Mynydd Mawr

June 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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After the Carneddau, Tuesday was a recovery day – some gently riverside walks in Betws-y-Coed, spending too much money in walking shops and reading my book on a  deep leather sofa over a couple of pints in a quiet bar. After that I was ready to test my knee on a reasonable but not too strenuous walk.

Mynyndd Mawr stands in isolation opposite the Nantlle Ridge and is climbed in a straightforward ascent from the village of Rhyd-Ddu. But it’s more than just a summit to be bagged. The crags of Craig y Bera looming over the dramatic pass between Ryd-Ddu and Nantlle are a tantalizing prospect and the walk provides superb views of the Nantlle ridge and across to Moel Elio and the western approach to Snowdon with Llyn Cwellyn below.

It was one of those days when I was constantly putting on and off my waterproof – one minute baking in the sun, the next cooled by a brief shower and in once instance a hail storm. Generally though, visibility was excellent and I was glad I’d kept the walk until I had done the surrounding hills – being able to pick out the summits and know I’d already walked them was a real bonus.

The walk starts on a forest track from Rhyd-Ddu and then there is a steep climb up the ridge to the minor summit of Foel Rûdd. From there it’s an enjoyable stroll across the edge of Craig y Bera – with a wonderful views of the Nantlle and the pass far below – to the summit of Mynydd Mawr.

After that, the only decision I had to make was whether to return the way I came or clamber down the path through a gulley that would bring me out at the other end of the woods running to Rhyd-Ddu. Caution seemed to be the best option given the twinges in my knee, so I took the same route back to Rhyd-Du and quick reward in the Cwellyn Arms.

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The Carneddau

June 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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After a six month break, I finally found time for a decent spell in the hills. I’d been thinking for a while it was time to tackle the Carneddau but I was a bit concerned that an easier target would make sense after a lay off from serious walking. But I had a few days booked at the lovely Bryn Tyrch Inn near Capel Curig and a long summer’s day and a good forecast, so it seemed the perfect opportunity.

The aim was to tackle Pen Yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Daffydd and Carnedd Llewellyn and possibly a few other peaks as well. Pen Yr Ole Wen looms over Llyn Ogwen and is constant presence when walking Y Garn and the Glyders. I took the more reasonable route up the east side of the hill starting from the eastern end of Llyn Ogwen. From the very start there were wonderful views of Tryfan. Last time I was here, thick mist had descended as my brother and I walked down off Tryfan via Y Foel Goch and Gallt yr Ogof to the east, now I could see our route plainly. As I climbed Pen Yr Ole Wen, the Glyders came into view along with Y Garn and Snowdon looming in the background. After a steep climb up to the east ridge there is an enjoyable bit of scrambling above Ffynnon Loer, and then a straightforward climb to the summit with fantastic views on a clear day across to Glyders with Snowdon behind. Ahead lay the ridge to Carnedd Dafydd. There had been a large party of kids starting off around same time as I did and the odd group of other walkers but I had the summit to myself for a while and time to enjoy the views. With the long hours of summer’s day ahead and a good forecast, I planned to take an easy pace on this walk.

After Pen Yr Ole Wen, a wonderful ridge walk starts taking you first to Carnedd Daffydd. The only thing bothering me was that I knew that there was another Nuttall summit below the peak, Foel Meirch, but it would be mean descending and re-climbing 800 feet.  I decided in the end that it would be too much. I wanted to make sure I did the major peaks and I didn’t trust that my knee would stand up to the extra punishment without more preparation. So from Carnedd Dafydd, I headed on toward Carnedd Llewellyn and Yr Helen. A few hundred metres along the ridge, I felt my knee twang and knew that I would be limping for much of the rest of the route , so I was glad I hadn’t wasted effort on Foel Meirch. I did decide to make a detour to Yr Helen by cutting along the slope beneath the summit of Carnedd Llewellyn.

The summit of Yr Helen stands at 3,156 feet and has fine views over the coast line and was well worth the additional pain. From there it was back along the rocky path to Carnedd Llewellyn, the third highest peak in Wales. The summit was empty late afternoon and I could sit looking across to Carnedd Dafydd, the Glyders, and Snowdon, with good views of the rest of the Carneddau as well.

