The Moelwyn hills (the Moelwynion in Welsh) stand almost literally in the shadow of the Snowdon Range. Contained by the settlements of Betws y Coed, Capel Curig, Beddgelert, Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog, these are quieter hills than the Snowdon Hills. They don’t have the highest peaks or the sharpest ridges, which means that they don’t have the biggest crowds. All the more reason for a visit.
We had made a recent visit to the hills of the Moelwynion three weeks earlier (post #88 – Moel Siabod) and have also visited Cnicht (post #48) several times, but somehow we had managed to avoid the peaks that give the range their name – Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach. So, time to put that right.
The most popular approach to Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach is from the east by the small town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. There is drama aplenty here, following the remains of old slate quarries and long dead industries. To the west there is a more attractive, less-frequented ascent from the small village of Croesor – attractive and less-frequented seemed to fit the bill nicely.
We tackled Moelwyn Mawr first, by the West Ridge. Moelwyn means ‘White Bare Hill’ and Mawr means ‘Big’, and before long the hill was indeed starting to look big. After a steady height gain to the remains of a small quarry, the hillside suddenly became steeper. Border Collie ‘Mist’ was having a great time in permanent ‘4 wheel drive’, and Chris decided to follow that lead by using her walking poles.
The slope was one of those grassy slopes that are not difficult in themselves, but where a slip could result in a long, undignified (and possibly painful) slide through grass, heather and mud. For those hoping for ‘derring-do’ and excitement, there wasn’t any! The dog, the ‘Boss’ and ‘Mrs Boss’ all arrived on the summit, more or less together.
The summit photo included a rare appearance by the author, courtesy of a couple of passing walkers – ‘Mist’ was too busy to pose, having spotted another dog just beyond the top, and what’s more it was another Border Collie. A Welsh speaking Border Collie, in fact – at least her owner spoke in Welsh when addressing the dog, and the dog obviously understood. These Border Collies are clever, you know!
Then it was time to go – the initial descent led us to the rocky top of Craigysgafn. Beyond there, another steep grassy descent took us to the col below Moelwyn Bach (the ‘Small White Bare Hill’)
This was the last ascent of the day, a case of ‘what goes down has to go up!’ The climb was much more gradual than it appeared to be from below, and before long we were on the top. From there, another ‘West Ridge’ took us down towards our start point, with great views down to Tremadog Bay. Another great day out, and a couple more hills added to the ‘tick list’.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock