|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 21 Jul 2012
Start / Finish: Llanfor.
Maps: Explorer 018 : Harlech Porthmadog & Y Bala.
|Day 1||Moel Emoel & Foel Goch||6.7miles / 2116 feet (10.8km / 645m)|
|Day 2||Pen y Bwlch Gwyn||4.3miles / 224 feet (6.9km / 68m)|
A short 2-day circuit of the north eastern sector of the Arenigs, a compact group of hills north of Bala whose luminary Foel Goch just breaks the 2000' contour.
Weatherwise this was the first decent couple of days for weeks following the wettest June and July on record, it was also a weekend at the start of the holiday season: even the relatively little trodden areas would be suspect now. Time to peruse the map and seek out a really forsaken corner of Wales that hardly ever sees visitors, and this isolated group containing a few unclimbed Dewey 500m tops was ideal. A simple flexible route plan was quickly devised beginning at the small village of Llanfor, and our expectations were fulfilled: the whole area was totally deserted.
The first day was quite dull and the poor light drained the landscape of contrast, but the clarity improved greatly overnight and the dawn skies all around at the tent pitch were superb.
Whilst kitting up we noticed that the Grade II listed St. Mor's church in Llanfor is up for sale, a property that we later discovered includes the main building, lychgate and hearse house but excludes the churchyard owned by the local community council. Declining old village churches seem to be common in Wales on our travels, adding a subtle reminder to the prevalent feeling that the world is going to hell in a handcart!.
We set off northwards up the narrow lane in a chilly valley mist that began to clear as we reached the continuation byway through the wooded area at Pwll-clai. Remembering from a previous visit that the footpath NNW through Penmaen is nonexistent on the ground and requires a battle with fallen trees and a swamp, we took the farm track NE to reach the forest road in Coed Foel-Emoel and followed this back NW to the forest edge and the access land. From the forest road there was a good bright view towards Y Bala and the Arans with the remnants of the mist above Llyn Tegid.
A track ascends to a gate and a view of Llyn Maen Bras. Just beyond we ascended eastwards towards the south ridge of Moel Emoel, a trackless but otherwise easy climb as the views opened out to the northern Arenigs and Llyn Celyn but the brightness quickly waned under a greyish white milky sky. Climbing northwards to the 549m top and cairn, it became clear that there was barely a trace of a path on this hill, a very pleasing viewpoint even in these muted conditions.
Surveying the bowl ahead and descending the northern slopes, we decided to contour around the fan of streams towards the south ridge of Foel Goch, aiming for the little rocky outcrop of Cae'r Ceiliog at the bwlch near Moel Darren. This is a trackless traverse of rough moorland grasses and sphagnum save for occasional very vague fragments of a quadbike line, rather boggy at times too, but with a pervading sense of isolation especially at the small steeply incised ravines where the two main streams meet.
An easy pathless climb out to the bwlch and ascent of the south ridge brought us to the trig point, cairn and boundary stone of Foel Goch, not showing its best as a viewpoint today under greyish skies but clear enough to see its potential including the Hiraethog hills and Llyn Brenig to the north.
Being a 2000' top and climbed far more than any other hill hereabouts, there is a bit of a path traversing the top east to west, and we followed a familiar line westwards towards Garnedd Fawr, another 500m top that we climbed on an earlier visit. Before the final rise we turned SW over the shoulder on the line of the footpath, now accompanied intermittently by a vague track in the grass. Shortly after the boggy bwlch we climbed a short way towards Pen y Bwlch Gwyn and made our pitch.
After a brief shower in the night and the predicted development of a chilly fresh wind, the dawn sky presented a dramatic sight in all directions: the scale of the swirling knotted structure of the cloud layers had a grandeur not appreciated from photos and the clarity had much improved.
Initially we took a direct line up the spongey grass towards Pen y Bwlch Gwyn but quickly spotted that the intervening fence was barbed wire. Not wishing to indulge in dodgy gymnastics, we resumed the improving line of the track as far as a gate from which a quadbike track ascended towards the broad top. The 502m summit is not in doubt but is unmarked, giving good clear views of the Arenigs in particular.
We returned alongside the next fence to the track and continued southwards almost to the bwlch before Moel Emoel, where the line swings right and back left through a boggy area near a prominent boulder. Llyn Maen Bras and Llyn Tegid come back into view with the Arans, Cadair Idris and Dduallt on show down this attractive deserted valley. At an inflow stream to Llyn Maen Bras, a ladder stile is provided to cross a fence (not shown on the map) to the left side avoiding a wide reedy bog, and shortly afterwards we joined the inward route at the access land gate.