Leaving the summit I had to make one final decision. Following the Nuttall route would mean climbing up to Pen yr Helgi Du (Head of the Black Hound). I was very tempted but the nagging pain in my right knee was insistent and in the end I decided to leave that for another day. So I took the long path through the valley back to the road and then a mile or so walk to the car. Even this final section had its interest as I watched a helicopter involved in a rescue on the Heather Terrace that runs up the eastern side of Tryfan. Watching it hover close to the rocky eastern ridge of Tryfan was an incredible sight – bringing home how much the rescue teams risk in such operations. Hoping all ended well, I finally made it back to the car. Torn trousers, sun burnt legs and injured knee aside it had been fantastic day and I had covered four of Wales 3,000 foot peaks. A few pints and a good meal seemed well deserved.

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.

Snowdon via Moel Eilio

March 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Walking, Wildlife | 1 Comment
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I’d planned this route to fit with a bad forecast for the day. Starting from  Llanberis it would give us the chance to come off the hills after climbing Moel Eilio if it was too wet on top of the ridge. Alternatively if the weather was good we could do a 10 mile loop going over the ridge and back via the Llanberis path below Snowdon, with various options to cut the walk short if necessary. There was also the chance of going all the way to Snowdon, though that would make it a 12 mile walk and around 5000 feet of ascent.

In the end the weather was excellent but half way up the steep slope to Moel Eilio, T had problems with his leg and had to go back. I continued up to the summit, which has excellent views all round, taking in the coast, Moel Hebog and the Nantlle ridge, Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Snowdon itself.

From Moel Eilio it was a straightforward walk along the ridge to Foel Gron. The original plan had been good as there were easy escape routes back to Llanberis, but I carried on to Moel Cynghorion, which was a steeper climb. In theory I could have cut across to join the Llanberis path, but the route through the valley wasn’t clear. I had already decided anyway that I would at least go round the ridge and head on to Snowdon, if I had time. The summit had been tantalisingly visible for much of the walk and you don’t get that many opportunities to be there on a clear day. First, there was a leg-sapping drop and climb from Moel Cynghorion to join the Snowdon Ranger path. It was a lovely day to take this quieter route, I passed only a couple of people before the summit, including two guys carrying mountain bikes to the top! It was a perfect spring day so far, with a plenty of sunshine offsetting a cool breeze but as the summit came within reach it felt like winter again. The temperature dropped quickly to just above freezing and a cold mist was drifting across the top. There was still a considerable amount of snow on the path to the summit and beside the railway line.

As I approached the trig point the only other person around walked off; incredibly I had the summit to myself at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on a clear day. Then as I adjusted the camera, the mist came across cutting visibility to a few hundred metres but a bit of patience and the sky cleared and I had fantastic views of Crib y Ddysgl and Crib Goch (no less daunting up close) and of the Y Lliwedd ridge on the other side of the horseshoe. There was also a great view of the route I’d taken from Llanberis along the Moel Eilio ridge.

From the summit I took the Llanberis path down – except with snow on the ground I missed the point were it splits off from the Snowdon Ranger. So I did what you are warned not to do in winter and followed the railway line off the top. I can see why this is dangerous, snow builds up against the cliff side of the line but can then obscure the drop to your left. Fortunately there was only a remnant of snow and I could see the drop at all times, else I’d have backtracked. Eventually I reached Llechog, a rocky outcrop just a short climb up from the railway track and the final peak off the day. From here I dropped back down to joining the Llanberis path. This is the most straightforward (or boring) of the routes to Snowdon but I was counting on that, and an amble back with very sore legs suited me fine. Topping off a great day with a curry and beer in Llanberis was just icing on the cake.

The Glyders

March 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Walking | 4 Comments
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Walking with T, we took the classic route from Idwal Cottage near Llyn Ogwen, passing up the same path we had taken on the Y Garn walk in October but this time it was dry and we had good view of the walk ahead. We almost missed the turn off toward the Glyders but after that navigation was straightforward as we climbed the path up to the ridge with good views of the Glyders, Tryfan and back to the Carneddau. A steady pace took us to Bwlch Tryfan where we intersected the rugged path between Tryfan and the Glyders. Here we had the option to take the Bristly Ridge scramble to the summit of Glyder Fach – but this was never more than a theoretical option this time. Instead we took the easy path through the pass to the ridge running up to the summit of Glyder Fach.

There was a fair bit of patchy snow still lying on the top and a fair number of people, with a small queue waiting to be photographed on the famous Cantilever Stone. The views from the summit itself were excellent, with Snowdon and Glyder Fawr clearly visible behind the eerie rock formation of Castell y Gwynt.

