Archive for the ‘drosgol’ Tag

From the Mountains to the Sea – Part 1   10 comments

March brings about the first possible family trips to the coast as the weather warms up and my parents caravan is open for business.

 

With a dry day forecast we headed our for the day down to Mwnt Beach near Cardigan. It’s a stunning sandy bay and supposedly a great spot for dolphin spotting

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

It was dry but cloudy and cool but it was great to be back on the beach for the first time this year. There were actually a few brave kids in the water!! We declined the offer and settled for an hour of poking about in the rock pools, a family favourite. A sheltered spot on the rocks served us well for lunch

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

It was a liitle too early in the year for a full blown beach day so we took a walk to the top of the hill overlooking the bay and then down the coast. This small church sits quietly between beach and hill

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

The view from the top was grand and enlivened by a close up of a small raptor. Not sure if it’s a peregrine falcon or a kestrel. I’m sure some knowledgeable sort will correct me

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

Even though it was cloudy the views were nice with some interesting light effects from the low sun and the grey layered clouds. Despite constant diligence on the sea we never saw a dolphin!

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

mwnt beach, traeth y mwnt, foel y mwnt

We took a stroll along the prom at Aberystwyth as a fine end to the day

aberystwyth

The following looked more promising from a weather perspective so I fulfilled a promise to TJS and took him up Plynlimon (highest mountain in mid-Wales and worthy target for a teenage walker obsessed with facts and figures!) I’ve had a couple of cracking trips up here in the past few years which you can read about here and here

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

The day was exceedingly warm but very hazy, almost August-like. The views were a little washed out but fine nonetheless

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

It was clearly frog-breeding season and adults, tadpoles and spawn was everywhere. One small lake was swarming with frogs and you could here their combined voices from several metres away

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

TJS was pleased to finally reach the summit of this fine and very under-rated summit. As with the previous two visits we saw hardly a soul the entire day

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

TJS also has an interest in seeing the source of rivers especially our local river Wye. I’ve told him many times that river sources by and large are deeply uninteresting affairs at least visually if not esoterically. The photo below is the Source of the Wye which I think proves my point. Just some wet grass that turns into bog that turns into a snall stream and so on. However he seemed very excited to see it and that’s the main thing

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

We enjoyed a lunch on the slopes and varied the walk by taking in the dam at Llyn Llygad Rheidol

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

It actually felt warm enough (at least out of the water) for a swim but we declined!

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

cadair Idris, cardigan bay, maesnant, nant-y-moch, pen cerrig tewion, plynlimon, Y Garn, drosgol, hengwm, nant-y-moch, plynlimon, pumlumon fach

We ended the day by joining the Funsters in Aberystwyth where it was gorgeously warm and sunny if a little crowded. Most of the West Midlands and Merseyside had taken the chance for a day out by the sea judging by the accents. The first coastal weekend of the year but not the last…

A Perfect Day – Arans October 2012   17 comments

Sometimes it all comes together. Sometimes for intangible reasons it becomes the perfect day. Sometimes everything just “works”. I’ve had more challenging walks. I’ve had more exciting walks. I’ve had walks with better weather. I’ve had walks with better views. This day I enjoyed myself more on a day in the mountains than I have for a very long time. Maybe I’d had a bad week at work. Maybe the endless grey drizzle of the previous few days had ground me down. Perhaps it was the company of D and TBF. Perhaps it was the simple pleasure of sharing a previous route with others. Perhaps it was the cold clear and crisp feel of a winter’s day. Whatever the reason, THIS was a good day 🙂

Aran Fawddwy, Craiglyn Dyfi

Aran Fawddwy above Craiglyn Dyfi

I’d travelled back down to Wales to join up with the family in Clarach. TBFs mum was with us and she kindly agreed to look after L for the day so we could head off for a full day. We had thought about Snowdon but I couldn’t be bothered with such a long drive on what promised to be a fine day. A check of the map revealed that the southern end of the Arans was no more than an hours drive away and even though I’d done this route last year I thought it was well worth repeating. I’m shamelessly lazy so I’ve just re-used the route map from last time. It’s the same walk other than the omission of Glascwm, a fine summit but too far for shorter day.

