#266 – Moel Ty Mawr

Moel Ty Mawr stone circle, with the valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee) below

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The route (centre) with the Berwyn Mountains

The route and the main Berwyn Ridge

The route in close up, showing Llandrillo, the stone circle and Moel Pearce

I’ve featured the Berwyns in this blog before – they are remote, wild hills, though nothing like as rough and gnarly as the nearby Rhinogs. Chris and I (plus Border Collie ‘Mist’) had last been out this way in 2016 (see post #204), with another two trips in 2014 (see posts #162 and #163) so a return trip was long overdue – a new camera to try out was the final excuse needed (the image at the start of this post was taken using the new camera).

Setting out near Llandrillo ….

…. and gaining height on a good track

First views looking down on the inversion

The valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy looking north ….

…. and looking west

We had driven into thick mist (not talking about Collie ‘Mist’ this time as she’s far from being thick!) after passing through Ruthin, but I wasn’t dismayed – there was a strong ridge of high pressure across the area, and it was almost certain that we would leave the mist behind as we gained height. Sure enough, as we left the car behind in fog-bound Llandrillo, we popped out into clear conditions, with a great looking inversion below us in the valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee).

Below Moel Ty Mawr, about to head uphill

Border Collie ‘Mist’, waiting for the photographer as usual

At the stone circle

The main objective on this trip was the Moel Ty Mawr stone circle, just a couple of kilometres out of Llandrillo. At 11 metres across, and with 41 stones, it isn’t the biggest stone circle in the UK, but the spectacular location overlooking the valley of the Dee makes up for that. The circle is sited on a small plateau at an altitude of 440 metres and has stood there for about 4000 years.

The circle (and dog!) – the original camera in action

Same camera, same dog, slightly different angle

I’m a big fan of Olympus cameras, and still have an old OM2 film camera, but my usual hill camera (used for most of the images in this post) is an Olympus TG-5, a tough, hard-as-nails camera that can be dropped, drowned and frozen and still bounce back. Although essentially a ‘point and shoot’ camera, the TG-5 is a great piece of kit that is capable of producing good quality images whilst surviving a rough day out in the mountains.

The view to the west using the new camera, showing the inversion

I’ve recently bought an Olympus OM-D E-10 Mk2, which is incredibly versatile and sophisticated compared with the TG-5 – you wouldn’t want to drop it in a puddle though! The image above was taken with the new camera and then edited with ‘Affinity’ Photo Editor. I’ve been editing my pics for the blog since the early days, but Affinity is much more powerful than previous editors I’ve used. I’m learning about RAW images and how to get the best out of them, but it’s still work in progress!

Onwards to Moel Pearce ….

…. with the Berwyn Ridge on the skyline

The stone circle made a good place for a lunch stop as well as a photo opportunity, but winter days are short and we didn’t stay too long. The plan was to head a little higher to Moel Pearce before taking a track down to the valley. Moel Pearce is a bit of a round lump of a hill, though it does just top the 600-metre mark, but we did have views of the main Berwyn Ridge in the distance, standing about 200 metres higher.

On the return route to the valley ….

…. with one last look back to the Berwyns

The final images show the return route – we didn’t see a soul all day, from leaving Llandrillo to arriving back. The valley was still fog-bound and gloomy, but the dog and humans had found a spot in the sun, and all I need to do now is to improve my photography so that I can share future trips! ‘Mist’, as usual, wasn’t much impressed with hanging around while I played with my new toy and would have been even less impressed if she had known that we still had a 1½ hour drive home before dinner time!

Llandrillo below in the mist – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#265 – Moel Siabod – The Shapely Peak

Moel Siabod – The Shapely Peak

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The route

Close up view of the route

Moel Siabod (which translates as ‘Shapely Hill’) is one of those hills where you don’t bump into crowds, in fact it would be strange to bump into anybody.    All the crowds are over on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), the Glyderau or the Carneddau, leaving Siabod a surprisingly quiet mountain.    Which is just fine for those who love a little solitude.

