Moelwyn Mawr and a hailstorm

The hawk eyed amongst you will note that this route is described in March 2011 issue of Trail by Tom Hutton, and it really is a fine, fairly short (5hrs ish) walk up and around the tallest hill in this area, with a ton of local history thrown into the bargain.

Long, long overdue.  Hallo again, the Moelwyns.  Look forward to a wildcamp up here, Mr Boutler over at BBB has a good route.  Took an hour and 15 in the car from Tany, over the B4391, one of my all time favourite stretches of road, drove straight through the foot of a Rainbow.  Half as fast as the reservoir road, twice as nice.  Gonna have to spend a weekend on Moel Llyfant and Arenig Fawr, southwest of Llyn Celyn at some point too, they are beyond grand and begging to be walked.  But for today, into Blaeneau Ffestiniog and out to the car park at Tanygrisiau - Blaeneau plainly could still do with some money, it hasn't changed in that regard.  Listen up, Welsh Assembly, invest - there's loads of people here, but no high street left.  We don't need more retail parks, we need more corner shops - its not rocket science, its community!  Had another childhood flashback/memory punch whilst glimpsing the town hall from the car window, not altogether unpleasant but certainly disconcerting whilst driving.  Kind of like having your stomach turn on a hump back bridge when you're not watching the road.

The car park access to the quarry dumps almost makes it too easy.  Within 10 minutes you are in a fine glacial valley surrounded by ruins, high mountains, waterfalls streaming down their sides.  We cross a slate footbridge, and stay on the left of the lynn across to a ruined chapel.  This valley is open and a little eerie, like a set from a Tim Burton movie, all jaggedy, toothy gravestones and moody skies, the weather can't make up its mind today.  I really do miss the contrary weather of Wales, in the pit of the Smoke its one thing all day, boring.  Its also great to be back in some 'proper' rocky, pointy stuff - I do like the rolling curves of the Berwyns, but this undoubtedly means more business.

The path starts to rise more steeply until you pass more dumps and enter Bwlch Rhosydd, and what would have been a massive operation in its day.  Its difficult to imagine the noise and smoke this place would have produced, now that its a relic.  People get all misty eyed about engineering history, and whilst it is very interesting, it does fundamentally detract from the wild feeling here, in my view.  The buildings have stood the test of time remarkably well, I'll grant you, but nothing lasts forever.  Empty windows, beer cans, and sodden socks speak of late night revelry for the local teenagers.  I'm a bit jealous, to tell the truth, I'd have loved to have this place to come up and fool around in when I was a nipper.  Or even now.

We take the steep cutting up left after exploring a little, and it tops out onto marshy ground.  I'm between gaiters at the moment, and manage to get a bootful before traversing the the stile to Llyn Croesor.  The Llyn is blowy, and there's some squally hail, but it only lasts a minute or two at a time.  Beautiful views to Cnicht and beyond to the weather over Snowdonia.

The route ahead is very clear, simply to follow the ridge up and onto the top of Moelwyn Mawr.  We stop for lunch a little early out of the wind, then continue up the shoulder until we gain enough ground to catch the bitter northwestery in our sails.  Enough to blow poles out of hands.  Regaining composure and tightening hoods and straps, we move quickly up a little farther to the summit.  We're surprised at how easy it is, and the relative lack of a breeze on the top.

Great views all around from the trig point.  I take a wander along the ridge and back, T stays and takes some pictures.  She's taken on the LX3 so there's a couple of hers in here too, as when the weather hit I was nervous about taking a cloth to my new lens, so most of mine were unusable from a chunk of later on.

Talking of weather, here it comes.  All of a sudden, on my way back to the trig point, the hail comes down in force.  Nice, hard frozen, tiny pellets that sing as they hit the waterproofs.  A little excitement, some electricity in the air.  Back the way we came for a hundred yards or so, then hang a right off the hill onto the shoulder at Craigysgafn.  Steepish but only for a few seconds really, a man and 2 young border collies hiding in a nook on the hillside, the two pups looking very confused under the stinging stones.

Pass by the saddle, then up and over, with some fun, easy scrambling, even in this stuff, to the cairn above Llyn Stwlan.  There's a gear change and mint tea pit stop as the hail continues to plummet down, as T takes on the ME windchills and TN tuff mitts and I take her sodden thinsulate in exchange (and yes, we have been gear shopping this week, and yes she has got new gloves, and no, she wasn't that happy about it, but I bet she will be the next time we are out and she's not wet and freezing!)

We turned left here and dropped down a little too much, under more ruins, but it was easy enough to regain ground and rejoin a more obvious miners track that contours around the reservoir, with its modernist gatehouse standing sentinel (manning that must be strange work).  Hail beginning to lay on the ground now, looks like packing material.  A bit wet but must be cold enough, its not in a hurry to melt.

Storm is beginning to blow over as we get to the gate, then continue back to the gap between the foot of the Mawr and Moel yr Hydd.  We don't turn left, but instead head right, contouring around the latter and losing height.  The ground gets very wet again, and we both vow to get new footwear for the next outing.  Its settling, slowly, and by the time we get to an old dam at Llyn Wrysgan, everything is dripping, quiet, and the sun is slowly poking through the clouds again.

There are open shafts to wander through, we went for a bit of an explore, and it really brings home how dangerous and difficult mining was and must be still.  Also, spooky as hell - anyone seen 'The descent'?!  I like mountains and open spaces, caves and claustrophobia are not my thing, at all.

We emerge and walk, a bit cold and stiff, down slate steps to more ruins high above Cwmorthin,  where we began.  Turning right, and head through a short tunnel blown tidily through the hillside, that was obviously once a way of taking material off by truck and winch.  Very steep, both inside the tunnel and on the stonework escarpment outside, down about 20 minutes to the road, and left to our starting place.  A really fine day in the high hills, with easy access and much of historical interest.