8 miles, 3,500 feet of ascent

After another very chilly morning in the caravan we were off to the mountains

Cwm Cywarch is one of the finest valleys and mountain corries I know and provides a stunning and secretive entrance the Arans.

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

The car park was busy and startlingly cold but with sunshine and with the massive cliffs above us it’s an exciting place to begin a walk. The route up into the higher reaches of Cwm Cywarch is wonderful, a picture perfect rocky valley surrounded by peaks and filled with tumbling streams and waterfalls, backed by blue skies and scudding dark clouds. I recalled my visit last summer when I sat on the rocks in the warm sun and paddled my feet in the stream – not that kind of day today.

Cwm Cywarch

D in the upper reaches of Cwm Cywarch

We made swift progress. D is now of the age where he is starting to pressure me for pace uphill and leaves TBF in his wake. This was easily his toughest day in the hills. Cadair Idris was his previous highest summit but the Arans are much wilder and untamed. He seemed thrilled by the path up the valley as it twisted and turned amongst the rocks and finally emerged onto the broad saddle between Glascwm and the Arans themselves.

Cwm Cywarch

D approaches the head of Cwm Cywarch

Pen yr Allt Uchaf

TBF, Pen yr Allt Uchaf behind

The view was stunning with the Rhinogs standing proud above the Mawddach estuary and the Arenigs and its outliers to the north.

Rhinogs, Cwm Cywarch

Rhinogs from the head of Cwm Cywarch

The wind was cold but I revel in these conditions, much happier than on a warm sultry summers day. The cold clear air lifts my spirits and refreshes my soul like nothing I know. I even find some of the wilder winter weather positively inspiring. Once on Bheinn Liath Mhor Fannich, I was in a chipper mood that even a vicious hailstorm couldn’t quell. After a wonderful steep climb up a hard snow slope to the summit a couple of friends arrived on the top, tired and dispirited by the hail to find me prancing about on the summit, grinning wildly playing air guitar with an ice axe. Exasperated by such inappropriate cheerfulness, it was more than they could stand and promptly turned tail and went down. The rest of the day contained some of the nastiest hail showers I can remember mixed with blue interludes over a winter mountain landscape. Over 20 years on it’s still a day I recall with great fondness. As I’ve said in previous posts, sometimes, I think I’m not wired in the head properly

Back to the present. The route from the col traverses some seriously boggy ground, most of the worst parts have planks lain across but it’s still a soggy old spot. I’m becoming a devotee of trail shoes rather than boots even in such terrain. However one issue I hadn’t thought of is when the ground is frosty, the bog-water is cold (obvious I know). My feet were cold most of the day so much as I love the light weight and nimbleness they provide, in winter I’ll need to revert to more significant footwear.

Rhinogs, Cwm Cywarch

D and TBF float on a sea of bog

Rather than head straight for the summit I headed off-piste towards the ridge of Gwaun y Llwyni, rough but not as soggy as the main path with a steep climb to the ridge. It’s well worth it for the sensational view back down Cwm Cywarch and across Hengwm. The ridge gives wonderful grassy stroll high above the Hengwm with views back across to the distant Rhinogs and beyond.

Gwaun y Llwyni

TBF & D traverse Gwaun y Llwyni

The ridge ends abruptly above an immense grassy cwm at the head of Hengwm a superb spot that I’d used the previous year for a stop but far too windy this time.

Gwaun y Llwyni

D on the summit of Gwaun y Llwyni

Aran Fawddwy, Gwaun y Llwyni

Aran Fawddwy from Gwaun y Llwyni

I’d spied a collection of rocks on the path to Drosgol that looked ideal for lunch and so it proved, out of the wind and perched above Hengwm for great views. I’d wanted to lunch on the summit but I figured it would be a little chilly.

