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Wales goes blue, finally....

Wales goes blue, finally....


Postby clivegrif » Mon Sep 15, 2014 6:06 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Moel Fferna, Tal y Fan

Date walked: 14/09/2014

Time taken: 4

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 800m

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It’s taken me a long time to get round to this.

I climbed my first Welsh mountain – Glyder Fawr – almost 40 years ago, and only today do I finally finish off the Welsh Hewitts. To be fair, I’ve climbed the big ones and the pretty ones more times than I can remember by all manner of routes, in all seasons and in all weather. I even climbed Snowdon in the dark once to watch the sun rise.

Back to today.

For my final two Welsh Hewitts I inadvertently managed to combine some of the worst Wales has to offer with some of the best, and as has often been the case I managed to make life difficult for myself along the way.


our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Moel Fferna is a heathery lump with few if any redeeming features, and unfortunately for list chasers it just manages to break through the 2,000 foot barrier. As I discovered to my cost there is an easy way and there is a hard way to climb it, and take it from me you really don’t want to try the hard way. I parked my car in a side road off the A5, down from bridge over the stream that runs past the building with the Owain Glyndwr sign. The way to the mountain is just over the bridge, up the ‘road’ with the 20% incline sign opposite the old chapel. I use the word road advisedly, as the first section is very steep, narrow and the surface is broken up. It’s little more than a bridleway. However, after a few hundred breathless yards it meets a proper motor-able road that comes in from the right. In fact if you are brave it is possible to drive up from the A5 – second left after the Berwyn Arms (the road looks like a farm entrance), and carry on all the way to Pont Newydd, more than halfway but you would be snookered if something was coming the other way. This is evidenced by the 4X4 towing a horse box that Monty and I encountered about half way up. After the road flattened out we disturbed a load of young pheasants which began running about in a panic which drove Monty to distraction. The road continued, eventually ending and became a grassy track.
After a pair of gates the track continued to contour round left towards the spoil heaps of an old quarry, but I decided to climb the slope to the right to make a bee-line for the ‘summit’ which was still shrouded in mist. DO NOT DO THIS!! It didn’t take long before the promising sheep track fizzled out and Monty and I found ourselves wading through bracken, and then heather, and then both together. The going took on a grimness of Foel Cwm-Sian Llywd proportions, surely there is a better way up than this? The answer to that one, dear reader, is oh yes there is, as will be seen later on.
After what seemed an eternity we encountered a really well made path that ran at right angles to our direction. I decided to follow it upwards to gain the ‘ridgeline’ at least, and to get a break from the heather. I had been thrown a lifeline but failed to recognise it, and instead I left the path and once again headed straight for the summit. Within yards was back into deep heather, but this time it was combined with multiple hags and peaty holes such as the one little Monty disappeared into. Just as with Foel Cwm-Sian Llywd, the worst going was saved for the final slopes, and it was with considerable relief that I finally stumbled upon the windbreak style pile of stones that marked the topmost point on this wearisome heap. At least the mist had lifted off, but it was still pretty murky.
Monty on Moel Fferna_045.JPG
Monty on Moel Fferna

I took a few ‘I was here, honest’ pics, and then looked around to make sure I could see the way off – and saw the quad bike track…. There is a quad bike track the size of a small road that has had the vegetation removed and is completely solid underfoot, and it goes along the ridge in exactly the right direction to reach the road. We were probably only yards away from it when we ploughed through the heather. So without further ado, Monty and I hurtle downhill down the track. The track eventually reaches a col with a minor bump, and then heads off left in the wrong direction. However, at this very point it meets the well-made path I encountered on the way up. This path forms a section of the North Berwyn Way whatever that is, and more importantly for us is that it goes straight down to the quarry mentioned earlier. Then at a point between a small ruined stone building and the spoil heap, the path meets the track, and the track leads to the road.
Quarry building_047.JPG
Quarry ruin

Road, track, quarry, turn right onto path, turn left onto quad track, summit – it really is that easy, no need to wade through heather, bracken or peat hags at all. Damn.

We sprinted back to the car, and I think we were both glad to see the back of that hill.


our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Tal y Fan on the other hand is a delightful little hill, an outlier of the Carneddau, and the most northerly Welsh Hewitt. There is a road the climbs out of the Conwy valley up to the 400m mark, and to within a mile or so of the summit. Unfortunately the cloud had not cleared as the forecast suggested it might, and so the tops of the main Carneddau group were still shrouded. No matter, Tal y Fan was clear and dry.
Tal y Fan_049.JPG
Tal y Fan

We hopped over the wall and onto a very clear footpath that wound gently upwards over firm ground through sheep pastures peppered with boulders and bright yellow Gorse.
Rockery_048.JPG
A real rockery

Several fields later, at the top of the slope, the path meets a wall that runs along the spine of the hill.
Approaching Tal y Fan_043.JPG
Approaching Tal y fan

This is where the way get steeper, rising in a number of steps over rocky outcrops and a few Monty scrambles until finally, there it is – the top.
Monty on Talyfan_046.JPG
Monty on Tal y Fan

