A November stroll on Snowdon

A changeable day in November, with a beautiful clear start; just the sort of day to photograph some of the different moods of beautiful Snowdonia. And so it was last week when Tamsin & I had an early start to head for Rhyd Ddu before dawn. Here’s a photo heavy post, telling the tale of our walk and including the GPS track / route details, so that you might enjoy this fine piece of country for yourself; (please note that in wintery conditions this route becomes a much more significant challenge, requiring more knowledge & equipment):

The blue light of early morn

We parked up in the frosty & empty car park at Rhyd Ddu just as the tinges of blue light were lifting the dawn sky. A few quick checks plus one photo later and we were on our way, hiking up the track towards the old quarry on Yr Aran slopes. The aim was to be at the quarry as the sun rose above the mountain horizon. As always it was worth taking the time to stand & stare, the view looking back westwards was beautiful with a coloured dawn sky, mountain panorama and mist in the valley:

Looking west before sunrise – from the left, Nantle Ridge, Mynydd Mawr, Moel Eilio.

It is these views that help make early morning walks such a pleasure, along with crisp air, morning wildlife and the fact that you’ll probably have the mountainside to yourself! It’s definitely the time for catching decent photography light. I’m currently on a long-term mission to capture the many changing faces of North & Mid Wales landscapes, not just the perfect blue sky days. And so we carried on, heading uphill for the quarries.

Forward to Yr Aran and the sunrise

As we reached the quarry, the timing was great and we were rewarded with striking views all around. Looking back through the ruins, we could see Beddgelert Forest & Nantle Ridge beyond. Whilst ahead there were stunning sunrise colours, as the sun burst out from behind the flank of Yr Aran.

Back to Beddgelert Forest and Nantle Ridge from the quarry ruins
Sunrise across the quarries and slopes of Yr Aran

Now it was time to swing north and climb more steeply up the ridge, Allt Maenderyn, towards the arête of Bwlch Main (my favourite point on Snowdon). Looking uphill showed that the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) was, as so often, shrouded in moody cloud. Pleasing, from my photography perspective, it would allow for some moody shots looking down from the cloud base, I just hoped that more general cloud would hold off for another hour or so. In the meantime it was great to enjoy the morning view across to Y Lliwedd.

Warm sunlight floods into the quarries of Cwm Llan and Y Lliwedd

Approaching the cloud base & with the temperature becoming notably fresher, I paused to put on my coat and to take advantage of a gloriously clear view across Bwlchysaethau to Crib Goch, which was bathed in warm sunshine.

Crib Goch looming beyond Bwlchysaethau, illuminated by morning sunshine.

As we crossed Bwlch Main the views down towards Cwm Llan & Nant Gwynant beyond, were just as dramatic as I had hoped. The morning sunshine was sandwiched with building cloud above, valley shadow & mist below. Leaving the Canon SLR in the rucksack, I decided this would be a good spot to utilise the significant reach of my little Nikon. When I bought the B700 last year, its main target use was for video projects with Tamsin. I hoped that it would also act as an inexpensive & lightweight backup / catchall on walks. Whilst it clearly can’t produce SLR standard shots, it does hold its own well & fulfils my chosen role for it. Here are 2 shots out of the cloud with it – the 2nd shot is framed within the first one, at the mist line on the valley floor:

Changeable November conditions; looking southerly from Bwlch Main arete (Snowdon) with Y Lliwedd to the left, mist over Llyn Gwynant and dramatic skies above.
Morning mist over from Llyn Gwynant shrouds the start of the Watkin path up Snowdon.

Now continuing across this exposed ridge to Snowdon’s summit, visibility dropped & hints of winter appeared; perhaps we’ll be back up here with the crampons in a few months 😉

In to the mists on the exposed ridge of Bwlch Main.
Signs of Winter

Finally we reached the summit and met a small handful of cheerful folk who were also enjoying the morning (the first folk we’d seen all morning). Here’s a picture of Tamsin by the summit trig point.

Tamsin & the Yr Wyddfa summit trig point

To descend, we retraced our tracks across Bwlch Main and then, keeping right where the path splits, we followed the Rhyd Ddu path back down to the car. With steadily increasing cloud & flatter light, the best of the photography was done but we did pause to enjoy our bacon butties & picnic 😀

Below, you will find the details of our route, a link to the GPS track and a gallery of all the pictures above, to make it easier to view them:

GPS Route details:

If you prefer track-logs, it’s available here.

