|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 06 Sep 2004
Start / Finish: Trawsfynydd. Free car park on the east side of the main street
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 18: Harlech & Bala.
|Day 1||The Northern Rhinogydd||7 miles / 2200 feet (11.3km / 670m)|
|Day 2||Rhinog Fawr & Rhinog Fach||4 miles / 2470 feet (6.5km / 752m)|
|Day 3||Y Llethr, Diffwys & Y Garn||7 miles / 2610 feet (11.3km / 795m)|
|Day 4||Rhaeadr Du & Sarn Helen||12 miles / 1570 feet (19.3km / 478m)|
An eastern approach to a backpack of the main Rhinog ridge. The northern part of the ridge is the most rugged landscape in Wales and England, where the skewed contortions of the land, cleaved by heathery rocky corridors, seem to defy any natural order and can make navigation tricky even in clear conditions. The predominance of heather-clad boulders, huge slabs and broken rocks make it easy to stray into very formidable terrain, and the few paths, though discernible, are intermittent and not at all prominent.
There is a lot of steep descent on boulders and loose rock, where the backpack weight means that every step must be carefully controlled, and the constant concentration required adds further to the perceived effort. On the hardest section (Day 2) we covered just over 4 miles on the map, and although we allowed time to explore the delectable lakes, we found this to be quite enough for one day. A superbly wild and beautiful route.
From the main street in the village, a side road leads W to the school and at its end, a footpath heads R through a gate and over the very long footbridge spanning Llyn Trawsfynydd. This gives a strange sort of 'tightrope' feeling, and the water can be seen below through the gaps in the boards. On the far side, an anglers path hugs the lake and emerges on the lane. Just past Twn Tyll farm, a signed footpath climbs W into the marshy valley by a small stream and disappears, but converging near the top with the wall on the R, the way through a cross-wall lies a few yards down the slope. Where the ground levels out by a ladder stile we turned L (S) up the obvious damp ravine, and set off R up the final steep but quite easy slopes of Moel y Gyrafolen and the first grand view of the day.
Threading our way down through the rocks towards the minor slabby rise of Diffwys, we followed a narrow passage of rock and grass on the R of the wall that undulates along its flank, hemmed in by steep heather covered buttresses. At the far end, an easy climb over grass emerges on the first rock slabs of Foel Penolau, where a summit cairn lies atop a rocky tor on the far side of a gully. Walking around the rim and inspecting the impressive defences of the mountain, there are almost continuous sheer cliffs, but fortunately one breach in the battlements that allows a clamber down to the base. An easy walk on grass quickly attains the trig point and cairn of Moel Ysgyfarnogod.
Descending first NW then SW on a faint path to a damp bwlch, the easiest way is to the L of the shallow rocky dome ahead, where a track is joined that curves around W to desolate Llyn Du. A short way beyond is a low stone structure, where a faint path slants L up the slopes of Craig Ddrwg and peters out at a marshy area. The general line is around the ill-defined edge, and climbing a little higher, we found a path that curved around to pass the attractive Llyn Corn-ystwc, where we diverted to the shore for photos. From the SE tip of the lake, we followed a wall SE and rejoined the path as it climbed through a wall gap. Continuing along the edge, the striated slopes of Craig Wion come into view, and we watched out for the gully descending L that would bring us to Bwlch Gwylim. Passing a rocky rise and a couple of false gullies, we arrived at the correct one just before the heathery slopes of Clip. The steep rocky path down the gully is barely visible at first, but becomes clear enough and crosses a ladder stile to arrive at the main cross track.
Proceeding SE, and watched by some wild goats, we gradually diverged from the wall on a faint damp path to arrive at the lovely Llyn Twr-glas, and a little further Llyn Pryfed. A peaty path slants up R from the lake shore and disappears, but a short heathery climb R brought us to the neat cairn of Craig Wion, where we made our first pitch in the lee of the summit tor and sheltered from the worst of the strong wind.
