September 2008 - Walk Of The Month

March 26, 2007


In search of Owain Glyndwr’s Cave

Date: 18th September 2008
Map: Landranger 115 (view route in new window) (3D View)
Weather: Hazy sunshine all day.

From Beddgellert village to Moel Hebog via the North West ridge, down and across to Moel yr Olaf and on to Moel Lefn. Return to the start via the Beddgellert forest: 10.2 miles with detour – as measured with a pedometer

I had a wonderful walk along Hadrian’s Wall last week, and with work pending over in Norway tomorrow, I took advantage of a glorious weather forecast and drove down to Wales. If anything the weather was too good today and the hazy sunshine proved to be a problem for my limited photography skills. I left early enough in the morning to be out walking at 08:30hrs, into a gently warming autumn sun. I love the weather at this time of year, as it is perfect for walking – not cold enough for a fleece, but not hot enough for discomfort. The bracken on the hillsides was turning a golden brown, and less leaves on the trees gave a lovely dappled light up the farm lanes. As I was approaching Beddgellert along the Nant Colwyn valley, I stopped to take the first picture of the day at Rhyd-Dhu by the railway track. Moel Hebog and his chums didn’t look at all daunting from the lake of Llyn y Gader, and there was a gentle mist floating over the lake surface.


All was quiet in Beddgellert as I pulled into the car park behind The Royal Goat Hotel – they wouldn’t get much patronage from Queen Liz with a name like that. I was so pleased to be out and about (and the first in the car park), that I completely missed the parking meter. But my car must have had an invisible cloak around it because I didn’t get a ticket, even though the car park attendant was there when I returned at the days end. The first part of this walk is a gentle ascent past the new station built for the Welsh Highland railway – see here for some information . This line should be operational in 2009 and will be a big draw, as it runs through some beautiful countryside. The first detour of the day came when I went to check the route and found my map had disappeared. So I retraced my steps back down to the station to retrieve it. I also forgot the sun cream today, but remembered my salty hat thankfully.

 Photobucket The new station and Moel Hebog through the mist

 Photobucket Early morning dappled sunlight – perfect for walking

My view was dominated for most of the day by the vista to the east, which took in Snowdon and the surrounding area. The mist was hanging around the valleys before the sun came up to burn it off, and my early pictures were directly back into the bright light, which caused me a few problems with the current bun. Snowdon was distinctly hazy, and later in the day it had its own cap of clouds hanging around the summit. I thought it would have been good to walk the Snowdon horseshoe today, but I am saving that to terrorise a local barrister when he has the time and inclination! The ground was saturated after many weeks of rain in August and early September, but it was easy enough to plot a safe route along, with occasional bog hopping as required. I had to use my compass and map fairly frequently today to make sure I set out on the correct route up the north west ridge of Moel Hebog, but once I had made my way across the lower fields (aided by a couple of stone marker posts) the route up to the summit was clear.

 Photobucket The north west ridge across the fields

It was very quiet on the way up the ridge and I disturbed a buzzard as I passed by the first crags. He can’t have been bothered by many walkers up here to be so low down the slopes, so I sat a while and watch him circle around the hillside looking for breakfast. I saw a pair of buzzards later in the day above the forest screeching to each other. I only met up with a few people today, one organised group coming over a hill, and all of them fully kitted out in gators, and waterproof jackets. They must have been sweating buckets and were in sharp contrast to the beardy man later in the day sunbathing in his red underpants – not a pretty site. The North West ridge of Moel Hebog is prominent and fairly steep, but it doesn’t have any particular big exposure apart from a little close to the summit.

 Photobucket Early morning mist around Beddgellert

After crossing over a ladder stile I was on open ground and making steady progress to the summit, until I was interrupted by some interesting volcanic geology. There are Tuffs (volcanic ash), pillow lavas (the size of footballs), some smaller…..round water blobs, intrusive sills and massive lava flows,…and over on the slopes of Moel Lefn some contorted layers very reminiscent of those seen below Scafell Pike. Once or twice the path runs up over some rocky sections but it would be hard to call it a scramble. As the ground got steeper I spent a lot of time gazing around me as the whole Snowdon panorama opened up. The summit before me was not the summit, just a taster for the higher ground beyond. To the south east the Cnicht, Moelwyn Mawr & Moelwyn Bach were prominent against the hazy sun, and the coast was very difficult to see with the bright sunlight effectively cloaking the area. The summit station and café on Snowdon showed as a grey gash on the west side of the mountain. The Snowdon horseshoe was showing faintly with Grib Goch and Y Lliwedd on view. Beyond this I could see the Glyders and beyond that I was just wishful thinking. It was so peaceful up on the higher slopes apart from the drone of the helicopter working away in the hills somewhere, almost perfect walking. The low autumnal sun also meant that my shadow was in more than a few pictures and I have had to edit myself out a few times.

 Photobucket Snowdon is clearer the higher up I walked

 Photobucket It was steep enough going up to the summit, and that isn’t it

 Photobucket The view north over the Beddgellert forest

 Photobucket The Snowdon horseshoe could be seen – just

 Photobucket Still not there yet

 Photobucket On the scree slope – the round ball shaped inclusions are pyroclastic bombs

 Photobucket Pillow lavas I think, but they didn’t make me feel sleepy

 Photobucket Nearly at the first summit, up the scree slope

The summit of Moel Hebog from the top of the ridge is a short walk up a gentle grassy slope to the trig point, a great spot for a drink and a snack. I donned a micro-fleece as the wind chill was a little harsh against my sweaty T-shirt, but had taken it off again once I had descended to the lee side of the hill. The route turned north from the summit and followed the wall steeply down a grassy slope.

