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The Upper Tanat / 2 days / 25 miles (40km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 05 Jul 2004
Start / Finish: Penybontfawr on the B4391/B4396. Good roadside parking on the B4396 a short way from the road junction. Also a free car park and public toilets.
Maps: Explorer 239: Llyn Efyrnwy.

Day 1Rhialgwm & Cyrniau y Llyn13 miles / 3200 feet (20.9km / 975m)
Day 2Cyrniau Nod & Blaen y Cwm12 miles / 1560 feet (19.3km / 475m)

A circuit around the Upper Tanat valley taking in the Marilyn Rhialgwm and the fine but little frequented waterfall of Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm. The original plan was to return to Penybontfawr via Pistyll y Gyfyng and Gareg Fawr, but lack of time forced us to take the lane and road route. This was due to the very slow and arduous descent of Cyrniau Nod and the blocking of a previously accessible exit at Pennant Melangell.

Day 1 - Rhialgwm & Cyrniau y Llyn

From Penybontfawr the Fford Goed lane climbs S and becomes a bridleway that climbs steeply through the forest to emerge at a stile. Turning L and climbing to the corner, the bridleway reenters the forest but we turned R to follow the edge along the ridge, over Fedw Fawr and some minor humps to arrive at Clawdd Mawr. Keeping R on a path by the forest edge, where the ground levels out beyond the corner we struck out L for a short trackless climb to the trig point on Rhialgwm, with distant views in all directions.

View East from Rhialgwm
View East from Rhialgwm (05 Jul 2004__10:41:49)
The Arans from Rhialgwm
The Arans from Rhialgwm (05 Jul 2004__10:44:19)

Returning to the forest corner, we descended along the edge and turned R at the next corner to a gate onto the mapped footpath, a track that leads out to a lane. The lane heads W to the B4396 and the Llyn Efyrnwy estate and a surfaced track. Forking L on the line of the bridleway, the map shows a second fork at 037215. We chose the R one - big mistake. Further on it is completely overgrown with thick brambles and saplings and is eventually impenetrable due to fallen trees. We had to climb very steeply through the dense trees to the track we could see on the map above our position. Arriving well prickled on the track, we collected excellent water at a crossing stream and headed N to emerge from the forest. The path heads to the small rocky hill of Fridd Fach and curves around its base to meet the Afon y Dolfau Gwynion. A track leads S on the rim of the valley overlooking a small lake to meet a lane at 016209.

Ffridd Fach & The Arans
Ffridd Fach & The Arans (05 Jul 2004__13:28:16)

Turning W, at the lane end opposite a farm drive, a footpath heads S to join the surfaced track running NW above Llyn Efyrnwy. We collected more very good water at a forest stream that crosses the track. Passing through the yard at Cedig, the track rapidly deteriorates as it approaches the forest edge and becomes very wet and muddy. We quickly abandoned it as soon as we saw a reasonable line directly up E to the high ground, which was a better strategy anyway as the clear distant views returned. Climbing to the high spot of Cyrniau y Llyn, we descended over rough trackless moor to the fence, where an unexpected area of excellent flat grass on the far side gave us our first breezy pitch.

Llyn Efyrnwy
Llyn Efyrnwy (05 Jul 2004__14:34:23)
Pitch near Cyrniau Llyn
Pitch near Cyrniau Llyn (05 Jul 2004__17:49:52)

Day 2 - Cyrniau Nod & Blaen y Cwm

Also unexpected in this turbulent and showery weather stream was a clear chilly night and a bright moon. Continuing N across the rather wet depression of Tap Carreg-hau, we reached the ridge fence. Turning W, a pathless and slow heathery walk along the fence undulates over a couple of minor rises, and a mown vehicle track on the L side materialises to assist progress for a while before giving up in boggy and haggy ground. We could find no trace of the mapped track at the depression at 993269, so we would have to descend directly from the summit. Arriving at the cairn on Cyrniau Nod, there were clear extensive views.

Dawn sky from tent pitch near Cyrniau y Llyn
Dawn sky from tent pitch near Cyrniau y Llyn (06 Jul 2004__04:55:46)
Llyn y Mynydd
Llyn y Mynydd (06 Jul 2004__06:47:38)
View South-East from Cyrniau Nod
View South-East from Cyrniau Nod (06 Jul 2004__08:33:21)

Now started the hard descent E. The terrain here is dreadful, dense heather and tussocks where every step must be tested before commiting weight to it. The brain desperately tries to perceive any easier line down but to no avail, it's all the same. Arriving at the stream, one might expect a sheep trod along the bank but apparently even they don't come here. However the water was excellent, cold and clear despite the overwhelming heather.

Pressing on along the stream and crossing the head of the cwm, we finally arrived at the head of Blaen y Cwm with a great view of the crags and downwards into the valley. The slanting path down the valley side can easily be seen ahead and we battled through a neck-high bracken field to reach it. At the far end, a permissive path hairpins back to the foot of the grand high waterfall of Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm at the valley head, which was deserted as on our last visit a few years ago. A great spot to linger for a rest and we did!.

Blaen y Cwm
Blaen y Cwm (06 Jul 2004__10:48:11)
Approaching Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm
Approaching Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm (06 Jul 2004__12:05:26)
Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm
Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm (06 Jul 2004__12:24:46)

We now took the smooth grassy track on the SW side of the valley that we had walked on our last visit, but just before Pistyll Cablyd, new notices have been erected that bar onward access through the property from this side. Consulting the map for a possible detour, there was no feasible way around and we had to return to the start of the permissive path and the bridleway to the road, which itself has been diverted away from Blaen-y-cwm farm and now meets the road further SE. By this time, we felt it was too late to follow the original plan to climb to Pistyll y Gyfyng and return on the high-level route, so we reluctantly called it a day and followed the lane to Llangynog and the road back to Penybontfawr.