Border Collie ‘Mist’, impatient to be off

Disused quarry tips on the way up ….

…. with the old quarry buildings nearby ….

…. and a small lake that was part of the original workings

I usually start at Pont Cyfyng at the southern end of Capel Curig, as this approach gives the best views of the more interesting south-east face of the mountain – the north-west side of Siabod is little more than a grassy lump, but it makes a good way down, with views over to the mountains of North Snowdonia.    This was the way that I went with Chris on an earlier trip (see post #88) but this time I was taking the more interesting way – with Border Collie ‘Mist’ this time.

Beyond the quarry, with the Daear Ddu Ridge ahead

Llyn y Foel and the Daear Ddu Ridge

Looking up towards the summit

The start of the fun ….

…. with a series of rock steps all the way

Beyond the deserted remains of old quarry workings, lies the Daear Ddu Ridge, which is a direct line from Llyn y Foel (which is ‘the Mountain Lake’) to the summit.    There are quite a few ridges in Snowdonia which justifiably deserve the term ‘knife-edge’ – Daear Ddu isn’t one of them!    The name means ‘Black Earth’, and there’s quite a bit of that – a much better option is to stay as far to the right as possible, where the ridge is a series of rock steps.

The ridge stretches out ahead

The view upwards of the final section of ridge ….

…. and the view back down the ridge

‘Mist’ weighing things up ….

…. but the end is in sight

On the last trip, Chris had been happy enough to follow the broader, earthier route, but this time the dog and I went for the rockier way.    As rock scrambles go, it’s free from excessive drama, because it’s easy to move to the left to avoid anything that looks desperate – as it was, we didn’t find anything remotely like desperate, and although I had fitted the harness on the dog, it wasn’t used, and before too long we were on the summit.

The Snowdon Range just right of centre in the distance

Heading towards the stone shelter ….

…. with a view of the mountains of the Carneddau in the distance

The Coastguard helicopter out for the day

Although the summit of Moel Siabod doesn’t usually set pulses racing (unless you decide to run up it, of course) it does give a grandstand view of the surrounding mountains of the Snowdon, Glyderau and Carneddau ranges.    Remember them? – that’s where the crowds are!  I didn’t see a soul all day, apart from the Coastguard rescue helicopter flying a training mission.    And then it was time (as usual) to head for home.

Great views from higher up ….

…. but it’s soon time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#264 – It’s that time of year again!

Greg’s Hut – taking the rough ….

…. with the smooth!

Sorry to all my readers, but it’s that time of year when I go to work again as part of the safety crew on the Spine Race, so there’s no post this week.

Most of you will probably have seen this, but here’s one I produced earlier that gives you an insight into the Spine Race and the famous Greg’s Hut noodle bar – see you in a couple of weeks.

Both images this week © John Bamber

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#263 – Coniston Old Man (via Levers Water) and Dow Crag

The Coniston Hills – © John Bamber

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Dow Crag

The Coniston Hills (on the left)

The route

Over the years, I’ve frequently returned to the Coniston Hills in the Lake District.   I’ve posted a few of the more recent trips in this blog (see posts #179, #182 and #233) and have also had a couple of Coniston routes published in Walking World, both of which sold fairly well over the years.    So, you might have thought that by now I had covered all the route options.

Setting out

Looking towards Coppermines Valley

The Pudding Stone

Well, you might have thought wrong then, as there’s always somewhere left to explore, and in this case it was quite a significant omission.    Not far from the Coppermines Valley, there is a huge boulder on the way to Levers Water called the Pudding Stone – rock climbers have been climbing on this for well over 100 years, and in 1916 a climbing guidebook was written to this and other big boulders in the area.

