Sunday 4 May 2014

Rhinogs pottering

One of the reasons I spend so much time in the Dales is the cost of train fares and the complexity of actual travel. Initially, when attempting to book tickets to Harlech, prices ranged at roughly fifty pounds one way. However, by splitting up the journey, things become much cheaper. Thus, tickets to Birmingham and another set of tickets onwards. How this comes about is beyond the ken of a mere mortal such as I! Mind, overall the journey times means several hours of travelling, some eight hours each way. Returning back involved part of the journey by coach, then train to Birmingham New Street, then a transfer to Birmingham Moor Street.The route to  London was also diverted to arrive in Marylebone rather than Euston. Hey ho, sign on for a magical mystery tour!
Arriving Harlech mid afternoon on the Monday I was feeling very much off colour. In all probability due to a nasty stomach upset over the weekend. The path up from the station toward  Merthyr farm is never an easy one. Steep in places and continuously upward.

By the time I approached the campsite I was feeling light headed and somewhat nauseous. Probably a touch of dehydration? Unfortunately the campsite was closed, officially opening the  first of May. The camping fields being used for sheep with lambs. However, the farmer was quite happy for me to tuck the tent away in a corner. Thus I sort of wild camped on a camp site that at that moment was just a sheep field? Foregoing much in the way of solid foods, I concentrated on downing plenty of fluids and had an early night.

Tuesday morning I was feeling perkier and managed breakfast ok. Dawdling a bit to allow the tent to dry out, I still managed to be underway by around eight thirty. At a leisurely pace, I made my way over to Llyn Eiddew Bach. Taking stock of how I was feeling, which was not too bad, I decided to press on.. It was onwards and upwards. A path led me on to Llyn Dywarchen. Things where now getting interesting.The area was predominately all boulder and rock and picking a route through was to prove tricky. For reasons I cannot explain I opted for a somewhat  tad difficult way up. Zigzagging up through steep,rocky ground I came over Foel Renoleau. Hard work, much puffing and panting It was then an easy shuffle on to Moel Ysgyfarnogod. The sun was shining marred only by a chilly breeze, fantastic all the same. The only problem I had though was difficulty in actually seeing. At the moment I have cataracts and my sight is a bit blurred, made worse in  bright light.

My intention was to stay high and follow the ridge line as such over the Rhinogs. Well that was the plan. However, there is no actual ridge to follow. It is rough, often bare rock, with bog nestling in the hollows. Picking a route often meant threading my up through clefts in bands of rock, sometimes tip toeing along rocky terraces. Fascinating and at times reverting to a wee bit of rock scrambling. Not so so easy with a full pack. llyn Du looked lovely nestled in a deep hollow.

Another scramble to come around by Llyn Carn yste. There was not a lot of mileage involved but a fair bit of navigation and route finding. The other difficulty was deep heather and bilberry which often concealed hidden holes and boulders.

With time running on and the fact that I was getting wearied It was time to find somewhere to camp. Not so easy but eventually I found a small flat area just big enough for the tent.

A still night meant a wet tent on the Wednesday morning. The sun came up briefly and then a a haze settled in. Visibility was still good. My first goal for the day was Bwlch Gwlim and then up to Clip. Not an easy way up. Casting about I inched my way up a narrow cleft in the rock wall, (broke a fingernail as I scrambled up, darn!), a tiptoe along a very narrow ledge and another scramble and up on to a wide area of bare rock riven with deep fractures, some of them wide and deep. As I approached the cairn, the weather caught my attention. Thick mist was swirling through the valley below.

 It rose swiftly and within minutes I was enveloped in thick, damp mist. Visibility was nil. This was not good. Consulting the map I could see I had severe drops on three sides. Any intention of picking my down and over to the Roman Steps was scrubbed. What to do? My only option was to back track on the compass, heading north until I was off this bit of high plateau. That was not easy. It took an age to find my way down off that barren area. Checking on the map, my aim was to bear south and west. To be honest, the map was of little use to me at that point. There where too many nasty drops and bands of rock to thread my way through. Taking it slow and with constant referral to the compass, I worked my way downward. Several times I had to back track when I had nothing below me but a void. At one point I found myself peering at a hideously steep slope strewn with massive boulders and rocks. Shuffling around I came across a steep, heather chocked gulley. A clear sheep trod disappeared down through it. Taking a chance, I followed it down as it meandered and twisted around massive boulders and over slimy, algae covered rocks. It was hard, hard going. However, once down, the ground eased off and I knew I was through the worst of it. Now it was predominately heather bashing and bog trotting with hidden holes and a few concealed rocks thrown in for good measure.
Further down I could dimly make out the line of a dry stone wall. Coming closer something caught my eye,an old stile. Despite there being no visible path, the ground was very boggy, however, I was now fairly certain as to where I actually was. Keeping to a rim of rock and deep heather that bordered an area of bog, I kept bearing south. Further down the mist had thinned somewhat. Peering down the hill I could dimly make out another dry stone wall. Aiming for it, I was rewarded with the sight of another ladder style. Off to my left, out of sight, I could hear a river. Now I knew exactly where I was was. My aim had been  Llyn Cwm Bychan and suddenly the mist parted and there it was below me.

A drop down and then on to the path heading over to Cwm Mawr. From there I made my way up the valley. Further up there where one or two nice places to camp. The day had been a hard one. What a joy  to kick the boots off and settle back with a brew.

It rained Wednesday night and was still raining come Thursday morning. This was no problem, I was quite happy to stay put and chill out. Later in the day the rain eased off and I went for a wander.

Friday was a gentle meander back to the campsite, a hot shower, clean clothes and all ready for heading out on the Saturday morning.