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A Hebog circuit 2 days / 9 miles (15km)

OS Route Map → Map Route file →

Date: 18 Jan 2011
Start / Finish: Beddgelert. Free car park.
Maps: Explorer OL17 Snowdon & Conwy Valley + OL18 Harlech & Bala or Harvey Superscale Snowdonia.

Day 1Moel Hebog & Cwm Cyd2.8miles / 2436 feet (4.5km / 742m)
Day 2Bryn Banog & Moel-ddu6.0miles / 1430 feet (9.7km / 435m)
Turbulent clouds from Moel Hebog

A short winter 2-day circuit of Moel Hebog and the hills and cwms to the south, including a first ascent of the 553m Moel-ddu, a Marilyn/Dewey top that has eluded us twice before. The outward line is the popular north-eastern approach from Beddgelert, our first ascent via this path, and the return is via Cwm Oerddwr and the excellent riverside path through the Pass of Aberglaslyn. Moel-ddu is tackled as an out-and-back from Cwm Oerddwr: we could see no satisfactory direct continuation to Nantmor.

Our first backpack of 2011, this modest route designed for the short January days felt harder than the figures suggest despite the disappearance of the recent snow and ice and we had little time to spare. The intermittent heavy clouds of the first day gave dramatic skies and cleared away to leave a calm moonlit night on the hills and splendid clarity for the second day with a weak inversion as a bonus.

Day 1 - Moel Hebog & Cwm Cyd

From the car park on the north side of the river Moel Hebog towered formidably above, its summit hidden in the cloud. A short walk west along the A4085 is the private road and bridleway that crosses the river and a loop of the Welsh Highland railway to arrive at some buildings, where a gate on the right gives access to the open hillside. The path trends westwards and turns to face a relentless ascent of the NE ridge towards the crags of Y Diffwys looming above: some of the little rocky clambers in the upper section were covered in slimy algae but easily bypassed. The true summit loomed even higher beyond but the trig point eventually came into view when the cloud intermittently cleared.

Turbulent clouds from ascent of Moel Hebog
Turbulent clouds from ascent of Moel Hebog (18 Jan 2011__12:08:40)
Moel yr Ogof from Moel Hebog
Moel yr Ogof from Moel Hebog (18 Jan 2011__13:33:49)

The cold northerly wind and cloud gave little incentive to linger and we hastened southwards to the edge of the eastern crags to locate the familiar breach in the mountain's eastern defences, a steep descent almost entirely on grass winding through the rocks. The views and clarity began to improve on the way down and this time we arrived wobbly-kneed a little south of the small pools at the foot with enough time to relax a little and find a pitch spot.

Cnicht & the Moelwynion from descent of Moel Hebog
Cnicht & the Moelwynion from descent of Moel Hebog (18 Jan 2011__14:58:08)
Bryn Banog from descent of Moel Hebog
Bryn Banog from descent of Moel Hebog (18 Jan 2011__15:15:57)
Pitch in Cwm Cyd
Pitch in Cwm Cyd (18 Jan 2011__15:58:40)

Day 2 - Bryn Banog & Moel-ddu

The glow of moonlight through the night raised expectations of a clear day and we opened the frost-stiffened door to a calm silent landscape of sparkling white grass and bleached rock. The colours developed in the eastern sky for a warming sunrise with inverted cloud in the valleys below.

Dawn sky from pitch in Cwm Cyd
Dawn sky from pitch in Cwm Cyd (19 Jan 2011__08:09:24)
Dawn sky from pitch in Cwm Cyd
Dawn sky from pitch in Cwm Cyd (19 Jan 2011__08:14:08)

We packed up the kit and set off for a splendid easy walk through Cwm Cyd towards the shoulder of Bryn Banog, an elongated top of grass and rock that is a joy to walk in such excellent conditions with fine views and shifting ribbons of inverted cloud below the peaks.

Yr Wyddfa & Moel Siabod from Cwm Cyd
Yr Wyddfa & Moel Siabod from Cwm Cyd (19 Jan 2011__08:47:46)
View to Moel Siabod & Ysgafell Wen range
View to Moel Siabod & Ysgafell Wen range (19 Jan 2011__08:49:01)
Inversion below Moel-ddu
Inversion below Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__08:54:20)
Yr Wyddfa range & Nantgwynant from Bryn Banog
Yr Wyddfa range & Nantgwynant from Bryn Banog (19 Jan 2011__09:32:57)
Moel Eilio range from Bryn Banog
Moel Eilio range from Bryn Banog (19 Jan 2011__09:33:17)
View to the Lleyn hills from Bryn Banog
View to the Lleyn hills from Bryn Banog (19 Jan 2011__09:44:04)

Descending Bryn Banog on the west side of the wall, the broad boggy plain between here and Moel-ddu is circumnavigated by a grassy path on firmer ground well away from the wall. The public footpath gains the steep lower slopes of Moel-ddu via a gate and follows the wall along to an external corner: here we turned left uphill to continue ESE alongside the wall towards the rocky summit cone (there is a gate in the stout cross-wall at the lowest point). Moel-ddu has two cairned tops: at the saddle between them a ladder stile gives access to the higher 553m rocky top on the north side of the wall. As expected for a sharp isolated Marilyn top, this is a grand viewpoint and all the better for a superbly clear winter day.

Moel Hebog & old quarries from foot of Moel-ddu
Moel Hebog & old quarries from foot of Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__10:37:37)
Bryn Banog from foot of Moel-ddu
Bryn Banog from foot of Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__10:42:05)
Llyn Cwmystradllyn & Lleyn hills
Llyn Cwmystradllyn & Lleyn hills (19 Jan 2011__11:11:45)
View from Moel-ddu
View from Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__11:57:23)
View from Moel-ddu
View from Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__11:58:21)
View from Moel-ddu
View from Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__11:58:41)
Lleyn hills from Moel-ddu
Lleyn hills from Moel-ddu (19 Jan 2011__11:59:18)

We retraced our route back around the boggy plain and approached the public footpath ladder stile in the wall from the north side on solid terrain. The map shows no sign of a path on the ground but there is initially a discernible line approaching Llyn Oerddwr, an appealing pocket of wild Wales.

Llyn Oerddwr
Llyn Oerddwr (19 Jan 2011__13:35:30)

The footpath becomes a bridleway on the map as it turns north by the lake and the intermittent line all but disappears on the ground, but it's simply a matter of walking generally north-eastwards to pick up the wall heading down towards Aberglaslyn. Crossing a track and turning R through the short ruined walls behind the small hump of Pen y gaer, careful mapwork is needed to follow the line of the footpath which briefly loses itself just beyond in a wet tussocky area beside a stream, but its course is true to the map and it reasserts itself as it approaches the wooded slopes above Aberglaslyn Hall. It finally enters a walled track and descends to the A498 and Pont Aberglaslyn.

The rocky path beside the thunderous Afon Glaslyn is a splendid finale to the route, ending with a quiet riverside stroll to the footbridge into Beddgelert.