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Northern Hirnants 2 days / 22 miles (36km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 15 Aug 2010
Start / Finish: Bala.
Maps: Explorer 23 Cadair Idris & Explorer 255 Llangollen and Berwyn.

Day 1Rhiwaedog-uwch-avon, Foel y Geifr ridge & Cyrniau Nod12.5miles / 3276 feet (20.1km / 998m)
Day 2Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd & Moel Cae-howel9.6miles / 991 feet (15.5km / 302m)

A return to the hills after a few weeks layoff, this was a 2-day circuit of the Northern Hirnant hills to pick up a couple of new Dewey 500m tops, also visiting several familiar 2000-feet summits. The outward route towards Foel Goch and the return from Bwlch y Fenni are the same as our Hirnants trip, as are some fragments of the core of the route, and a few bits of description have been taken from that trip.

Two dry days in a miserable August were just right for this short trip. The views on the first day were plagued by very hazy grey humid air that obscured the neighbouring hills until mid morning but conditions improved on the second day. The route is a mixture of very hard rough moorland and easy paths and tracks.

Day 1 - Rhiwaedog-uwch-avon, Foel y Geifr ridge & Cyrniau Nod

A lakeside path leaves the leisure centre at the Northern tip of the lake and emerges on the road near the Bala Lake railway station, where a footpath heads over the footbridge and up to the wood. I turned left on the track and right on a side track to join the footpath slanting up through the trees to the fields above. Where the footpath reaches Access land, I took a bearing to head south to the buildings of Cefn-ddwygraig. This spot was unrecognisable from last time I walked this line and I double checked the map: the saplings had grown into young trees and the track SW had been resurfaced, but all was well.

Climbing towards the upper forest, the cone of Foel Figenau appeared with the Arans beyond, now relieved of their mist mantle.

Hazy view to the Arans approaching the forest
Hazy view to the Arans approaching the forest (15 Aug 2010__10:40:14)

The waymarked forest path emerges at the open hillside with Foel Goch ahead, but first I turned left along the boundary footpath for the first 500m top of Rhiwaedog-uwch-avon. The path reenters the forest and descends a little to a waymark, where an old forest road climbs left to the rough moorland summit area. The 539m spot height is right on the road but the highest point is slightly off to the right, in any case there are no views at all due to the enveloping sitka while a forlorn old concrete plinth lies a short way north.

Summit area of Rhiwaedog-uwch-avon
Summit area of Rhiwaedog-uwch-avon (15 Aug 2010__11:37:10)

Returning to the open hillside, it was tempting to aim SSE directly for the opposite forest edge approaching Foel Goch, but this line would involve crossing the rough steep sided ravine of the Nant Bwlch-y-ffosle: to minimise loss of height it is easier to return along this forest boundary to the head of the stream and climb from there to the summit of rough moor marked by a tiny cairn. The views were dull but improved a little on the descent.

View back to Foel Goch
View back to Foel Goch (15 Aug 2010__12:46:23)

The thin peaty ridge path onwards to Trum y Gwrgedd and Foel y Geifr was unusually wet and I squelched every inch of the way to the trig point, the views having deteriorated again to grey skies and colour desaturated landscape. Only nearing the foot of the trackless descent eastwards did the sun break through again to give a hint of the pink and purple display that the flowering heather can produce at its best. Ascending the familiar track towards Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw there were quite good views back to the ridge.

Approaching Cwm Hirnant
Approaching Cwm Hirnant (15 Aug 2010__13:59:14)
View across Cwm Hirnant to Foel Goch
View across Cwm Hirnant to Foel Goch (15 Aug 2010__14:21:48)
View across Cwm Hirnant to Foel y Geifr
View across Cwm Hirnant to Foel y Geifr (15 Aug 2010__14:23:04)

The track gives an enjoyable and easy high promenade of around 3 miles through these heathery hills with spacious views. This time I bypassed Stac Rhos, the uncharismatic 2000' top that is literally half rough heather and half grass divided by a fence (I noticed on the latest 1:25,000 mapping that the sheep-grazed grassy half is not Access Land). The track meanders and dips its way around the shoulder of Foel Cedig, and just before turning abruptly left towards Y Groes Fagl, a path departs on the right bound for Cyrniau Nod. This greatly simplifies the walk to the summit, crossing a couple of wet peat groughs to the fence junction and following the adjoining fence to the cairn.