From Glyder Fach we scrambled over the rocks of Castell y Gwynt and then had a lovely walk in late afternoon sun along the rock strewn ridge to Glyder Fawr. At 999m this the fifth highest peak in Wales (after the Carneddau and Snowdon), and there were more marvellous views from the rocky outcrops that form the summit. We then began the tricky walk down the scree path to Llyn y Cŵn, which lies in the bwlch between the Glyders and Y Garn. The light was just starting to fade as we reached the top of Devil’s Kitchen. We had enough light to negotiate the rocky path down but by the time we reached the lake we needed our headtorches but it was an easy path back and a nice finale to a wonderful day’s walking.

Y Garn (The Glyders)

October 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Walking | 3 Comments
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Like Moel Siabod, I chose this walk with the poor (and accurate) forecast in mind. We hoped we had wDevil's Kitchen and Y Garnaited out the wind and rain in the morning, but as we left the car park at Llyn Ogwen the rain started again. It grew heavier as we walked up the well-maintained track to Llyn Idwal. At least it gave T a chance to test his investment in decent  boots and waterproofs. On the way up we passed a succession of returning walkers soaked to the skin (literally in some cases). Some had been caught out on what should have been a pleasant stroll around the lake, others were coming down off the mountains, and at least  one suggested we might want to think again.

We decided to go at least as far as The Devil’s Kitchen – the rocky chasm that provides access to the pass between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr. As we stopped for lunch at the beginning of the steepest part of the climb, the rain eased up but I was as concerned about the wind as the rain. It was supposed to be gusting up to 70 mph on the tops, though it was fairly calm in the sheltered Y Garn (The Glyders)bowl around Llyn Idwal.

We carried on up the rocky ascent, passing several groups of descending walkers coming off The Glyders or Y Garn (who’d presumably been waiting for the break in the weather). By the time we had reached the plateau at the top of The Devil’s Kitchen, the wind had eased, though it was still strong on the exposed sections. The clouds had also cleared and as we walked up to the summit of Y Garn there were fantastic views of Tryfan and the Glyders as well as the Snowdon and Carneddau ranges.

We then walked down the steep eastern face of Y Garn back to Llyn Idwal with the sun setting as we reached the end of the walk. There is something about a wTryfan and Glyder Fachalk done in the face of the elements that gives you a sense of achievement (and if the sun comes out at the end to dry you off even better!). And though the mountains can throw much worse that this at you, it still felt like a good test. Next time it has to be Tryfan and the Glyders.

Moel Siabod

October 2, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Moel Siabod is a prominent and isolated peak at the edge of the Moelwyn range in Snowdonia. It is climbed via a straightforward route made more interesting by an easy and very enjoyable scramble to the summit.

We didn’t start until after lunch and by the time we got to the parking place on the road to Capel Curig the mist was thickening. The summit was glimpsed for a few seconds as we left the car park, but that was the last time we saw it until we reached the top. The gradual ascent was pleasant and undemanding until we reached Llyn y Foel. The lake was sombre place in the mist, lying below the cliffs of Moel Siabod with the main ridge rising from the far end then disappearing into the clouds. The surrounding hills were little more than fleeting, shadowy presences.Moel Siabod

From here we started the ascent of the ridge, which quickly become as interesting but safe scramble. The mist thickened as we climbed and by the time we reached the summit we could see only few metres ahead. The wind was also much stronger and colder on the peak, so I just took a couple of photographs and then we beat our retreat. A little care was needed in the mist to make sure we kept in the right direction down hill but there were no real problems. As we descended into the valley the winds shifted the clouds to allow glimpses of the previously hidden valley below.

As the forecast for the next day was even poorer, it was good to get this walk under our belts. A pint and a steak pie in the Cwellyn Arms at Rhyd-Ddu was a fitting reward.

Nantlle Ridge

August 22, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Walking | 2 Comments
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This was a superb 9 mile linear walk from Rhyd-Ddu to Nebo across the seven summits of the Nantlle Ridge, including Wales’ newest mountain. The weather was perfect, one of the best days I’ve had in Snowdonia, with the summit of Snowdon itself visible for most of the day.

