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The Hirnants / 3 days / 32 miles (52km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 15 Aug 2005
Start / Finish: Bala. Parking on the main street or town car park.
Maps: Explorer 23 Cadair Idris & Explorer 255 Llangollen and Berwyn.

Day 1Foel Goch to Moel y Cerrig Duon9.5 miles / 2690 feet (15.3km / 819m)
Day 2Pistyll Rhyd-y-meinciau & Cefn Gwyntog11.3 miles / 2300 feet (18.2km / 700m)
Day 3Cyrniau Nod & Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd11 miles / 1175 feet (17.7km / 358m)

A hard backpack of the remote Hirnant mountains, one of our seldom trodden haunts to escape to solitude in Summer. Total tranquility and spacious views in wild Wales at the expense of tough terrain, and an ascent by a superb waterfall.

Day 1 - Foel Goch to Moel y Cerrig Duon

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 up to the wood. The morning mist was almost down to lake level as we climbed to the wood and turned L on the track then R up through the wood. In the fields above it suddenly began to clear and the Arenig ridge dramatically appeared across the lake. At the buildings at Cefn-ddwycraig, the trees are felled and a track heads SW from a ladder stile. Ignoring the first side track L, a waymark later indicates the route that climbs around SE to the forest proper. Two forestry workers were chainsawing the side branches adjoining the good path through the trees, which emerges at the open hillside with Foel Goch ahead.

Turning R along the forest edge, we crossed a damp depression and followed a faint tractor track up the slopes until it petered out. Skirting some minor bumps on the rough moor, the summit of Foel Goch is marked by a few stones and the views open out. A thin path traverses the ridge over Trum y Gwrgedd to the trig point on Foel y Geifr, and the broad ridge curves ahead.

The Arenigs from Foel y Geifr
The Arenigs from Foel y Geifr (15 Aug 2005__12:45:19)

Here the path ends. We could see a faint tractor track by the fence in the distance but no trace nearer to hand, so we set off SW along the fence then S towards the Ffos Ddu stream confluence and the start of this track. The going was very rough moor, a dense blanket of tussocks and heather that made progress arduous and slow. At one point we found a deep peat channel that made it easier for a short way, but it became neck-deep and narrow until we were almost wedged, requiring a reversal and climbing out. Eventually we reached the ravine of Ffos Ddu, the source of the Afon Nadroedd, an attractive spot where we rested and collected good water.

The Nant Nadroedd Fawr
The Nant Nadroedd Fawr (15 Aug 2005__13:42:13)

Climbing out to the track, it was little more than wheel marks but significantly easier than the surrounding moor. When this petered out, we picked our way along more rough moor to the cross fence and descended to Carreg Clap, the headwaters of the Nant Eiddew Fawr. This was not nearly as boggy as expected and we saw another apparent track ascending the slopes of Moel y Cerrig Duon. This was virtually no better than the virgin moor, but it was something to follow and provided as good a line as any, and a slow tiring climb brought us to easy going near the summit, marked by a cairn and post. There were grand views W to the Snowdonia mountains with the Aran ridge dominating the scene, and we made our pitch.

Foel y Geifr from Moel y Cerrig Duon
Foel y Geifr from Moel y Cerrig Duon (15 Aug 2005__16:24:49)
Pitch on Moel y Cerrig Duon
Pitch on Moel y Cerrig Duon (15 Aug 2005__17:20:44)

Day 2 - Pistyll Rhyd-y-meinciau & Cefn Gwyntog

The morning was misted out but suddenly cleared as we were packing, leaving fragments of mist in the valleys and clear blue sky. We descended SW on a path to a gate at the bwlch, then directly SE to the narrow pass road over pathless but easy grass and reeds. The walk down the valley above the Eunant Fawr to Llyn Efyrnwy was very pleasant in the early sun, and the last of the mist was lifting above the Lake. The walk N along the shore road was soon done and we arrived at the car park (portaloo toilets but alas no bins).

