Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Moel Hebog from Beddgelert

In the past year and a half I've been unable to walk up mountains due to recurring injuries and infection around my groin, upper leg and lower abdomen area. In the past half year I've also struggled with Hernias which have stopped me doing the simplest of day to day activities. I had successful Hernia keyhole surgery six weeks ago and during the operation the surgeon also discovered and resolved the underlying issue. It appears that I had a really bad infection at some point in the problem area. Dead scar tissue left by the infection was removed, strong antibiotics injected to make sure the infection is gone and the weakened area near my stomach strengthened with a large mesh. The operation and initial recovery successful it was now time to get fit again and start losing the two stone I have gained. Three weeks after the operation I started walking three to four miles a day which I managed by walking from the car park to work and back, nipping out for a fifteen minute walk during mid morning and mid afternoon work breaks, walking for forty five minutes every lunch hour and occasional dog walks. After a fortnight I started cycling to work three days a week and then resumed Thursday night five a side footy. I've lost almost a stone and feel really fit again. The mountains are calling and I must go!

Afon Colwyn, Beddgelert, Snowdonia.
Deciding which mountain to make my first in over a year was a tough decision. The sensible inside me was telling me to pick something easy and familiar that I had done before. The adventurous inside me was telling me to explore something challenging and unfamiliar that I hadn't done before. I asked followers and friends on social media for ideas, one stood out and that was Moel Hebog, thanks Matt. I realized that although I have done all but one of the three thousand foot mountains in Snowdonia and a few of the smaller outlying mountains, I've never actually walked up anything west of Snowdon. I've often looked at Moel Hebog telling myself that I would one day climb it. It is one of those quieter outlying hills similar to Moel Siabod with a perfect exposed vantage point for views to surrounding mountains. It is also much quieter and lesser trodden than the popular three thousand footers. So Moel Hebog it was to be early Monday morning. I've booked a few Mondays off work as I love climbing mountains early on quiet Monday mornings when everyone else is at work.

Sun rising over the horizon from Beddgelert, Snowdonia.
The weather forecast couldn't have been better. Packing the night before I have to admit to a little apprehension as I have only climbed one mountain in almost two years. The only piece of kit I had to replace was my camera. I tried to turn it on a few days ago only to find that it would only turn on intermittently and would not charge either. Moving the USB cable around I could see the port was damaged on the camera itself and it is no longer under warranty. I've not got the finances to fund a decent camera at the moment so I went shopping at weekend and found myself a cheap Canon Ixus 155 for only £69. I think you'll agree the photos aren't too shabby for a seventy quid camera. I still use lists to make sure everything is packed and after an hour I had everything next to and in the rucksack and was ready for some online and guidebook route research then an early bed. The thing that took longest was power charging everything. I don't know what it is about climbing hills first thing in the morning but I love it, maybe its the quietness, the changing light, the lack of traffic, the sunrise. My alarm went off at 4am and I crept down stairs trying my hardest not to alarm the dogs. I crept out of the house into a dark and chilly four degrees. Traffic was non existent as it is at this time in the morning. By the time I reached the A55 above Queensferry overlooking the estuary of the River Dee the blue hues of first light were appearing above twinkling lights of the Wirral and Merseyside, it looked absolutely stunning above the misty estuary. I was buzzing, it has been far too long since I'd done this.

Sunrise from the bridleway west of Beddgelert, Snowdonia.
Turning off the A55 near Bangor I was excited by the giant silhouettes of the Carneddau mountains. After stopping along the road by Llyn Cwellyn for a few photo opportunities I finally reached Beddgelert at 6am where it was already light. I parked at the village car park, which I am pleased to say was free, a rarity these days unfortunately. It was colder here at just two degrees. I put on hat, buff and gloves and made my way up the main A4085 road passing the outdoor shop then turned left on a bridge over the beautiful Afon Colwyn along what is marked as a private road but is actually the footpath and bridleway too. The lane passed under and then twice crossed over the Welsh Highland Steam Railway. I am often paranoid about creating any kind of noise or disturbance when walking around this early in the morning and two incredibly noisy farm dogs ruined my creeping silence barking at me and most likely waking the residents of the farms I was trying to pass quietly. At the second lot of buildings I turned right through a gate following the clearly sign posted footpath and bridleway. It was as I made my way along the bridleway that I felt a slight warmth on my neck and turned round to see the sun rising over the mountains to the west. It was stunning and made even more spectacular by the smoke of a wild fire on one of the hillsides.

Rowan tree on ascent to Moel Hebog's north east ridge, Snowdonia.
After only around a hundred metres the footpath and bridleway split. I went left following the footpath to a wooden stile over a stone wall. This was the start of the ascent so I stopped and drank some liquids ready for the first ascent in a long time. The going was fairly easy to reach the crest of the ridge. Once on the crest of the ridge I had gained height and could start appreciating the surrounding views across Beddgelert. The smoke now crossing into the surrounding valleys. Once on the crest of the grassy ridge I turned left and ascended the ridge in the direction of Moel Hebog's huge summit which now dominated the view. I passed through a final metal gate in a stone wall to open land. The terrain now more rock than grass involved a few hands on sections.

Smoke at sunrise with Cnicht and Moelwyn Mawr beyond, Snowdonia.
After much huffing and puffing I reached the top of Moel Hebog's grassy north east ridge. Where the ground flattens out I passed cute lambs with their mothers who I'm sure were slagging me off under their breaths for eating a leg of lamb with mint sauce the week before. I saw this flat section as an excuse for another break disguised as a photo opportunity. The views were far and wide though the ones to the west were too hazy for the camera. Looking from left to right I could see Mynydd Graig Goch, The Nantlle Ridge, Moel Eilio, Snowdon, Y Garn, Moel Siabod, Cnicht and Moelwyn Mawr.  Refueled and with my breath back I now found myself at the foot of what looked like a completely different mountain. The next section was a challenging mix of hands on scrambling and loose scree underfoot, with an even steeper gradient.

Moel Hebog summit from Moel Hebog's north east ridge, Snowdonia.

Scramble at the top of Moel Hebog's north east ridge, Snowdonia.

Mynydd Graig Goch and the Nantlle Ridge from Moel Hebog scree.
The scrambling and scree was a lot of fun. Once I reached the top of this section there was another short grassy ridge to a false summit and from there I made my way up to the true summit. At the summit I setup my camera and phone with ten second self timers to get that all important summit selfie, a moment I have waited nearly two years for. I sat on a wall that meets the trig point pillar and had a bit of a moment with myself. I know a year or so doesn't sound much but it felt like a life time to me. I've not walked up a snowy mountain in winter for the first time in over a decade. I stopped for a while and listened to the silence, there was not one single sound not even a bird or the wind.

Summit trig point pillar with Tremadoc Bay beyond, Snowdonia.

Mynydd Graig Goch and Nantlle Ridge beyond Moel Hebog summit.

I'll tell you one thing, the day I injure myself whilst out climbing mountains it is most likely going to be during those ten seconds it takes me to run from my camera to the trig point pillar and climb up it onto my knees then feet. I sat on the summit for a while, eating sandwiches, taking photos and posting updates of where I was to social media sites as we do these days. One of the most amazing sights from mountain summits this side of Snowdonia is seeing Wales's north and west coasts at the same time and the outlines of the Lleyn Peninsula and Anglesey. It makes you feel like you are on a plane or the space station looking over the north of Wales from above.

Myself on Moel Hebog summit trig point pillar, Snowdonia.
I read in a guidebook that the decent from Moel Hebog to Bwlch Meillionen is down a very steep grassy slope and they weren't kidding. I was glad to be descending it on a dry day when it was dry underfoot. Descending that grassy slope on a wet day would be treacherous. In the end I tried the zig zag technique similar to how I would on a ski slope to rid of the gradient. Eventually a rough path appeared which was a great help. The only enjoyment of the decent of Moel Hebog was listening to a Cuckoo in Cwm Meillionen below.

Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn above Bwlch Meillionen from Moel Hebog.
When I reached Bwlch Meillionen I started the ascent of Moel Yr Ogof. At the start of the ascent the path squeezed through an intriguing narrow cleft in the crag. I was originally planning on walking across the crags to the famous Ogof Owain  Glyndwr cave, however my progress had been fairly slow so far so I decided to leave the cave visit for next time.

Path through narrow cleft in the crags to Moel yr Ogof, Snowdonia.

Beautiful tarn on Moel yr Ogof, Snowdonia, North Wales.
Shortly after the crags I came across a somewhat out of place metal boardwalk over an idyllic tarn with incredibly clear waters. I looked down into the waters of the tarn and spotted dozens of Black Newts wriggling around in the mud. At the tarn I again stopped for a while appreciating the silence. As I looked east towards the coast I saw two Buzzards circling on the thermals. As common as Buzzards are these days I still find them fascinating especially on a sunny day when circling upwards on thermals.

Black Newts in the tarn on Moel yr Ogof, Snowdonia, North Wales.
I ascended Moel yr Ogof which has a fairly exposed summit which in some ways makes for slightly better views than the summit of Moel Hebog especially westwards towards Snowdon. It was surprising how pointy everything looked from this viewpoint. I descended slightly from Moel Yr Ogof and made the final ascent to Moel Lefn which has a huge rock buttress standing guard of its summit. The views across to Mynydd Graig Goch and The Nantlle Ridge from Moel Lefn were simply awesome.

Mynydd Graig Goch from Moel Lefn, Snowdonia.

The Nantlle Ridge from Moel Lefn, Snowdonia.

Bwlch Cwmdulyn from Moel Lefn, Snowdonia, Noth Wales.
I sat on a wide grassy slope on the north eastern side of Moel Lefn to eat my last sandwich and take in the stunning views across the Beddgelert Forest. A huge bird suddenly appeared to the right and flew up directly above me. I lay back on the grass and watched in amazement at the majestic Red Kite circling upwards on a thermal. It is a moment I will never forget.

Red Kite circling thermals above me on Moel Lefn, Snowdonia.

Snowdon from disused quarry on Craig Cwm-trwsgl below Moel Lefn.
I descended a rough path from Moel Lefn to a disused quarry, part of the old Princess Quarry. I crossed a wooden stile then followed a loose slate and mud path with the stone wall and forest on my right. After a while I went through a gap in the stone wall and over another wooden stile into Beddgelert Forest. I had read that route finding through the forest is tricky and it certainly was. I followed the path through the enchanting forest until I reached a track then followed signs left along the track then right onto another path through the forest.

Footpath through Beddgelert Forest, Snowdonia.
This path should have taken me through an opening in the forest and back towards Beddgelert. Unfortunately though I took a left at one point and ended up on a less trodden path that took me to the forestry track that rounds Llyn Llywelyn. Although I had made the error I managed to use features such as stone walls and forestry tracks to navigate and find my location on the map so I just took a slightly different route to reach the campsite at Meillionen.

Llyn Llywelyn, Beddgelert Forest, Snowdonia, North Wales.

Snowdon summit from Beddgelert Forest, Snowdonia, North Wales.

Peacock butterfly on the bridleway through Beddgelert Forest.
I reached the back of the campsite then followed the bridleway signs to Beddgelert. Along the way I saw the first people I had seen all day and was accompanied by dozens of Peacock butterflies and the odd cute Lamb. Following the bridleway back towards Beddgelert I eventually ended up at the place where I had turned left on the footpath to the foot of Moel Hebog's north east ridge earlier.

Afon Meillionen, Coed Mawr, Beddgelert Forest, Snowdonia.
As I walked back along the bridleway towards Beddgelert I looked up admiringly at Moel Hebog, Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn. It is too easy as regular hill walkers to take for granted the achievement of walking up mountains. It is an amazing achievement for anyone to take themselves out of their modern daily grind and walk up a mountain and I hope I never take it for granted. I desperately wanted to nip into the pub at Beddgelert for a refreshing celebratory shandy as I was exhausted and thirsty but unfortunately I had to get the car back home. Until next time, which will be a few weeks not a few years!

Lambs on the bridleway to Beddgelert, Parc Ty'n-y-Coed, Snowdonia.

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  1. Enjoyed that and well done for doing it after your health troubles. Hope all is well now. Been up there a couple of times, the last time two years ago on one of the hottest days of the year, tough going :-)

  2. Great trip report as usual.. Glad to see you back where you love most :-)

  3. Beautiful part of the world. Those two little tarns are gorgeous, looks like you've had some good weather and sounds as if you deserve it!

  4. Was starting to wonder what had happened to you! Glad to see you're back out there and keep up the good work. Great trip report as usual.