Aran Fawddwy, Gwaun y Llwyni

Time for a break

Refreshed we continued around the NW rim of Hengwm to climb steeply up to the summit Drosgol with its memorial cairn to an RAF rescue airman who died after being struck by lightning. It’s a truly marvellous, albeit solemn, spot right on the edge of the grassy cliffs with far-reaching views to the Berwyns, the Long Mynd and what I’m pretty sure was the Wrekin near Telford.

Drosgol, Glascwm, Cadair Idris

Climbing to Drosgol, Glascwm and Cadair Idris behind

Drosgol, Glascwm, Cadair Idris

Summit of Drosgol, Glascwm, Cadair Idris behind

It also affords a view across the rugged cliffs of Aran Fawddwy cradling Craiglyn Dyfi at their feet and across to Aran Benllyn. The walk from Drosgol and through the easy angled crags to the summit is just a pleasure. A thin path works it way through the crags but simply finding your own way, twisting and turning through the crags and hollows is mesmeric. One of those short sections where the mountain seems to draw you to the top effortlessly. The summit is a very broad level plateau of rocks leading up to the main summit with its trig pillar perched on the edge of the cliffs.

Aran Fawddwy

Aran Fawddwy summit ridge

Aran Fawddwy

D & TBF approach the summit of Aran Fawddwy

It’s a magnificent summit, comparable with the best Snowdonia has to offer but without the crowds. Standing alone the views are far-reaching taking in a full panorama from the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire, Plynlimon, Berwyns, Arenings, Rhinogs and across to The Rivals and Carn Fadryn on the Lleyn Peninsula. I fancy a night on the summit here on a warm summers evening, plenty of sites for a bivvy or possibly throw up  a very small tent. D was chuffed to climb his highest mountain to date and pretty good one at that with a real mountaineering flavour.

Aran Fawddwy

Summit winners

Aran Fawddwy

View east from Aran Fawddwy

We sat on the rocks for a quick snack, with our feet metaphorically dangling in Craiglyn Dyfi far below The cold wind and march of time meant it was an all too brief stop on the summit so we reluctantly turned tail and retraced our steps to Drosgol. There had been scudding cloud all day that had added a sense of threat and majesty to the views but as we descended the clouds began to break and we were treated to some spectacular late-afternoon, low-angled sunlight views that are a such a feature of these autumn and winter days.

Glascwm, Cadair Idris

Glascwm & Cadair Idris

It just got better and better as we crossed Drosgol and headed down towards Hengwm. The sunlight on the Hirnants was highlighting every gully and slope giving a real sense of their complex local topography.

Drosgol

Drosgol

Aran Fawddwy, Craiglyn Dyfi, Drosgol

Aran Fawddwy & Craiglyn Dyfi from Drosgol

Drosgol

D & TBF on Drosgol summit

I had both a real (from the grassy slopes) and metaphorical spring in my step as we descended towards the final highlight of the day, Hengwm.

Hengwm

Hengwm

It’s the most perfect grassy glacial valley you could imagine towered over by the grassy ridge and corries of Gwaun y Llwyni to the west and Pen yr Allt Uchaf to the east. As with my previous visit the long grassy ridge of Pen yr Allt Uchaf looked inviting to stride across but time was too short and would involve either retracing your steps or a couple of thousand feet of steep grass to descend.

Hengwm, Drosgol

Drosgol from Hengwm

Hengwm has the most amazingly created path that traces a straight line from top to bottom making for the easiest of descents (especially for those of us with dodgy knees). As the sun began to set behind Craig Cywarch it turned the whole valley a shade of gold that matched my feeling of a truly treasured day. All too soon the sun disappeared, the air grew instantly colder and we quickened our pace back to the car.