Tal y Fan’s trig point is in fine condition having been rebuilt in 2007, and is large enough to form an excellent windbreak. I break out a celebratory bottle of Badger Golden Glory ale, which I obviously share with Monty Dog (fear not animal lovers, he only had a taste!). Job done!
Monty celebrating_044.JPG
Monty celebrating

On the way back down I reflect on the Welsh Hewitts, a lot of great mountains, but also a considerable number of not so great lumps. But that’s it for me, no more tyranny of lists. I’m just going to climb worthwhile mountains from now on – life’s too short for shapeless heathery heaps!
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clivegrif
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby CharlesT » Mon Sep 15, 2014 6:46 pm

Well done Clive and welcome to the club, all you need to do now is complete the Welsh 2000'ers as surveyed by Myrddyn Phillips and co. A few more heathery lumps then. :wink:

Oh! and have a go at naming my Welsh hill photo. :D
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CharlesT
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby clivegrif » Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:04 pm

Cheers Charles - err, I might just give that a miss! :lol:
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clivegrif
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby malky_c » Mon Sep 15, 2014 8:39 pm

Congratulations :) . Enjoyed your reports over the years, and enjoyed a Welsh hills renaissance of my own briefly...more of the 'boring' hills are worth the effort than I thought.

List free? Really? Bet you'll do a few more English ones, then realise there aren't that many more...
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Mon Sep 15, 2014 8:49 pm

Well done Clive :clap: good to see Monty enjoying his hills and helping you finish off your final list. If it's great mountains your after could I recommend the mighty Pillar from Ennerdale, fabulous walk.
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby poppiesrara » Mon Sep 15, 2014 9:44 pm

Congratulations, Clive! I hope someone else on here decides to follow you & Malky in 'ticking this list' as I love seeing the reports - perhaps especially the out-of-the-way 'lumps' that I'll never go back to myself....

I'll (perhaps fruitlessly!) suggest having a gradual go at the Lakes Hewitts next - you'd get through the rest of them in not many trips, and all bar a tiny few are really worth the effort (perhaps more so than the full Wainwright list): as JK suggests, there will be some amazing walks among them.
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby clivegrif » Tue Sep 16, 2014 4:52 pm

Cheers chaps!

Fortunately my In-laws live near Kendal, so there is an excuse to do at least a few more up there. Like the idea of Pillar.

To clarify a point, I'm now free of the tyranny of lists - that (male?) thing of feeling that once you have started on a list you can't stop until that list is completed. I know that there is no chance of finishing any other list of decent mountains, so will content myself with ticking off a few more Corbetts and a few more Hewitts without being under any pressure to do them all (appreciating that the pressure is self induced).

That all sounds very Aspergic..... :lol:
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clivegrif
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue Sep 16, 2014 6:49 pm

Congratulations, Clive and Monty!

I think there are great hills near Kendal which have your name on them followed by a question mark :lol:
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby clivegrif » Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:29 pm

Hi both

Thanks very much, and yes he is a great little dog. He loves going out, and best of all he loves going up hills.

I'm sure he will enjoy a bit more scrambling, possibly somewhere to the north of Kendal :D
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clivegrif
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby KeithS » Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:52 am

Clive,
Many congratulations on another milestone reached. :clap:
I now look forward to following your progress through the HuMPs. :shock: I am pleased to have helped you start this next challenge on Gruinard Island. There are only 2983 on the list, I expect to see you racing through them. You know you want to. :wink:
Please let me know if you want to borrow a boat to get to St Kilda. :sick:
Keith
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby clivegrif » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:25 pm

Hi Keith

Thanks and good to hear from you!

...on that boat, have you got anything a little bigger?? :lol:

Cheers!
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clivegrif
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby john923 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:58 pm

..and congrats on a blue Wales from this side of town. Just as well you didn't do the last two the other way round - that would have been some anticlimax.

And interesting to hear that you feel list mania is behind you. I suspect, as you suggest, it is a mostly male thing. The best thing that can be said it that it gets you to places you otherwise wouldn't discover - the downside is that the discovery isn't always worthwhile, save that any walk on the right day is pleasurable in itself. Either way, I'll look forward to reading how you get on.

Cheers, John
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby clivegrif » Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:14 pm

Cheers John - much appreciated.

You are absolutely right following a list does get you to places you might not necessarily go otherwise, that was certainly true of both the Munros and the Welsh Hewitts. Had a lovely morning on Mount Keen for example, but would never have done it if it had not been a Munro.

As for other lists - I'm already starting to look at my Hewitt total of 196, and am thinking how much better 200 would look...... :lol:

Cheers!
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby litljortindan » Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:29 pm

Well done. I'm sure your report will help someone avoid the same route error.
Can't imagine I'll be doing too much walking in Wales but the few places I've seen have been well worth the trip.
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litljortindan
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Re: Wales goes blue, finally....

Postby clivegrif » Tue Sep 23, 2014 6:18 pm

litljortindan wrote:Well done. I'm sure your report will help someone avoid the same route error.
Can't imagine I'll be doing too much walking in Wales but the few places I've seen have been well worth the trip.


Much obliged!

I know I'm biased, but if you get the chance to come on down to the Welsh hills I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

....but hopefully I will be back in Scotland early next year.
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