Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Cuerden Valley Bike Path to Preston and the Ribble

The May Day weekend sunshine had sent temperatures up over 24 Celsius and while a trip to the Lakes was certainly appealing, the idea of busy motorways as the crowds made their way to
The cycle path along the Ribble Valley
Blackpool and Bowness was not; so a day (or a half day) out on the bike was decided upon instead. My chosen route was to be the Cuerden Valley cycle path which when combined with the Old Tramroad route gives an almost entirely traffic free 10km ride to Preston where one can turn around and ride back or continue on the Guild Wheel (NCN Route 622 the Preston Circular).

In my case though, not wishing to drive at all, I opted to ride from Blackburn along the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath to the bridge a half mile after the Top Lock Pub where the canal is left and a short ride down the lane to the right brings you to the start of the Cuerden Valley route at Whittle le Woods. Follow the lane downhill under the motorway and cross the A6. Follow Kem Mill Lane opposite and take a left on Factory Lane after some houses. The car park and entrance to Cuerden Valley Park is there. 

The park at the end of the Tramroad route
All there is to do now is follow the blue signs for National Cycle Network route 55 - they are plentiful and it would be difficult to get lost - and enjoy the route as it heads through the wooded river valley towards Preston. There is a short section about half way where the route takes to the road but there are marked cycle paths and plenty of blue signs (still NCN 55 but now also pointing to the Old Tramroad). Keep going and enjoy the path which is soon back in woodland and you will arrive at the bridge over the River Ribble. There are two routes and they each cross on a separate bridge at either end of the wide parks that form the Preston bank of the Ribble.

From here as previously mentioned you can ride back the way you came or join the Preston Guild Wheel - a ride of 21 miles that circumnavigates the city to arrive back here. My own choice was to head eastward for 4 miles along this (marked on the blue signs as Route 622 and "Guild Wheel") as far as the nature reserve of Brockholes (itself worth a visit) before crossing the Ribble again at the Brockholes access bridge near the M6 junction 31 and following the lanes back to the canal at Riley Green. There I was back on the towpath to head home 31 miles after starting.

Most of this route is suitable for family cycling though the lanes from Brockholes are on road and climb about 140m (450 feet) from the Ribble Valley, while with the canal towpath there is always the chance someone will end up in the water though I have always managed to remain on the path myself. The best section (in my opinion) is the Ribble Valley to Brockholes though it's all a good ride. Have a look at the short video below which shows the Cuerden Valley route and the Ribble Valley. A ride along part of the Leeds Liverpool Canal is shown on the second clip.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Welsh Weekend Adventure - 2 - Pen y Gwryd to Glyder Fawr

Between the rugged defile of Pen y Pass and the wild spaces of the Ogwen Valley rises the ridge of peaks known as the Glyderau or Glyders. The area is as rocky and precipitous on the Ogwen side as it is rough and uncompromising on the other and includes such exciting routes as the Cribyn Ridge,
Nantgwynant Snowdonia
Wonderful view of the Nantgwynant
Bristly Ridge and Tryfan; some of the finest routes in Snowdonia. This route - which should not be underestimated for all its short distance - ventures though the rough terrain north of Pen y Pass to reach Glyder Fawr, which at 3279 ft or 999 m marks the high point of the ridge.

The second day of this short adventure in Snowdonia began with a chilly morning the campsite at Capel Curig; the previous night's rain and wind had given way to clear skies and temperatures of minus 2 to 3 degrees Celsius around dawn, leaving my micro camper coated in a layer of ice. After shivering through breakfast, I made the short journey to Pen y Gwryd and the cold began to give way to a day of glorious autumnal sunshine as I set out for Pen y Pass. Why didn't I drive up and park there?
pen y gwryd to pen y pass
The start of the path to Pen y Pass
Because it's £10 a day if you can get a space as opposed to £4 near Pen y Gwryd and free a quarter mile down the road.

For that same reason a few Snowdon-bound hikers were walking up the road but far preferable to that is the footpath from just opposite the bus turning area just past the hotel. It's an easy well made path that brings you out at the car park but also gives a false sense of security about what's to come...

After crossing the road, a path leads up on the opposite side; steeply at first before easing into grassy terrain and becoming less distinct as the lonely tarn of Llyn Cwmffynon is seen on the right. It's hard to believe here that the road is so close behind as we seem to have entered the wilderness here but most of the walkers from Pen y Pass are heading up Snowdon on the other side of
walking route in snowdonia - glyder fawr
Snowdon (2nd from R) and its range from the rest stop 
the valley.