Gallery of images:

A Moelwyn walk extended

How do these things happen? You decide to go for a medium length, early morning mountain walk, but then end up extending it and walking for most of the day. Our initial objective was Moelwyn Mawr; as seen from Cnicht in the feature image above.

The day started with a 5-20am alarm, grab a bit of breakfast, make some chilli pork sandwiches and drive up to the pretty village of Croesor. We’d already packed the camera gear & walking kit on the previous evening. The village of Croesor has a lovely riverside car park which is perfect as a starting point for various walks in the area. We were parked up by 7am & soon on our way, walking up the steep eastward bound lane out of the village & in to the glowing sunrise.

Swinging off the road and through some currently under felling forestry, we now had to steadily negotiate the wet, marshy land that leads to the Moelwyns. The plan was to watch for any low lying cloud that might settle with a morning temperature inversion, good to photograph, instead we were treated to a gloriously clear sunrise with long shadows cast by the mountains; a perfectly fair exchange in my books.

Early morning on the slopes of the Moelwyns

We took our time enjoying the cool morning air & fabulous scenery, very glad of our waterproof footwear because ground conditions were more than a little soggy. As we crested the summit, the bright morning sun was perfectly positioned for some photography of the Snowdonian landscape, but not before a brief rest whilst Tamsin had what she calls ‘a brief vampire moment’ by the trig point 🙂 (see the gallery at the end of this post)

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Select the panorama image above & then pan with either your mouse or arrow keys.

We reached the summit of Moelwyn Mawr at around 9am. Above is a 180° panorama of the wonderful views across Snowdonia. Below is a small version with some features tagged, click it to see it larger …

Moelwyn Mawr panorama key

Now we had planned to drop down past the old Croesor quarry and to then follow the valley back to the car, however filled with fresh energy & on such a glorious day, surely it was worth pushing on a bit further. We determined to drop down towards the ruins of Rhosydd quarry & Bwlch Cwmorthin. Relaxed in the knowledge that we had plenty of time, Tamsin found some opportunities to practice her parkour manoeuvres and we also explored some of the old quarry workings. (see gallery at end)

Geronimo – a leap of fun

We found where an old water wheel had originally powered machinery & drags, only to be supplanted by combustion engine power, the remnants of which stood rusting not 25 metres away. Quarry men’s’ housing stands forlornly in line, roofs long gone, moss now living where boots & overalls would have hung next to small fireplaces. Opposite, the working sheds stand similarly tired, slowly being reclaimed by mother nature’s battalions.

Quarry ruins & spoil heaps with Moelwyn Mawr as a backdrop

After this interesting window in to times long gone, it was time to push on further across the uplands. Past small pool with bogbean growing within, beyond Llyn Cwm-corsiog to the slopes of Moel Druman & Foel Boethwel, where we paused to watch the aerial mastery of a Kestrel hunting voles who were carelessly relaxing in the morning sun. Here we finally swung back in a south-westerly direction to follow the ridge up to Cnicht. From the summit of Cnicht we would be able to look across the valley back to gathering clouds on Moelwyn Mawr (see feature image, top). From here we would enjoy a little fun on the rocky descent from Cnicht before pausing for sandwiches & chocolate biscuits – always a highlight of mountain days out.

Cnicht from the path back to Croesor

An enjoyable walk through rough grazing land, from whence sheep gazed at these curious humans, led us back to the car park at Croesor. Time to rest our legs & top up on fluids before the short drive home.

Additional Images:

Approximate Map:

Moelwyn-Cnicht_Map ©Thunderforest / OpenStreet Map

In search of Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats have roamed Snowdonia for many years and I always enjoy seeing them from time to time, especially when it involves a walk up the Rhinogs (or more correctly Rhinogydd). The Rhinogs have always had that little extra feeling of wilderness for me, where better to view wild goats. I should really refer to them as feral, since they are descended from the domestic goats of pastoralists some 10,000 or so years ago. So having parked in Coed y Brenin, Tamsin & I headed for the rocky northern slopes of Rhinog Fawr.

Our route up in to the hills took us past the picturesque Pistyll Gwyn, which had a decent flow after a few nights of autumn rains.
This is a lovely walk with great views, so nothing would be lost if we didn’t sight the goats.

Cardigan bay & Lleyn peninsula from the Rhinogydd

It was here that I spotted the first small group of goats. Tamsin was busy sketching a view that she felt would inspire her fantasy writings, and so I was meandering amongst the rocks when I spotted 3 goats a little below Llyn Du. At a distance that was towards the limit of the optics that I was carrying, the normally very skittish creatures remained relaxed whilst I took a few pictures & then retreated.

