Monday, February 25, 2013

Dead man walking

 Llyn Bychan

Struggling with the after effects of a nasty flu virus, I decided I had to shake off the even more depressing symptoms of cabin fever and get out into the hills. It's been bitterly cold and grey in north Wales for the last week or so and I didn't feel up to any peak bagging but I should manage of low level shuffle somewhere. Where better than one of Snowdonia's best low level walks. A walk which probably doesn't get above 1300' but which has a real wild mountain atmosphere.

 It's a three hour walk which I've done loads of times but which never fails to deliver a mountain fix. It's starts at the Pont Cynfyg car park on the A5 near Capel Curig and heads up into the foothills above Crafnant Valley to return via Geirionydd. The first part through the NT woodlands is a real joy in the bluebell season. The oaklands peppered with a sea of mauve flowers and the drone of sleepy bees. Just before you leave the woodlands, the old abandoned cabin Nyth Bran hoves into view down in the hollow. Nyth Bran ( The Crow's Nest') is a traditional timber hut in an amazing position looking out to Moel Siabod but unfortunately, it looks not long for this world given it's state of advanced dereliction. Can I just say that anyone who owns a unique dwelling like this and who abandons it, wants their arse kicking... !

Having a nose inside The Crow's Nest last summer.

Leaving the Crow's Nest behind you cross the stile onto an open field and as you rise above the woodland the great mountainous plateau twixt Capel and Crafnant opens out. It's a fantastically craggy vista contained by little Crimpiau to the north and the little foothills which separate the valley from the Western fringes of the Gwydyr Forest. Many of the outcrops hereabouts have been climbed and cataloged in recent years and will appear for the first time in a climbing guidebook when they make their debut in the forthcoming Carneddau guide.

Walking over to the remote climbing hut of Waen Hir, I tarried a while, fiddling with cameras and zips before I crested the hill behind the hut and headed for the main path which is usually busy in season, but today, despite it being a weekend, the entire valley was quiet and empty. By now it had started snowing and the mountain's upper reaches fell behind wraiths of cloud. Soon you hit the top of the pass  as suddenly the path tumbles down the hillside into Crafnant. Three choices; One takes you up the flanks of Crimpiau,one drops down directly into the valley and the third-the one I followed- skirts the edge of the valley via an old quarry and picks its way through birch woods as the white washed houses and climbing huts emerge through the bare branches.

Instinctively, I followed an old quarry track and found myself standing on the edge of a dark pit which sported a climbing rope and bolts. Someone been new routing here although I can't say the surroundings spark anything other than bemusement. As crags go this is pretty horrible. Gloomy, loose slately rock, dank and miserable. 10/10 for effort though but given all the unclimbed rock above Crafnant Valley you have to ask...why ! * Since discovered it's a dry tooling venue. That would explain why anyone would want to 'climb' in a S Hole!

Walking a short distance along the main road...still not a soul return to the woodland and follow a tunnel through the trees to eventually reach the other fringes of Geirionyndd. Re-entering the main Gwydr Forest you happen upon the beautifully situated little lake of Llyn Bychan. It was frozen with a white coating of fresh snow. Very photogenic except the light as it had been all day, was still grey and flat.
From the lake you head back towards Cynfyg taking care you don't miss the correct forest track and end up on the Ugly House/ Nant BH road.

When I got back I'd been out for around three hours and not seen a soul. Unusual but not that I'm complaining. After a week of sickness and sloth it was just great to see something other than four walls.

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