Gwaun y Llwyni, Hengwm

Gwaun y Llwyni from Hengwm

Hengwm

The final desent of Hengwm – more “Golden Time”

It had been a day to remember and a fitting end to the British Summer Time as the clocks turned back and the long winter nights were upon us. That feeling of cold, crisp air had fired my passion for the “big” mountains. I wanted another day like it but a total washout the next day put pay to that! A feast from the chippy finished off the day perfectly – faggots chips and mushy peas – a classic.

I’ll apologise for using this Elbow song again (it appeared on my slide show from the Gower from earlier this year). The track is a little anthemic but I love the uplifting melody and words that just seemed to sum up what for me anyway was a euphoric day

“Throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year will se me right” Enjoy!

Plynlimon – after 30 years   12 comments

When I was a kid, spending loads of time down at my grandparents caravan, with my interest in walking starting to pique, I harboured ambitions to climb Plynlimon, the highest point in mid-Wales. We often took trips in the car out to the hills and narrow roads around Nant-y-Moch reservoir and we drove past the main route up from the A44 on our way to and from the caravan. Despite this I never attained the summit and as I grew up and my grandparents gave up the caravan, it drifted far from my thoughts as I discovered what I believed were bigger and better mountains in the Lake District, Snowdonia and Scotland. I was wrong.

Now my parents have their caravan down at Clarach, it’s back in my vision again. On our recent half-term week, the first Saturday was shaping up to be a great day so I asked Jane if I could go out to play for the day. I was just going to take the quick route up from the A44 but a recent blog post on the excellent Backpackingbongos by James Boulter had sparked my interest in approaching it from the north via the Hengwm valley. I strongly recommend taking a look at James’s post about his trip into this little known area here, it’s a cracking read.

I headed off to the Nant-y-Moch Reservoir and took the dead-end road along its eastern shore towards the Maesnant outdoor centre, parking up easily on the grass by the road.

P1040296

Banc Llechwedd Mawr

It was a stunning day with clear blue sky and glorious autumn colours. As I set off and throughout the day, the peak of Drosgol caught my eye, some hills just have that perfect form that make you want to climb them.

P1040299

Drosgol

It would be a real challenge to make a circular route to take it in, cut off as it were on 3 sides by the reservoir but I’m up for the challenge some time.

P1040311

Drosgol

As I strode off along the track and into the wilds, one thought kept coming back, why had I neglected these retiring valleys and peaks for so long. Sometimes, particularly when I was younger, mountains had to be “big” or “impressive” to warrant my attention, the lesser known areas were often dismissed as being “boring” even though I’d never been to some of them. Over the last few years I’ve started to appreciate the more subtle charms of the less popular areas. Now I’ve “discovered” this fabulous area, I’ve been poring over maps and planning more day trips and backpacking circuits. Shame on me for leaving them unattended.

P1040326

Carn Hyddgen and the Hengwm Valley

I was in buoyant mood as walked towards the Hengwm valley. The peaks of Banc Llechwedd Mawr and Carn Hyddgen were also beckoning and my eyes and brain were hard at work sorting out routes and lines to climb them. As I turned east into Hengwm I realised I’d been right to take James advice. It was stunning, wild and untamed with traces of long abandoned farms and mine workings giving a sense of history and perspective.

P1040329

Hengwm Valley

One thing to remember about wild and untamed mid-Wales is that the paths are sometimes a little vague and the one on the south bank of the river was extremely sketchy. Sorry two things to remember, it rains a lot in mid-Wales so anywhere flat, like valley bottoms can be a trifle boggy. In this case very boggy. The path when it did appear was astonishingly wet, and I had several moments when I lost my leg to the earth I was glad I’d put my gaiters on (I don’t normally wear them), my wet feet problem exacerbated by the fact that my crap North Face boots had a hole in them. I’m often staggered by just how much water a mountain slope or valley can hold in the UK!