A boggy area was met after a slight descent and the path faded in and led me me generally straight on (in a north westerly direction) with the tarn on my right, until it faded out of existence altogether and my way led through rough country, gradually climbing towards the ridge line ahead. Vestiges of a path here and there are probably little more than sheep tracks and it's more a case of finding the driest route, which eventually led me to bear left, (more to the west) up the rough slopes towards the higher ground.

The tussock grass, bogs and low rocky outcrops make for hard going and if you plan to do this route, when you reach the boggy depression
the glyders ridge snowdonia
Y Garn and the sea from the top of Glyder Fawr
near the tarn, bear more to the left where a more distinct path does appear. It's no drier in the lower sections but is much easier to follow and was to be my descent route.

When it seemed as though the struggle uphill would go on forever, there was a sudden change in the terrain; the steeply sloping rough country through which I had been travelling, opened out and a path led northwards over a gently sloping plateau towards the summit of Glyder Fawr which didn't now look so far away. A short rest followed by an easy walk, led me in warm autumn sunshine to the stony crown of the Glyders where the landscape changed yet again into one of shattered boulders and grey tors that stood up high above their surroundings. One of these indeed made the highest point of the peak at 999 metres or 3279 feet and was reached by an easy scramble up.
views of snowdonia
Rock formations on the summit

This is a wonderful viewpoint on a day like this and the short video below has an all round summit panorama, which includes Glyder Fach and Tryfan eastwards along the ridge, Y Garn in the opposite direction and the Snowdon group rising to the South. My descent route retraced my steps off the summit to where I had reached the plateau but I continued more to the West to follow the top of this broad ridge down. Eventually a more consistent path was reached that I followed down over steep ground at first and then once again over the wet terrain to my start point.

This is a short route from Pen y Pass being a return journey of just 7 km which increases to 11 km (7 miles) if started from Pen y Gwryd.  The
south east from the glyders
Looking towards the start point from near the summit
additional distance from there just adds a pleasant walk to the harder going of the off path sections as well as saving at least £6 off parking which can be converted into beer at the pub - but not if driving! The total ascent is about 725 m from Pen y Gwryd and 650 m from Pen y Pass. There's also an option to follow the ridge to Glyder Fach and descend by a good path via Llyn Caseg-fraith to Pen y Gwryd, which is a walk of just over 11 km though the section between the two Glyder peaks is very rough going with boulders and a short scramble to negotiate. In these hills, modest distances can be deceptive.

On balance the best way up Glyder Fawr is by the Cribyn Ridge from Llyn Ogwen on the northern side, descending by the Devil's Kitchen path. I'll post that on here when I do it again though there is a description of the walk from the last time. Looking at the date on there I'd say it was about time I did it again as it was good.

Check out a glorious day on the Glyders - well worth it for the summit views...

If you missed it, here's the Day 1 post...
  The Wild Side of Snowdon

and here's the film of day one in some very different weather - check out the Dr Who time vortex effect near the end...

Monday, 13 November 2017

A Welsh Weekend Adventure - 1 - The Wild Side of Snowdon...

The last weekend of October saw me heading back to North Wales for another short adventure in the
mountains of Snowdonia. It was a chance to make a couple more videos and try out my new camping setup in out of season conditions, though while the first night's storms posed no problem in the micro
climbing snowdon north wales
camper, (some people did struggle under canvas) the minus two Celsius recorded on the second night was decidedly chilly and required double sleeping bags. My chosen site was Dolgam at Capel Curig - a long time favourite of mine and the chosen objectives were Snowdon by the South Ridge and Glyder Fawr from near the Pen y Gwryd hotel. Also worth a mention are the fish and chips from the Old Shop in Betws Y Coed - an integral part of my outings here.

Below is detailed day one of the weekend, with a link today two to day two at the end. Posts here will now include - as well as the usual photos - video clips I made on the way which can also be viewed at my new You Tube channel. Enjoy...

The route from Rhyd-Ddu up the South Ridge of Snowdon is probably my favourite way to the top of
snowdon from the south
Snowdon from Rhyd-Ddu
the the highest mountain in Wales; it's varied and interesting and finishes with the exciting but problem-free ridge of Bwlch Main leading on towards the summit. Also, the crowds of tourists who don't take the train usually climb Snowdon from Llanberis or Pen y Pass and avoid this much quieter and wilder side of the mountain. My descent was by the route called the Rhyd Ddu path which lies a little to the west of the ascent route.

