#162 – The Berwyns? Where’s that? – Part 1

The Berwyn Ridge from Llyn Lluncaws

The Berwyn Ridge from Llyn Lluncaws

The mountains of the Berwyns are best summarised as “The mountains the planners forgot”.  Standing between Llangollen, Corwen, Bala and Oswestry they are a significant bit of upland, but someone in an office decided that the Rhinogs, Arenigs, and Aran Ridge should be included in the Snowdonia National Park, but the Berwyns should not, despite the fact that one of the Seven Wonders of Wales, the waterfall at Pistyll Rhaeadr (see post #85) is one of the attractions.

The hills of the Berwyn range (route marked by the dots in the centre)

The hills of the Berwyn range (route marked by the dots in the centre)

Closer view of the route

Closer view of the route

Setting off from near Pistyll Rhaeadr

Setting off from near Pistyll Rhaeadr

Mind you, it has to be said that they are rough, wild hills. In 1165, Henry II of England decided that an invasion of Gwynedd was a good idea, and decided to take a route over the Berwyns as a surprise for the Welsh princes – it was Henry who got the surprise though, and after several days of heavy rain over hills covered in thigh-deep heather, the English army turned round and squelched their way back to Oswestry.

The Berwyn Ridge comes into view with Moel Sych (left) and Cadair Berwyn (right)

The Berwyn Ridge comes into view with Moel Sych (left) and Cadair Berwyn (right)

Approaching the lake – Llyn Lluncaws

Approaching the lake – Llyn Lluncaws

The view back to the valley ….

The view back to the valley ….

 …. and the start of the climb up to Moel Sych

…. and the start of the climb up to Moel Sych

I had already had my Berwyn initiation – when I joined my local mountain rescue team NEWSAR (North East Wales Search And Rescue) I had to pass a navigation assessment to go on the callout list. Fellow trainee Richie Boardwell and I had an evening ‘bushwhacking’ through the high heather that characterises these hills, but I found myself wanting to go back and see more. The late fine spell in September gave the opportunity to explore, so Chris and I decided on the classic approach to the Berwyn Ridge from the waterfall at Pistyll Rhaeadr.

Still with some way to go – and a drop to one side!

Still with some way to go – and a drop to one side!

How to deal with a drop? Move away from it!

How to deal with a drop? Move away from it!

The route follows a good track from the waterfall, heading for the Berwyn ridge stretching from Moel Sych to Cadair Berwyn. The track leads to the lake at Lynn Lluncaws before turning left towards the main ridge. I was enjoying the view down the steep drop to the lake when I realised that Chris was most definitely not enjoying the view down the steep drop! A slight adjustment of our course kept everyone happy.

Heading towards the ‘un-named top’

Heading towards the ‘un-named top’

The Fiona McWilliam memorial

The Fiona McWilliam memorial

We passed Moel Sych and headed for the ‘un-named top of Cadair Berwyn – for many years walkers must have thought it strange that an un-named intermediate summit seemed higher than the adjacent peaks of Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn. The answer was that the usually accurate national survey had got it wrong! On the way to the summit we passed the memorial to Fiona McWilliam, who died in a flying accident here in 1999 – the Cessna light aircraft in which she was a passenger was apparently caught in a downdraft, crashing just below the ridge. No signs of the sad accident remain, apart from the memorial itself.

The last few metres to the highest point

The last few metres to the highest point

The author looking pleased with himself for some reason!

The author looking pleased with himself for some reason!

Heading for Cadair Berwyn, with the stone shelter on the right

Heading for Cadair Berwyn, with the stone shelter on the right

The stone shelter near the un-named top

The stone shelter near the un-named top

The un-named top from the shelter

The un-named top from the shelter

The true summit lies between Moel Sych and the trig point on Cadair Berwyn, and is not named on the Ordnance Survey map. For years it was assumed that Moel Sych and the trig point were joint high points at 827 metres (2713 feet) each, before it was discovered that a tiny ring contour at 830 metres (2723 feet) had been overlooked. The ‘new’ summit certainly looks and feels more like a mountain top than the other two.

