist and rain would have been a pleasant stroll after the scrambling on Tryfan.

This would have been just one more misty summit, except it was also my 100th Welsh mountain summit (Nuttall) so it was a little bit special. It was probably fitting that it was a fairly obscure top surrounded by mist with nothing much visible beyond the summit.

Moving on, we used compass and GPS again to reorient ourselves on the featureless and shrouded moor and – aware of the ridge edge nearby – headed north east toward Gallt yr Ogof, the final peak of the day. From another misty summit, we began the slow ascent to Cwm Gwern Gof, picking our way between rocks, bog, heather and winberry. This was slow going in the mist and not much fun. I slipped at one point and badly scraped my calf against a rock; T slipped a few times as well. But eventually, with sodden boots, we made it down to the valley and an easy but tired walk along the road to the car. After drying off, we just made it to the Bryn Tyrch Inn for the last food order and a well earned pint. It was one of those days with the walking and the achievement of the walking are their own reward and as such a good way to reach the 100 mark.

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The Southern Arans: Glasgwm and Pen Y Bryn-Fforchog

July 17, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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It was good to be back on the hills after three months away while working on a new report. This was a good reintroduction, nothing spectacular or very hard but enough of a stretch to get the stiffness out of my legs and cobwebs out my head  It also got me refocused on the goal of walking all the Welsh mountains. This is far from just a tick-list exercise though, even if the grander walks on the other Arans have a stronger pull.

It also gave me another chance to take the path beside the waterfalls at the head of Cwm Cywarch. I had done this on the descent from the Aran Fawddwy horseshoe but it was late that day and I was tired and wet and didn’t really have chance to appreciate it. This time starting from the Cwm Cywarch car pack I walked up the valley first – with fresh legs and sharper senses. The path meanders up between rocks and streams and a series of small waterfalls, which had a fair amount of volume after a week of rain. To the left are the impressive cliffs of Craig Cywarch and across from the valley are the steep slopes of Pen yr Allt Uchaf, which I painfully walked straight up on my last trip.

As the ground levels out into the boggy area around a small lake, the paths diverge. To the right is the path to Aran Fawddwy, but this time I passed the lake and went left up the hillside to reach the summit of Glasgwm. On the way to the summit, I could see back to Aran Fawddwy, shrouded in mist, and north to the Arenigs, which were still visible. Heavy cloud was moving in though, and when I reach the summit I was in the thick of it. I was just able to see Llyn y Fign, the moorland lake that lies just below the summit. As I sat eating my sandwich, I thought about how nervous I would have been a couple of years ago finding myself on the hills with mist all around. Now I was confident of the route and my experience and knew there would be little problem (and I wasn’t that surprised when I did get a little lost later on!).

Heading off from Glasgwm, I wavered for a minute to check which way to go around the lake and then followed the fence to the right and then as it bends to skirt the forest ahead. As the mist had cleared now, I cut across the moor to the corner of the forest, then on to the summit of Pen Y Bryn-Fforchog – which apparently means Top of the Forked Hill. It was much clearer now, hot even at times with the sun finally breaking through the cloud. Wheatears and other moorland LBTs (little brown things) were all around – and of course there was a raven waiting as I reached the summit. It’s a nondescript peak but there are decent views to Maesglaes and Waun-Oer and beyond them Cadair Idris.

The next stage was always likely to be the trickiest. Following the Nuttalls route, I was aiming for a cut through the forest to join the forest track but a large area of woodland had been cut down and the path wasn,t clear, if it still existed. So I headed off across a desolate landscape of stumps, logs, branches, mossy hummocks, bog and streams. I could see diggers parked at the start of a track and that was my rough goal. This was strange walking – bouncing across the firmer ground around the stumps and then working my way across beds of pine branches and boggy patches. I’m reading the collected JG Ballard short stories at the moment and this felt very familiar;  a post-apocalypse world with the remnants of destroyed forest all around.

Eventually I joined the forest track and seemed reasonably close to where I should be.  I followed this for a while but was always wary in case the path had been changed. When it started to wind down the hill side it looked like I was heading back in the direction of Dinas Mawddwy rather than to Cwm Cywarch. I backtracked a bit and found the faint path at the forest gate that the Nuttalls mention. I took this, passed over a stile and then joined the steep but clear zigzag path down back to valley bottom and the car park.

All round a good mix of views and effort and a bit of a navigational refresh – and the sun was shining as I finished. Not a bad day.

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