(For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in, then use your browser return arrow to go back – go on, it really does work!)
Our first period of Covid-19 lockdown had finished at the beginning of July, and Chris and I (plus Border Collie ‘Mist’) hadn’t wasted any time getting back to the Welsh mountains (see post #277). We even grabbed a trip to the Lake District (see post #279) but it was now time to do some more exploring back home in Wales – where better for a day out than the Rhinogydd (the Rhinog mountains).
The Rhinogydd is an area avoided by the masses – you won’t find a queue to get to any summits here, as happened recently on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), nor will you find piles of litter, abandoned tents and discarded portable BBQs. The reason is simple – these are rough, gnarly hills that won’t tolerate being mucked about with! It is possible though, to have a great day out without any undue distress, you just have to pick your ground.
The last time I was here was unbelievably as long ago as 2012 (see post #96) when I’d had a great day out with ‘Mist’ on the best that the Rhinogydd has to offer, which included just about all the high ground starting at Rhinog Fawr then heading south. I didn’t think Chris would appreciate a long, rough day after our Covid-enforced break from the higher hills, but I had a route up my sleeve that would take us into the heart of the action – the lonely lake of Llyn Hywel.
The great thing about walking out to a lake is that you get the feel of the area without necessarily having to commit to a big mountain day, though ‘Mist’ looked ready for anything as usual. We started out from the farm at Nantcol, where the farmer charges a reasonable (in my view anyway) £2 to park up for the day – good value compared with the £10 for the car park at Pen y Pass at the start of the most popular routes up Snowdon. And that’s if you can find a space!
From Nantcol, a steady path leads up to Bwlch Drws Ardudwy (in Wales, a bwlch is a mountain pass) between Rhinog Fach (the Small Rhinog) and its slightly higher neighbour, Rhinog Fawr. The path isn’t used a great deal and is totally unlike the manicured trails found in the tourist areas. It’s a route that gives plenty of time for looking around, without the danger of falling off anything or being hit by a carelessly lobbed bottle. It’s wild, but in a sort of easy-going way.
Well, that’s ‘easy-going’ until it’s time to start heading upwards – this might not have been a route up a mountain, but it was certainly a route in the mountains. The path obviously doesn’t get a load of use, and it soon disappeared in steep heather and boulders. It would have been easier to find the path in descent, looking down on it, but going up it was easy to lose the route by straying no more than a couple of metres. It was hard work all round, especially for ‘Mist’ who couldn’t get a run-up at the boulders and rock steps, and it was with some relief that we emerged a couple of hundred metres short of the lake.
It was there we saw the only other humans we saw all day – we had a pleasant chat with the guy and his female companion, talking about photography amongst other things. He mentioned that he had videos on YouTube, and I thought his name sounded familiar, and so it should have done! Nick Livesey is a well-respected professional photographer (and thoroughly nice guy) – his book ‘Photographing the Snowdonia Mountains’ is a great inspiration to those of us who try to capture images of the mountains, but is also a great read for lovers of mountain photos. Get it on your Christmas present list!
Llyn Hywel is a beautiful, quiet spot, and we lingered for a brew and a bite to eat. From there, an easy and gradual descent across open hillside and tracks took us back to the valley at Pont Cerrig. A short walk up the quiet road led us back up to Nantcol and the car, with a great view on the way of Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr, with Bwlch Drws Ardudwy in between. The only view ‘Mist’ was interested in was the contents of her dinner dish back home!
p.s. The last post previous to this one was at the end of August, but with good reason – we took advantage of a temporary improvement in the Covid situation to get away in the camper, with a six-week trip to Scotland. We probably would have returned a bit earlier until we got the news that if we headed home to Wales, we would be locked down locally in Denbighshire, so we stayed on the road instead! Now, as I write this, all of Wales is locked down again for two weeks, but that should give me a chance to sort out about 1000+ photos!