Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Weaving a way beneath many a height

6th May 2009

The idea of going over the hill from Dolwyddelan to Capel Curig has lain in my mind for a while with one attempt at doing it being scuppered by railway tardiness. It only takes a few hours so that makes it a good option for a short winter’s day. With the extra daylight of a spring day, I decided to extend it as far as Llyn Ogwen. That made it a lower level walk around and by a number of hills. First up was Moel Siabod with the Glyderau and Carneddau coming later.

The name Dolwyddelan means the meadow of Saint Gwyddelan; I suppose that Ireland’s proximity made for many a Gaelic incursion into Wales and this Irish saint was yet another of them. It’s certainly well located in pretty and tranquil countryside with its castle too. That appears not unlike the one near Llanberis but I never glimpsed it on this walk but rather on a train journey to Blaenau Ffestiniog instead. After spending a little time organising myself, I made my way from Dolwyddelan’s train station to the track that was to carry me to Capel Curig.

Carnedd Moel Siabod, Dolwyddelan, Conwy, Wales

The climb from the A470 is a keen one that can easily take your breath away. Initially, I was little unsure of my navigation but it soon enough started to fall into place: I was where I thought I was. My progress was set to be through forestry for a while and with enticing views to Moel Siabod in the morning sun too. Others were about but it was no throng, just a mixture of gentle strollers from my home country and other more active walkers like myself. Even with a good deal of camera action on my part, I wasn’t to be deprived on my personal space for a spot of reverie. A tempter turned up in the form of a sign saying Moel Siabod but this was left behind me in favour of my planned itinerary.

The forest may not have been overrun but things were even quieter after I left it for open hillside. Cloud had bubbled up and was obscuring the sun at times but my descent to Capel Curig was far from unpleasant. After some tarmac bashing, I was back on softer turf again with a plan to follow a public footpath all of the way to Plas y Brenin before crossing the A4086 to join a bridleway heading towards Llyn Ogwen. In the event, I ended up on the A5, perhaps because of lack of clarity on the ground. In hindsight, that may have been just as well because it alerted me to the heat of the day, the strength of the sun and my lack of a hat.

On my way to the A4086 junction, I passed one outdoor emporium, a former service station by the looks of things, and was kicking myself for not realising my want. Since there were two at the aforementioned junction, that was no travesty and a hat was duly acquired. In a departure from my usual habit of using peaked caps, I went for something more substantial with a good wide brim all the way around. Having the extra protection that this sort of thing provides has been in the back of my mind and it isn’t before time that I finally took the plunge. The new acquisition was a Trekmates item and features Gore Tex for keeping off the rain too while a chin strap stops the wind from carrying it off on me. Somehow, I have a certain feeling that it will see a good bit of use.

With an ice cream in my hand and the new hat on my head, I set off along the bridleway to Llyn Ogwen. As I rounded Cefn y Capel, I gazed across the A5 towards through which I have wandered on previous walks starting from Capel Curing. One of these took me around by Llyn Cowlyd on a day when the hills conspired to collect clag while all about them was sunny. By the time that I had passed Moel Eilio to reach Coedty reservoir, the weather had improved to produce a fabulous evening that would have been an incredible predication earlier. Even the humps and bumps of the Carneddau that I could see had cleared. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that I may have ended up in Tyn-y-groes before a combination of buses and trains returned me home. That wasn’t the only stroll staring from Capel Curig that landed me in the Conwy Valley with another hike that I think finished in Trefiw after passing Crimpiau, Llyn Crafnant and Llyn Geirionydd. Now that I cast my mind over this past excursions, the haziness of my recollections is in stark contrast with anything that I have shared through this blog. Things that you find on here may be for sharing but setting something down in writing does mean that you still have it for jogging your memory afterwards.

Looking over a map in search of those past excursions does make me wonder at how contorted some of the routes were. These days, I tend to appreciate the idea of less intensive footpath navigation with episodes like a recent amble from Congleton to Leek perhaps being the exception. The track that I used to get from Capel Curig to the shores of Llyn Ogwen was very much of the clear and relaxing variety. Traffic from the A5 was surprisingly not so intrusive at all and I only started to encounter humanity again at and after the campsite at Gwern Gof Isaf. The sky was hazy at times and cloud often intervened to provide respite from the heat of the sun. Picking out one hill from another, especially on the opposite side of the A5, was a tricky endeavour and I think that I need to get in among them to be really sure. Looking at maps now reveals an intriguing route to the top of Carnedd Llewelyn via Y Braich and Pen Yr Helgi Du so there’s some scope for a spot more exploration around here and much of the countryside is Open Access land too.

Pen Yr Helgi Du & the Carneddau, Ogwen Valley, Capel Curig, Conwy, Wales

There was another campsite to pass before crossing the A5 not far from the craggy buttress of Tryfan; I was very much approaching countryside that I have visited before. The path along the lower slopes of Pen Yr Ole Wen and above Llyn Ogwen had less of the clarity of the track that brought me to Nant y Bedlog. Once past the farmstead of Tal y Llyn Ogwen, conditions underfoot were often boggy and another way of losing any line of any path was over rocky portions. Broadly heading in the right direction was the approach that I adopted so my remaining on the right of way probably was a hit and miss affair. The clambering that was involved on my return to tarmac convinces me that I can’t have got it right and walking it in the opposite direction mightn’t be such a bad idea. Even so, any time spent looking across the lake at Tryfan easily compensated for any effort, especially when the sun escaped from behind the copious quantities of cloud that were by now filling the sky.

Tryfan & Llyn Ogwen, Ogwen Valley, Capel Curig, Conwy, Wales

My walk was completed with time to spare before the next bus to Bangor was due, never a bad thing and much better than being in a major rush. After acquiring some refreshments, I certainly had the time, even with a coach load of young people nearly overwhelming the small shop, to go confirming my suspicions about some of my route finding but the thought never even entered my head. Instead, I ventured along the path towards Llyn Idwal, another spot familiar to me from previous visits; I have walked from here to Llanberis by way of the Devil’s Kitchen path and Yr Aran and in the reverse direction using a different route that omitted the said hill. Time wasn’t sufficient for me to get to the cwm but a some more photographic action was allowed before I made sure of catching my bus, the last one of the day going to Bangor in fact. Not reaching a small target that may have come to mind late in the time was no bad end to what had been a good day out and casting eye over maps since then has added more ideas, including a higher level route around the Glyderau, that can be held over for other opportunities that may come my way.

Travel details:

It might have been an idea to get a rover ticket for this one but it wasn’t such an extortionate journey anyway. A train journey got me to Dolwyddelan with changes in Manchester and Llandudno Junction. The latter allowed for some photographic activity and the purchase of a hot bacon butty. The S6 Snowdon Sherpa service operated by Silver Star conveyed me to Bangor, from which another train journey got me home with changes in Crewe and Stockport.

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