Cadair Berwyn ahead

Cadair Berwyn ahead

Looking back along the Berwyn Ridge from Cadair Berwyn

Looking back along the Berwyn Ridge from Cadair Berwyn

Heading back to the col and the memorial

Heading back to the col and the memorial

Llyn Lluncaws below, with the outward route beyond

Llyn Lluncaws below, with the outward route beyond

We didn’t linger, and after checking out the stone shelter near the top we carried on to the trig point on Cadair Berwyn. From there it was a simple case of retracing the route along the Berwyn Ridge to Moel Sych and then following the fence line down to our start point in the valley. What could possibly go wrong …. ?

The way we should not have gone ….

The way we should not have gone ….

…. and looking back at the way we should have taken!

…. and looking back at the way we should have taken!

It’s been a long time since I made a navigational error. When teaching navigation skills I always point out the dangers of making a mistake by being distracted, which is exactly what happened in this case. The turn to the valley was obvious enough, but Chris and I were chattering away about something and we walked past the turn. Fortunately the route must have been running in the back of my mind, and after about 500 metres I had the feeling that things didn’t look right!

On our way back to the valley ….

On our way back to the valley ….

A quick map check confirmed the error, and we avoided a return to the summit of Moel Sych by contouring round the slopes. Back on course it was a steady descent back to the waterfall, but as usual I was already plotting the next trip out. On the map, the two broad ridges to the east of the Berwyn Ridge appeared to give a good ‘horseshoe’ walk, and the views from the top had confirmed that. The only question was, would the fine weather hold out?

…. and the final descent

…. and the final descent

p.s. The fine weather did hold out – read about it in two weeks’ time.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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.
This entry was posted in 5. North Wales, Aircrash Sites and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to #162 – The Berwyns? Where’s that? – Part 1

  1. That looks smashing – I haven’t done anything in the Berwyn yet.

    Wonder what Lluncaws means? So far as I know, caws is cheese and seems a funny thing to put in a lake name.

    I know all about up and downdrafts in Cessnas – when I was learning to fly them, it was at Blackpool Airport. On the way out on most take-offs you went out over the sea. The colder water meant you had a 100ft or so height-loss which you really didn’t want as you were trying to get airborne. Coming in for the same runway direction, you came over the market garden glasshouses – that meant you were lining up nicely on your descent when you suddenly gained 100ft or more!

    I’m like your missus – if a path goes too near the edge (which most seem to), I make a new one to the side further away. Mind you, lots of people must as there is generally a fainter path about 3 feet further away from the edge than the main one! 😉
    Carol.

    • Lluncaws means (as near as I can get it) ‘looks like a cheese’ so it’s the ‘Lake that looks like a cheese’!! For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look a bit like a cheese 🙂
      Yes, there was a fainter path about 3 feet in on this edge, and Chris did her best to make it more visible by adding her boot prints – I was enjoying looking down the drop to the lake that doesn’t really look like a cheese 😀

  2. Well, thanks to that, I now know where the Berwyns are too!
    And they look very nice 🙂
    I take it your navigational error didn’t end in the usual husband/wife argument that our navigational errors always seem to degenerate into…..?

  3. LensScaper says:

    This just goes to show how much fun you can have on the less tall hills.

  4. Pingback: #163 – The Berwyns? Where’s that? – Part 2 | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  5. Pingback: #204 – Beautiful Berwyns | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  6. Matt Jones says:

    The Berwyns, its been 21 years… yes they should be in the park along with pumlumon, or maybe that should be in the once proposed cambrian mountains park.. the llyn hills should be in snowdonia also?

    • Llyn deffo IMHO – Separate Cambrisn Mountains Park makes sense, because they have a different feel. Poor old Berwyns should certainly be in Snowdonia!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s