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Unexpected weather in the Northern Berwyns
by malky_c » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:49 pm
Hewitts included on this walk: Cadair Berwyn, Cadair Bronwen, Foel Wen, Moel Fferna, Moel Sych, Moel yr Henfaes, Mynydd Tarw
Date walked: 18/02/2012
Time taken: 9.6
Distance: 69 km
Ascent: 1620m6 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Date walked: 18/02/2012
Time taken: 2 hour 10 minutes (cycling), 7 hours, 30 minutes (walking)
Distance: 40km (cycling), 29km (walking)
Ascent: 350m (cycling), 1270m (walking)
Weather: Horrible heavy rain to begin, followed by very breezy sunshine (with the odd snow/hail flurry).
By unexpected, I mean that the weather did exactly what the forecast said, which was no mean feat given that it was quite a complex one. I was to expect a couple of hours of very heavy rain followed by a clearing of the weather, with sunshine and strong winds in the afternoon. I might get a couple of showers or flurries of snow, and it would start snowing more constantly in the evening. Usually when I see a forecast like that I expect the rain and wind but not the promised sunshine. I was surprised today as it did precisely what it said on the can.
I had thought up this route some time back, and had put it off until the new year as it required some cycling. I brought my bike down south at the start of January, only to have it nicked a couple of weeks later. Bummer! It was a blessing in disguise really, as it forced me to buy a new one. I didn't have a great deal of confidence in the old one, as it seemed to have found endless different ways of breaking down. Not very inspiring if you are trying to catch a train as part of a trip.
I skipped the early train, as I hoped a later start would see me missing the period of heavy rain. The lie-in was welcome as well! Arriving in Chirk at 8:45am, I had misjudged as the rain had just started. "Find a pub to sit in for a couple of hours" is what the train conductor had suggested, and it did seem like a good idea. It wasn't going to get me up any hills though, so I got pedalling up the Ceiriog Valley. Things didn't seem too bad at first, with the occasional bit of sunshine, but by the time I got to Glyn Ceiriog, the wind was howling (against me of course) and the rain was coming down in bucketloads. I found myself using convenient bits of shelter as I went along (a bus shelter to check I was going the right way, a phone box to put my gloves on) and eventually I locked the bike to a fence outside Pentre Pant. My boots were already full of water and I'd barely touched the ground with my feet!
Walking up to the road end, I passed the rather scruffy farm of Swch-cae-rhiw and began climbing the hillside. The path cuts over a shoulder of the hill, but I'd spotted some waterfalls on the map which might be interesting, so I took a lower line. It was worth it, and not just because it kept me out of the wind for a bit longer. It was rather typical of the Berwyns actually, which are rounded and grassy on the whole, but have lots of interesting rocky corners like this.
Waterfalls on the infant Ceiriog:
Back down Dyffryn Ceiriog:
Above the falls, I squelched through a stream (you don't care about this sort of thing if your feet are already wet...) and joined a good track which came out of the forestry plantation on my right. At this point, things suddenly began clearing up, and by the time I had turned right onto a path towards Moel Fferna, there was even a little sunshine.
I passed a group of half a dozen people here, all with large packs, and looking with some puzzlement at a map. I'm guessing they were on a DofE training expedition. Soon I was on the broad east ridge of Moel Fferna, where there was a fair amount of mess from a new fence which had been erected. This ridge forms the eastern end of a watershed that you could follow all the way from the border across the Berwyns, Arans and Cadair Idris to the Cambrian coast, dropping below 300m at only one point. An interesting (if somewhat boggy) multi-day route, which I reckon would take 4 or 5 days.
On the summit of Moel Fferna, things were quite squelchy, but the views north and east to the Clwydians, Llantysilio Mountain, Eglwyseg Mountain and the Dee valley were worth the ascent.
Llantysilio Mountain from the ridge to Moel Fferna:
Final ascent to Moel Fferna:
Doen Nant y Pandy to Deeside and Eglwyseg Mountain:
Light catches the limestone cliffs of Eglwyseg Mountain:
The next bit of the walk was probably a good reason for leaving Moel Fferna as a stand-alone ascent. 4km of heathery grouse moor, following a boggy path next to a fence. At least the cloud was up, giving me views of my next objectives, as well as western Snowdonia. At a couple of locations, the fence disappeared over a craglet, leaving me looking for a way round.
Don't follow the fence!
On the traverse from Moel Fferna to the high Berwyns:
Back to Moel Fferna:
Onto Moel Henfaes, which was distinct from the other humps I'd crossed because it had an area of rough grazing on the summit, rather than the heather all around. Nice enough views, particuarly west to Bala, but one of the least distinct Hewitts.
Arenig Fawr from Moel yr Henfaes:
The high hills were getting close now, but before reaching them, I crossed a high pass. While this was no more than a good track, I believe it is legally possible to drive over. I wonder how many Jeremy Clarkson wannabes have got stuck on it?
