|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 05 Jun 2007
Start / Finish: Llanelltyd. Roadside parking by the church.
Maps: Explorer OL18 Harlech & Bala + OL23 Cadair Idris.
|Day 1||The Precipice Walk, Foel Offrwm & Rhobell Fawr||11.9 miles / 3860 feet (19.2km / 1176m)|
|Day 2||Dduallt, Foel Boeth & Moel Oernant||11.1 miles / 2240 feet (17.9km / 682m)|
|Day 3||Llyn Gelli Gain & Y Garn||14.3 miles / 2860 feet (23.0km / 871m)|
A circuit of the mountains N of the Mawddach estuary, crossing the remote western Arenigs to the head of the Afon Gain on Foel Boeth and returning via the isolated Rhinog outlier of Y Garn. The route includes the famous Dolgellau Precipice Walk and its lesser known new sibling west of Llanelltyd, and an ascent of Foel Offrwm, a Marilyn hill fort. Much of the route is seldom walked and some sections are very rough and trackless.
Despite diligent searching we failed to find access to the Precipice Walk directly from the SW:- it is often the case that land owners near a very popular walk will erect 'No access' signs at key points to prevent people straying into their estates. The start of the track and path marked on the map that lead directly to the walk from the SW is only ¼ mile from the Access area, but the official car park is the only access point we could find, necessitating a long road walk of 2.4 miles.
Having failed to gain access to the Precipice Walk (PW) access area from the SW, we entered the woodland from the upper car park at Coed y Groes. The circular PW is a fine well signed walk and justifiably popular. We did it clockwise, walking firstly along the western edge of Llyn Cynwch where new fish stocks were being introduced on the opposite private shore. The well trodden contouring path starts around the slopes of Foel Faner and the splendid views open out over the Mawddach estuary, while further round there is a grand prospect of the valley and across to Y Garn. Rounding the corner towards the return path, the next objective Foel Offrwm came into view and we rejoined the outward route back through the wood.
Opposite the car park is a track signed with a white arrow that heads around the base of Foel Offrwm to a gate. Just after the gate we climbed up a short way to a higher track that continues around to the northern slopes to meet a cross wall, at this point we turned R alongside it directly to the summit which has a large cubical block of stones. There are further grand views from here and the general onward line to Rhobell Fawr can be seen.
Returning northwards to the higher of two cross walls we had passed, there is a gap which enabled us to start our descent eastwards on the L side, aiming to pick up the path marked on the map that exits onto the road. This is initially quite easy but lower down the problems started: the dense barrier of fenced conifers appeared sooner than expected and there was no trace of any path, moreover the terrain to L and R looked awful. Reluctantly we crossed the fence and continued alongside the wall in the deep gloom, fighting our way through the dry lower branches until we emerged in daylight well scratched and covered in bits of conifer. This was not the road but a partly ruined cross wall well above it, yet the map shows only one wall/fence on this descent. In consolation the trees below this point had been felled, and we veered L towards a small stream and followed it down fairly easily to the road.
Quiet narrow lanes lead northwards to a byway, which is a good track ascending gently near the infant Afon Las to Bwlch Goriwared. A ladder stile gives access to the SW ridge of Rhobell Fawr, an easy gradual climb on short grass amid the numerous little rocky crags to the trig point which affords extensive views though hazy today.
The dawn view was a fine sight with reddish light on the mist in the valleys and a view to the Rhinogydd.
An enjoyable descent E through the crags on the L of a wall brought us to the forest road. The unsigned firebreak through to the lower slopes of Dduallt is usually a very wet business but quite dry today save for one boggy bit. Emerging at the far side, we collected water at the ravine and climbed to the forest corner for a grand prospect of the southern slopes of Dduallt. A thin path hugs the forest edge through rock slabs and emerald green bogs, archetypal wild Wales, and quickly fades out. We freelanced up the slopes to the ridge, making use of intermittent traces of a path, and quickly reached the rough top with a good prospect of the vast badlands to the E and N.
The N ridge descends to an easy ford of the Afon Mawddach. The onward line was northwards near the remains of a ruined wall on the flanks of Cefn y Griafolen, an area we remember as rather confusing. The highest ground is very rough heather and tussocks, the easiest line is just above the wall with fairly easy going and faint traces of a vague intermittent path.