Having left my camp at Capel Curig I arrived at Rhyd-Ddu not far from the village of Beddgelert. Leaving the car park (£5 per day) I set out crossing the Welsh Highland Railway and in five minutes turning right through a gate to the open mountainside. A wide and easy path soon led to a fork in the trail where the Rhyd-Ddu path leaded left - this would be my descent route - and I headed straight on directly towards the obvious col or saddle between Snowdon and the lower peak of Yr
Mining was once in evidence here

Just before the col, the path is overlooked by ruined stone buildings that resemble something out of a Tolkien novel, but they are actually remnants of the quarrying and mining industry from this region's past. Also evident are several deep chasms that show evidence of quarrying but beware - some of these are around a hundred feet deep so don't fall down one! The path itself is safe though and soon leads to the col where I had some food and water behind the wall and out of the chilly breeze, before continuing the journey. From the col the main path is seen coming up from Bethania and if you start from there, returning by the Watkin Path would be another good circular hike. For reference, the col between Snowdon and Yr Aran is at about 510 m or 1700 feet.

North Wales Views
Views on the South Ridge
The ascent of Yr Aran (747 m) to the south is also well worth the effort but my route headed up the South Ridge on a good path with stone steps up the early steep parts of the slope. It was only once up here, that I saw the first other hikers of the day, milling around on the col where I'd just rested. This really is the wild side of Snowdon and following the easy path as it climbs the ridge one can really appreciate one's surroundings in peace and quiet which would be less easy on the more popular trails.

About half way up, a rocky step in the ridge is reached that is surmounted by an easy scramble over the rocks on its left (western) side. The way is obvious and adds some excitement to the route though it's not difficult. Above the ridge continues in easy fashion with ever expanding views far to the south and closer up of the rugged heart of
Y Lliwedd from the South Ridge
Snowdon and its surrounding peaks. My own views were increasingly obscured by lowering cloud and some light rain showers at this point, though the weather cleared slightly as I reached the end of the Bwlch Main ridge at about 3050 feet.

Here the character of the walk changed again and a narrow crest led on towards the summit of Snowdon which was still obscured by cloud somewhere ahead. This is the best part of the walk and while on first sight it might look daunting from some aspects, there is a good path and even on the crest the way is without difficulty, though after winter snow this would not be the case.

hiker on snowdon
Hiker on the Bwlch Main
The Rhyd-Ddu path climbed up the slope to the left to join my route at the start of this section and the two routes converged to cross the Bwlch Main. At the far end a stone pillar marks the descent by the Watkin Path and the Snowdon Horseshoe route where it continues via Y Lliwedd to Pen y Pass. A rough but steady climb now brought me up the last couple of hundred feet to where the summit station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway appeared out of the swirling mists. Just beyond the station and its attendant crowds of tourists rose Y Wyddfa, the highest point of Wales at 1085 m or 3560 feet above sea level, which is attained by rocky steps behind the station. I might have had the trail to myself but not so the summit,
snowdonia national park views
Looking down from Bwlch Main
and I now shared this lofty belvedère with both fellow walkers and train passengers who had arrived here by the power of steam.

The view had vanished but the winds of Snowdon were producing a strange effect; a tunnel through the cloud had appeared on the eastern side of the peak that brought to mind the time vortex in Doctor Who - if you watch the video you will see what I mean. It was likely caused by the wind channeling over and around the peak and when Clara Oswald failed to appear, I decided to make my way back down.

My descent route today lay back over the Bwlch Main ridge and down to the right at its far end on the Rhyd-Ddu path where it joined my ascent route. This path - as its name would suggest - leads back to Rhyd-Ddu this time down the ridge known as
cwm clogwyn north wales
The Wild Side of Snowdon
Llechog which is a broad and stony shoulder of the mountain that overlooks the wild Cwm Clogwyn to the north. This path can also be used in ascent though I prefer doing the circuit this way around as the South Ridge is the more interesting way of the two. In total the walk is about 12 km with just over 900 m of ascent and descent.

Waiting to see if the Tardis would appear!

And here's Day 2...
 Pen y Gwryd to Glyder Fawr

and the film of day 1 - check out the Dr Who Time Vortex effect near the end...