The path on the other side was wetter than anything I'd walked on so far, and crossed a very hummocky area before heading up to the 700m spot height. A bit more squelching led me to Cadair Bronwen, my highest new summit of the day. The weather had been constantly improving in the west, with occasional glimpses of Snowdon, Moel Siabod, the Moelwyns and Rhinogs, but it appeared that it was now engulfed in one of the promised showers.
East down the top of the Ceiriog Valley:
Ceiriog Valley from near the summit of Cadair Bronwen:
Northern Snowdonia (with some heavy showers coming) from Cadair Bronwen:
Descending Cadair Bronwen, some sections of the path had been improved with old railway sleepers, making a walkway across the bog. My bad weather option was to follow the bridleway from the next col around to Tomle, but with the sun shining (although still a fairly brutal wind), I decided to do the highest summits in the range, Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych (both 827m high). I had done these both a couple of times from Pistyll Rheadr, which is the best starting point for a shorter day.
Cadair Bronwen walkway:
Back to Cadair Bronwen from Craig Berwyn:
The going was still boggy, but the summits on this section are much more impressive, with grassy cliffs dropping down to the east. The two summits are separated by a rocky outcrop, more of which shortly. I had a second break shortly after crossing this, as there was a strange lull and the grass was short and not boggy. Views were good too, and I could see a few people on the summit of Moel Sych.
Along the ridge to Cadair Berwyn:
Head of Cwm Maen Gwynedd:
Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych from the trig point:
Llyn Lluncaws and the valley down to Pistyll Rheadr:
For some reason I had it in my mind that Moel Sych was the highest point of the range. The various groups I had spotted when sitting down disappeared in different directions, and I only met one other person (other than the DofE group earlier). I chatted to him as we returned from Moel Sych and he told me that the highest point was actually the rocky outcrop between the two summits, which was at 830m. You learn something new every day! I thought this was great, as it was the most interesting summit on the ridge (sure enough, looking at the 1:25k map at home, it is the highest point).
We were hit by a snow shower at this point, which reduced the visibility for a bit. I left the other guy and pushed on back towards Cadair Bronwen, glad that I'd made the diversion, as it had provided some of the best views of the day.
Cadair Berwyn from the south, including the sum total of the snow left on these hills:
Another view west to Snowdonia:
Heading down towards Tomle, the going was rough. There was a path of sorts, but it was the kind of tussocky, heathery, peaty ground that you could never land your foot flat on, making it difficult to keep up a decent pace. Fortunately, moving onto Foel Wen, this changed to smoother, grassier ground. Although the sun made it difficult to look back onto the main ridge, it looked good.
Down Cwm Maen Gwynedd, with Foel Wen and Mynydd Tarw on the left wall:
Between Foel Wen and Mynydd Tarw, there was a strange area of small rocky outcrops, and the views east from the summit of Tarw were obscured by a small forestry plantation. I had originally planned to miss out the final summit of Rhos, but it appeared to provide the easiest way down. The going was difficult again along the side of the forestry, then lovely and grassy for the last bit.
Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn from Foel Wen:
...and again from Mynydd Tarw:
Across the Tanat Valley and into Shropshire:
Sadly, my camera batteries, which had been playing up all day, finally packed in here. A pity, as this was the first summit to offer unhindered views east to the border and onward into Shropshire. There are actually a lot of hills there, although they aren't very high, and they looked lovely in the evening light. I could even see the Wrekin, a nice reminder that I'm not that far from the hills as I'm currently staying just over the other side of it. I should've got out the camera on my phone, which I did later on.
The way down was the ridge of Foel Goch, which was marshy higher up, but well grazed below about 540m. I climbed a couple of fences (including an electric one, which was unecessary as I had to re-climb it. Luckily it wasn't on), then headed down an increasingly steep hillside along the edge of a small plantation. I took a couple of photos on my phone of the valley up here as I could see the waterfalls I had started by, but the quality wasn't great. Probably as much to do with the falling light as the camera, as it was now 5:15pm.
Mobile phone photo showing the Ceiriog back at the start of the walk. Taken from the last descent:
Luckily there was an open gate at the bottom, and I didn't have to pass through any farmyards. There is a bit of a 'gerrofmyland' attitude to walkers in some of the southern and eastern parts of Snowdonia, particuarly around here and the Arans, which I find a bit incompatible with my make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach to finding the best way down from hills.
I'd actually hit the road a little before my bike, so had to walk in the wrong direction for a few minutes. As soon as I got on it, there was another flurry of snow. Fortunately, the general direction was downhill, and the wind was behind me, so the ride back was much more enjoyable. In fact the Ceiriog is a very attractive valley which I'd like to go back to.