 Photobucket The summit trig point on a grassy summit of Moel Hebog

 Photobucket Looking north with the steep grassy slope down

 Photobucket The rake clearly shows on the route up to Moel yr Ogof

Now I don’t know about you, but I find myself distinctly uneasy on a steep grassy slope when high up a hill, and find them much more intimidating than a rocky bluff. This probably stems from a childhood trip to Derbyshire up the very steep grassy slopes of Parkhouse Hill; I was a bit windy then and I still am! It’s the thought of nothing to stop the speed of descent once you get going – but I made it down easily enough. Towards the base of the descent off Moel Hebog it becomes a little rockier and I had good views across to the rake that had to be passed on the way up Moel yr Ogof.. At the bottom of the slope down is Bwlch Meillionen a delightful small knoll, that directs your view away to your right – yes, it’s that pesky Snowdon calling across the valley. The rake is easily passed by up the scree slope, with no real dangers lurking, and once through the slope eases off to the summit of Moel yr Ogof. There is another little dell with a small patch of water, with Snowdon calling – cooey look over here! I had to tread carefully to avoid the boggy ground and beware of the old slate walls, they are in a precarious state, and not fit for climbing over.

 Photobucket A very convenient way through, not over

 Photobucket Moel yr Ogof

 Photobucket The view over to the coast shrouded in mist

 Photobucket The path up to Moel Lefn

 Photobucket And the path down the other side

Once up on the summit via gentle grassy paths I completely forgot about the cave, and didn’t venture over to the edge to try and locate it. Never mind, my lunch stop beckoned when I had got to the next summit of Moel Lefn. One thing I saw up here was a small xmas tree, so if you’re up here around the 25th December be sure to bring up a few baubles and glitter. The forest (plantation really) of Beddgellert was now spread out before me looking very dark green and very regimented. The area is criss-crossed by logging runs but there hasn’t been a significant amount of harvesting yet, although I think this will change in the near future as a lot of the pine forest is quite mature. The path down and up to the next summit was gentle on the legs, and the rocky summit of Moel Lefn is best avoided to the left. The true summit is beyond the car crash of stones and I cut up a grassy slope to look at some more geology – some intrusive sill and convoluted bedding – with ‘look at me’ directly in my line of sight. I picked out a comfortable perch and sat down out of the wind.

 Photobucket The route up to Moel Lefn, veers around to the left

 Photobucket Some fallen volcanic columns

 Photobucket Looking back to today’s route

 Photobucket The convoluted bedding with Snowdon in the background

 Photobucket Looking north from Moel Lefn

 Photobucket Not a very clear picture but noisy

I had a superb panorama, but was still squinting back into the sun to see where I had come from earlier. The helicopter had landed above Cwm Dwyfor and just sat there making a big thumping noise for about 30 minutes. It somewhat spoilt the moment as it reminded me I had a plane and a chopper to catch the next day to work, and it was amazing how much of the noise echoed around the valleys.. Once I had finished my chilli chicken bun, I made my way down another steep drop off to Bwlch Sais. This area has some exposure to a steep drop to the west, but the path stays away from the edge and was easily followed down to the old mine workings at Princess Quarry.

 Photobucket My path down to Bwlch Sais

 Photobucket Just above the old quarry works

 Photobucket The route turns right over the wall

I don’t know what they mined, probably just chased a mineral vein into the hillside. But they left a decent sized spoil heap down the hill. The path here – I’m not sure there actually was one – is best followed around to the right and then down alongside the forest to the right. It was pretty overgrown and when I got to the bottom there was the man in his pants! I don’t know who was more surprised, and needless to say I made haste uphill fast. All of which led to my detour of the day, having missed a stile in the fence, I continued uphill along the fence line. It was very wet here and after about a ¼ mile I realised my mistake and retraced my steps back down the slope. This time I found the stile and disappeared into the dim dark woods. Actually they weren’t all that dark, but the path through was indistinct and the ground could swallow a small child in certain places. From here on in to Beddgellert navigation was difficult, and the ever changing tree line confused my route finding. The initial mile or so was ok, but the path deviates where the loggers want you to go, and the OS maps are not 100% due to the logging activities. I passed to the north of Castell along a marshy path, and it struck me then that the dreaded midgies were almost absent. But I soon got my eye in for bog hopping and came out of the other end with my feet still dry. Once I had disappeared back into the forest and crossed over a couple of logging runs along with older forestry tracks I had to use the compass regularly.

 Photobucket Guess who?

 Photobucket There was some beauty inside the forest

 Photobucket Across the marshy bog

 Photobucket And a look back up to Moel Lefn

 Photobucket A comfortable forest ride

 Photobucket Some tranquil water passing me by at the end of the walk

The upshot of all the different tracks was that I cut further down the slope than I intended and ended up at a campsite. I wasn’t too sorry to see that as at least I now knew where I was. I made my way down through the woods to the south east and eventually emerged across a field beside the Afon Colwyn. The sound of running water over the small falls was very soothing and the dappled light led me on across yet more boggy land to the station ahead. This wasn’t a path, but seems to have been used as one and I was too tired to go back up the slope. I didn’t notice much wildlife around today, just the buzzards, crows, wheatear, skylarks, yellow wagtails, and a robin. Significantly there wasn’t any in the forest, which speaks for itself. As I returned to the car park the attendant was emptying the pay ticket machine, and I could hear Snowdon whispering in my ear….’you haven’t paid’….but obviously in a Welsh accent. Wales you are so lucky to be blessed with such an area of outstanding beauty, and I hope the Welsh Highland railway is a runaway success. But I’ll still prefer walking, because it’s brilliant. 

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