Heading up Boulder Valley to Levers Water

Levers Water at last

Beyond the Pudding Stone is Boulder Valley, and the area is now an important addition to the rock-climbing sport of bouldering, with routes of all grades, from easy, through difficult to virtually impossible.   Boulder Valley is also a great walk out in its own right, and eventually the valley path leads out to the quiet Levers Water.    I had never been out this way, so in April 2018 Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ of course, decided to go and explore.

Levers Water

The steps up to Levers Hawse

Heading away from Levers Water

Border Collie ‘Mist’ waiting for the humans, as usual

Still gaining height ….

…. but not there yet

Just below the ridge at Levers Hawse

Time for a brew!

The map shows a path winding steeply up the hillside to the col at Levers Hawse – at one time it could well have been an earthy scramble up Gill Cove, but the path is now a neat set of steps that have blended well into their surroundings.    We made rapid progress, but it soon became obvious that there was a cool wind blowing over the wide ridge between Coniston Old Man and Swirl How, so we took the opportunity to grab a brew and a bite to eat before heading on.

Emerging on to the ridge, with Swirl How in the background

Heading south towards the Old Man

Rare photo of the author and ‘Mist’

Out on the ridge there was a stiff breeze, and it was time to get another layer on.    It might have been cool, but the views were fantastic as often happens in cooler weather, so it was photo time.    I even ended up in a photo myself, which is a rare happening – look at the pic and you will see why I’m happier to be on the other end of the camera.

Coniston Old Man summit ahead

Goats Hawse with Dow Crag on the left and Goats Water below

Rock-climbing sheep

OK, confession time, we didn’t actually top the summit of the Old Man – we’ve both been there before and it doesn’t change much.   Instead, we took the shortcut path to Goats Hawse and headed down to Goats Water.   Unlike North Wales, there aren’t any goats now, or if there are they must be good at hiding!  We did see a bunch of rock climbing sheep though.

Start of the descent to Goats Water

On the east shore of Goats Water

We soon reached the shore of Goats Water, with a steady walk out in front of us across the moor to the Walna Scar Road.  The Levers Water path to Levers Hawse turned out to be a little gem – watch out for a return visit.

Crossing the moor – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except ‘The Coniston Hills’ © John Bamber

Posted in 2. Lake District | Tagged , , , , , ,

#262 – It’s that time of year again!

Well, it’s that time of year again! When I was a kid, one of the best bits of Christmas was taking out the old, familiar tree decorations – by the time I reached early teens they were like old friends, especially the little plastic bells you could play a tune on.

My blog equivalent is letting the dog take over the blog for the Christmas post – she doesn’t realise that I know it’s all her work, but the paw prints and dog-biscuit crumbs on the computer keyboard are a dead giveaway. So, here are some of Mist’s favourite dog walks of 2019

My blog this week

Wooof – it’s me again, ‘Mist’ the Border Collie. The Boss is off doing something and he left the computer unattended, so it’s my chance to show you some of the dog walks I’ve done on our Scottish trip this year.

A big improvement

One of our first was on Skye, where the Boss met his mate Richie and I met up with my doggie mates Caizer and AJ., and we all had a walk up Glamaig. That Caizer loves having his picture taken and so does AJ, but I’m not so keen. Still, a dog’s got to do what a dog’s got to do, so I usually cooperate in the end.

The Red Cuillin Mountains of Skye

Glamaig

Me (left) and my mates Caizer (middle) and AJ (right)

Now I don’t really like having my picture taken ….

…. so much so that I stuck my tongue out at the Boss …

…. but in the end I agreed to pose

Me and the Boss – © Richie Boardwell

Me and the Boss had a great walk out over Cairngorm and Ben Macdui. Some really big open spaces there, I can tell you, but I was amazed to see a herd of reindeer – and it wasn’t even Christmas!

Me on Cairngorm

Big open spaces for a dog to run in

Ben Macdui

Heading back

Reindeer herd in the distance

We had lots of shorter walks out to what you humans call bothies, but I know they are big kennels really. The Missus usually has a look round ( I think she wants to tidy things up) and the Boss amuses himself by pouring hot water on to dried leaves – can’t say I see the point, but if that’s what floats your boat …..