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Dolgoch Falls in North Wales

Here's a post with a difference from the usual fayre of these pages but a few days' camping with the
walks in snowdonia
The early part of the walk to Nant Gwernol
kids in Wales was no less of an adventure than a trip to the hills. It was a trip to the hills after all - to the Fferm Cedris camp site at the foot of Cader Idris - we just did different stuff! Our campsite was in a remote area but it's one I like and there's plenty to do that doesn't cost a fortune - even with the weather as it was.

Some of the best natural sights of this area - other than Cader Idris itself which remained hidden in rain clouds today - are the Nant Gwernol Ravine and the Dolgoch Falls. Both are set in deep natural woodland that could be described as temperate rainforest, and are easily accessible from Abergynolwyn village and the car park at Dolgoch respectively. Forget the car though - far and away the best way to experience this area is on the Talyllyn Railway
My three fellow adventurers at the falls
which winds its way seven and a quarter miles from Nant Gwernol in the hills (free parking at nearby Abergwnolwyn Station) to Tywyn on the Cardigan Bay coast. The waterfalls are a short walk (even for younger kids) from Dolgoch Station.

We began at Abergynolwyn with a walk of about a mile to Nant Gwernol - simply follow the path signposted from just below the station - this follows the railway alongside fields until it crosses the line to reach a wide forest track. Turn right up the hill and follow the track as it curves back around again to head roughly north east through the forest. Presently the track heads more to the right and downhill into a spectacular wooded ravine leading to the railway station of Nant Gwernol. The station can also be reached over the bridge if coming up from the village but you would still have to walk the last bit. If you don't like or are unable to walk then simply take the train up here first. The station in its spectacular setting is well worth seeing instead of just going straight to Tywyn.

Our train arrived to the excitement of the children and some of the adults present - there is something special about a steam train - and we boarded to journey back to Abergynolwyn and on via Dolgoch to
river in snowdonia
The fascinating valley above the main fall
Tywyn which takes about 45 minutes not including the wait at Abergynolwyn. The beach at Tywyn followed by fish and chips were the order of the day as the coastal climate allowed the sun to make an appearance but that is beyond the remit of these pages.

On our return when the weather was a little better, we left the train at Dolgoch to walk to the falls - a trip of about ten minutes each way. The path is easy but there is a steepish climb up to the upper part of the falls that people unused to outdoor activities may find harder than my six, nine and nineteen year olds did; sprinting up the slope like mountain goats. The falls themselves - especially after the rain - were more than worth the walk plunging from steep wooded slopes into a deep shadowy pool with a
tal y llyn railway viaduct
Viaduct over the ravine by Dolgoch Station

roaring sound that contrasted with the more serene setting higher up where the river flows between moss grown banks under the thick forest canopy - a scene  that could be right out of Middle Earth or Narnia.

Please note that there are some steep drop offs which are protected by fencing so while the path is suitable for older children and sensible dogs, toddlers and more impetuous canines should be kept on a lead! There is also a play area at Abergynolwyn by the car park and below the station building. Here's some more information on the Talyllyn Railway and below is a short video of the trip.

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Short Adventure in Scotland - Ben Lawers and the Glen Ogle Trail

Once upon a time on a family holiday to the Highlands I hiked up Ben Lawers with Dad - we went up the normal route from the National Trust for Scotland car park - a route which has the unfortunate reputation for being crowded in the summer months - to stand on the highest point in Tayside and the highest peak in the country south of Ben Nevis. As I recall there were a fair few tourists heading up the hill but despite that it was still a good day out.
Rainbow at Strathyre

One of the reasons this route is popular is the fact that the start point is almost 500 metres above sea level and leaves an ascent completely free of difficulty to the summit which at 1214m or 3984ft would be a much longer undertaking - if still an easy one - from the shores of Loch Tay.

So it was that after a drive in the rain from my campsite at Strathyre, stopping off to see the Falls of Dochart in Killin; there are some things that are better in this weather - I arrived at the infamous visitor centre which turned out not to be there. Apparently the building was demolished a few years back and the site returned to the wild. There is still a car park - on the other side of the road - and information about the area but if you're after a coffee it's back into Killin! Personally I think it's better now as I remember
The start of the path
the old place being very busy. Anyway - it's is on the mountain road between Loch Tay and the Bridge of Balgie over the hill in isolated Glen Lyon. With the weather as it was there was no sign of any crowds today, and the rain had stopped so I prepared to set off. Two footpaths are signposted from here; one to Ben Lawers and another to Meall nan Tarmachan - the start of the Tarmachan Ridge route which I'll do next time if we get some good weather up here.

