Sunday 27th March 2022
My first walk in Snowdonia since May 2019. It had been a long time in waiting; the first walk in what would be, for me, a series of days spent roaming about this National Park alone. I’ve driven up and checked in to the hotel the night before. A glorious day of weather was on the cards.
If you’re interested in the route I followed, please see this link on OS Maps.
From Betws-y-Coed where I was staying, I drove for less than fifteen minutes, down to Dolwyddelan. I’d aimed to park in the large car park for the castle but… That was closed for reasons of Covid-19. Instead, I was directed back up the road and to a narrow parking layby at SH 729 523.
Already from here, I could see what I’d determined to be Moel Siabod, the main focus of this walk. It’s a mountain I became aware of a few years ago and I believe it’s popularity has grown, where more people have taken to hiking and the need to discover places other than Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa has grown.
I walked down in to Dolwyddelan before turning left off the main road. I was soon pleased to find clear waymarkers and fingerposts highlighting the public footpaths.
I say this because I’ve walked in other parts of North Wales before – even around the National Park – where such waymarking can be non-existent.
My aim was to continue on and in to this woodland. Already, the sun was strong above me and this was only the end of March. I was seeking the shade of those trees.
In to the woods and I crossed Afon Ystumiau via a footbridge.
I soon joined a broad forest track that I’d follow towards the north-west corner of the woods. Crossing that river twice more. I enjoyed this quiet morning walk. Not another human to be seen, although I narrowly missed passing a small group of off-road bikers.
As I left the woodland, I began climbing up alongside one of the tributaries to that river. Ahead of me was the ridge I’d be aiming for.
Looking back down, you can see the small bald patch within the trees from which I’d started my climb.
A gorgeous landscape. Untainted by man. But for the occasional boundary fence and footprint.
I thought it would be easy for me to make my way up from here. I didn’t put the work in to careful navigation and assumed that I need to walk on, keeping the right up to my left…
In truth, the rocks above probably concealed Llyn y Foel. I was wanting to keep to the south of that and now, I was about to continue walking north!
Perhaps half an hour later, I spied this lake and suspected that it was in fact Llyn y Foel. But it was probably one of the unnamed lakes north-east of where I’d wanted to be! I didn’t realise this before consulting my OS Maps app.
In fact, it was the sight of this tiny lake (next to a disused quarry) that first triggered my internal alarm.
Back I would trek, past bemused-looking sheep who’d already seen me slog past them in one direction. I’d been late leaving the hotel as I hadn’t realised that the clocks were going to change over night. But I still had plenty of time to get up to the summit of Moel Siabod in time for lunch.
I’d been looking for a scramble up the Daear Ddu route and had been heavily reliant upon GPS to get close to it. I made eye contact with a man and his dog near the start of the climb and could only hope they weren’t about to follow in my lead!
I’d put my phone away and begun to climb. A path of sorts would weave between and around large rocks and boulders. Ahead of me, two local-sounding walkers talked as they moved. In an effort to avoid them, I would scramble some more; climbing what I thought looked do-able. Sometimes make mistakes, having to wander off to one side and take a less direct option.
I gained ground ahead of them and I was like to win the self-imposed race to the summit. I quite enjoy scrambling but I wish I’d bought my La Sportiva boots and not my heavy Altbergs. But my mind was set on the idea that this was going to be North Wales at the end of MARCH, not July!
A few others, who’d walked up from a different direction, were already hanging around the trig point. I’d still have to wait my turn. A couple from the Lake District, it turned out. They would eventually chat with the two local walkers behind me.
It was a good scramble. Not comparable to Sinister Gully in the Glyderau or Tryfan itself. But I quite enjoyed it. I’d also pushed myself a bit too hard in places and aggravated my left knee. Those two “local lads” (probably in their 50s) were telling the other English visitors that they thought it was quite an easy scramble and not that hard… Even though it was their frequent pausing that had allowed me to overtake them with great ease!