We started with Duror Bothy near Glencoe.

Duror Bothy

Nearly there

The Missus having a look round

I hope she has a dog biscuit for me!

The Boss having fun

WE all had a nice little seaside stroll out to Craig Kennel – sorry must remember, it’s a BOTHY not a kennel. These seaside walks do have a lot of up and down walking, but I usually find a place for a paddle.

Seaside walk to Craig Bothy

Not all flat walking ….

…. in fact, quite a lot of up and down ….

…. but there’s always a pool somewhere to cool down in

Craig Kennel – woops sorry, Craig Bothy

A nice place for a lie down

I know the Boss liked Shenavall Bothy the best – I’ve got to say, the mountains out that way were really impressive. It was nice and cosy inside the bothy and the Boss poured hot water on dried leaves again – I was happy just to have an extra biscuit.

Setting off to Shenavall Bothy

Hmm, bigger ups and downs on this walk

The Fisherfield Mountains

Shenavall Bothy

Cosy inside

Someone having a joke – strange things these humans!

We all enjoyed the walk out to Bob Scott’s Bothy, and I managed to find yet another place for a paddle. Oh, there was more hot water and dry leaves from the Boss.

On the way to Bob Scott’s Bothy

Time for another paddle

The bothy

Another cosy place to sit ….

…. and for the Boss to have a bit more fun

We followed Bob Scott’s with a walk out to Callater Stables Bothy – now that was a nice little dog walk.

Heading out to Callater Stables Bothy

Nice little dog walk!

Here at last ….

…. and the Missus having her usual look round

We also had a nice dog walk out to Gleann Dubh Lighe Bothy.

Gleann Dubh Lighe Bothy – © UKH

A walk through the woods to start with

There at last

Another cosy place to sit

My favourite bothy walk, though, was Ryvoan, mainly because I got to have a paddle twice!

Ryvoan Bothy

Time for a paddle on the way

Looks like a bothy to me

The Boss having fun again

Time to head back ….

…. but another paddle for me on the way

Now, I know it looks like the Boss is at his happiest when he’s pouring hot water into a cup of leaves, but he’s also had fun taking pictures of sunsets again this year – a bit more practice and he might even get to be good at it!

The Boss seems to do a lot of this

Red Cuillin sunset

Sunset at Redpoint, near Craig Bothy

Sunset over An Teallach near Shenavall

Anyway, I can hear him coming back, so I’d better wipe my paw prints off the computer keyboard and shift the dog-biscuit crumbs. In the meantime, I’m still trying to work out how he manages to shrink the Missus – perhaps those dry leaves he pours hot water on are magic leaves!

Have a great Christmas!

I still don’t know how he does this!

Text and images © Border Collie ‘Mist’ unless indicated otherwise (with thanks to her human for doing the camera thing)

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#261 – Cwmorthin and the mountains of the Moelwynion (Moelwyns)

Llyn Cwmorthin above Tanygrisiau

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It was a Team training night, and several of us drifted down to the pub afterwards.  The chat is always varied, but I overheard ‘Gaz’ talking about the worlds biggest and deepest slate mine, with miles of passages and hundreds of chambers.   It looked like a trip out that way would fill in a day nicely, which is why Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’, were at Tanygrisiau on a fine May morning in 2018.

Setting out from Tanygrisiau

The route

Blaenau Ffestiniog and Tanygrisiau

Blaenau Ffestiniog is well known as being a town that was literally built on the slate quarrying industry, but the huge slate spoil heaps above ground are insignificant compared with the vast underground slate mines in the area.   Amongst the most famous of these is the complex of mines and tunnels of Cwmorthin and Rhosydd, just above Tanygrisiau.

Llyn Cwmorthin and some of the surface works of the slate mine

The ‘barracks’ where slate miners would live during the week

Heading on past Llyn Cwmorthin ….