Having climbed Cyrniau Nod from all directions (all except this one being much rougher and tougher with no paths), this is one of the very few pitchable spots on the entire sprawl of the mountain I think. It was a good one too, and the views improved to accompany an alfresco evening meal in the cooling breeze.

View towards Stac Rhos & Foel Cedig from the track
View towards Stac Rhos & Foel Cedig from the track (15 Aug 2010__15:02:45)
Cyrniau Nod
Cyrniau Nod (15 Aug 2010__16:32:56)

Day 2 - Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd & Moel Cae-howel

A sunny dawn and a quite chilly northerly wind cleared the air and improved the views considerably. I packed up the kit and enjoyed a refreshing walk back to the track and onwards to join a good path to the wooden post atop the outlier of Y Groes Fagl.

Here the easy walking came to an abrupt end: I've made the moorland crossing to Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd twice before and I knew it was really rough, but this time it seemed a lot harder. I seem to be making that kind of observation more and more of late, it's probably me!. At any rate it took a long time to lurch my way through, over and round the tangled heather, tussocks and hags down to the bwlch and up to the waymark posts on the crossing bridleway.

From here I knew exactly the location of the thin path curving around to the lichen encrusted trig point, a grand viewpoint for distant mountains that makes me wonder why this top receives such bad press - maybe most people do a quick raid through dense heather from the east on a misty day and fail to capitalize on its merits. It was a fine spot to drop my pack for a bite to eat and enjoy the views in the sunshine.

Early view to the Arans from Cyrniau Nod
Early view to the Arans from Cyrniau Nod (16 Aug 2010__07:05:12)
The Arenigs from Y Groes Fagl
The Arenigs from Y Groes Fagl (16 Aug 2010__07:32:26)
View back to Y Groes Fagl from Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd
View back to Y Groes Fagl from Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd (16 Aug 2010__08:46:16)
View from Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd
View from Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd (16 Aug 2010__08:46:58)

The good path descending north westwards to the bridleway has become a little overgrown in many places since our last visit, but lower down near the forest was the biggest surprise: the bridleway itself, once very obvious, is all but invisible as far as the Nant Cwm-Hesgen save for a a few tiny fragments and is a wild mass of reeds and tussocky bog grasses. Once across the stream the line becomes easier as I remembered, but this time I left it to aim for a grassy clearing on the upper slopes of the very heathery and colourful Moel Cae-howel. I crested the first rise of Rhiwaedog-is-afon and crossed a tortuous dip to thrash my way through the thigh-deep heather to the summit. Here there was a mown patch to sit and rest and soak up the views.

View to the northern Arenigs from Moel Cae-howel
View to the northern Arenigs from Moel Cae-howel (16 Aug 2010__09:57:39)
The Arans from Moel Cae-howel
The Arans from Moel Cae-howel (16 Aug 2010__10:01:18)

The mown patch soon gave out and I descended more jungle-like heather to regain the fence, crossing it to gain a bare line of peat and stones on the south side that afforded an easy descent to the bridleway track to Bwlch y Fenni.

I turned left down the metalled track to the lane and crossed a bridge at 957327 to follow the footpath, a good farm track that climbs the W side of Cwm Hirnant to give views across to Foel Goch and Carnedd y Filiast. This emerges on the lane at Rhos-y-gwalia and the road to Bala.

View over Cwm Hirnant from Bwlch y Fenni road
View over Cwm Hirnant from Bwlch y Fenni road (16 Aug 2010__11:37:19)