The Cambrian Way 2005

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 10 - Days 18 and 19 - Llanbedr to Nant Gwynant

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Day 18 - Monday 20th June - 16.3 miles - 3,810 ft ascent

Llanbedr to Maentwrog via Rhinog Fawr and Moel Ysgyfarnogod

View west from Mynydd Llanbedr 4 Views from Rhinog Fawr The Roman Steps Llyn Cwm Bychan 2 Views from Clip Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Foel Penolau Llyn Trawsfynydd Cambrian Way Map Day 18

There was a knock on my door just after 7.30 to tell me that I could have scrambled eggs on toast for my breakfast in the house in 10 minutes time, before Mrs Jones had to leave for work. She had also managed to get things together for my packed lunch - quite a lot of things as it turned out. She didn't want me to pay anything at all, being rather embarrassed by the whole situation, but I insisted on paying so, in the end, we arrived on the compromise that the two children should have it as pocket money.

By the time I got going, it was 9 o'clock and I decided that, rather than walk all the way back up the road, I would take a track running from beside the farmhouse up onto a ridge, which would take me up to Rhinog Fawr. For the first couple of miles or so, there was a good track with a steady ascent and, though there was still low cloud lurking around, there were some good views across to the Lleyn Peninsula where the mountain tops were still covered by cloud. As I progressed, the weather improved slightly and the cloud lifted quite a bit. The track came to an end a little way short of the final ascent of Rhinog Fawr, so I had to pick my way as best I could through the heather until I found a path that I was able to follow until it headed off in the wrong direction. By this time, the heather had thinned out somewhat, so it was not as difficult to make my way to where I could pick up one of the main paths leading to the summit. With a path to follow the going was easier, despite the steeper slopes, and I reached the summit (checkpoint 26) at 10.45. This was a convenient place to take a break for a snack and the opportunity to take some photographs now that the mist and cloud had cleared. It was turning into quite a good day with the sun coming out more and more, though there was still some hazy cloud around to restrict the distant views a little. This whole area has a rather hostile appearance, even in brighter weather, with a mixture of bare rocks and dark heather, and very little greenery, though this does lend it a character of its own, and is also a reflection of the difficult walking conditions that prevail.

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View west from Mynydd Llanbedr to
Moelfre on ascent of Rhinog Fawr
W from Mynydd Llanbedr
Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr from
Rhinog Fawr
Rhinog Fach & Y Llethr
Clip and Moel Ysgyfarnogod from
Rhinog Fawr
Clip and Moel Ysgyfarnogod

From the summit, I retraced my tracks for a way, until it was time to swing northwards round Llyn Du via a stony route along its northern shore. I was quite surprised to meet a couple of chaps out walking, as I had become so used to meeting hardly anyone, except at weekends. After a little chat with them about the Cambrian Way, I headed over towards the Roman Steps, where I met several other walkers. By now it was quite sunny and most of the cloud and haze had cleared. There was also a refreshingly cool breeze blowing making ideal conditions for walking. The Roman Steps, despite the name, is actually a pack horse route of more recent times, which provides a much easier path than is generally found in these parts. Walking on its large stone slabs allowed me to progress at a much better pace than I was able to achieve over the slow and difficult terrain I had encountered for some while. I dropped down to the path leading to Cwm Bychan, meeting several people on the way, then headed up the steep hillside towards Clip and the ridge of peaks of about 2,000 ft. Near the pass of Bwlch Gwylim, with the biggest part of the climb behind me, I stopped for lunch at 1.30 with a fine view looking down over Llyn Cwm Bychan and across to Rhinog Fawr. Mrs Jones had done a fine job with my lunch. There were four small rolls, a scotch egg, kiwi fruit, apple, two packets of crisps and a kit kat - a bit too much for now, but some of it would keep for another time.

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Rhinog Fawr summit looking towards
Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr
Rhinog Fawr summit
Gloyw Llyn, Llyn Cwm Bychan and
Tremadog Bay from Rhinog Fawr
Gloyw Llyn from Rhinog Fawr
The Roman Steps, a packhorse route
to Cwm Bychan
Roman Steps

A steady ascent soon took me to the top of the pass, where a steep climb on the left led up to Clip. The summit is a little way to the south and involves a bit of rock climbing to get there, but the scenery was breathtaking, with a magnificent view over Tremadog Bay and the estuary, to the Lleyn Peninsula, and a whole panorama of mountains from the high peaks around Snowdon to Arenig Fawr, the Arans and back down to Cader Idris and the Rhinogs. Clip may not be a very lofty mountain; in fact its height does not qualify it to be a mountain, but it commands views more spectacular than many higher peaks. I then had to retrace my steps and follow the ridge northwards, which was not an easy task. There are numerous rocky ledges to negotiate along the way, so the path meanders to and fro and up and down finding the easiest route over the obstacles, making progress slow and tiring, but every bit of effort was worthwhile. There were marvellous viewpoints all along the ridge and the ridge itself is very beautiful with several small tarns and many craggy outcrops of rock. The highest point is Moel Ysgyfarnogod (checkpoint 28), which I reached at 3.30. Here the scenery changes from the heather covered, dark, forbidding terrain of the Rhinogs to green, sheep cropped grass with a much more welcoming appearance.

