Sunburn and summits 

Welsh sunburn, now there’s a rare phenomenon but on Saturday’s hike we all finished the day sporting a varying degree of sunburnt necks and arms; looking more like Brits in Benidorm than hikers in Wales.

I’d picked Moel Hebog, the hill of the hawk, as our mountain for the day purely based on the delight of ice cream at Bedgellert at the end. There needed to be an incentive for my friends who were newbies to climbing mountains.

Moel Hebog turned out to be a good choice as the cloud around the summit cleared quickly while Snowdon remained shroud in cloud till lunch.

It was also guaranteed to be crowd free unlike Snowdon.  

We headed up the track and then headed right to walk up the summit ridge.

 

It was a bit of a slog up, but great as we were already off the path exploring, having fun on the rocks, route finding and checking out the plants, including finding sundews, one of the UK’s native carnivorous plants.

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After a long lunch at the summit we headed south off the top and then picked our way down through the rocks and grass. It was a steep descent and being off the path resulted in convincing friends that it was ok to head down, first down the grass and scree and then following the Afon Goch river.

 

Once down to the forest line we contoured around to walk through the woodland and cross the Welsh Highland railway, just at the right time to meet the train.   

The trouble with peak bagging…. part 2

The real trouble with peak bagging it that its addictive. Having a burning need to finish lists and explore places I’ve never been before peak bagging provides me with the solution in a simple to organise method – look at the map identify unclimbed peaks and go.

So having had a great morning cycling around Lake Vyrnwy I still couldn’t cope with the idea of being so close to summits that need bagging. Clearly there’s a certain amount of madness in the need to be on the top of a relatively insignificant summit but nevertheless, its on a list and is technically a mountain so I had to go.

Heading from the Lake up the tiny mountain pass heading north to Bala I parked at the top of the pass and headed quickly up to Foel y Geifr trig point. When I say quick it took an hour there and back to bag the three peaks on this ridge – hardly a quality mountain day. That said, the view was amazing.

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Turning around though I could see the madness in the peak bagging idea. Across the other side of the pass are 5 ‘summits’ which could clearly be bagged in an off road vehicle as a stone track runs across the fell top. Even I’m not that mad!

I did however drive down into Bala and back over the fell top on the B4391, parking just below the road summit to head up the track to reach Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd trig point. By now it was late in the afternoon but the sun was baking and I was heading up the fell, knee deep in heather. So I am mad after all. The view was worth it though!

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The trouble with peak bagging…. part 1

Peak bagging is great. It gets me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily visit – sometimes away from the crowds of the popular mountains. That’s not to say I only climb mountains once – but peak bagging is a great way to quickly think of somewhere to go when I have the urge to be somewhere new.

However, peak bagging has frequently found me in vast expanses of moorland staring at a plateau trying to identify the summit. Or wandering through peat bogs with wet feet and wondering why I’m there and not at the seaside. Or on a proper mountain.

Having ‘bagged’ the Berwyns the day before, that left me with the plan to get the range of summits between there and the Arans. But I woke to cloud and a lack of motivation to head over miles of moors for the sake of it. So plan B.

Having never visited Lake Vyrnwy and spotting a visitors centre on the map it seemed like a good excuse to not bog trot.

Lake Vyrnwy and the surrounding landscape is a Special Conservation Area, part managed by the RSPB and is therefore a good place for bird watching – I’d certainly seen Red Kites around the Berywns. You can also hire a bike, which is exactly what I did.

Created in 1880 the Lake is actually a reservoir built to take water to Liverpool. It only takes an hour or so to cycle around the Lake but is a great way to see the area, and the roads are very quiet with traffic.

IMG_4385 IMG_4491   IMG_4400 IMG_4452IMG_4413  IMG_4463However, an hour’s cycle wasn’t going to tire me enough and still left me with the afternoon to think about peak bagging. So I headed up the road from the north of the lake to the top of the pass ….

How to find a quiet bank holiday – The Berwyns

Sometimes charging up a pointy mountain of rock and scaring myself silly is all I want to do. Other times I need peace and quiet and chance to recharge – this bank holiday was the latter. Knowing Snowdonia was going to be busy and having an urge to visit somewhere I’d never been, I headed to the Berwyn Mountains in mid-Wales.

