Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Craig Drwg from Trawsfynydd.
Route Summary:Hewitt of Moel YsgyfarnogodThis walk includes the Nuttall of Moel Ysgyfarnogod
|24.4 km||696 m|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish:
Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Craig Drwg from Trawsfynydd. Route Map and GPX Download
Moel Ysgyfarnogod and Craig Drwg from Trawsfynydd. Details
Sometimes when you plan a wild camp, it all comes together. This weekend it did. The first day was mostly fine, with some cloud that only added interest, before the tent got snowed in during the evening. Waking to a frozen landscape and plenty of sunshine was unexpected, and it was even better than the previous day. The Sunday was a bit misty, but with the ice underfoot we were more interested in looking at our feet than the view.
The Route The walk starts in Trawsfynydd, just off the A470, at SH707 355 in the car park behind the Cross Foxes Hotel. You’ll see the statue of Hedd Wen opposite here, a famous welsh poet who was killed in the Great War. Cross the road and pass the post office and then turn right before you reach some council houses. Turn almost immediately left down a pedestrian lane and follow this, across a gate, and you’re soon down into farmland. (there’s an alternative route that involves walking south down the main street, then turning right down a narrow lane, past the school and right at the end).
Follow the lane as far as Bryn-ysguboriau farm, where you cross the field to your left towards the rather obvious footbridge. The views from here are pretty extensive, and we realised for the first time how much snow there was up the hills. Even Ysgyfarnogod at just over 600m had a sprinkling, the Arenigs though had snow a good few hundred metres lower. Once over the bridge, it takes about five minutes, you can turn right along the dam or along the minor road. It makes little odds as you’ll need to reach the road soon anyway. Continue on the lane, ignoring the left junction until after about 15mins you’ll arrive at the footpath to Cwm Moch on your left (SH 684 358).
The path is initially steep, but this soon gives out to a rather boggy area. The path is however, obvious, just rather wet in places. Keep to the path, with a wall to your right, until the path crosses a wall at SH673 358 where you should follow the wall left rather than follow the more obvious path ahead. You soon arrive at a ladder stile with a sheepfold nearby that’s ideal if you fancy a quick stop.
Sitting here, having a quick snack, the thought came that we were on the wrong hills. Not due to navigational error, just that it appeared to us that all the other ranges had more than our share of snow. Never mind. The route now was straight up the rough slope due south – there’s a faint path that’s easily followed and the first top, Moel y Gyrafolen is soon attained. The terrain is typically Rhinog, with bare rock and heather, interspersed with a health sprinkling of pools and bog.
Another typically Rhinog feature is that as soon as you’re up one steep section, you’re down the other side. The lazy could follow the path left from the bwlch and contour around, but that’s no fun. So we pulled up the slope past the wall and to the next top of Diffwys. Cross this, and the third top, Moel Penolau seems an unassailable fortress ahead. There is a scramble up the right hand side of the wall, and the short pull sees you on the confused summit. We walked right and found we had a head high cliff stopping out progress. There’s plenty of these around the Rhinogydd, it feels like any path you follow will end at one of these sheer drops where only a rope will help.
We scrambled up a crack in the rock, with some difficulty, and attained the summit. You are surrounded by a pavement of horizontal rock, it is an amazing sight, and unique in Snowdonia to these hills. Half the problem solved, descent was now another problem. It feels like you’re surrounded in these sheer drops with no obvious descent. The easiest way down is to leave the summit in a roughly south direction initially and follow the ledge around the summit then in a northerly direction. You soon come to a gully that, with a little scrambling, will take you down the short way to the thankfully grassy slopes of Moel Ysgyfarnogod. If in doubt, descend the way you came and follow the wall around the south of Moel Penolau.
The highest point of the day is rather an anticlimax after the strange and difficult terrain of Penolau. Looking back, it’s difficult to discern exactly where the weakness in the rocks that permitted your escape lies. The only give away is the boulder field at the base, but this doesn’t make it that clear. Looking the opposite way, the estuary of the Afon Dwryd and Glaslyn with Portmeirion fill the immediate view, with the Llyn Peninsula vanishing in the distant haze.
