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The Tarrens & Machynlleth hills / 3 days / 35 miles (56km)

Outline Map → Map Route file →

Date: 03 Aug 2006
Start: Aberdyfi rail station.
Finish: Machynlleth rail station car park.
Maps: Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris.

Day 1Trum Gelli & Tarrenhendre10.8 miles / 3510 feet (17.4km / 1069m)
Day 2Tarren y Gesail & Bwlch y Groesen14.8 miles / 3210 feet (23.8km / 978m)
Day 3Pistyll y Llyn & Cwm Rhaiadr8.9 miles / 1050 feet (14.3km / 320m)

A linear traverse of the main Tarren ridge from the South-West, parking at Machynlleth rail station and travelling by train to Aberdyfi, followed by a circuit South from Machynlleth to Pistyll y Llyn using Owain Glyndwr's Way as the outward route.

Day 1 - Trum Gelli & Tarrenhendre

We arrived at Machynlleth station in plenty of time for the 09:05 Pwllheli train that would take us to Aberdyfi, an 18 minute journey. From the A493 in Aberdyfi, a footpath climbs NE and gives good retrospective views over the Dyfi estuary as it crosses an intervening ridge and descends to the lane in Cwm Maethlon - Happy Valley. A short walk W along the lane, another good footpath climbed NE to the pleasant and deserted grassland of Bryn Dinas and onto the crossing byway with the slopes of Trum Gelli ahead.

The Dyfi estuary from Mynydd Bychan
The Dyfi estuary from Mynydd Bychan (03 Aug 2006__10:06:02)
Head of Cwm Maethlon (Happy Valley)
Head of Cwm Maethlon (Happy Valley) (03 Aug 2006__10:52:58)

A path slants up the face and bypasses the small rise of Allt Gwyddgwion to arrive at the huge cairn, similar to those on Drygarn Fawr, while a smaller but still substantial cairn lies just beyond. There were fine views especially towards Cadair Idris, still retaining a mist cap, as the ridge curved around to attain the summit of Tarrenhendre, marked by a small cairn and post in the heathery wastes. Though not exactly an attractive summit, the heather made an irresistible cushion to laze for a short while and take in the views.

Trum Gelli from the ridge
Trum Gelli from the ridge (03 Aug 2006__13:55:01)
Tarrenhendre summit and Cadair Idris
Tarrenhendre summit and Cadair Idris (03 Aug 2006__14:44:03)
Tarren y Gesail and Foel y Geifr from Tarrenhendre
Tarren y Gesail and Foel y Geifr from Tarrenhendre (03 Aug 2006__15:22:29)

The ridge continues NE over a sharp pointed minor top and onto Foel y Geifr following a thin path on the R of the trees. We made our pitch on the grassy summit and then descended around the forest corner to seek water at the springs shown on the map around 721053. After the recent heatwave all the high mountain streams and springs were desperately short of water and we had to descend quite a long way to find the first flow. The slope here is excruciatingly steep and climbing back up was exhausting, but the water was excellent - very clear and cold. The afforestation coverage shown on the map is misleading here:- the key is to walk around the forest edge to the waymarked stile where the public footpath emerges from the trees at 719055 (there are no trees in the area to the immediate N of this despite the map). This is also on the line of the clear path to the old quarry.

Tarren y Gesail from pitch on Foel y Geifr
Tarren y Gesail from pitch on Foel y Geifr (03 Aug 2006__17:10:38)

Day 2 - Tarren y Gesail & Bwlch y Groesen

There was a general grey cloud cover at dawn but an attractive red sunrise above the treetops. Leaving our packs at the bwlch, we climbed to the trig point on Tarren y Gesail just in time to get a couple of pictures before the mist began to close in. The true summit is a metre higher and a short way E.

Dawn sky from Foel y Geifr
Dawn sky from Foel y Geifr (04 Aug 2006__05:30:10)
Tarrenhendre from Tarren y Gesail
Tarrenhendre from Tarren y Gesail (04 Aug 2006__07:39:01)

Picking up our packs and walking to the aforementioned stile, the rain started but abated after a few minutes as we walked to the old quarry buildings and took the more prominent path that curves L beneath the steep eastern face of Tarren y Gesail with mist draping over the rim. The stream was flowing at the forest edge and we replenished water for the day. The forest track is a pleasant walk down the valley and at 737054, a short side track drops down to the Nant Siambar Wmffre which we could hear but not see flowing in the deep cleft below. The haunting cry of buzzards pierced the air and we remarked that the screams of howler monkeys would not seem out of place in this dense jungle-like ravine.

The track emerges on the A487 at Pantperthog and a footpath opposite crosses a footbridge to a narrow lane. A short walk L is the Centre for Alternative Technology, a popular attraction where the exhibits are at the top of a short but very steep old quarry incline. This is served by a water-balanced rail system of cable cars (and steps for the energetic), but we didn't have enough time to go inside and get the most out of a visit (current price £8 per person). We followed the lane southwards to the B4404 and A487. A signed cycle route crosses the new Millenium Bridge, a curious asymmetrical structure, and gives a pleasant stroll along the Afon Dyfi to the road into Machynlleth where we restocked supplies.

Millenium bridge near Machynlleth
Millenium bridge near Machynlleth (04 Aug 2006__11:08:43)

From the Celtic Centre at the S of the town, Owain Glyndwr's Way (OGW) climbs out towards Llyn Glanmerin, seen only briefly from a distance, and gives fine views back to the Tarrens. After passing through a forest and descending around Bryn Coch Mawr, OGW undulates SE to Bwlch y Groesen and affords a grand prospect of Cwm Rhaiadr and surrounding hills. At 767954, we left OGW and took the forest track that crosses the valley with further fine views of the cwm and climbs to join the access track on the far side. A short walk up this track gave a great view of the steep flanks of the cwm and brought us to a flattish area where we made our second pitch, but the mist was closing in on the distant views by now.

View to Pistyll y Llyn from Owain Glyndwr’s Way
View to Pistyll y Llyn from Owain Glyndwr’s Way (04 Aug 2006__15:19:57)
Cliffs of Pistyll y Llyn
Cliffs of Pistyll y Llyn (04 Aug 2006__16:42:15)

Day 3 - Pistyll y Llyn & Cwm Rhaiadr

It rained hard in the night and visibility was down to a few metres as we opened the door to dank mist, though it was very warm. Picking our way through wet heather and tussocky ground to the edge path, we could just see the dramatic cwm below the mist and we followed the slanting footpath down the very steep face above Pistyll y Llyn, which was flowing feebly over the rocks below. Returning to visit the cleft of the fall, there was sadly no vantage point to get a decent photo.

Cleft of Pistyll y Llyn
Cleft of Pistyll y Llyn (05 Aug 2006__07:45:26)

The footpath S to the forest is visible on the ground but the thick tussocky vegetation was sopping wet, which meant a rather unpleasant but short trudge through to the forest track that leads easily to Llyn Penrhaeadr. Only a few yards of the lake were visible in the thick mist and we returned on the track to retrace yesterdays route to the forest corner. The track zigzags down into Cwm Rhaiadr and joins the narrow lane to Glaspwll, a pleasant walk in the clear air below the mist. Further lanes lead N to join the outward route on OGW back to Machynlleth.