The route I followed is initially through the nature reserve on a path known as the Edramucky Trail where can be seen a wide range of arctic alpine type flora and fauna which thrives in this area protected from deer and grazing sheep. The trees too are returning and I was amazed to see trees at around 2000 feet above sea level this far north - a height level with the highest parts of Dartmoor or the Peak District.
The last of the trees

The route from the nature reserve - far from being crowded - was extremely enjoyable and is clearly marked all the way to the summit. In fact I had planned a more varied route involving Beinn Ghlas and Meall Corranaich but as the weather made a return in the form of heavy showers and hill fog, I opted to remain on the main path. Beyond the wooded area, the path climbs past some old shepherds' huts known as shielings and turns sharply to the left up the grassy valley of Coire Odhar. At this point the path via Beinn Ghlas carries straight on but I followed the broad trail to the bealach or col at the head of Coire Odhar which is at about 850 metres.

The col is in a fine position with the path heading through towards the Glen Lyon side and the summit route continuing its steady climb to the right without losing much height. I had wanted to
Meall nan Tarmachan
head up the nearby Munro, Meall Corranaich which rises on the other (western) side of the col on my return to this point though this was not to happen due to the deteriorating weather. The far side was sheltered from the wind for a while but the rain now came down again and mist obscured the summit ahead. This section of path though is remarkably easy following the contours of the hill in a gentle ascent to about 1000 metres re crossing the main ridge of the Ben Lawers group this time overlooking Loch Tay - or would have done if you could see it.

Here one rejoins the route coming over Beinn Ghlas which is the one we followed that first time in these hills and begins the final climb up to Ben Lawers. Again the route is nowhere difficult but this is the first part that seems like hard work as the path climbs steeply up the final slopes which today were battered by Westerly gales bringing rain and increasing cold as height was gained. The Met Office website had informed me to expect temperatures of 3 or 4 Celsius at this altitude with
The col at about 850 metres 
windchill down to -4 which is just twenty five for those of you on the other scale. Bearing in mind that it was late July, it just goes to show the value of being prepared in the Highlands! I have seen it snow in August at this height in the Cairngorms and but it felt much colder today on Ben Lawers.

A short rest on the summit with lunch behind the cairn and sheltered from the wind was a welcome relief from the wind and rain but it was not a place to linger today so I was soon heading back down the way I had come to the warmer climes below. The short film below gives some idea of the conditions encountered on this walk - perhaps the day was better suited to looking at the region's waterfalls.

The following morning I had planned a return to the hills above Killin and Loch Tay, to climb Meall
Loch Earn seen from the cycle path
nan Tarmachan and follow the Tarmachan Ridge route back to the non existent visitor centre but I awoke to the rain beating on the roof of my Berlingo Camper and such plans gradually evaporated as the weather failed to clear. The Tarmachan Ridge is apparently not difficult but is exciting with some scrambles and is more of an undertaking than simply following a wide path as I had done to Ben Lawers. I figured that being able to at least see the route ahead would be an advantage here! A plan to head up Ben Lui was likewise put on hold til the next time. Besides, boots and socks had not dried out from yesterday's venture and while I had spare clothes I didn't have a spare pair of boots.

Instead, during a lull in the weather, I got on my bike and headed to the old railway track that heads through Glen Ogle in the direction of Killin. It's a track I've done before and is one of my favourite
Lochan Lairig Cheile at the top of Glen Ogle
rides anywhere. Here's a full account of the Glen Ogle Cycle Path with photos from my last visit but I have added a video of the ride below along with a short clip of the Falls of Dochart in Killin and my walk up Ben Lawers.

The track itself is part of the National Cycle Network Route 7 aka the northern half of the Lochs and Glens Route from Glasgow to Inverness. The section north from Lochearnhead through Glen Ogle over the old railway viaducts is one of the highlights of that route and from Strathyre to Lochearnhead isn't bad either all being off road with some nice forest trails around Balquhidder. Incidentally, the ride south from Strathyre is also highly recommended; the first night here I rode down along the shore of Loch Lubnaig as far as the Falls of Leny (close to Callander) but failed to take a camera so you'll have to take my word for it. In all the whole way from Callander to Killin is on traffic free paths and would make a fine day out - well it would in better weather.