More like rolling hills of peat bogs and open grass land the Berwyns at 832m remind me of Skiddaw or the Howgill Fells. Open, vast and crucially – quiet. I saw three people all day. Bliss.

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As you can imagine I was grateful it had been dry or this much peat would have been a boggy walk! I took the direct route straight up the front of Cadair Berwyn, which involved a diversion to get to the top of Moel Sych before heading for the trig point of Berwyn.

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The route from Berwyn to Cadair Bronwen is clearly boggy at times as much of it has been boarded. I usually hate to see man’s mark on a landscape, but at times it is a gift. I’ve spent enough time bog trotting to know that boards can be a godsend in wet conditions. This part of the route is also a permissive path across a SSSI so if nothing else the boards are protecting the rare habitats in this area from erosion.

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From Cadair Bronwen I headed across to Tomle to head across the fell tops and back to my car. Just before Tomle top at the fence line there is a very impressive boundary stone between Powys and Gwynedd.

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The moors across the tops here are less well trodden despite them still counting as summits in their own rights – and reaching the end at Mynydd Tarw, a mere 681m high there is an impressively large cairn (considering few people clearly walk across this top).

Man’s impact on the landscape is clear here as the large woodland, a useful feature marked on my ageing map, is currently being felled for timber.IMG_4347 IMG_4356

Bruised knees, bashed elbows and stuck bums

I have to start this post by stating that I am not a climber. I have dabbled indoors, but having never had a consisted partner to climb with I rarely manage the local climbing wall. I do however lack the ability to turn down a good offer and the chance to do something new, irrespective of the level of pain or humiliation it might cause.

Armed with brimming optimism and boundless ignorance I set off to North Wales with two friends (both very good climbers). I’d made them well aware of my lack of ability so thought nothing more of it, we are all Mountain Rescue team members so they’d understand I was being serious, right? A few training walls and perhaps I’d be left to potter off on my own for the afternoon while they tackled something more interesting? How wrong I was.

Saturday kicked off with what was going to be an epic walk of the Ogwen valley’s ridges, tackling the North face of Tryfan (a particular favourite of mine as I do like scrambling) and then onto Y Gribin ridge to ascend the Glyders and back down Bristly Ridge. I was happy with this, scrambling is loads of fun.

We headed off in typical North Wales murky weather and started our ascent up Tryfan.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Tryfan rises up out of the Ogwen valley like a half buried prehistoric dinosaur (think stegosaurus) and the North ridge is a very popular scramble.

Taken from grough.co.uk

It is however, responsible for a significant proportion of the 150+ Ogwen Mountain Rescue Team‘s call outs per year, due to its seemingly obvious path from the road, which soon disappears as you have to navigate your own route through the rocks to the summit. The ascent is short and steep, and at times it is easy to drift too far east or west and find yourself in serious climbing territory. Hence the high number of call outs the team has from inexperienced walkers unaware of the dangers.

We were acutely aware of the number of people on the mountain that day who were woefully under-prepared – from one person wearing jeans, to a family out with a child wearing trainers. I really can not emphasis enough that this is not a mountain to take lightly.

That said it is a tricky mountain that can catch out even experienced climbers and mountaineers, you only have to read the team’s call out list to discover that even hard core climbers come unstuck on Tryfan. Despite our experience we still managed to find ourselves in awkward cracks and exposed steps requiring a confident grip and the occasional removal of rucksacks to get ourselves up and through the rocks.

Of course the cloud descended as we reached the summit so we had a quick lunch and headed off the back of Tryfan and down to the valley.

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Our plans quickly changed as the heavens opened so we decided to retreat to our rather lovely accommodation for the weekend at Ogwen Team’s HQ. (Being able to use another team’s base for the weekend is definitely a perk!)

Sunday was always planned as climbing day due to the better weather predicted. Well, I survived scrambling with the two hardcore climbers so how hard could it be? I’d be on rope and they’d be warned about my lack of experience…

We set off on Sunday knowing we were heading for great weather later in the day. I mean this is virtually the same shot as from the day before and look at the sunshine! In Wales no less!

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We started out on Tryfan Bach tackling Slab 2 route – apparently a VDiff. (Which in my book constitutes a route which takes the skin from the end of your knees and your fingers, but is easy enough to not ruin your confidence!)