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Llyn Cwm Bychan
Llyn Cwm Bychan
Arenig Fawr from Clip
Arenig Fawr from Clip
Tremadog Bay and Lleyn Peninsula
from Clip
Tremadog Bay

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Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Foel Penolau
Moel Ysgyfarnogod
Llyn Trawsfynydd with decommissioned
nuclear power station, from Moel y Gyrafolen
Llyn Trawsfynydd

After a short break at the summit, where I met a small group of walkers, I set off down towards Trawsfynydd Reservoir, parts of which could now be seen. It was not downhill all the way, however, as there were still a few more climbs up and down along the ridge. The first of these up to Foel Penolau looks far more forbidding than it actually is. It is a large rocky outcrop with steep cliff faces, but an old rock slide in the middle makes for an easy ascent and it is not very much of a climb. From a distance, Diffwys looks like a smooth, round topped, rocky hill that should be very easy to walk over, but it is rather deceptive, as the smooth rock is in ridges interspersed with heather, so it is a little harder for walking than at first sight. Because there are large areas of bare rock, there was little sign of a path, so it was just a question of heading in roughly the right direction and picking up the path at the far end. I reached a very steep rock face going down, so I had to follow this along until I found a route down a steep scramble by the wall. Finally, there was Moel y Gryafolen, which was not much of a climb, but had a steep descent to join the path leading to the side of the reservoir. There were some lovely views of the reservoir from the latter parts of the route, though the now disused nuclear power station is a rather ugly blot on the landscape.

After dropping all the way down to the road that runs not far from the reservoir, the route very soon takes a path back up the hillside again on the way to the dam. Towards the end of a rather hard day's walking it is a little cruel, but is dictated by the rights of way in the area. A steady ascent of about 300 ft eventually brought me to the highest point of the path and then I dropped steadily downwards to meet up with a small road leading to the dam. By this point I could see that I was running a bit behind schedule, so I rang my B&B in Maentwrog to tell the landlady that I would be about three quarters of an hour late, to avoid her getting worried. There remained about a mile of walking through a forestry plantation, which was rather boggy in places, before reaching minor roads for the rest of the way into Maentwrog. Along this final stretch I was feeling rather footsore, which is something I often experience on long distance walks, though I had not had much of it on this walk until now. By the time I reached my B&B, I was heartily glad to give my feet a rest. They had become very wrinkled from being wet, though much of the way had been dry, but a few boggy sections towards the end of the day had obviously taken their toll. Also, the terrain of today's walk had involved far more wear and tear to my feet than the distance would suggest. Although this had been a hard day, it had been rewarded by the most superb scenery, which made up for any difficulties involved and compensated for my recent days in the mist and rain.

After freshening up at my B&B with a shower, I went down the road to 'The Grapes' for a meal and a few drinks. My first pint of Wye Valley bitter was not all that good, so I decided to have the Plassey's Dragon's Breath at 6.5% alcohol. Normally, I avoid high alcohol beers, but I only had to stagger a few yards back to my B&B, so I gave it a try and found that it was a very nice drink as well as being good value, as it was only 5p more expensive than beers at 4.2%. I ordered a Cumberland sausage with saute potatoes at 6.95, which was very good, then settled down to another pint of Dragon's Breath before returning for an early night.

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Day 19 - Tuesday 21st June - 16 miles - 3,700 ft ascent

Maentwrog to Nant Gwynant via Moelwyn Mawr and Cnicht

Waterfall near Dduallt Tanygrisiau Reservoir Llyn Stwlan Dam East from Moelwyn Mawr Old quarries N of Moelwyn Mawr North from summit of Cnicht Cnicht from South Afon Glaslyn below Beddgelert Afon Glaslyn above Beddgelert Cambrian Way Map Day 19

I arose for an 8.00 breakfast, which set me up for the day. There was a complete change in the weather, with overnight rain and low cloud, though it did look as if it might improve with a bit of luck. Starting out at 9.00, I made my way along the road to where a path leads through a nature reserve. It was a little overgrown in places on its way steadily upwards to meet up with the Ffestiniog Mountain Railway at Dduallt. Following the railway line for a while, the route leads through Dduallt Station, where the line does a complete loop to gain height. Further along, by the Tanygrisiau Reservoir, the route departs from the railway with a steep climb up to Llyn Stwlan. There were some quite good views lower down but the cloud was still covering the mountains, though it did seem to be lifting a little. At Llyn Stwlan, which is the upper reservoir of the electric pumped storage scheme, the path seemed rather vague, so I headed for the pass between the two Moelwyns, which was just visible beneath the cloud. From there onwards it was into the mist for another steep climb up Moelwyn Mawr. When I thought I was nearly at the summit, I found that the path dipped a little for a few hundred yards before coming to another steep climb to the summit itself, which levels out to a rounded, grassy hilltop (checkpoint 30 at 11.55). The view was much the same as I had experienced in a number of other places - 50 yards in any direction, as I stopped for a break, sheltering from the cool, damp wind by the trig point.

