“Fancy a walk” said Jeff “I know of this ‘interesting’ little route in
So that’s how it started – our big day out on the Rhinog Ridge.
Friday 18 Feb 2005 saw the Rhinog posse – Jeff Farr, Nigel Walker, Sheila
Norman, Christina and me – arrive, almost simultaneously (and nearly at the same
time!) at Llys Ednowain Heritage Centre and Hostel in the village of
Trawsfynydd. This was a plum find by Jeff. Not only is it only about 1 mile or
so from the start of the walk proper, but also it was only opened April 2005 so
is clean, warm and very well equipped – definitely not for the rufty-tufty
camp-at-all-times contingent (El Pres!).
Although arrival time was only 8.30 pm (the latter part being through
sideways sleet wondering what on earth we’re doing here!), fortunately we had
actually thought the logistics through and made sure we allowed time to get one
of the cars down to Barmouth – the other end of the ridge – and return to
Trawsfynydd at a reasonable hour. Sleep was important as an early start was
scheduled for what we now call ‘Ridge Day’. Anyway, Jeff and I scuttled off to
Barmouth, deposited Jeff’s car and headed back up the road.
On the way back we decided to recce the roadside parking possibilities at
the start of the path (see previous mention of early start – this would save us
about 20 minutes which it would turn out we were extremely thankful for!).
Having located the start point, I found a suitable space and reversed the car in
to see how it would fit. Looks good, plenty of space for traffic to pass by.
OK time to go – whoops, wheels are spinning but we’re not going anywhere! I’d
only gone and got the car stuck!! Jeff leaps out of the car and starts pushing
‘n’ shoving and eventually we’re free. On the way back I decide a better place
to park in the morning would be a few minutes down the road beside the Mountain
Rescue Mobile Unit!
Safely back in the hostel it was time for a nice cuppa, pack sacks and
generally prepare for the morning. To bed at midnight.
Who’s idea was it to set the b****y alarm for 05.30 hrs!?! Christina was up
and at ’em first making sure the rest of us didn’t roll over and go back to
sleep. Cups of tea and assorted breakfasts were consumed, accompanied by a deal
of jolly banter surrounding Nigel’s flaps zip – and, to preserve Nigel’s
reputation, I shall make no further reference to this particular piece of
sartorial practicality (unlike on the day itself!) – and, with flasks of hot
drinks packed, we were off up the road with a hiss and a roar at 06:35. ‘How
come it took over an hour to get out?’ I hear you cry. Well, the official line
is that, due to the walk’s reputation, we didn’t want to start it until
daylight. Unofficially, Sheila’s debilitating fits of giggles over the position
of Nigel’s zip could be cited as a delay!
06:45 sees us togged-up and marching. The weather was ideal being dry with
a light wind and, importantly, good visibility. We had all agreed beforehand
that Jeff and Nigel would be map-readers and navigators because the walk is
notoriously difficult to navigate and they are both experienced and competent in
such matters. The other three of us were just along for the ride! Anyway, no
problems bagging the first ‘peak’ – Moel y Gyrafolen at 535m; and Diffwys, at
577m, was dispatched soon after. So far, so good. Along to Foel Penolau at
614m followed by the first trig point on Moel Ysgyfarnogod at 623m.
|Trawsfynydd from Moel Y Gyrafolen (click on any picture for image in Flickr)|
Descend in to the col and back up the other side – some thing that will
become an all too familiar scenario by the end of the day! – and then a few more
times. Some of it was almost a scramble being rather on the steep side!
|Some of it’s flat …|
|and some of it ain’t!|
Time for the first group discussion – do we take in the ‘minor’ peak of Clip
(circa 590m) or turn left (roughly SE at this point) to continue past Twr Glas
and Craig Wion (566m). The democratic vote was for the latter which, in
hindsight, was a good call!
More down and up with a bit of flat-top (interesting boulder arrangement up
here) thrown in just to ease the pressure on the knees, down into the col,
across The Roman Steps and it was 1 o’clock, time for a lunch stop – but not
before an ‘interesting’ traverse across a slippery slab and broken ground to the
other side of Llyn Du! Too chilly to stop for long though – 15 minutes and it’s
time to get moving again.
|Towards Llyn Du|
A short, sharp burst fuelled by lunch and we’re atop the first Rhinog –
Rhinog Fawr at 720m. Huzzah – one third of the way!