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This was however my first outdoor climbing so I was impressed (rather than terrified) that they thought it wise to take me on a short multi pitch route.  After a bit of swearing I made it to the top with ego intact.

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Since the sun was out we decided to finish the day round at Milestone Buttress to tackle the Direct Route which despite the glorious weather was quiet. 5 pitches, yeah I can do that! Commence a bit of swearing and praying resulting in very sore knees and toes.

Pitch one was ok – follow the crack and then step out and over the rock. It’s a bit polished to start but otherwise ok, although the step around the rock at the top of the pitch caused a few leg jitters.

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I’ll be honest I don’t remember much detail of the other pitches as I continued to climb upwards and despite the swearing and wondering why I was climbing a rock instead of walking over mountain tops, I was also having loads of fun.

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Pitch 3 did cause a fair bit of swearing as I confronted the chimney and my fears of sliding down the rock gripped only by pressure from my bum on one side and my feet on the other. Very undignified but I managed it. Eventually. And I had feet to greet me at the top!

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Pitch 4 had a scarily long step across a void after traversing a crack and round a rock. So that had to be done in one go to prevent me sitting on one side and refusing to get back up.

After an easy pitch 5 we descended the gully to get back to our kit via abseil as it was very wet and fully of midges, so speed was our priority. In all it took about 6 and half hours for three of us to scale Milestone Buttress and get back to our kit.

Despite the moaning, swearing, sore knees and toes I thoroughly loved my first venture into rock climbing outdoors and it was loads of fun to second a multi-pitch route. I’m a long way off ever leading anything though!

I should thank Owen Phillips for the mis-use of his photos – though I’ve only used those with me in them (yellow helmet) so I assume it was ok to use!

Moel Hebog and the best ice cream in Wales

It may not have been glorious sunshine and it has been pretty windy and cold, but today has still been a great day to get out on the hills – and Moel Hebog was today’s calling.

I’ve stared at Moel Hebog a lot over the years when I’ve been around Bedgellert and for some reason the closest I’ve ever been is when I did Moel Lefn and Moel Ogof about 6 years ago as the second day of a two day expedition and I was a bit gutted at the time for missing it out (even if I was knackered by that point in the day). I’m not sure why its taken me so long to get around to this one, but today seemed like a good day to.

I arrived in Begellert early enough to dump my car on the road just out of town and headed off over the river following the new signs for the footpath between Bedgellert and Rhyd Ddu. The landscape has certainly changed since I last walked in this area as the steam train now runs through the valley and the footpath has been resurfaced. Here is the junction to head up Moel Hebog.

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The route up Moel Hebog is straightforward to follow as you pick your way through the boulders and zig zag up. It feels like you should head for the col (sorry, Bwlch) between Hebog and Moel yr Ogof, but resist the urge to add miles and follow the polished rocks where feet have gone before you, heading directly up the spur.

I was certainly surprised to reach the top so quickly as from the valley Moel Hebog looks quite oppressive. But up close it is a friendly scramble over the rocks making the walk interesting. Once at the cairn the wind was strong so it was a bit of a battle to reach the trig point, so I was grateful of the wall to hide behind to refuel myself with chocolate.

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I strongly resist the urge to return the same way on any walk so I continued across the top to descend south and then east to head back to Bedgellert. While its easy enough to do so, picking the way through the scree is less fun on this side of the mountain.

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This last photo shows the route down across the top and down through the scree, if I was heading up this way I’d be less than impressed having to pick through it. I take the rocks to the northern side any day! Once out of the scree the going is quick over the grass heading down Cwm Cyd following the river.

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My intention was to head for the top end of the thin strip of woodland, but got carried away descending and found myself bashing through the woodland instead. Ah, brings back memories of evenings on close country search exercises with the Mountain rescue team!

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Once I’d made it out of the assault course I could eventually see the route to head through the woodland of Parc Cae-Morys, which is a much more pleasant woodland to walk through and eventually takes you down to the railway and the road.

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And once back in Begellert there is nothing else you can do to top off a really good hike but to have a fabulous ice cream from the parlour. Whatever the weather!