In between hauling myself out of bogs and leaping from tussock to tussock I was loving this walk. It felt like barely a soul ever walks up and I hadn’t seen a soul so far. In amongst the quagmire I’d also found a decent wild camp-spot by the river. I’ve been searching for a nice spot not too far from the road to introduce the kids to a spot of wild camping and provided I can find a way through the swamp this would be a good bet.

P1040332

NIce place to spend the night, Hengwm valley

I reached the ruined farmhouse at the point where Hengwn turns north, an evocative spot. It’s surrounded by tall reeds but there are patches of grass amongst it that would make a pretty decent if slightly surreal campsite.

P1040338

Ruined farmhouse

I continued west past the waterfalls and on into Cwm Gwerin following the river to stay dry if that makes sense.

P1040341

Waterfalls and Craig yr Eglwys

P1040347

Hengwm Valley

My intention had been to follow the valley all the way up to the ridge but the river was meandering all over the place so I headed south for what looked like a grassy rake through the crags. What looked like grass from a distance turned out to be deep spongy moss like I’ve never seen before. It was like climbing an enormous duvet. It was the hardest couple off hundred feet of ascent I’d done in a while. Fortunately when I reached the upper slopes there was a long line of broken rocks leading all the way to the summit of the minor top of Pen Cerrig Tewion.

P1040359

Route to Pen Cerrig Tewion, Arans in the distance

The views to the north were awesome with Cadair Idris standing proud above the vast expanse of the hills around me and the Arans visible in the distance.

P1040362

Distant views to the Tarrens and Cadair Idris

Plynlimon, my target for the day looked impressive and craggy on its north side cradling the small Llyn Llygad Rheidol reservoir.

P1040368

Plynlimon from Pen Cerrig Tewion

I made short work of the rest of the climb to the ridge, passing a couple of gorgeous small tarns before turning west to head onto the summit.

P1040379

Tarn on the summit ridge

The panorama from the top was breathtaking. Because it’s the highest point in the area and the local hills are much lower it gives a sensation of space and height I’ve not experienced on a summit for a while, it would be a wonderful spot for a summit bivvy or camp in settled weather.

P1040386

Cadair Idris and the Arans from the summit

P1040389

Nant-y-Moch reservoir

P1040399

Looking south along the summit ridge

Today there was a biting wind so I had to settle for lunch in the shelter of the massive summit cairn, still shaking my head at how it had taken me over 30 years to make it to the top.

Sadly the view north will, if plans are allowed to progress, be ruined by being festooned with wind turbines. James on Backpackingbongos has written an excellent piece here about these plans so I won’t say anything more other than head over and take a read. I urge anyone who looks at my photos, is dazzled by the views laid out within them and is as saddened as I am that this area’s natural beauty will be lost for ever if the plans go ahead, to sign the petitions. I’ve added the links below:

http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petition/33775.html

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/no-to-the-industrialisation-of-mid-wales.html

It was one of those of days where struggled to tear myself away from the top but I headed off following a grassy path NW from the summit that seemed to be heading back to the car. It was such a lovely day that I took in the various lumps and bumps of Pumlumon Fach.

P1040411

Looking over Pumlumon Fach to Cadair Idris

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Pumlumon Fach

These would be great places for a wild camp on their grassy summits if there was a water source nearby (or carried in). I sprang my way down more mossy slopes to the track from Llyn Llygad Rheidol to where it passes a line of tarns that were catching the late afternoon light in a most becoming fashion.

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Tarns by the track, Banc Llechwedd Mawr behind

I found a thin path heading straight down along the Maesnant stream back to my car, in fact it appears that this was the end point on the path from the summit I’d followed earlier. This would be a great and swift route to the summit for a late evening walk on a warm summers evening.

P1040441

Nant-y-Moch reservoir in the fading light

I reached the car, as happy after a day in the hills as I can remember in a long time. After all how often do you get to fulfill a lifelong ambition!

Posted November 13, 2011 by surfnslide in Mid Wales, Wales, Walking

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