The walk begins with a stiff climb up from Rhyd-Ddu to the summit of Y Garn. There are fine views towards Moel Hebog to the south east. The summit itself gives great views of Snowdon towering above Rhyd-Ddu. To the south the ridge of Myndd Drws-y-coed  and the bulk of Trum y Ddysgl, the next two peaks, look daunting. The summit of Myndd Drws-y-coed is reached by a scramble that is made more challenging by the dramatic exposure on the right hand side, but once a sensible route is found towards the middle and left of the ridge it’s an enjoyable climb. From here you follow the ridge to Trum y Ddysgl, though we took the slightly lower route by mistake and then walked back to the summit. From here the ridge continues to Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd, with its stone monument to Queen Victoria.

From here the ridge become a steep ascent to Bwlch Dros-bern, with what looks like a rather formidable approach to Craig Cwm Silyn, the tallest of the summits on the ridge. Once you get to the beginning of the climb the path round the right hand side become clear and while stony and steep at times offers no real difficulty.

Cloud had started to gather on the top of Snowdon, a familiar picture, but was still above the other peaks. As we followed the stone wall to the top of Garnedd-goch, the skies continued to darken but it was still a fine day. From the top we could see down to Nebo, but we had one more peak still to do. Mynydd Graig Goch was only recently recognised as mountain, after a new survey put its height at just over 2000 feet. The rocky summit was an atmospheric point to end the ridge part of the walk, with the clouds starting to drop over the top of Craig Cwm Silyn. On the descent to the lake below, Cors y Llyn, the clouds were coming over Mynydd Graig Goch, but our luck held out and we made it back to the car tired but dry. We’d been out 9 hours and an excellent dinner at the pub in Rhyd-Ddu seemed well earned.

Moel Hebog

March 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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The walk begins in the woods a couple of miles from Beddgelert and Moel Hebog looms clearly above you as you approach the start. After a short walk through woods there was a gradual if strenuous hill climb up to the base of the summit. The small plateau provided a good place to catch my breath and enjoy the views over Beddgelert; Cnicht and the Moelwyns were clear to the south, and the Snowdon range was straight ahead, with snow still on many of the slopes and thick cloud over the summit. After this break, there was a rough scramble up over the obscure path to the ridge. On my own, after my brother pulled out with a pulled muscle, I tentatively reached for the next foothold in the shale and wondered what I would do if I slipped at this point. This was mid-week in late March and I’d only seen one other walker so far (who’d kindly warned my of how tricky this bit of the route could be); and though the weather was mild at the moment it probably wouldn’t stay that way. So with extra care I looked round for the best route up (and I still l think I never found it), and was relieved eventually to pull myself up onto the ridge that leads to the summit. The view from Moel Hebog includes the whole of the Nantille ridge stretched out beyond Moel yr Ogof and to the west the coast of Wales stretching up from Porthmadog. Off the summit I followed a stone wall that dropped steeply to the bwch and then climbed up to Moel yr Ogof (the Bare Hill of the Cave, which takes its name from the cave just off the summit where Owain Glyndwr hid from the armies of Henry IV).

Past the summit, the path cuts across the rocky crest to the Moel Lefn. Dark grey clouds had now gathered over Nantille ridge, so I moved on quickly down through the valley into the far end of the woods from where I’d started. Inevitably there were a few false steps in the woods, but not too much of a delay, and I made it back finally to the car at the end of a hard but worthwhile 6 miles that felt like much more.

Cnicht

March 26, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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The wind was ripping across from the sea at dawn. There was lashing rain as well and it was just a question of waiting it out and hoping for better. By mid-morning though the rain had stopped and the winds had eased and so we headed towards Cnicht (the Knight), the striking peak that stands south of the Snowdon range overlooking the coastline.

This was my brother’s first mountain peak – so I’d chosen something dramatic but not too challenging. The walk out of Croesor takes you gradually up the ridge to the summit with the North Wales coast line stretching out behind you, while across the valley to the north west there are clear views of Moel Hebog and behind that the Nantille ridge. The only problem was the fierce wind form the north and at one point we had to take shelter behind an outcrop before tacking an exposed part of the ridge. There is short scramble to the summit, which though it then leads onto an extended ridge to the west, still feels like and exposed and dramatic top with awesome views all around. After that it was a gentle walk over the ridge to the second peak, Cnicht South Top, and then down to Llyn yr Adar (lake of the birds).

The full horseshoe walk take you over the higher peaks of the Moelwyns but we kept that for another trip and cut back down past the old quarry works and onto the path along the side of Cwm Croesor. Despite a short burst of heavy rain this was a gentle walk with the hills glistening as the sun returned after the downpour.

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