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Ffestiniog East hills & lakes / 1½ days / 13 miles (21km)

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Date: 06 Sep 2005
Start / Finish: Llan Ffestiniog. Large layby at the road junction SH704423.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 18 Harlech & Bala.

Day 1Y Gamallt & Cerrig y leirch7.7 miles / 1950 feet (12.4km / 594m)
Day 2Y Garnedd5.2 miles / 570 feet (8.4km / 173m)

Another short exploration backpack to seek out hidden jewels of Wales, this time in seldom trodden hills to the East of Llan Ffestiniog. Much trackless, rough and wet terrain was involved which made progress slow, but the area of Y Gamallt is well suited to this kind of intense short-distance walk, where time is necessary and desirable to appreciate the beauty.

Day 1 - Y Gamallt & Cerrig y leirch

There were some superb cloud inversions on the drive down to Llan Ffestiniog, which made us wish we had pitched the previous evening to capture it at dawn. All the valley mist had cleared as we set off under blue skies. The lane NE from the layby becomes a surfaced byway along Cwm Teigl that gave an easy start to the day. The footpath sign R at 723434 is totally redundant - by continuing on the byway a few yards, there is a gate onto the track that the footpath line joins. Passing to the R of the buildings, the path crosses a footbridge over the Afon Gamallt and climbs to a gate. Beyond this we climbed directly L to join the footpath line which later descends to another footbridge to recross the river.

The Afon Gamallt valley
The Afon Gamallt valley (06 Sep 2005__09:58:36)

The path line climbs into the cwm amid rocky knolls and just beyond a craggy outcrop at 737444, a faint path heads E and quickly peters out. We picked our way across to an old stone quarry building in a ravine, where we collected good water, and climbed the pathless slopes beyond to Moel Gamallt. Here was the first splendid view of the Llynnau Gamallt with the reddish brown cliffs of Graig Goch beyond. Descending to the shore, the slopes are initially easy grass but heather and tussocks predominate lower down. There is a thin path of sorts through the heather and reeds along the shore to the natural bridge between the two lakes. Climbing northwards, the terrain is fairly easy but becomes very wet higher up with reeds and sphagnum, and we threaded our way through to the next lake, Llyn Bryn-du. Climbing the small rise on the W side through the dense heather, the steep nose of Y Clochdy assumed a dramatic conical shape across the lake.

Graig Goch cliffs across the Afon Gamallt valley
Graig Goch cliffs across the Afon Gamallt valley (06 Sep 2005__11:13:02)
Llynnau Gamallt #1 and Graig Goch
Llynnau Gamallt #1 and Graig Goch (06 Sep 2005__12:00:40)
Llynnau Gamallt #1 and Graig Goch
Llynnau Gamallt #1 and Graig Goch (06 Sep 2005__12:25:22)
Llynnau Gamallt #2 & Manod Mawr
Llynnau Gamallt #2 & Manod Mawr (06 Sep 2005__12:26:14)
Llyn Bryn-du, Y Clochdy & Graig Goch
Llyn Bryn-du, Y Clochdy & Graig Goch (06 Sep 2005__13:02:19)
Llyn Bryn-du & Y Clochdy
Llyn Bryn-du & Y Clochdy (06 Sep 2005__13:11:52)

Recrossing the wet area towards the heathery slopes of Y Clochdy, there is a thin path up the ravine to the R of the nose, which hairpins back R onto Y Gamallt. There is a grand prospect of the lakes below and distant views. The path undulates over little ravines to the summit cairn. Having spent a lot longer than envisaged in our exploration, we revised our plan. We dropped our packs and walked back N to visit Llyn y Gors, the highest of the lakes hereabouts with a good view to the Snowdonia mountains.

Llyn Bryn-du & Manod Mawr from Y Gamallt
Llyn Bryn-du & Manod Mawr from Y Gamallt (06 Sep 2005__13:41:36)
The Arenigs from Y Gamallt
The Arenigs from Y Gamallt (06 Sep 2005__14:07:50)
Snowdonia mountains from Y Gamallt
Snowdonia mountains from Y Gamallt (06 Sep 2005__14:09:02)
Llyn y Gors & Snowdonia mountains
Llyn y Gors & Snowdonia mountains (06 Sep 2005__14:54:44)
Llyn y Gors, Moel Siabod & Y Ro Wen
Llyn y Gors, Moel Siabod & Y Ro Wen (06 Sep 2005__14:59:56)

The path leaves the summit of Y Gamallt and makes a grand walk along the cirque of cliffs of Graig Goch, becoming less and less distinct until it disappears near the end. We descended L towards the Nant y Pistyll-gwyn, picking up the odd fragment of sheeptrod and dropping steeply to a ruined sheepfold in the valley. Aiming for a prominent track to the S, we crossed the stream and picked a line through the wet and rough valley bottom and joined the track to the road. We had decided to pitch on Cerrig y leirch, and another wet and reedy crossing of the headwaters of the Afon Gam brought us to the obvious stone embankment across the infant river. From here it is an easy climb on grass through the rocks to the summit area (with a spot height of 513m, equal to the honoured top of Moel Llechwedd-gwyn to the S), which made a good pitch and gave a fine view over the wilderness of the Migneint.

The Graig Goch cliffs
The Graig Goch cliffs (06 Sep 2005__15:42:50)
The Arenigs from the Pitch on Cerrig y leirch
The Arenigs from the Pitch on Cerrig y leirch (06 Sep 2005__17:37:56)

Day 2 - Y Garnedd

A stiff wind got up in the night and the mist was down to our level - no cloud inversions today. It had just cleared on our side of the valley as we returned to recross the embankment, then we noticed a faint path northwards heading towards a rocky outcrop. This turned out to be a shorter and better way back to the road with less bog than the direct crossing. Walking back along the road, we joined the same track as yesterday and turned L along an old surfaced quarry track, which took us past the expanse of rough heather to the grassy E ridge of Y Garnedd. An easy climb gains the ancient cairn, now hollowed to make a windshelter, which loomed out of the mist and provided shelter for a snack. Suddenly the local mist was gone and the views appeared. We could see a fine overall prospect of the route from yesterday and Llyn Morwynion, the next objective, lay below to the SW.

Y Gamallt from Y Garnedd
Y Gamallt from Y Garnedd (07 Sep 2005__10:10:52)

A direct descent through the cliffs looked very formidable, so we walked N to steep but easier slopes and followed an infant stream down below the crags and S towards the lake. From the shore, the rocky dome of Carreg y Foel-gron was particularly striking. We had just taken our pictures when we were suddenly engulfed in mist and rain. The thin path descends W from the lake, skirting R of the mapped line and bending L to a junction of walls and fences. The footpath due W is on the R of a barbed fence but there is no stile, however it is easily crossed, and over a short rise the line diverges R from the fence and L of a tiny hillock to reach a gate onto the road. This was really the end of our exploration plans anyway, and rather than navigate the footpaths through the golf course in the rain, we walked down the road to Llan Ffestiniog.

Y Garnedd & Carreg y Foel-gron from Llyn Morwynion
Y Garnedd & Carreg y Foel-gron from Llyn Morwynion (07 Sep 2005__11:36:26)