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Finding myself again, on the Nantlles

Today’s been a great day of walking, even if I’m definitely sunburnt. I seem to have walked myself through the stressed that have been getting me down over the last few weeks and through sweat and over exertion I have found myself again. Happy and content as a solo walker. And back on the Nantlle’s!

Its been nearly ten years since I did the first half of the Nantlle ridge, back on my ML training as part of the two day expedition. So it was nice to finally be back to finish it off.

I parked at Nantlle village and walked back to pick up the path across the fields in the direction of the campsite at Tal y Mignedd Isaf. I momentarily forgot I was in Wales and that footpaths are rarely signposted from the road and require a bit of hunting out. So it was reassuring when the Snowdonia park ranger pulled up as I was doubling back with my map in hand. He kindly confirmed that the house I was stood next too was indeed where the path was and while it was due to be diverted (hopefully a signpost will appear then!) for now it was fine to wander through their gate. So if you’re looking for the path from the B4418 that crosses the river to the east of Llyn Nantlle yes, do go through the gate at the house called Tyrpeg Gelli.

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Cross the bridge over the river, but instead of heading to the campsite cross the second bridge immediately opposite and pick up the track which leads upwards to the open access moorland to ascend Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd.

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Heading upwards you can eventually see the obelisk which marks the summit. It was another scorching day so whilst I’d at least found my walking rhythm again, I could feel myself baking in the heat. (I can confirm a very red neck despite a buff!) Its a bit of a monotonous plod to the obelisk but worth it for the view.

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Nantlle ridge to the north east

Nantlle ridge to the north east

After a massive handful of jelly beans and nuts I headed down following the fenceline and picking my way through the rocks to reach the col (sorry Wales, I mean Bwlch) and then headed up Craig Pennant. This turned out to be a great route up as you pick your way through rocks all the way up, nothing too scrambly and difficult but requires concentration nonetheless. The top is marked by a shelter.

52 route across to Craig Pennant 56 Craig Pennant topFrom there it is a skip across the top to reach the trig point at Garnedd Goch a rather uninspiring trig point but the view makes it worth it.

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From here I headed down following the wall to the north west all the way to reach a small car park at the end of the road at Maen Llywyd.

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The route from here back to Nantlle was intended to follow the paths down to the quarry but to start with the path  just after the ruined house at Bryn llidiard (517498) was on the wrong side of the fence to what my map said. Not wanting to rip another pair of trousers on barbed wire I followed the path.

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Which then  meant I couldn’t head north east towards the quarry! So I headed down continuing to follow the fence and squeeze through a hole in the fence ahead next to the ruined building.

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Which at least meant I could see a track through to lead through the tips adjacent to the quarry and then out on to the road. A typical end to a welsh walk in many ways!

From there I had a mindless plod back along the road to Nantlle but at least I got to see this view!

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R+R in Llanberis – Bera Mawr and Bera Bach

Ok, I should have been in Scotland this weekend but life has a way of screwing stuff up and I find myself in Llanberis instead. There’s worse places I could be right now and the sun is shining!

I can’t recall a day I’ve been in Wales in the last few years when I’ve had such glorious sunshine as today.

I’ll be honest, I chose this walk on the assumption that it would be away from the Easter crowds that will descend on Snowdon and the Glyders. However, I hadn’t realised quite how stunning and thus popular the Aber Falls would be. Having also had a near miss on the A55 (my fault – sorry to the car in front who must have winced) I thought I should perhaps stay away from anything too rocky, since I was clearly feeling a bit distracted.

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From Aber Falls I headed along the much quieter North Wales path to ascend the hill via Afon Gam.

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In the unexpected hot sunshine it felt like more of a slog than it really was, but much of the battle was really with myself and my recent lost desire to walk alone. I’ve always loved walking on my own, but having recently found someone I loved walking with and then losing them, finding myself alone was a disappointment I didn’t expect, but to have clear skies out across the north coast to the sea was worth it the mental battle.

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Attempting to find my marching pace I headed across the moorland to Bera Mawr, where I finally found my smile as I played across the rocks. No danger of breaking my neck but just enough fun to find my mojo again.

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From here I headed across the hill top to a rather uninspiring Drosgl and back down to the waterfall, which by 3pm was heaving with young families paddling in the river. Despite the unexpected sunburn on my neck, I’d found my smile again so all is good in the world, just about.