On this trip I stayed at the Immervoulin campsite at Strathyre which I can highly recommend - facilities are excellent and it's a big open field with plenty of room to camp - I'll be back soon. Finally here are the videos from the trip - I've overcome the difficulties of filming from a moving bike without falling off but we're still working on getting the sound better for all weather filming - probably need to invest in a decent mic for starters...

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Cycling Wales - The Mawddach Trail in Pictures

The trail following the line of the old railway track along the southern shore of the Mawddach Estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth, known as the Mawddach Trail, surely ranks among the best bike rides in Wales and is all the more appealing on account of its ease. If you ride all the way from Dolgellau it's 9.5 miles or 15km each way but as our party included an eight year old and a five year old who had not long learned to ride; I figured that the 13 mile return trip from Penmaenpool on the A493 was plenty and both handled this easily. The main appeal of this route is the variety of views throughout which take in woodland, mountain and sea shore and finish with a spectacular crossing of the estuary on the wooden boards of the Barmouth Bridge.

The bridge at Penmaenpool where we started the Mawddach Trail

family cycling in wales
The trail is suitable for all ages and the smallest one led most of the way
The trail passes through patches of woodland as it heads west
Across the estuary are the southern slopes of the Rhinog mountain range
Looking back in the direction of Dolgellau
cycling in wales
Distant views of the Barmouth Bridge
Spurred on by the thought of the Bridge over the Sea
A rest stop not far from the Barmouth Bridge
barmouth railway bridge
The Barmouth Bridge in sight -  the surface is wooden boards - easy to ride on
cadair idris from the mawddach estuary
View of Cadair Idris from the Barmouth Bridge crossing
mawddach estuary from barmouth bridge
Looking up the estuary towards Dolgellau from the bridge
Boatsin Barmouth Harbour and views to Cardigan Bay with Fairbourne ahead
Coming into Barmouth on the far side of the bridge

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Short Adventure in Snowdonia - Off the Beaten Track in the Glyders

The first day of our short adventure in Snowdonia dawned clear, sunny and warm as we left the campsite at Dolgam to head through the small hamlet of Capel Curig and into the Ogwen Valley; a place that could be Wales’ answer to Glencoe, such is the vista that opens up suddenly as you leave the woods of Gwydyr
the ogwen valley snowdonia national park
Forest behind and head into the wilds. Josh was with me on this trip and for a Father and Son adventure it seemed fitting to show him one of my favourite routes in Snowdonia – there are a few but this circuit of Foel Goch and Y Garn starting along a little used path is one of them!

A short while later we were heading up the path from Ogwen Cottage to the mountain tarn of Llyn Idwal in its spectacular rocky cirque and crossed the outflow to head right to join the constructed path to Y Garn. A little way after crossing a stone wall, a faint path led off to the right traversing steep hillsides to reach open ground with a view ahead to Foel Goch. (you can turn right and follow the wall but this way avoids some marshy ground and a short rock step)

Soon we were back on a clear path which led across a short scree slope and up into a remote feeling valley
walking in the glyders snowdonia
high above the Nant Ffrancon and below the crags of Y Garn with the way seen clearly ahead and a sublime panorama behind to Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan. Soon the path dipped to cross a stream where we refilled water bottles for a warm day ahead and began the steep ascent to Foel Goch. This path zig zags up at first before becoming fainter on the heathery slopes above. As long as you keep going up you will reach the ridge which falls away in spectacular fashion on its eastern side with views north down past Bethesda to the coast.

Following the interesting ridge upwards brought us to more level ground where we took the path as far as the fence. Here a right brought us to the summit though a more direct route may have been shorter. Either way the summit of Foel Goch feels like the end of things with the ground dropping away to the valley over 2000 feet down. Indeed from the road, this rugged wall looks impregnable and one would little imagine this field-like area even existed. We had our lunch on the edge overlooking the Nant Ffrancon as I did the last time I was here and like then we had the place to
views of snowdonia national park north wales

The ascent of Y Garn involved retracing our steps back down along the fence and simply following the path up the long wide ridge beyond. There were more hikers on this peak – mainly descending from the other side and we soon reached the cairn marking the summit which is one of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks. The views from here are equally spectacular with the Glyders and Tryfan taking centre stage; the central part of the range which is accessible by continuing down along the ridge to Llyn y Cwn where a descent via the Devil's Kitchen path is also possible to Llyn Idwal.

Today though we had opted for the steep descent of the East Ridge which was reached by retracing our steps a little way from the summit. On the first part some care is needed as it’s a bit loose so running is not recommended! Lower down though after some views of our whole route, a contructed path wass reached
hiking the mountains of snowdonia
that led back to Llyn Idwal. By carrying straight on at the wall (the one we crossed earlier in the other direction) we followed a more direct route to Ogwen Cottage via an interesting rocky gully that emerged near the visitor centre.

This isn’t a particularly long route being around 9km or 6 miles but it is a varied and enjoyable one that heads through some of the best scenery in North Wales and as a Lad and Dad adventure it made for a great day out. The greatest joy was in showing my son one of my favourite areas and it was especially pleasing that he wanted to do more in the mountains around here. The route itself can be extended by continuing to Elidir Fawr or even as far as Carnedd y Filiast where I once sat on a winter’s day seemingly the only person for a hundred miles though when encouraging someone to love the mountains it’s probably best not to overdo things!


The following morning after a night in the valley undisturbed by any kind of adverse weather, we set off once again in warm summer conditions, from the car park just behind the shops in Capel Curig. Away from the main A5 the Ogwen has probably changed little in the last hundred or so years and we had only a few
hiking from capel curig snowdonia
lethargic looking cows for company as we trudged up the track that - before that highway was built - was the main route to Bangor and the coast. We were not though heading that way which would have taken us past yesterday's start point and instead left the track after a cottage and a gate, to head left or westwards up into the rough tangle of country that makes up the eastern end of the Glyders or Glyderau range.

A path - faint in places - led us up through damp grassy gullies between grey outcrops of rock to finally emerge on the somewhat boggy plateau above where the view opened up of our objective Foel Goch ahead with the rocky peaks of Snowdon to the left and the high expanse of the Carneddau across the Ogwen to the right. The last time I was here it was winter and crossing this area had been a route finding exercise to avoid the wettest ground but in summer after a dry warm period it was much easier with much of the route being over springy turf and short heather. A number
peaks of snowdon north wales
of faint paths or sheep tracks lead across here but the left or southern edge is the driest. We almost stayed dry but just before reaching the safety of the rising ground beyond the bog claimed a victory when I misjudged a long jump over a dank looking pool and went in knee deep.

Shortly after this point we crossed a stile and the going became easier even though it was now uphill. Grassy slopes gave way to rougher ground as the wall was followed steeply upwards towards the rocky outcrops of Gallt yr Ogof above; the easternmost major summit of the Glyders that I climbed last time in rather different conditions. Back then by the time I had passed the top of the steep section I was walking in snow and the peaks ahead were hidden in grey cloud. Not so today and the sun beat down and served to remind us that there is little in the way of fresh water on this route which is unusual for Snowdonia. Today too the views were extensive as we gained height with the deep green lowlands of Gwydyr Forest and the distant hills of the Denbighshire hinterland behind contrasting with the paler grey green of the high mountain country into which we headed.
peaks of the glyders snowdonia

The path bears gradually to the left over stony slopes climbing more gradually before turning right up a final steep section of stones that - last time was a shallow snow gully - to reach the crest of the ridge where we stopped for a break with a spectacular view along the Glyder ridge ahead to Glyder Fach and Tryfan and much nearer; our objective Foel Goch.

Now if you read the last part of this post you will recall that we climbed Foel Goch yesterday - partly true but that was another Foel Goch (the name means Red Hill) nearer the western end of the ridge and from here obscured behind Tryfan. I suppose that if Scotland can have any number of Ben More's and GealCharn's then why not? These two are on the same ridge though!

After a short break we headed on and just when we thought we were done with bogs, the sogginess was
mountains of snowdonia north wales
back with a vengeance. Wellies and perhaps a small boat would be a help in the direct crossing to Foel Goch and i became glad I didn't attempt it in the bad weather the last time. The best route is to follow a faint path to the far side of the ridge overlooking the Ogwen Valley where a better path is picked up going to the left. This avoids most of the wetness around a small tarn. Climbing up to Foel Goch the ground became dry and stony once more and we were soon enjoying our lunch on the rocky summit which despite the glorious weather we had entirely to ourselves along with the beautiful views of this wild and little visited corner of Snowdonia.

