#115 – Winter in the Clwydian Hills

‘Mist’ having a good time in the snow with Moel Famau behind

‘Mist’ having a good time in the snow with Moel Famau behind

‘The Spine’ race is one of those events that takes over your life – for the competitors it’s the culmination of months of planning and training, but the members of the support team also had to prepare for a week on the road, with no idea of what the next day would bring.  Then suddenly, it was all over, and life returned to normality.  In my case that meant a walk out on my local hills.

The route out of Cilcain towards Moel Famau

The route out of Cilcain towards Moel Famau

Beyond the village the path goes through woodland

Beyond the village the path goes through woodland

I’ve written about the Clwydian Hills before (see posts #79, #99 and #105) and our house nestles against the northern edge of the range.  Driving into North Wales via the M56, the Clwydian hills can be seen in the distance, and on a clear day it is possible to identify the highest (Moel Famau) by the remains of a stone tower on the summit.  The Offa’s Dyke Path runs along the skyline, a route we have taken several times, but this time we decided to head up from the village of Cilcain.

Gaining height above the trees

Gaining height above the trees

Soon the path became icy – time for the secret weapon!

Soon the path became icy – time for the secret weapon!

Traction restored, and gaining more height

Traction restored, and gaining more height

Heading out of the village, we hit the snowline almost immediately.  The route passed through fields and woods before starting to get steep.  Chris really doesn’t like ice beneath her feet, but we had our secret weapon with us – Kahtoola Microspikes.  My first pair were freebies from last years Spine Race (2012), and within a month I had to buy a second set to replace the pair that Chris had pinched from me!

The author and Border Collie ‘Mist’ by the forest

The author and Border Collie ‘Mist’ by the forest

Walking along the edge of the wood ….

Walking along the edge of the wood ….

…. before the final steep bit

…. before the final steep bit

The Kahtoola’s made short work of the steep, icy sections and we were soon at the edge of the forest that lies to the east of Moel Famau.  A last steep section brought us to the Jubilee Tower at the summit.

Approaching the ruins of the Jubilee Tower

Approaching the ruins of the Jubilee Tower

Chris just below the tower

Chris just below the tower

Looking northwest from the tower along the line of the Offa's Dyke Path

Looking northwest from the tower along the line of the Offa’s Dyke Path

The ruined base of the tower

The ruined base of the tower

The tower was started in 1810 to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III, but the money ran out and the incomplete construction was wrecked by a major storm in 1862.  The remainder was demolished, leaving the square base that is visible from the English border.

looking northwest towards Moel Dywyll

looking northwest towards Moel Dywyll

The descent from Moel Famau ….

The descent from Moel Famau ….

…. with Moel Dywyll ahead

…. with Moel Dywyll ahead

We didn’t hang around long as a cold wind was blowing, and soon set off for Moel Dywyll.  Along the way we passed a couple of walkers heading in the opposite direction who warned us that it was icy ahead.  I tried not to look smug as the Kahtoola’s bit into the ice beneath the snow, but there were sections of the route where skis would have been equally useful – I made a mental note to come back some time for a ski trip.

The start of the descent to Cilcain ….

The start of the descent to Cilcain ….

…. with the snowy ridge behind us

…. with the snowy ridge behind us

The end of a good day out - the lane back to Cilcain

The end of a good day out – the lane back to Cilcain

And then, all too soon, it was time to leave the ridge to head back towards Cilcain.  We had been late starting out, with the trip being a last minute idea, and we were watching the clock closely – if there’s one thing Chris hates more than sliding about on icy hills it’s coming down from icy hills in the dark!  As it was, we were down in plenty of time, and too early for the local pub to be open – it looks as though a return trip will be called for.

Looking back to Moel Famau from just below Moel Dywyll

Looking back to Moel Famau from just below Moel Dywyll

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  Three days later, and as I write this I’m looking out on to green fields – a sudden thaw has stripped the hills of snow, even the nearby higher mountains of Snowdonia.  A kestrel has been enjoying the sudden warm spell, but it looks as though the skis will be staying in the cupboard for now.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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14 Responses to #115 – Winter in the Clwydian Hills

  1. Those microspikes are pretty good aren’t they? We’ve hardly had ours off for the last week – both wandering around the local hills and also walking home from work!
    That first photo is a beautiful picture of mist – she’s very photogenic in the snow 🙂
    Mind you, I can’t see anything about Moel Famau without thinking about Barnaby Bear…….

    • The Microspikes are the best ‘freebie’ that I ever laid hands on! We did find them balling up a bit in the cold powder conditions we found on the hill, but easily dealt with.

      ‘Mist’ had the same problem – I use vaseline in the gaps between her claws when the conditions lead to balling, but I had left it in me other rucksack, duhh…. I had to de-ice her feet a couple of times! I bet Barnaby doesn’t have that problem 😉

  2. Some beautiful photos there – it looks a lovely walk in snow. I’m the same as Chris though – I hate slippery surfaces ever since I broke my arm on ice going down the school drive at 14!

    Isn’t that area a bit tufty for skiing? I think you’d need a good covering wouldn’t you? I’ve never tried skiing and think it would scare me to death – I’m bad enough staying on my feet without skis!

    • Thanks Carol, it was indeed a cracking walk out in the snow, and for Chris the microspikes made the difference between a good day and a miserable one – I’m sure I remember you mentioning spikes in a blog, do you use Kahtoola’s?

      Definitely ‘tufty’ in places, but skiers can usually link up enough patches of snow to make a line, the kind of snow that walkers ignore ‘cos it impedes progress too much. Not that there is ANY snow up there now!

      • Yeah, the snow went pretty quick didn’t it? I believe it’s coming back next weekend though. And yeah, I use Kahtoolas and Richard got some too. He doesn’t ever wear crampons but he likes the spikes.

  3. Looks lovely Paul, can’t beat a walk in the snow. Shame it doesn’t last very long.

    • It was a last minute idea, but I’m glad we seized the opportunity. I just hope that it isn’t the end of this years snow season in the UK hills.

  4. lanceleuven says:

    You got some lovely photos there. 🙂

  5. johndburns says:

    Moel Famau is the first hill I ever climbed! Great blog well done!

    • Thanks for that John – I always like to get to know my local hills well, but I’ve only scratched the surface with Moel Famau – work in progress!

  6. Pingback: #120 – The Snowdon Halfshoe? What’s a Halfshoe?!! | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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