Descend to the boggy cwm to the SW of the summit by following a steep grassy path. We were going to camp in Llyn Du just beyond the next rise, and took a path to the right of the crags. We followed a path, leading to an extensive stone pavement but no way down. A track was apparent below us, but a good 10 metres of vertical rock separated us. A slight weakness saw us scramble precariously down to an old miner’s track and to the lonely Llyn Du for the night. When we reached the boggy cwm below Ysgyfarnogod, we should have crossed it and gone to the left where we would have met the mine track (probably the best path in the area!)
Llyn Du is an ideal spot to wild camp, but lacks any decent pitches. In drier conditions it might yield a few more, but today the ground was waterlogged and there was just one tent shaped perfect pitch. The only downside was that we couldn’t get all the guy lines in, and we were side on to the wind. Still, I was on the downwind side of the tent, so not my problem. While we pitched, the snow came, and we were soon kept busy knocking the snow off the tent.
By morning, the lake was frozen much harder, and we used axes to get water. The photos show how clearly wintery it was.
The miner path continues along the lake to the far end, beyond which all decent paths will vanish. We’d seen a group of people at this end of the lake earlier in the morning, but they seemed oblivious to us. We weren’t to them as we wanted to see where they were going. From the end of the lake, there’s a faint track straight uphill.
Then it’s a matter of keeping a very close eye on the map and the path. Another rock pavement summit – this time with extensive views up to Eryri and all of Snowdonia. The Arenig and Cadair Idris hills clearly having received more snow than the higher northern peaks. Soon you’re down again, and at another Rhinog lake – Llyn Corn-ystwc. Again, uphill for a short while and the first top of Craig Ddrwg. Ahead, the higher summit of Craig Drwg looks like a sheer column with little way up, but again an easy route is obvious as you start climbing.
Now this summit has been one I’d wanted to visit as the Harvey’s Maps place a 600m contour on the summit. The OS only reckons it’s 596m high. While my GPS seemed content with 603m. This isn’t concrete proof that this really is a new ‘mountain’ for Snowdonia, but it should hopefully spur someone with a clinometer to survey this top.
Yet more descent and a steep ascent sees you on top of Clip, another top that Harvey show as 600m, but only registered as 596 on my GPS. Descending back down the steep path to Bwlch Gwilym, the path continues down the bwlch to reach the path below. All we do is cross the path and continue on towards Craig Wion, though it is best to keep to the left of the taller top and aim for Llyn Twr-glas, mainly off path. Again, we found ourselves on a head high ledge, and managed to fall waist deep into a heather covered crack in the rock. While it was funny at the time, these are a serious hazard in the area.
At Twr Glas, we found a perfect wild camp. Even though it was early, we stopped for the night as the terrain between here and Bwlch y Tyddiad was known to be difficult and unlikely to yield a better spot. There was even some camp ‘furniture’, so we could sit down and cook on the fortunately shaped rocks.
Next day, we continued along the path that had bought us here from Bwlch Gwilym, and to Llyn Pryfed. There was very little scope to camp here, so we felt vindicated in stopping so early the previous day. It was icy, so walking on the rock pavement around the lake was slow going. At the end of the lake, we were tempted downstream by a path that was just as clear as the one that crossed the hills. You’re probably better at this stage to continue over the next few hills (see Rhinog Fawr from Cwm Bychan, and descend by the Rhinog Fawr Route to Bronaber) rather than descend here.
While easy initially, there were some boggy sections, but the real problem was crossing the felled forestry. It was hummocky, full of hidden ditches and very hard going even if it was only 300m in length. It would be better if you follow the wall to the far side of the stream as at least there seems to be a path where it connects to the forestry track.
It is straightforward from here, as you turn left along the track. We tried the right of way past Hafod-Gynfal, but this soon became a quagmire that was easily knee deep in places. So even though it was the quickest way to Trawsfynydd, we decided to skip it today and yomp back on forestry tracks and the A470. Though if you have the time, a much better return would be to make for the footpath at SH 715 288, where it crosses the main road and enters the forest, and then take the Sarn Helen Roman Road back to Trawsfynydd.
While the upper sections were enjoyable, the descent route chosen left a lot to be desired. Recommend you check out the other routes that link off this one (see Rhinog Fawr from Cwm Bychan, and descend by the Rhinog Fawr Route to Bronabe