A walk up Rhinog Fawr
This walk was inspired by a route featured in Trail Walker magazine (November 1991 issue). My girlfriend and I had attempted this walk in about 1996 or 1997, however, due to fog and indistinct paths, we didn't get far. Thankfully, this time the weather was much better, and while the temperature wasn't high (hey, it's February in Wales!) it was a clear day. Magazine articles usually refer to the Rhinogs as rocky and boggy, with indistinct paths. I would say they're right!
The drive up to the farm at the head of Cwm Bychan is an adventure in itself. After about 5 miles of a very narrow road, with few passing places, you come across a gate across the road, not at the farm itself, which seems a bit odd. The farmer provides a field for cars to park on, and asks that you put £2.00 in a box at the gate – a fair price I feel. From the car, the dog and I worked our way up to Bwlch Tyddiau and the Roman steps. The path here is obvious, and as we walked up it, we caught up with a family going the same way.
From the Roman steps, there is more than one path to Llyn Du. At least it would appear that way, for while I followed the path marked on the map, the family came from a different direction. This was as far as my girlfriend and I got when we came, and even in broad daylight it is difficult to see where the path goes. The paths up to top of Rhinog Fawr seem non-existant on the ground, so I went for the easy option, and followed the family, who seemed to have a much better idea of where they were going. Due to the cold temperatures over the previous week, there was some ice on the ground, and the dog had a bit of difficulty on some of the steeper sections. Eventually however, we reached the summit, where I stopped for my lunch, while the dog stopped for her own lunch, and as much of my lunch as she could get.
From the summit, we continued South-East.
The plan was to continue to Rhinog Fach, however, trying to descend to Bwlch Drws-Ardudwy proved much more difficult than I had planned, and we wasted a lot of time around SH663284. In the end I decided it would be easier to head back uphill, and try and come down to a point higher up the Bwlch (Near where the cairn is marked on the map). By this time it was around 14:30, and as sunset was at 17:44 (according to the GPS) it was too late to attempt Rhinog Fach (and probably get lost). Eventually we managed to get back to the path next to the cairn, where a stone wall crosses the path, and we could then begin the walk down to Cwm Nantcol.
This is the point where it becomes apparent that the description of the boggy paths is correct. The long walk down the Bwlch is quite relaxing, and at times the path crosses the stream, sometimes with the help of stepping stones, sometimes not. I was quite surprised to see frogspawn here, half way up a mountain.
Looking back up at Rhinog Fach, I was glad I decided against going up it, even though I did want to go and see Llyn Hywel! As we got close to Cwm Nantcol we caught up with a gentleman we had met on the summit, and we spent 5 minutes talking, where he pointed out the quicker and easier way down! He asked if I was carrying on down Cwm Nantcol, to which I replied that we going back over to Cwm Bychan. His words were, "It's a long, damp slog". Indeed, the first mile or two is very damp indeed, and I was tired and a bit demoralised by this point, especially when I was overtaken by two other walkers. When we reached the point where we heading back downhill, I couldn't see any path, so we crashed through the heather, heading down by the stream which flows into the lake. When we came across a path which had footprints in it made me feel a lot better. More boggy ground by the side of the lake was covered, then we came back across the path, which we followed across a wall, then after a hundred metres or so, we came across a much wider path, which looked familiar. Then I realised that it was the path up to Roman steps. The walk back to the car was trivial, and we arrived at the car precisely at sunset.
I found that the car had been molested by sheep licking the dirt off.
On the way home, I received a phone call from my girlfriend asking if I was OK with the snow. As the weather had been fine all day, I was surprised, only for it to then start snowing quite heavily.