We opted to head back the same way today though a nice variant would be to head on a little further to Llyn Caseg Fraith which affords a particularly photogenic view of Tryfan across its waters; and follow the heathery path down to the Ogwen below the East Face of that peak. From there the valley track on which we began can be followed back to Capel Curig and if you're feeling energetic then head up to Glyder Fach before making the descent.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Walk in South Wales - Peaks of the Brecon Beacons

From the idyllic location of my campsite at Cwmdu near Crickhowell I headed over to the equally beautiful but busier village of Talybont in glorious spring sunshine and followed the minor road along the reservoir of the same name and over the mountain to Taf Fechan Forest from where begins the route to Pen y Fan and the other high peaks of the Brecon Beacons.
route to the brecon beacons from taf fechan
Neuadd Reservoir

Having discovered that I could have driven another mile towards my objective - I had parked in the edge of the forest but it's a nice walk so not to worry - I followed the left hand track to the old dam wall of the old or lower Neuadd Reservoir with beautiful views to the highest peaks of South Wales around the head of the valley, and crossed it to gain the open mountainside throgh a gate. The profusion of rhododendron bushes along here at nearly 1500ft indicated that I was further south than my usual destinations of Snowdonia or the Lake District and indeed this was my first time in the Beacons.

A wide trail led up the steep grassy slopes towards the crest of the ridge which revealed itself as the edge of a wide plateau, along which an easy trail led roughly northwards towards the summits. The first top was reached with surprising ease as the views southward towards Cardiff and the hazy distance of the Bristol Channel expanded to include the wild looking hills of Camarthen Fan to the West. From here a small dip followed by a short steep climb led to Corn Du; the first of the main summits of the Brecon Beacons.
Brecon Beacons from the South
Corn Du and Pen y Fan
Despite the glorious sunshine, a strong wind gusted over these high places and I had lunch in a sheltered dip just below the flat summit on the edge of the abyss overlooking Brecon and the low lying Usk Valley. It was a good spot, sheltered and unseen from above or below though most of the tourists (coming up the shorter route from the A 470 were headed straight to the next peak Pen y Fan. That indeed was my next objective and a brief battle with the wind brought me the short distance to where they congregated around the large cairn marking bthe highest point in South Wales and southern Britain.

The views from here extend from the Bristol Channel and the Devon coast to the South while the northern vista leads far into Mid Wales though today the distance was somewhat hazy. Camarthen Fan which is really the western part of the Brecon Beacons lay to the West while the other way the line of the Black Mountains rose along the horizon beyond large areas of lowlands.It's different to Snowdonia where you are usually surrounded by mountains as other than the immediate peaks of the Beacons the other ranges are a long way off and it gives a huge sense of space. One of those nearer peaks though is Cribyn just along the ridge and this was my next objective.
brecon beacons south wales
Pen y Fan from Corn Du

Heading down the steep ridge from Pen y Fan the crowds are left behind and one feels a sense of return to the wilds. On a sunny day like this the grassy ridge beween Pen y Fan and Cribyn is a wonderful rest spot with a small tarn - more of a pool really - and a good place to regain energy before the steep ascent to Cribyn. It's a good path but is about a 400 foot climb after an easy couple of miles. The path right from this col misses out Cribyn if you really can't face it but it would be a shame to miss as it's the finest of the 3 peaks despite being slightly lower. Here as on the ridge below, far from the day trippers, you can experience the peace of the hills once more.

The path continues on down the ridge again with no difficulties to reach the old Roman road that traverses through the Brecon Beacons from north to south so at the col - Bwlch ar y Fan - it's a case of turning right and marching south as the Legionaries once did. I could have used a bike here but it was a pleasant enough if long trudge back passing a small group of wild ponies along the way. The distance was only noticable once I reached the top car park and had to go the extra mile to Taf Fechan Forest but on a day like this I was not complaining.

Start at Taf Fechan Forest >>> 15.5km/9.7miles >>> Up720m/2360ft >>> Down 720m/2360ft

Corn Du 873m/2864ft >>> Pen y Fan 886m/2907ft >>> Cribyn795m/2608ft

east along the brecon beacons ridge
Cribyn from Pen y Fan

brecon beacons ridge south wales
Looking back to Corn Du and Pen y Fan from Cribyn

pen y fan from taf fechan and neuadd reservoir south wales
The route as taken. You can park slightly nearer the reservoir!