…. but too slow for Border Collie ‘Mist’

Mining started at Cwmorthin in 1810, but by the 1880’s a series of roof collapses combined with disputes with other mining companies, made the site less viable.   Mining continued though, and tunnels on five different floors were dug below the level of the lake (Llyn Cwmorthin) but when the original company went out of business, the neighbouring Oakeley mining company bought Cwmorthin mine and allowed it to flood to protect their own business interests.

Remains of the chapel ….

…. and the manager’s house, Plas Cwmorthin

Ruined buildings from the quarry workings

Cascades on Allt y Ceffylau

Between the two World Wars, the flooded passages were pumped out to allow mining to resume, but the mine was abandoned during WW2, with only the pumps working to keep the water at bay.  Mining operations were finally halted in 1970 and the works abandoned.  It is possible to visit the underground passages by contacting the Friends of Cwmorthin Slate Quarry, but for most visitors, the abandoned chapel and former manager’s house of Plas Cwmorthin are the most accessible relics.

Start of the track to the upper quarry

Looking back down the cwm towards the lake

Nearly there at the upper quarry

Just a small part of the extensive remains

Flooded mine entrance

At the head of the valley of Cwmorthin, an old quarry track leads to the upper quarry, and just as the visitor becomes used to the scale of the workings at lake level, a whole new complex of abandoned quarry workings comes into view.   Over the many decades, the old waste tips have blended in to become a part of the mountains and are a testament to the hard men who worked here.

Heading up to Rhosydd Quarry

Continuing upwards….

…. with ‘Mist’ ahead as always

The ruins at Rhosydd quarry with Cnicht in the background

At the upper quarry level, an incline carries on gaining height to Rhosydd quarry, with most of the workings here being above ground on what was the ninth level of the workings.    At last we had views of the surrounding mountains, including Cnicht, known as the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’ due to its ‘pointy’ nature viewed from the southwest, and Moelwyn Mawr with Moelwyn Bach beyond, and Rhosydd made an ideal place to stop for a bite and a drink.

Heading towards Bwlch Stwlan below Moelwyn Mawr

The track clinging to the eastern flank of Moelwyn Mawr ….

…. with a steep drop-off to Llyn Stwlan coming up!

From the upper level of Rhosydd, we carried on towards the pass of Bwlch Stwlan, with what should have been a straightforward track running along the eastern flank of Moelwyn Mawr.   For most of the way the track is as wide and as flat as a town pavement, but the weather and seasons have caused the occasional landslip – this might not have been a problem had there not been a steep drop-off to the lake below, and for a short while, Chris was not a happy bunny!

Chris, happy to be off the narrow path ….

…. and heading down to Llyn Stwlan

The dam at Llyn Stwlan ….

…. with a final view of Moelwyn Mawr

Eventually it was possible to escape the narrow path to head down to the lake of Lynn Stwlan, which like so many Welsh lakes is a reservoir.   Despite the hard outline of the dam, the lake looks at home here and part of the mountain scenery.   The dam also makes a handy bridge, leading to an even handier service road running down to Tanygrisiau, and it was a straightforward yomp back to the waiting car, and for ‘Mist’ the ride home for a long-overdue dinner time!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  Our Scottish trips and bothy walks have taken over the blog  for several months now, so it’s nice to be back on home ground in North Wales with this post

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#260 – Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy © UKH

Hogwarts Express, AKA The Jacobite Steam Train, crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct ©96tommy

 

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I blame Harry Potter!    The plan had been to walk out to Corryhully bothy, known as ‘The Electric Bothy’ due to its being connected to a modest hydro-electric generator.   We had arrived expecting a short hike out and back, but what we hadn’t allowed for was that unpredictable but growing hazard in the Scottish Highlands – the Tourist Trap.    In this case, the attraction was Harry Potter’s ‘Hogwarts’s Express’, known in real life as ‘The Jacobite Steam Train’.

