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Blaenau Ffestiniog hills & lakes / 3 days / 21 miles (34km)

OS Route Map → Map Route file →

Date: 18 Sep 2008
Start / Finish: Tanygrisiau. Small free car park 686450.
Maps: Explorer OL17 Snowdon Conwy and & OL18 Harlech & Bala areas.

Day 1The Allt-fawr group7.1 miles / 2580 feet (11.4km / 786m)
Day 2Moel Dyrnogydd to Llyn Bryn-du7.6 miles / 2120 feet (12.2km / 646m)
Day 3Cwm Teigl & Manod Bach6.3 miles / 1010 feet (10.2km / 307m)

Another circuit of the hills and lakes around Blaenau Ffestiniog, including several previously unvisited 500m tops from the Dewey list and some new lakes to add new ground to explore in this lovely area, one of our favourites.

This route turned out to be a good choice for the conditions: the first spell of dry weather for ages but with variable amounts of cloud and mist at high levels and often hazy distant views. The walk concentrates particularly on the plentiful lakes and includes some wild, tough but beautiful landscape and local industrial heritage from the old quarries. The ground was often very wet from the excessive accumulated rain but it couldn't dampen the spirit with jewels like these, you just get used to the squelching noise after a while!.

Day 1 - The Allt-fawr group

A footpath leads from among the slate houses of Tanygrisiau to the visitor centre and the ascending access road to Stwlan dam, and at the small car park we crossed the road bridge to the E side of the river and took the track past the attractive falls to Llyn Cwmorthin quarry. One of the old tracks forks R uphill and near its end we took to the pathless slopes for a steep but otherwise easy climb to the first summit Craig Nyth-y-gigfran. The rise at the eastern end along a rocky rib appeared highest, and the rib had a very deep and narrow transverse fissure that was partly overhung by heather, a potential trap for the unwary. The ascent gave good views over the lake and valley and across to Moel-yr-hydd and Foel Ddu.

Llyn Cwmorthin with Moel-yr-hydd & Foel Ddu
Llyn Cwmorthin with Moel-yr-hydd & Foel Ddu (18 Sep 2008__09:59:57)

The ascent to Allt-fawr is initially on easy grass with a faint path and crosses a flattish wet area to an attractive pool and onto the the rocky rib of the summit. This is the dominant height of the group and there is a fine view of the neighbouring hills on a clear day, although dulled by the thick haze today. Descending towards Llyn Conglog we passed to the R of the nameless lake to its N below Moel Druman and left the path to walk around and above the northern shore. At the western end there is another nameless lake just beyond and we passed between them to follow its L side.

Llyn Cwm-corsiog comes into view below with its dam at the southern end and Cnicht ridge rising beyond. Here the water weed had elegantly streamed out at the surface to form artistic patterns against the deep blue of the lake. We saw groups of tiny figures walking along Cnicht but this area was deserted as usual.

Moel Druman
Moel Druman (18 Sep 2008__11:48:52)
Llyn Conglog & Allt Fawr
Llyn Conglog & Allt Fawr (18 Sep 2008__12:17:09)
Llyn Cwm-corsiog & Cnicht
Llyn Cwm-corsiog & Cnicht (18 Sep 2008__12:27:25)
Llyn Cwm-corsiog & water weed patterns
Llyn Cwm-corsiog & water weed patterns (18 Sep 2008__12:43:08)
Llyn Cwm-corsiog
Llyn Cwm-corsiog (18 Sep 2008__12:45:34)

Climbing SW over a small rise are Llynnau Diffwys, a joined pair of lakes we have not explored before and they met all expectations, every bit as beautiful and secluded as they appeared from above on our walks on Cnicht. After our exploration we returned to Llyn Cwm-corsiog and continued NE along the L side of the valley above the outflow stream from Llyn Terfyn.

Llynnau Diffwys
Llynnau Diffwys (18 Sep 2008__13:59:34)
North end of Llyn Cwm-corsiog
North end of Llyn Cwm-corsiog (18 Sep 2008__14:27:27)

The familiar lakes of Llyn Terfyn and Llyn Coch were heartwarming old friends as we passed them to climb to Moel Druman and take one last look back to the lakes. From the lake below there is a thin but clear contouring path along the flanks of Allt-fawr to the foot of our last objective Iwerddon, which I had noted as a new 500m top for us but in fact we quickly realised that we had traversed it before. The modern quarry wasteland of Blaenau lies below but we made an excellent pitch out of sight of it, but not out of range of its regular hooters and sirens - I suppose the local people are used to it!.

Iwerddon from Allt Fawr
Iwerddon from Allt Fawr (18 Sep 2008__15:58:57)
Tent pitch on Iwerddon
Tent pitch on Iwerddon (18 Sep 2008__16:41:03)

Day 2 - Moel Dyrnogydd to Llyn Bryn-du

There was quite a lot of mist on the high mountains early on, but once again we were blessed with dramatic and rapidly changing colourful skies on this summit as the sun fought the battle against the clouds. The presence of the next objective Moel Dyrnogydd is somewhat marred by the scruffy telegraph posts that skirt its lower flanks, but once through those Llyn Dyrnogydd made a good foreground from its shore. A ladder stile near the outflow gives access to the hill and the ascent is straightforward alongside a fence, the summit giving an aerial view of the Crimea Pass. This is a prominent hill we have always noticed when driving over the pass and always forgotten to look up on the map on returning home.