The route from here to the Roman Steps is a curve running SE then SW, crossing a number of slabby rock and heather filled ravines that can be seen from Craig Wion. There is a discernible path to follow, faint at times, and we made sure we didn't lose it when large flat slabs of rock intervened!. The descents into the ravines are typically steep rocky side-gullies, and there are some fascinating almost vertical-sided rock corridors to peruse. Just before the final rise, the faint path forsakes the up-and-down regime and swings R along a damp shallow ravine and descends towards Llyn Morwynion, where a short diversion R affords a grand aerial view of the lake. A final descent leads to the clear stony path crossing at the highest point of the Roman Steps pass.
Descending SE on the main path for a couple of hundred yards, a peaty but improving path branches off R and climbs around the crags to the fine Llyn Du, where we collected water at a small stream. We took the undulating path around the E side of the lake, and near the S tip, forked L up a steep stony rake to join the main path to Rhinog Fawr, which gave great views.
The long descent consists of a number of tiers. A clear path descends E to the first tier and divides, passing either side of a small rise at the end. We took the L fork, which is a clear path that swings L then R to descend to the next tier. The line now becomes a bit hit and miss. There are several more tiers, and the intermittent path swings around from one drop to the next, each one being a steep descent on boulders and loose rocks, and becomes very arduous with a backpack. Eventually after some false bwlchs, we really did arrive at Bwlch Drws-Ardudwy and took a well-earned rest. Looking back, we noticed a couple of cairns fashioned from the rocks, which were very well camouflaged against a sea of similar rocks!.
The ascent of Rhinog Fach starts at a wall gap and crosses a rock field to a thin loose stony line in the heather, which climbs very steeply to the first tier of crags and improves as the angle eases. Finally levelling off, there is an easy walk along the spine to the summit cairn, and a short way further there is a good aerial view of Llyn Hwyel. We made our pitch near the summit, shielded from the worst of the strong wind by a small rocky outcrop.
Descending steeply alongside the wall to the bwlch, another herd of wild goats watched us warily as we began the climb to Y Llethr, enjoying superb views of Llyn Hwyel and an impressive study of Rhinog Fach, with the Snowdonia mountains beyond. Where the climb levels out by the ridge wall, the culture changes in an instant to soft springy grass, and an easy stroll brought us to the highest Rhinog. The ridge continues by the wall over the rocky rib of Crib-y-rhiw and on towards Diffwys, where a contouring path cuts off the rise at the corner. At the summit there is a ladder stile over to the trig point, where we returned on the other side to enjoy the fine views E and down into the valley.
Passing a ladder stile, we veered R to pick up the old mine track that meanders down through fine heathery crags to the edge of the forest at Cwm-mynach. On reaching the forest fence, the track turns L alongside a stream to a gate onto the forest road byway. This curves around Llyn Cwm-mynach, passing some streams where we collected excellent water, and leaves the forest to descend to 691242, the closest approach to the stout wall around Y Garn. Walking along the wall NE a short way, we found the easiest crossing place at the highest point and tackled the rough trackless climb SE. Using oases of rock and burnt heather patches, the going improves higher up as easy rock and grass are reached. The isolated position makes Y Garn a superb viewpoint, and we made our third pitch here.
Walking NE to join a wall, we followed it down to the stile and footpath into the forest, which emerges onto a forest track. Here we turned R and followed the track E to rejoin the right of way at 708245, which forks R and leaves the forest to arrive at Gwndwn-isaf farm. Just before the buildings, a waymark points R indicating the footpath SE (the second path on the map). After a few yards we walked around a fallen tree to a gate on the track, where a path meanders down through woodland to reach a track junction S of Goetre farm at 718240. Taking the track SE, just after it bends L before Berth-Lwyd farm, a National Trust waymark points L to a new footbridge. Crossing the bridge and turning R, an attractive woodland path leads down to a gate and cross-track, where we turned L to visit the Rhaeadr Du waterfalls. Crossing a footbridge, we descended on the far side to Ganllwyd (public toilets and bins).
The byway N from Ganllwyd becomes a forest road, which climbs at a very civilised angle but unfortunately has no views due to the trees. However progress is easy and rapid, and where it becomes the Sarn Helen Roman Road track, the forest is left behind and the reward is a splendid view of the whole Rhinog ridge, which is maintained for about a mile on the excellent track. At 724308 the track divides, and we took the R fork ascending to the minor road where the views open out to the E and the Arenigs. At the road junction further on, we decided on the direct route along the quiet lane back to Trawsfynydd.