Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Holiday Walks Part Two: Moelwyn Mawr

For my second walk of our holiday I picked a fairly short walk which would enable me to indulge in some gratuitous Nuttall bagging while, at the same time, climbing one of the more prominent mountains in northern Snowdonia.

I had been tempted to start from Croesor and include the magnificent looking Cnicht but as I was taking my father-in-law, whose most meaningful walk this year had been the short walk to the top of Bull Hill back in January, I thought including Cnicht would be pushing it.

Instead we started from Tangryisiau and to be honest I'm glad we did as I thoroughly enjoyed the walk up the Gwmorthin valley and up to the Rhosydd Slate Mine. While I'm not necessarily a fan of some of the larger open cast quarries that are still in use I do find the remnants of past mining activity quite fascinating. With this in mind I don't think I've come across many more interesting sites than Rhosydd. Apparently surface excavations began in the 1830's but by the 1850's the majority of the workings were underground and by the 1880's it was one of the largest underground workings in Wales with 170 chambers.

In the shadow of Moelwyn Mawr and with a great view of Cnicht I wonder if the hundreds of people who would have worked the mine in its heyday appreciated the location. While we mainly saw the remnants of the surface buildings we did have a peer down an adit, while the huge open cast hole of West Twll was a most impressive sight.

While I was out to bag peaks my father-in-law just wanted an enjoyable walk in the mountains so while he made a beeline for Moelwyn Mawr I made a couple of detours to visit the tops of Moel-yr-hydd and the so-called Moelwyn Mawr North Top. The former was definately worth while with great views down into the Cwmorthin valley, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Tanygrisiau Reservoir. The latter is the kind of insiginificant bump which gives the Nuttalls a bad name, in fact if it had not been included in their book as a top I would seriously doubt that it even meets the necessary requirements.

After a final short steep climb we finally made it on to the top of Moelwyn Mawr where we enjoyed a fine vista with nearly all the main mountain ranges from Cadair Idris to the south to the Carneddau in the north in view. We spent quite some time on the summit soaking up the views, eating our lunch and taking numerous photos.

Eventually we descended via the short rocky ridge of Craigysgafan the highest point of which is a Nuttall in its own right. This was an excellent section with some good views down to Llyn Stwlan The final summit of the day was Moelwyn Bach which looked quite imposing from Craigysgafan Dave decided to give it a miss and instead stayed on Craigysgafan to take photos of me with his fancy new camera as I toiled up the steep path on to the summit of Moelwyn Bach. Upon reaching the top I was able to take some retrospective pictures back at him.

Meeting back down at Bwlch Stwlan we descended to Llyn Stwlan and then followed the access road all the way back to where we had parked the car. This was a walk full of interest with some great long distance views as well. After all my Pennine walking this year it was also nice to get into some more mountainous terrain. One of my favourite walks of the year without a doubt.

Looking back down the Cwmorthin Valley

The first few metres of one of the Rhosydd adits

Cnicht from Rhosydd Mines

Moelwyn Mawr towering above the Rhosydd mines

Looking across the Cwmorthin Valley tp Allt Fawr from Moel-yr-hydd

The open cast mine of West Twll

Looking back across East and West Twll to Moel-yr-hydd

The north Snowdonia mountains from Moelwyn Mawr

Dave on Moelwyn Mawr

The rocky ridge of Craigysgafan

Moelwyn Bach from Craigysgafan

Dave on Craigysgafan from Moelwyn Bach

Moelwyn Mawr, Craigysgafan and Llyn Stwlan

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Holiday Walks Part One: Moel Ysgyfarnogod & Foel Penolau

As the two walks I've recently done on holiday in North Wales are far removed from the Pennines I thought I would post some notes and photos of them both on my blog page.

Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Foel Penolau are hardly the best known summits in the Snowdonia National Park. In fact outside the world of Hewitt and Nuttall baggers they are probably hardly known at all. Yet it was these two summits that were the objective of my first walk in Snowdonia for over 4 years.

The main reason for choosing the route (a variation on that in the Nuttall's 'Mountains of England and Wales') was that it promised to have some exciting rock scenery but at the same time was fairly modest in terms of distance and total ascent.

The walk proved to be everything I hoped it would be. There was some fine mountain tarns (or 'llyns' in Welsh), the paths on the ascent at least were excellent including an enjoyable path that slanted above Llyn Eiddew Bach to Llyn Du below the cliffs of Moel Ysgyfarnogod.

Foel Penolau is reputed to be among the best defended summits in Wales, the summit being a large cap of volcanic rock with only a couple of places where ordinary walkers can breach the crags to scramble to the top. In fact we may have struggled to find the route up if we had not met a group of walkers on Moel Ysgyfarnogod, including a member of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team, who showed us the way. Rather strangely the summit of Foel Penolau, once attained, looked at first glance if it was covered in layer of limestone pavement despite the fact that, as mentioned, the rock is much older in origin.

Situated at the northern end of the Rhinogydd range both Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Foel Penolau have a stunning vista of the North Snowdonia mountains. Indeed Wynn, the experienced walker from the Ogwen Mountain Rescue Team, stated the opinion that it was one of the best views in North Wales. I haven't visited enough mountains in North Wales to make such a claim but I would be surprised if there were many finer views.

I wanted to return via a different route to the Nuttalls mainly because I wanted to visit the curious cairn of Bryn Cader Faner. This meant an initially pathless descent from Foel Penolau where I managed to go up above my left knee in one the smallest patches of bog I've come across. This was kharma punishing me for my claims to be an experienced bog trotter to the Welsh walkers we had left on Foel Penolau.

This was an excellent walk and one I would heartily recommend to anyone going walking in Wales, especially if they have already visited the more famous tops.

Llyn Eiddew Bach

Looking north to Snowdon

Looking across to the hills of the Lleyn Peninsula

Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Foel Penolau

On the summit of Moel Ysgyfarnogod

The rocky top of Foel Penolau from Moel Ysgyfarnogod

The scramble to the summit of Foel Penolau was across these boulders

The top of Foel Penolau

Lisa on Foel Penolau

Panorama of North Snowdonia from Foel Penolau

Looking back up at Foel Penolau

The ancient cairn of Bryn Cader Faner