Fort William and the Road to the Isles

Routes to the bothies – Corryhully (red) and Gleann Dubh Lighe (blue)

Glenfinnan and the route to Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

The train makes a daily run from Fort William to Mallaig and back again, and I’m sure it’s a fantastic sight as it crosses Glenfinnan Viaduct, but don’t expect a solitary experience.  We arrived at a reasonable time to start the trip,  only to find the start point at the railway viaduct had become a car park, and a full car park at that.   Luckily, we had a backup plan, so leaving crowds of disappointed and sulky kids behind us, we headed down to road to walk out to Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy instead.

Setting out ….

…. and heading towards the forest

Cascades in the ‘Dubh Lighe’ or ‘Black Torrent’

The only people likely to show interest in Glean Dubh Lighe are hikers going out to the bothy, or heading beyond to Streap (909 metres) and the wilderness area of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, so there was no competition from the multitude of Harry Potter fans.  Unfortunately, the start of the revised route was a bimble through the woods, though the cascades of the Dubh Lighe stream (translates as ‘Black Torrent’) provided some interest.

A bridge too far?

The view down to the ‘Black Torrent’ below

Out of the woods and into the open

Regular readers will know that Chris and I are not great fans of routes through forests, especially commercial forests, though Border Collie ‘Mist’ is happy enough and spends much of her time checking out the scents of other four-legged visitors.  There was, however, a wee bit of excitement (for Chris at least) before we left the forest, in the shape of a bridge over the stream, with the Dubh Lighe running through a narrow gorge below.  My request for her to stand on the middle of the bridge for a photo was declined, and none too politely at that!

First view of the bothy

Closer view of the bothy

There at last

Having survived the bridge (wide enough to drive a light truck over as it happens), we finally emerged into more open ground and soon after that the bothy came into sight.   In the early 1900s, the bothy was home to the McLennan family – seven children and their parents lived here, with dad working as a shepherd, forester, ghillie and stalker on the Fassfern estate.   When the cottage became unoccupied, it came under the care of the Loch Eil Outward Bound Centre, before the MBA (Mountain Bothies Association) accepted responsibility for its upkeep.

The bothy after the fire of 2011 © MBA

The buildings in the care of the MBA are maintained by the association with the agreement of the owners, to be used as free accommodation for travellers and mountaineers.   A surprising number of the bothies are damaged by fires, and earlier on our May 2019 trip to the Highlands we had visited Bob Scott’s bothy near Braemar, which has the dubious distinction of being in ‘version 3’, the previous two having been destroyed by fire.

The burned-out bothy in a sorry state © Allan

Glean Dubh Lighe bothy was badly damaged by fire in 2011 and was a subject of prolonged debate as to whether it should be rebuilt – thankfully for hill-goers, the bothy was repaired by MBA volunteers.   A faulty gas cartridge was the culprit in this case, though readers looking for a more interesting tale should read ‘The Night the Bothy Burned’ by outdoors writer John Burns.

Border Collie ‘Mist’ ready to try out the renovated bothy

The name on the door – looks like we found the right place

Just inside the entrance

The main room with the fireplace

The sleeping platform in the main room

Looking through the entrance hall to the second room

The second room and the ‘library’

The renovated bothy is light and airy, and undoubtedly an improvement on the original with wooden floors and wood-clad walls.   The main room has the original fireplace and a sleeping platform, and would make a cosy stopover.   The second room lacks a fire but has the benefit of a well-stocked bookshelf – those placing more importance on comfort over reading are advised to arrive early and head for the room with the fire.

The track continuing up the glen

Beyond the glen – wide open spaces with Streap beyond © Andrew Spenceley

We stayed for a short while for a brew and a bite to eat, before setting off back down the track.   Before leaving, Chris walked a short distance up the track to check out the view, but the cloud had descended and there wasn’t much to see.   In better weather it looks much more inviting, as seen in the photo above by Andrew Spenceley, so we have a good reason to return – that’s if Chris is ready to cross the Dubh Lighe bridge again!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except where indicated otherwise.

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