|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 15 Jun 2010
Start / Finish: Rhydymain. Parking area at the NE end of the village just off the A494.
Maps: Explorer OL13 Cadair Idris.
|Day 1||Moel Cae'r-defaid to Cerrig yr Iwrch||6.8miles / 2468 feet (11.0km / 752m)|
|Day 2||Craig Dolfudr to Fridd yr Allt-lwyd||7.5miles / 1500 feet (12.1km / 457m)|
|Day 3||Rhobell Fawr||5.8miles / 1131 feet (9.3km / 344m)|
A new southern approach to the Arenigs range, exploring five new Dewey 500m tops and including a circuit around Waun y Griafolen, the huge shallow expanse of very rough wet moorland that lies at the heart of the region. The route also visits the two old favourites of Dduallt and Rhobell Fawr, the two Nuttall mountains of the southern quarter, and passes close to three other Dewey tops that we have climbed before but omitted on this circuit.
A route for lovers of solitude who desire to avoid the summer hordes, this was another of our 100% successes in that respect: in the entire backpack we saw absolutely nobody at all - literally, even from a far distance, despite the broad spacious views over the region. Even the valley at Cwm yr Allt-lwyd was deserted.
It was slightly surprising to find Dduallt and Rhobell Fawr completely devoid of walkers in such warm sunny weather, but not the tops that encircle Waun y Griafolen. Now this is one badass place for the foot soldier, a vast flatland of fearsome matted heather and tussocks with hidden bogs and trickling watercourses that mandates fine weather and a stoic frame of mind. By judicious choice of line for our crossing at the southern end, we encountered just a short section of this, and a serviceable path avoids most of the rough terrain on the higher ground of the periphery.
We crossed the road bridge over the Afon Eiddon and immediately turned R past the church to pick up the byway, a good track that arcs westwards to join the lane climbing northwards past Cefn-y-braich farm. Higher up the lane reverts to a surfaced byway and continues climbing around Cae'r Defaid farm. Just after a sign indicating the public footpath east, we left the byway on a vague grassy track ascending northwards into Fridd yr Hengwrt and Access Land via gates. There are grand views back over the Afon Wnion valley from here.
The vague track peters out but an easy climb NNE quickly gains the first top of Moel Cae'r-defaid. A broad grassy top is reached first and a small sharper rocky top lies just beyond, the latter seemed higher and a certainly a more satisfying crown.
The next summit Craig y Benglog lies only ½km of easy walking SE: the first field boundary to cross is an easy fence, but the second at the foot of the final slopes is a loosely built but substantial stone wall. With some careful gymnastics and balancing we crossed it without disturbance and climbed to the summit cairn, a good viewpoint over the Afon Wnion valley to Cadair Idris and onward to Dduallt, while the craggy whaleback shape of Rhobell Fawr rears up beyond the forest.
The descent NE to the bwlch of Bryniau Cogau is straightforward on the eastern side of the wall, the intervening cross wall having a welcome gap clearly visible from above. At the bwlch we crossed a fence and ascended northwards on the left side of the main stream flowing down from Dduallt. This is a beautifully remote and wild location that shows no visible sign of previous walkers at all, a fine spot to rest a while in the warm sunshine.
Arriving at a gate by an old stone sheepfold, we began the ascent of the south ridge of Dduallt, a rough start with rampant heather but soon becoming easier, although the terrain is totally trackless. Meeting a fence further up, we crossed it to seek out the pair of pools that we have spied from above on previous visits: they were smaller than expected but presented a pleasing foreground to the summit rockpile of Dduallt. Another delightful spot to linger a while for a bite to eat.
Rejoining the fence, a short climb gains the summit of Dduallt, now sadly missing the beautifully sculptured small cairn that we remember from a previous visit. This is one of the few mountain tops we recall that is both rocky and liberally endowed with heather and bogs, while the nodding white heads of cotton grass abound. The views are extensive over Cwm yr Allt-lwyd to northern Snowdonia, while closer to hand are the northern Arenigs and the Aran ridge.
The north ridge of Dduallt gives the first aerial view of the vast flat expanse of Waun y Griafolen. Near the bottom of the ridge we crossed the fence and descended a grassy breach to the abrupt foot of the steep east face to stand on the shore of the formidable ocean of heather and tussocks. It pays to study the lie of the land during the descent while it's clearly visible: there are some prominent meandering lines of dense reeds and paler rough grasses that mark the narrow watercourses. The few scattered sheep that eke out a living here habitually walk the banks of these for water and have forged a usable trod of sorts on the very edges of the channels, at any rate it's much easier than the very arduous tangled morass between them.