I wondered whether it was a trait that men have; not wanting to back down or show weakness in the face of a challenge – and I’m not referring to my own goal of finishing first!! To me, there’s no shame in admitting that you found something even a bit harder than you experienced. Or maybe the time before.
I had lunch just away from the trig point, as I waited for the crowd to clear (and listened in on those conversations). Looking north, I could l see many mountains that I didn’t recognise… In actual fact, I was staring at Tryfan, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr and perhaps some of the Carneddau.
I’m going to make an assumption here, that most people climbing Moel Siabod approach it from Capel Curig and the direction of the National Outdoor Centre at Plas y Brenin. There’s even the Moel Siabod Café near there and beside the A5.
In a neighbouring valley and perhaps off towards Snowdon, I could see white smoke rising. Was this vapour from one of the steam trains? It could actually have been a wild fire. On each day I spent in Snowdonia, I would drive past at least one fire engine; each attending to a different fire around the region.
After lunch, I was ready to walk on towards those mountains. I was hoping I’d have been around the halfway point by now but the truth is, I was still some way ahead of reaching that – plus I’d added a good mile or so to my day with the morning’s meanderings!
I followed the boundary line west, heading downhill from Moel Gid. You can walk on either side of the fence, here. I passed one group of walkers on the opposite side and then passed another couple after climbing a stile and about to begin my next climb.
My walk would continue walking right-to-left across the far side of the lake you see above and then three the woods to the left…
But to get there, I’d first have to tackle the rocky ridge of Carnedd y Cribau.
Some scrambling was involved. I down-climbed in a few areas. Ladder stiles again allow you to walk on either side of the north-south boundary fence. It was tough at times and I was already growing tired. I don’t remember meeting another walker along here.
There were bogs and I accidentally managed to plunge my left leg at one crossing!
With a sense of relief, I eventually met the bridleway that passes through this gate at Bwlch y Rhediad. “Plane-sailing onwards to the woods”, I thought, as I spied a group of rucksack-laden teenagers ahead of me.
A couple of hours had passed since I’d left Moel Siabod and I felt in need of a second break. I made use of the stones at this old building or wind shelter.
That DofE group I’d spied earlier had turned off to the south, as I neared the woods of Carnedd Pen y Bont. Large boulders would permit me to cross Afon Diwaunydd without too much trouble.
Moments before this, I’d lost my left leg to another patch of bog and then, as I stood back to take a the photo of the river above, my right leg disappeared down an unseen peaty hole!
Following the right of way across here was straightforward. But I was dismayed with the lack of rising trees. Many had been felled – and I wouldn’t known whether that was by mechanical or natural cause.
Were the older trees depriving the newer trees of their right and need to feed?
I met another young group of teenage backpackers as I left the woods through the other side. They were enjoying the shade beside the river and were also quite friendly and chatty as I passed.
I soon found my way down to a road to the west of Dolwyddelan. I was supposed to join a farm track from the next road corner. It’s not a public footpath but is labelled on the map as a route with public access… On the ground, there were no welcoming signs or yellow arrows. Only unmarked gates. It probably would’ve been fine for me to walk through here but I was growing with tiredness and not wanting to risk any confrontation.
I would end up following a public footpath across green fields and down to Pont y Coblyn. It was pleasant. Until I had to step on to and follow the A470 road.
I walked on to the large car park for the aforementioned Dolwyddelan Castle. I wouldn’t be heading up there today and was more concerned with getting back to my car, resting for the evening, eating a decent meal and feeling ready for the rest of my week.
Another sign states that this car park is closed “due to Covid-19”. I presume that a more affirmed reason is that staff would be required to open and close this space every morning and evening, with the risk of vehicles being locked in at night and anti-social behaviour.
If it was a pay-and-display space or one that asked for donations, perhaps it would’ve been available. But you’d struggle to park more than half-a-dozen cars in the layby I used.
A good walk nonetheless. Tougher than I’d anticipated and I was looking forward to the days that would follow. That castle will still be there another time.
Length of this walk = About 12 miles
Thanks for reading.