Down again – blimey, it’s a bit (understatement!) steeper this time – and
straight back up the other side on to Rhinog Fach at 690m. It was the ‘short &
direct but steep’ route versus ‘easier angle but quite a lot longer’ debate –
short & direct won! Hold on boy, not so fast this is a false summit, got some
more up to do yet before the true summit at 712m – fortunately not quite as
|Rhinog Fawr from Rhinog Fach|
Oh, forgot to mention that the possible bale out route was in between the
two Rhinogs – so no going back (or sideways come to that) now!
The descent from Rhinog Fach is another steep little number, but the worst
is now over and it’s a gentle – a relative terminology – rise up to Y Llethr at
756m from where we can see the final peak – and consequently last bit of uphill!
– of the walk. A quick stop for more photos and we’re off along Crib y Rhiw to
the top of Diffwys (not the same Diffwys as earlier however!) and the final trig
point at 750m.
It’s still daylight – though only just! – so time for yet another snack stop
before the long walk off. The wind has re-surfaced blowing snow at us from over
the right shoulder so it’s a case of button up and plod on, and on, and on (you
get the picture!). A couple of hours later though, the cloud clears and it’s a
beautiful moonlit night with a light covering of snow to assist with visibility.
Time for group decision number 2. It’s nearly 8 pm and everyone is
absolutely cream-crackered! So, do we follow the path straight along which
involves another slight uphill bit to Bwlch y Rhigwr or contour along the hill
at a more gentle angle. After deliberation – and a share of the last drops of
Nigel’s warm, sweet coffee! – not surprisingly, the gentle option was voted in
and at 21.15 hrs we reached the road – only 2km to Jeff’s car! At this point
Jeff’s Duracells kicked in and he sped off down the road to collect said car and
drive back up to pick up the rest of us – top man! By 21.30 hrs we were on the
way back up the road – 30 minute drive remember! – to Trawsfynydd having been on
the hoof for a mere 14.75 hours!
The day had been free of serious injury, but admiration has to be given to
Sheila whose knees had been giving her ‘jip’ (is that the right spelling?) from
about half way along and Nigel who got cramp between Y Llethr and Diffwys – but
made a speedy recovery after consuming a snack size packet of mini-cheddars!
|Ian, Christina, Sheila and Nigel|
Now, here’s the science bit –
Walk length (in 2D only!) – approx 27-30km
Up and down stuff –
Grade – a tough little (?) number; definitely harder walking than the Yorkshire 3 Peaks which were ‘bagged’ February 2004.
Fortunately, Jeff had had the inspired idea of taking a pre-cooked meal with
us – “just in case we didn’t feel like eating out” – as we wouldn’t have found
any of the local hostelries serving food at that time of night! So, after quick
showers all round, we were sitting in the positively luxurious kitchen at Llys
Ednowain tucking into vegetable korai, rice and naan bread – and it was only
half ten at night!
First job in the morning – after breakfast, of course – was to drive back
out to collect my car from where we’d parked it early on ‘Ridge Day’. But, no
lie-in as we need to be out of the room by 10 am. I’m sure the hostel warden
put us in a first floor room deliberately! OUCH, my legs hurt!
Christina and I couldn’t face another hill walk so opted for breakfast in
Bodwyn café – well spotted by Christina – followed by gear fondling in Betws y
Coed (a size 2 DMM 4CU for only £25!) before heading home. The other 3 being
made of sterner stuff, wandered up Arenig Fawr for a few hours before departing
back to the flat lands of Suffolk – how do they do it!?!
All in all a fantastic achievement and great walk, but not to be undertaken
lightly. The paths were tricky enough and the terrain strenuous enough with the
weather being kind to us, so any sort of poor visibility conditions could make
it rather treacherous in many places.
Many thanks to Jeff for suggesting and organising, and to all the party for
being such brilliant company. I think we’re all in agreement when we say “glad
to have done it, got the tick, NOT DOING IT AGAIN!”
It’s worth pointing out that Llys Ednowain Heritage Centre is
ideally situated for the classic MTB routes of Coed-Y-Brenin and is obviously
geared up (excuse the pun!) for such with a secure metal cage for bike storage.