We continued to enjoy our time on the mountain but it wasn’t until we were practicing our parkour balance descending the wet rocky track at a fair rate of knots, that our second goat sighting occurred. We heard an eerie bleating from several hundred feet above us. Tamsin the trusty spotter wheeled around to see…

Spotter Tamsin

.. two billy goats with generous horns calmly grazing amongst the crags & another goat high above them, bleating (see featured header image).

Billy Goat

I did take some rather shaky video of the goats but given that for part of it I was prone in a midge infested bog at the time the quality is limited, apologies.

Hope you enjoyed, take care of yourself & our precious planet 🙂

Return to Rhiwargor

Or more accurately, another trip to Pistyll Rhyd-y-meinciau.

This is a walk that inspired the digital painting that I’ve used as a featured header above; if you like it, the print is for sale on my Nature’s Universe Store.

The walk is a relatively unchallenging one (about 1.5 miles 300ft climb), assuming that you choose not to scramble up the side of the falls. The character of the falls can change dramatically from a soft refreshing cascade on a hot sunny afternoon to a roaring torrent as the winter snows melt. The river falls about 275 feet in the several stages shown by the slideshow pictures below:


Note: some of these photographs are taken from vantage points gained by climbing the falls.

Location:
At the head of Vyrnwy lake there is a good car park (see map for details), signposted Rhiwargor. The car park has beautiful views & an interesting ironwork sculpture. A great place for a picnic but please note that the nearest public loos are some miles away, back near the dam.

Route:
Follow the path out of the far end of the car park, dropping slightly downhill towards the river & through the footpath gate. Upon reaching the river turn upstream and follow the riverbank path in a westerly direction. When you reach a point where there is a vehicular bridge over the river, do not cross, instead stay straight ahead through the footpath gate. Continue to follow the path, twisting up & down hill along the left-hand riverbank. All the while you should be able to enjoy ever improving views of the waterfalls.
Upon reaching a wooden footbridge, cross the river and continue upstream for a short distance, to reach the base of the falls & a conveniently sited picnic table.

It is possible to clamber up the side of the falls but this is a more substantial & oft muddy task that is beyond the scope of this brief guide. So having enjoyed some time at the waterfall, now take the stoned forestry track back along the northern side of the river. Follow this until you are close to the vehicular river bridge, cross back over the river and retrace your footsteps back to the car park.

Map below via Viewranger:

One of my favourite walks – Y garn, Glyderau loop

This is one of my favourite walks. A circular loop from the Youth Hostel by Llyn Ogwen, taking in some of Snowdonia’s fine mountain peaks.

Do be aware that some of the going is quite rough, there are sections of scrambling on scree and that in winter you are likely to need crampons & ice axe. That said, it’s an exhilarating mountain walk with fine views.

As one leaves the car parking area and follows the well made path to Llyn Idwal, it’s great to view the imposing cliffs above you with the knowledge that you’ll soon be walking above them. Upon reaching the lake we turn right to head up the slopes of Y Garn. This path is steep & particular care is needed in icy conditions. As you climb, do take time to look around and take in the views; looking east across Llyn Ogwen with Tryfan on its righthand shore or looking north along the Nant Ffrancon valley and out to sea.

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Nant Ffrancon with snow tipped Carneddau

Upon reaching the summit of Y Garn, fine panoramic views are available, looking over most of Snowdonia. Again take in Tryfan to the east or look south-west to Snowdon & her relatives.

Now we must descend about 250m southwards to Llyn y Cwn before ascending the shaded scree slope to the summit of Glyder Fawr, the highest point on this walk. The rough & jagged rocks of Glyder Fawr provide quite the dramatic viewpoint. Now we can enjoy the high level walk eastwards from Glyder Fawr, via Castell y Gwynt to the similarly rocky summit of Glyder Fach.

Whilst it is possible to descend almost directly via the eastern scree slope of Glyder Fach to Bwlch Tryfan, it may be more enjoyable to take the slightly longer route to Bwlch Tryfan by diverting towards Llyn Caseg-fraith, as shown on the map.

Once we have reached Bwlch Tryfan, follow the rock strewn path downhill past Llyn Bochlwyd & its associated waterfall and then all the way back to where we began.

In total a very enjoyable walk of about 7 miles with a climb of around 3,300 ft. Whilst timing will vary upon your pace & how much you stop to enjoy / photograph the views, it is best to allow most of a winter’s day to complete this – say 7 hours.

Below is my map for this walk, embedded via Viewranger: