Thursday, 1 August 2013

Moel Siabod from Pont Cyfyng

My friend Simon recently traversed the Crib Goch ridge on Snowdon and like most adventurous and outgoing people who experience the thrill of Crib Goch he wants more. He has discovered the fun, excitement and satisfaction you get from hands on scrambling. So when Simon arranged his next walk via Facebook it was no surprise that he chose a mountain with a ridge scrambling route. If you ask anyone the locals that live or work in Snowdonia what is their favourite mountain the name you will hear the most is Moel Siabod. It has everything the three main popular mountain massifs have yet it is totally over looked by most hill walkers. It has glacial cwms, disused quarries, ridges, geology, wildlife, stunning panoramic views and a high exposed summit. All this and the lack of people make it the locals favourite and their best kept secret.

Tim, Andrew and Simon heading towards Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I wasn't lucky with the weather the last two times I climbed Moel Siabod. The first attempt was a disaster as the winds were incredibly strong. In fact they were so bad that there was a National Trust ranger at the lay-by warning people how bad the winds were on the summit. The second attempt was an enjoyable day out but the summit was shrouded in thick cloud so there were no views again. On that trip we ascended the steep unforgiving scree slope by the side of the Daear Ddu ridge instead of the ridge itself which wasn't the best choice. This time however we were guaranteed clear blue skies as the nation was gripped in a fortnight long heat wave.

Tim, Andrew and Simon walking past quarry lake below Moel Siabod

After a very easy drive along the A55 we parked up in the Pont Cyfyng lay-by and waited for the arrival of Simon and Andrew who arrived only minutes later. We crossed the bridge over the Afon Llugwy river which is stunning as it cascades through a chasm below the bridge. We turned right crossing the cattle grid and ascended the steep tarmac road towards Rhos. At the top of the road where it bends right we headed up the new footpath that now diverts walkers round the farm and is actually a much nicer route through bracken and heather. The footpath rejoined the track above the farm where we turned left and continued in the direction of Moel Siabod.

Tim passing huge quarry tips below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I first walked up Moel Siabdod just over a decade ago as the Crow Act was coming into play. The popular guide book I used at the time showed a different route to this one and the maps I used at the time had no Access Land shading on them. Therefore when I wrote up the walk which was one of the first to appear on my website I hadn't realised that the farmer and council had negotiated the access land around his private land. This meant that the route I put up was now unfortunately no longer crossing designated open access land but the farmers private land. Unfortunately the farmer at the time decided to write to me with an immediately very negative and unnecessary attitude which somewhat effected the speed at which I chose to correct the page.

Quarry buildings below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

We crossed a few stiles and made our way left of the end of the mountain skirting the right hand side of  the dammed lake below the disused quarry. We explored the disused quarry buildings and Simon did his best impression of Gollum exploring an old tunnel.

Simon exploring quarry tunnel below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia 

We continued on our ascent, passing the huge disused quarry tips. We reached the small yet deep quarry now filled with water. Usually here there is a waterfall that runs down a slab chute but today after the last fortnight's heat wave there was not even a trickle.

Quarry below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

After another easy ascent over grassy and slightly boggy ground we reached the stunning Llyn y Foel. This really is a magical place and one of the best wild camping spots you are likely to find. The lake had a surprising number of rocky islands and muddy beaches as its water levels were unusually low.

Approaching Llyn y Foel, Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

As we approached Llyn y Foel we got our first view of our ascent route, the Daear Ddu ridge. On both of my previous visits to Llyn y Foel the cloud base was a the same height as the lake and I saw nothing of the ridge. Today it however it was totally clear. I never realised what a huge amphitheatre Moel Siabod created behind Llyn y Foel as most photos are taken towards the lake and not towards the mountain and its huge cliffs.

Panorama of Moel Siabod from Llyn y Foel, Snowdonia National Park

We had lunch above Llyn y Foel at the foot of the ridge and slapped sun cream over our exposed skin. Simon attached his new GoPro camera to his chest and we were ready to go. Tim had never done any scrambling before and was looking a little apprehensive after looking up at the ridge.

Tim, Andrew and Simon below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

The scrambling up the Daear Ddu ridge was awesome. The rock was so grippy it was almost impossible to make a wrong move.

Andrew scrambling up the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I found it hard to concentrate on the scrambling as the photo opportunities of the guys scrambling and the views down to Llyn y Foel were endless.

Simon Daear Ddu above Llyn y Foel, Moel Siabod

The only thing I had to concentrate on at times was being Dad to Simon and telling him to be careful. He was like a small child that had been giving a giant climbing frame in his back garden for Christmas.

Simon scrambling up Daear Ddu on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

Andrew taking a break on the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod

Simon high on the Daear Ddu ridge above Llyn y Foel, Snowdonia

Tim was by now loving the experience of his first proper scramble and said afterwards how glad he was that he had done it. He is really starting to see the benefits of the confidence and techniques gained from hill time. He is super fit at the moment and now watching him walk up and down mountains I can see him creating his own technical style and gaining confidence. Its amazing how differently and with more confidence someone handles things like rocky descents after they have had a few days out in the hills.

Tim ascending the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

Scrambling section on top of the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod

The scrambling wasn't constant along the ridge and at the half way point there the rocks gave way to a grassier easy going slope. Looking up from here the top part of the ridge looked pretty frightening, but apart from one hands on section the rest was fairly simple scrambling and we reached the top surprisingly quickly. The ridge tops out almost literally at the summit too so when the scrambling stops you are only a dozen metres from the top.

Simon on the Moel Siabod summit trig point pillar, Snowdonia

Snowdon, The Glyders and The Carneddau from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

The summit of Moel Siabod is most famous for its perfect panoramic views. It stands alone in an outlying position just south of Snowdonia's three main mountain massifs. There are three hundred and sixty degree all round views but the views that grab your attention are those to the Snowdon, Glyderrau and Carneddau massifs.

Tim at the Moel Siabod trig point pillar, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn y Foel and the Daear Ddu ridge from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

We had a bite to eat, took dozens of photos and Simon and I took turns climbing up on to the trig point pillar for the standard arms out photo before descending north east along the mountains main ridge. There is an easier path to the left of the ridge crest but we took the far more exciting route along the ridge crest which consists of slanting grippy rock.

Myself on the Moel Siabod trip point pillar, Snowdonia National Park

It was great looking back down to the Daear Ddu ridge knowing that we had ascended the ridge. It is an awesome looking ridge with pointy slanted rocks and fairly serious cliff drops.

Daear Ddu ridge from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn y Foel from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales
Llyn y Foel also looked awesome from above. It is a fantastic shape which really adds to its mystical reputation. I hope to come back one day and wild camp by the lake and head up the ridge at dawn to see the sunset from the summit.

Llyn y Foel from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

Looking down from the north eastern end of the main north east ridge we could see our entire ascent route. The aerial view of the disused quarries was really interesting too.  The whole way down the ridge we had huge panoramic horizon views and blue skies.

Andrew looking down on our ascent route from Moel Siabod

The end of the ridge was quite strange as the paths just totally disappeared. I'm guessing we should probably have headed off to the left to that easier path. We met the track we ascended earlier and followed it back down to Pont Cyfyng. The Bryn Glo pub across the road at the start of the walk now has an outdoor wood fired stone baked pizza oven which I really wanted to take advantage of, but we had a family barbecue awaiting our attendance back at home. So we said our goodbyes, all agreed it was a great day out and set off for home along the A55 which was busy but not as bad as previous trips. Moel Siabod is a fantastic mountain and its no wonder the locals say it is their favourite.

Simon looks fetching in local wool hair piece

Route Map...

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  1. Eyup stranger!

    Yeah, it's been great weather for Moel Siabod. We went up on Tuesday 16th July and wildcamped near Llyn y Foel overnight Thursday/Friday.
    It's a pity that we missed each other - I'm sure that I still owe you a beer! and refer.

  2. I have no idea if you owe me a pint but I reckon you definitely do! ;-) Glad to see you guys also had a great time up Siabod! :-)

  3. Thanks v much for this route/advice:, we used it to prepare for an attempt with our family - my wife new to scrambling plus our 6 and 7 yr old boys with me carrying our 2 yr old. we built up to it with shorter walks and bits of scrambling practice, inc going up the other ridge (your descent) on a previous day to build confidence and then went for it on a good weather day. We were rewarded with success and fantastic vista from the windy summit. The round trip took us 8.5 hours (!!) but was very rewarding. Next stop: North Ridge of Tryfan....PS: the road you call the A55 here is actually the A5.