Dawn sky over Llyn Efyrnwy
Dawn sky over Llyn Efyrnwy (16 Aug 2005__06:34:05)
Dawn light on the Arans
Dawn light on the Arans (16 Aug 2005__07:02:01)
The Eunant valley
The Eunant valley (16 Aug 2005__08:12:02)
Llyn Efyrnwy from Pont Eunant
Llyn Efyrnwy from Pont Eunant (16 Aug 2005__08:52:12)

The main objective of today was the waterfall of Pistyll Rhyd-y-meinciau, reached by a signed well maintained path on the S side of the river (not shown on the map). We had never heard of this and were not expecting much, but as we rounded the corner our jaws dropped - foaming water was pouring from a cleft in the cwm rim high above the valley and falling in multiple levels. This was a summer dry spell, so it must be a superb sight when in spate. The path crosses a footbridge to the foot of the falls and we assessed the possibility of climbing up alongside, the best way to appreciate a waterfall. The R side did not look inviting at all but by easily fording the river to the L side, there is an intermittent path which gives a very steep and hugely enjoyable clamber up the falls and cascades, allowing intimate ventures out onto the rock platforms.

Pistyll Rhydd-y-meinciau
Pistyll Rhydd-y-meinciau (16 Aug 2005__10:08:49)
Eiddew valley from the falls
Eiddew valley from the falls (16 Aug 2005__10:33:23)
Top cleft of falls on Pistyll Rhydd-y-meinciau
Top cleft of falls on Pistyll Rhydd-y-meinciau (16 Aug 2005__10:40:09)
Upper falls of Pistyll Rhydd-y-meinciau
Upper falls of Pistyll Rhydd-y-meinciau (16 Aug 2005__10:54:06)

Above the falls we followed the river up the deserted shallow valley, a remote and lovely spot of reeds and damp sphagnum bedecked today with a profusion of flowering purple heather. We forded the river to the ruins of Blaen-y-coed and climbed the easy grass southern slopes of Bwlan. Unfortunately the northern slopes are rough heather and tussocks, which meant a slow tiring descent to the forest corner. The onward descent to the Nant Nadroedd Fawr was easy though, and we collected good water. The easy going continues by the forest edge to the Nant Nadroedd Bach and the pass road.

The upper Eiddew valley
The upper Eiddew valley (16 Aug 2005__11:33:09)
The Arans over the upper Eiddew valley
The Arans over the upper Eiddew valley (16 Aug 2005__12:01:51)

An easy climb up the track from the road gains the high ground at Pen y Cerrig Duon, with good views of the Foel Goch ridge. The track provides a very easy high level stroll, with Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw a short detour R beyond the fence. Leaving the track at a gate, the unremarkable Stac Rhos is easily reached over soft grass and the top is marked by a few stones. Descending E by the fence and climbing the rise beyond, there was a slow and very rough trek S to Cefn Gwyntog, where we gratefully offloaded our packs and made a comfortable pitch.

Cefn Gwyntog bog
Cefn Gwyntog bog (16 Aug 2005__16:13:54)
Pitch on Cefn Gwyntog
Pitch on Cefn Gwyntog (16 Aug 2005__17:13:15)

Day 3 - Cyrniau Nod & Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd

The dawn sky was cloudless but the views were much more hazy as we descended laboriously NE over very rough slopes to the Nant Cyrniau Nod, which was flowing well and yielded good water. This is another remote and atmospheric spot of quiet charm, with hidden sheep trods threading up the slopes amid the dense wet reeds and mosses bordering the stream. A slow but relatively easy ascent gains the ridge fence and cairn on Cyrniau Nod.

Sunrise from Cefn Gwyntog pitch
Sunrise from Cefn Gwyntog pitch (17 Aug 2005__06:13:31)
Summit of Cyrniau Nod
Summit of Cyrniau Nod (17 Aug 2005__09:30:20)

The fence descends NW and NE to approach the track again, and a short walk and brief ascent makes easy work of Y Groes Fagl, topped by a tall post. The final objective Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd lies to the N, separated by another wilderness of rough moor. Our strategy for the descent to the bwlch fence was to walk inside the edges of the peat channels wherever possible, which made for a much less arduous line. Thereafter it is a case of more hard going to the next fence, aiming for a gap by a thick post, where a faint path appears for a while. Reaching a waymark post on the crossing footpath, a thin path finally brings relief and climbs to the trig point, an excellent all round viewpoint and ideal spot for a well deserved rest in the sunshine and cooling breeze.

Summit of Y Groes Fagl
Summit of Y Groes Fagl (17 Aug 2005__09:59:33)
View from Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd
View from Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd (17 Aug 2005__12:04:33)

A good path descends W to rejoin the footpath that crosses the Nant Cwm-Hesgen and traverses the lower slopes of Moel Cae-Howel, which was solid with pinks and purples, a delightful stroll with views over Cwm Hirnant. At Bwlch y Fenni, we turned L 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.