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Waterfall near Dduallt
Waterfall near Dduallt
Tanygrisiau Reservoir, lower part of
pumped electric storage scheme
Tanygrisiau Reservoir
Llyn Stwlan Dam, upper reservoir for
pumped storage scheme
Llyn Stwlan Dam

There had been a lot of steep climbing on the way up, but then this wouldn't have been chosen as a pumped storage site had it not been for the steep drop from one reservoir to the other. After half an hour at the summit, waiting for the mist to clear, I was shivering with the cold and was just about to set off again, disappointed with the lack of a view, when suddenly the clouds parted for a brief time to reveal a view to the coast, as if by magic. Other views kept coming and going as gaps appeared in the cloud - this is one of the few good things about mist; the sudden transformation of the scene from a grey nothingness to a wonderful view within seconds. I stayed for a while longer, taking in some of the views that appeared before making my way down to the huge complex of old quarries and quarry buildings. From there it was a steady climb back up through an attractive area scattered with small lakes to pick up the northern end of the ridge leading to Cnicht. I managed to find a reasonable path for most of the way, which was just as well, as it is easy to get disorientated with all the ridges and general undulations of the land. Cnicht was still in the cloud, as I made my way along the ridge, following an easy path, with some good views appearing from time to time. However, as I approached the summit, the cloud started to lift and I was able to see several people on the top from one of the earlier 'false summits' that I had reached. Suddenly there was the sound of cheering as, I presumed, the last of the party reached the top. When I reached there myself (checkpoint 31 at 14.20) I discovered that it was a group of children supervised by a couple of adults. The cloud kept coming and going from the summit as I stopped for a bite to eat and a rest.

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View east from summit of Moelwyn Mawr with mist just clearing
E from Moelwyn Mawr
Looking down tramway to old quarries, north of Moelwyn Mawr
Old quarries N of Moelwyn Mawr
Looking back from summit of Cnicht with
Llyn Biswail and Llyn yr Adar
N from Cnicht

At 14.45 I started my descent down the steep side of Cnicht, which is often known as the 'Welsh Matterhorn' because of its appearance from this side, although it is on a much smaller scale than the real thing. As I descended a rather awkward rock face, I passed by the party of children and also another group who were just about to climb up. I got the impression that I had taken a more difficult route than I might have done and I carried on down the steep descent, rather than making my way round to where the others were. I soon realised that this was the wrong way, as I should have stayed higher up on the ridge but, by making my way down the grassy hillside which, for once, was quite easy, I was able to pick up the route further down. There followed a couple of miles of very easy walking with views down towards the coast and also looking back to Cnicht from its Matterhorn perspective. Then came a stretch of road walking involving a few ups and downs, with views of Moel Hebog and the mountains south of Beddgelert, before reaching the Aberglaslyn Nature Reserve, owned by the National Trust, where the route follows the river up to Beddgelert

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Looking back up at Cnicht (The Knight),
also known as the Welsh Matterhorn
Afon Glaslyn on way to Beddgelert
Afon Glaslyn
Afon Glaslyn above Beddgelert with
Moel Siabod in view
Afon Glaslyn above Beddgelert

Aberglaslyn is a very picturesque stretch of the river with crystal clear water flowing over a series of rapids and small waterfalls, but the path is not very easy at the start, where it has to follow the rocky riverside by Aberglaslyn Pass. Nearer to Beddgelert, the path was much easier, and I was able to progress at a better speed. Beddgelert itself was busy with holidaymakers on, what was now, a sunny afternoon as I passed through to find a phone box to call home. My wife plus a couple of long term residents of our hotel were travelling down later in the evening to take me out for a meal, as I was now within about an hour's drive of home. I confirmed that I was on schedule for them to pick me up at about 7 pm, as I expected to arrive at the Bryn Dinas bunkhouse, three miles north of Beddgelert, by about 6.15 pm. There is nothing near Bryn Dinas to provide food or drink. The house there is a residential centre for parties, but does not provide meals for others, for whom only self-catering facilities are available. Were I not to be taken out for the evening, I would either have had to eat early in Beddgelert on my way through, or bought things to cook for myself at Bryn Dinas.

The last part of the walk followed the eastern side of the river, first along a road, then a footpath past Llyn Dinas with a backdrop of the foothills of Snowdon (the summit being hidden by the lower slopes), Crib Goch and Moel Siabod in the distance. After a shower, doing some washing, and sorting out things to send back home, I waited by the roadside for my transport to arrive. Soon I was on the way to Beddgelert to the Royal Goat Hotel for a very good meal and an enjoyable evening, until my wife and friends had to set off back. This made a very pleasant change from most of my evenings when I only had myself for company.

When looking at the individual days of a long distance walk, it is not easy to tell just from the distance and ascent, how difficult the walk is going to be. Yesterday's walk and today's walk were of a similar distance and ascent but, without a doubt, yesterday's walk in Rhinog country was far more taxing because of the more difficult walking conditions in many parts.

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