After a mile we turned uphill to the fence that crosses the very rough dome of Mynydd Bryn-llech. We found the best option from here was to walk to the forest fence and follow it: the terrain along the forest edge was wetter but a lot easier underfoot. The going became easy approaching the corner at 793321, where we joined the good forest track that took us to the pass road. Foel Boeth is an easy climb from here and at the summit we were surprised to see a squirrel, trying in vain to hide by clinging to a thin fence post.
Our descent was SW then NW along the fence, collecting water at the stream and crossing to the R side to join the good track into the valley. Near the ruins of Hafod-y-gareg another excellent track branches R to ascend gently above the Nant Lliwgys and at the highest point after a fence, we left it to climb the grassy slopes of Moel Oernant. The obvious line of the broad ridge curves around to an attractive little lake and the summit trig point, giving a hazy view of Llyn Trawsfynydd and the Rhinogydd. We made a good pitch on the edge of the southern slopes with a good view towards Craiglaseithin and Llyn Gelli Gain.
An easy descent SW and over the shoulder of Craiglaseithin brought us to Llyn Gelli Gain, an attractive area with the hazy outlines of the Rhinogydd beyond.
From the small dam at the southern end, a good track descends to the minor road junction and a short walk S is the start of the Sarn Helen Roman road, an easy track that strides the shallow ridge around the flanks of Craig y Penmaen with a fine view of the Rhinog ridge. The track enters the forest and at 721289, an unsigned track branches R and a short way along it is a small waymark post indicating the footpath W down to the A470 at Gelli-goch. Directly opposite is a surfaced byway that passes an information board describing the St John Roberts Trail that runs from Cymer Abbey to Trawsfynydd, part of the Cistercian Way.
A bridleway heads SW from a deep little gorge of the Afon Crawcellt, initially a farm access track then ascending through fields to a ladder stile at 701282. Despite the map there is no trace of a path from here onwards up the tussocky hillside, and we found the best plan was to head for the forest edge wall where the going is easier. The cross wall higher up is easily scaled and we soon picked up a tractor track along the flanks of Craig Aberserw, a hill of daunting rock and heather terraces, and there were good views across to Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr. At the next cross wall a good track comes in on the line of the bridleway and makes a fine walk to the ruins of Cefn-carn and a footbridge over the Afon Gamlan, with Y Garn towering ahead.
The next short section SE to the forest edge is confusing to say the least, a muddle of ruined buildings and overgrown low walls, bogs, boulders, heathery knolls and sapling trees. Confidence was initially high as we walked easily through one ruin but we had to circumvent a man-eating bog at the end. Another bog barred the direct way SE and we picked our way S up the rough slopes to reach the forest road, turning L to the forest edge wall. There is just a hint of a trodden line along the edge and the wall must be crossed a little higher up to follow the edge of the trees. There is now a thin but clear path to assist progress, and where the wall tops out there is an easy final climb on short grass and rock to the summit cairn. Y Garn is a superb panoramic viewpoint but the haze severely muted the scene today.
Descending SE to a wall junction and ladder stile, a good path appears that leads to another stile and the S ridge. It is an easy and pleasant walk on the L of the wall, traversing a small rise and past some craggy outcrops to a ruined building. Just beyond is a ladder stile on the crossing public footpath where we turned L to follow it over the shoulder of Foel Ispri and down to the buildings. This is the start of the New Precipice Walk, an excellent contouring track that gives splendid views over the estuary to the imposing shape of Bryn Brith. Further along the lower R fork passes some ruined buildings to a ladder stile into the forest, and confusion reigned again: the direct descent footpath no longer exists, the path descends along the pecked line on the map eastwards then turns sharply around SW to a footbridge over the stream lower down. With no choice but to follow the waymarks in the gloom, it was a matter of faith but eventually the path arrives at newly constructed steps down to Ty-nant on the A496. There are notices here about the free-range pigs that are kept on the lower wooded slopes. A short walk along the grass verge of the road brought us back to Llanelltyd.