One can't escape all of it however. To reach the first watercourse we took a deep breath and set off very slowly eastwards towards an old metal gate in the first fence, the type of crossing where every few steps are carefully planned, and after what seems like an age we looked back and saw that we have covered about 50 yards. Miles are not normal miles here, they are Arenig miles!. From the gate we veered left to the main watercourse and followed the more civilized sheep trods along the channel to reach an easier but wetter section to the central fence of the crossing. This spot exudes a spellbinding feeling of isolation and remoteness.
We crossed the fence and turned right SE along the margins between the boggy ground and the heather until we reached the gentle slopes of Cerrig yr Iwrch, an easy climb at last to our pitch location, an excellent one of soft dry grass with the two main Arenigs in the background.
Dduallt, the 'Black Height', derives its name from the dark menacing appearance of the steep east face in shadow, but the early sunshine today presented the mountain in a less foreboding light while bringing the first rays to the plain below. There was no breeze at all and it was already warm - and the damned midges were in the air, the first significant menace this year, time to quicken the pace of packing up our kit and get moving sharpish.
We walked the ridge NE along the fence and turned NW to cross the shallow valley at the saddle to climb to Cerrig Chwibanog, the craggy southern face of the Craig Dolfudr plateau and sporting its own little cairn. From here we were really surprised to discover a distinct path curving around the plateau edge, passing a prominent cairn on the eastern side and affording great views, and later joining a fence. At SH 828307 we left the fence to climb past a small upright marker stone to a small hump and onwards to the flank of Craig Dolfudr, a short detour from the path gaining the rather flat unmarked summit of rough heather and rock.
The next objective is Craig Dolfudr North Top, the more compact and obvious dome ahead and so named for convenience despite being 1m higher. We returned to the path for an easy walk down to a gate at the bwlch and a short climb onto the flank of the hill, a lovely walk that gave a splendid view back across the length of Waun y Griafolen to Dduallt at the southern end. The cairned summit is a grand vantage point for Moel Llyfnant and Arenig Fawr across the Lliw valley.
Our route was westwards but our luck with the path quickly deserted us. We made a slow and very rough descent NW to reach easier ground above Clogwyn Carreg yr Hollt and continued westwards where another good path appeared from nowhere to cross a tiny stream and join the line of the footpath coming up from Pennant Lliw. This clear line climbs gradually below the rocky eastern edge of Mynydd Bryn-llech but quickly fades as it traverses the slope southwards, and after a while we abandoned the line and climbed the rough slope westwards to a saddle where the footpath passes through a fence.
We followed the fence SW over the rough moor to the wet bwlch before the next top Fridd yr Allt-lwyd, a pleasing spot to absorb the atmosphere of this unfrequented region.
The fence ascending SW to Fridd yr Allt-lwyd is a barbed wire job, gingerly crossed to reach the rough, unmarked and unremarkable moorland summit that just attains 500m. We descended SE past a little craggy knoll to reach easy terrain at the line of the public footpath, which is non-existent on the ground, and headed directly for the mine track that slants down the steep slope of Allt Lwyd with good aerial views down along the cwm and back to the upper Afon Mawddach.
From the buildings at Allt-lwyd we took the track across the valley, crossing the Afon Mawddach via a bridge not shown on the map, and walked along the access track to the road head in Cwm yr Allt-lwyd. A footpath zigzags uphill towards the impressive rocky tower of Rhobell-y-big, another top we have climbed before but bypassed today. Once on the high ground we located a pitch spot and called it a day.
We set off under cloudy skies and crossed the ladder stile in the first wall that separates the grassland from the rougher upper terrain, initially following vague fragments of a path on the line of the right-of-way and later climbing over the shoulder of Rhobell Ganol tightly below its rocky ramparts - this is much easier than the dense heather and tussocks of the wide boggy depression below to the east. Some early glimpses of sun were brightening the scene as we started to climb the easy northern slopes of Rhobell Fawr, a good vantage point to survey this wild trackless spot.
An easy ascent of the crag-studded upper slopes brought us to the ladder stile below the summit trig point with a good view of Y Garn and the Rhinog chain. Recrossing the stile and descending eastwards to the second wall, a section where we seem to take a different line every time, we noticed a new ladder stile. We crossed it and were immediately faced with a steep wall of rock and shattered boulders. Walking northwards we found a way down and located the familiar fence that marks the easiest descent to the gate onto the forest road.
The forest road provides an easy return to the byway above Cae'r Defaid farm to rejoin the outward route.