Early sun breaks through the mist
Early sun breaks through the mist (19 Sep 2008__07:41:31)
Moel Dyrnogydd from Iwerddon
Moel Dyrnogydd from Iwerddon (19 Sep 2008__08:02:18)
Llyn Dyrnogydd & Moel Dyrnogydd
Llyn Dyrnogydd & Moel Dyrnogydd (19 Sep 2008__08:22:18)

Bearing slightly L down the northern slopes we joined the good quarry track that leads out to the A470. The bulk of the major road works are now finished but disappointingly there is still no stile onto the access land beyond the barbed wire fence to continue the obvious line on the other side. As on previous visits we walked along to the car park where the fence can be negotiated at the northern end. We have passed Moel Farlwyd several times en route to the reservoirs but this time we climbed the pathless but straightforward slopes to the summit, which is a grand viewpoint.

An easy descent and steep climb further gains the top of Moel Penamnen, marked by a shallow pile of slates - everything near Blaenau is made of local slate, even the cairns.

View from Moel Farlwyd
View from Moel Farlwyd (19 Sep 2008__10:53:43)
Llynnau Barlwyd from Moel Penamnen
Llynnau Barlwyd from Moel Penamnen (19 Sep 2008__11:31:25)

An easy brisk walk along the grassy top leads to the wetter environs of the forest edge, where several discernible paths try to find the driest line around the trees to the stile at the far end. The area beyond is pathless and even wetter at first, but heading SE we came to the top of a little rocky gulley where a path appears that is marked on the map. It is clear for a short way but quickly becomes very vague and all but disappears, but the going is drier and easier and we reached the forest corner at the edge of the disused Rhiw-bach quarry.

The terrain at the edge is very rough and wet, and the easiest way was to cross the small stream and walk atop a grassy embankment alongside the fence to where the public footpath reaches the quarry edge at SH739463 (the path shown on the map is a figment of a fertile imagination). Here we climbed up a gulley between two slate spoil heaps to a fence and followed it R to the chimney where there is a ladder stile into the quarry interior. An excellent track heads eastwards, through the old slate buildings and down an incline to cross the stream and enter the forest. On the far side, the ruined dam is just that: it's so far gone that it is no help in crossing the stream, but fortunately we forded the wide shallow waters gingerly without wet feet.

We expected the slopes southwards from here to be rough pathless heather, and they were: it was a tiring and slow ascent but we made steady progress and finally gained the wild heartland at the deep blue of Llyn y Frithgraig, another new lake for us.

Llyn y Frithgraig
Llyn y Frithgraig (19 Sep 2008__15:57:32)

This was a spot to linger a while, soaking up the atmosphere before working out a continuation route. We decided to head south-eastwards for Llyn Bryn-du for a pitch, following the line of a small stream on the map: this is a colourful and beautiful shallow valley with the contrasting heather, tussocky grass and emerald green bogs, but strikingly wild and totally trackless, unfrequented even by sheep and hard going, yet very satisfying.

Llyn Bryn-du was a welcome sight as we rounded a corner by a rocky outcrop, and we started noting possible pitches: there would not be many good spots here, almost everywhere is either horrendous tussocky vegetation or very wet and boggy (or both). We clambered above the heather to get an elevated photo and descended to the shore for a more intimate portrait, and we captured them in the nick of time: just 15 minutes after these sunny pictures and good general views, and before we had pitched the tent, all was dull, dank and grey and we couldn't even see the other side of the lake. The pitch was superbly comfortable though against all the odds, if a bit squelchy in and around the porch.

Valley between Llyn y Frithgraig and Llyn Bryn-du
Valley between Llyn y Frithgraig and Llyn Bryn-du (19 Sep 2008__16:57:05)
Y Clochdu & Graig Goch & Llyn Bryn-du
Y Clochdu & Graig Goch & Llyn Bryn-du (19 Sep 2008__17:20:24)
Llyn Bryn-du & Y Clochdu
Llyn Bryn-du & Y Clochdu (19 Sep 2008__17:22:36)

Day 3 - Cwm Teigl & Manod Bach

A very mild night confirmed the worst: the blanket of cloud and thick mist was still there as we opened the door in the morning - yuk, so much for the sunrise photos over the lake. This obviously wasn't shifting any time soon, so we donned our gaiters - wisely packed in anticipation - and descended SW a short way to the fence corner, taking a very wet path southwards to the ruined building near Llynnau Gamallt. A good path follows a wall W to an old level in a shallow valley and fades as it climbs out the other side, but is marked at intervals by small quartz white stones. Crossing a track at a ladder stile, we continued down steeply to the byway road in Cwm Teigl as the mist showed signs of thinning.

Cwm Teigl
Cwm Teigl (20 Sep 2008__09:53:20)

A short walk down the road is the stile onto the signed path that ascends very gradually around the base of Manod Mawr: this is one of those Welsh jokes, a field or two further on there is a waymark and stile that are almost invisible behind an expanse of tall dense reeds and in the middle of a bog. It's not too bad really and eventually the line arrives at the bend in the access track to a farm, and just before the farm buildings a grassy track branches off R to climb around to Llyn y Manod. The driest line is against the fence and there is a gate at the shore giving access to the hillside.

Llyn y Manod
Llyn y Manod (20 Sep 2008__10:51:31)

A short sharp ascent westwards alongside a wall and an easier climb northwards gain the cairn on Manod Bach, which has an aerial view of Blaenau below showing the extent of the industrial ravaging of the landscape surrounding the town. There is a second rise to the N which is presumably not prominent enough to have a ring contour. At the foot of the northern slopes is a barbed fence but there is a smooth crossing point into the disused quarry area between the upper and lower inclines. The lower incline leads all the way down to a stile onto the A470 at Bethania, initially following a stream, and we walked through Blaenau to pick up the local road out to Tanygrisiau.

View from Manod Bach
View from Manod Bach (20 Sep 2008__11:22:30)