I hadn't been aiming for a specific train, as there is one passing through Chirk approximately every hour. As it was, I landed with 30 minutes to wait until the 6:49pm one, which was fine by me. I still felt quite fresh at this point, and the toughness of the day didn't really hit me until I got home an hour and a half later.
by Gavin99 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:33 pm
by garyhortop » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:52 pm
All credit to you.....you do manage to get around a bit!
by caznkev » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:23 pm
My partner and I had the day off work today so we started from the Hand Hotel with a view to navigating a route up across to Garnedd Wen then Mynydd Tarw - however, the "geroffmyland" attitude you talked of was well in evidence with the paths on the map not at all matching up with the blockages we encountered and the general sense that even if the path was accessible you were not entirely welcome - so I shall be writing to the Footpaths Officer at Wrexham Council with a few grid refs for confirmation that they are still rights of way before I go asserting myself!
We ended up walking from The Hand in Llanarmon up to Cyrchinen Uchaf, around the forestry plantation and up to the Cymdu road junction, then across the high road to the old Outdoor Education Centre and accessed Mynydd Tarw the hard way, from Maes Farm (we know the people there and they always gives outdoorsy people a very warm welcome). I wonder if it was your bootprints we saw in the snow on the way up?!!.....
It was blowing a hooley up there and the cairn offered very little shelter as the wind direction seemed to be straight across the lowest part of the wall!
We came down via the road from Maes Farm all the way back to Llanarmon but it was a very decent 10.5 miles and the rain stayed off until we were 200 metres from the pub!
We shall certainly be looking at your route and thinking about it for the summer - the Berwyns are fantastic after a long dry spell.
Happy Walking and be safe
- Munro compleatist
- Posts: 1
- Joined: Feb 20, 2012
by ChrisW » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:45 am
by malky_c » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:25 pm
Thanks for your comments - must be nice to live on the edge of this lot . I must admit I haven't walked much in this area before, as I grew up on Anglesey and tended to head for the higher, more western hills. I think the last time I was in the area was 1999. I have a feeling the access might have improved a bit since then, but it's hard to tell.
Sounds like you managed to have a good walk, even if it wasn't quite what was planned. I really liked the views from the Foel Wen/Mynydd Tarw ridge actually - there could potentially be lots of nice walking in that area. I doubt they were my prints as there was barely any snow up there until the following day.
Don't know when I'll visit this area again, as I'm only down in Shropshire for a few more months, and I've decided I want to get around the rest of the 2000 footers I haven't climbed. That still leaves at least one more walk from Llangynog though, which I'm looking forward to.
ChrisW wrote:...but god dammit man are you in training for some kind of distance record
No, I'm not really a training kind of guy. My wife has the car in Inverness though, and won't let me have it, so needs must . I've often enjoyed this sort of approach to the hills - it can force you to choose routes you wouldn't have thought of otherwise, even if they are a bit drawn out. Keeps me in shape for when I move back to Scotland permenantly too
by clivegrif » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:10 pm
You clearly have built up that stamina that comes from being in the hills every weekend - keep it going.
I found that my levels of fitness and stamina were best between the age of 35 and 48 and then it started to go downhill from there, this was the reason I aimed to complete the Munros before I was 50.
I might have to split this group into 2!
by malky_c » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:47 pm
For the next bit of the Berwyns, I'm looking at a shorter round of Post Gwyn, Moel Cwm Sian Llwyd and Cyrniau Nod from Llangynon. There's some attractive looking waterfalls at the head of Cwm Pennant that I'd like to see, hence the slightly odd combination of summits.
Strangely, being away from home seems to mean I'm getting out more often than normal. I'd usually be lucky to manage more than one day out a fortnight.
by icemandan » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:33 pm
by malky_c » Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:29 am
icemandan wrote:Is there still a cafe at the bottom of Pistyll Rhaedr...where you can contemplate the beauty of the falls whilst eating a plate of chips?
Hope so. Not actually been there for 13 years though. There is a bunkhouse down there (I was doing a bit of research for a possible weekend trip) so there is a reasonable chance it's still there.
by smirnie71 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:12 am
by malky_c » Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:51 am
smirnie71 wrote:Great report Malky and yes, there is still a cafe at the foot of the falls. Not sure about chips but they do a lovely tea and a great selection of ice creams in the summer!
cheers, good to know. These hills must be pretty handy for you. It never occurred to me until recently how close to the hills Shrewsbury is .
by smirnie71 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:39 am
malky_c wrote:cheers, good to know. These hills must be pretty handy for you. It never occurred to me until recently how close to the hills Shrewsbury is .
Doesn't feel close enough sometimes. although access to South Shrops hills is brilliant. I can't believe you cycled to Brown Clee! OMG, had my first outing on bike yesterday. Only 13km, supposedly flat (you're right it is a seriously hilly county) and despite clocking up many kms on gym bike I'm walking like a certain John Wayne this morning!
Tomorrow we're hopefully off to something pointy and rocky in Snowdonia, don't fancy a bogtastic day
There are some great wee hills around Lake Vrynwy, north of Llangollen (Llantysilio mountains) and I think the Aran ridge looks tasty - Aran Fawddey and Aran Benllyn.
Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in sunny Shropshire and I reckon you should be cycle fit enough to enter the Tour De France!