Another bank holiday weekend and another trip up North Wales. To be honest, I can’t just stay at home on bank hols. It’s a free day off so I almost ever spend it somewhere in the British outdoors. This time I was going back to Criccieth to finish my recce for the upcoming tour in September. As a guide I have to have done each walk before taking a group so I know any potential hazards, how difficult it is and how long it takes etc. Plus it avoids a confused guide staring at the map, haha. Well, mostly. I remember a certain part of a walk in Dartmoor where I always go wrong only to realise 20 minutes later, that this is the part where I always go wrong.
Rich wasn’t with me this time and I don’t blame him. Same place we’ve been to a month ago and no real chill time, walks every day. And although it gives me the freedom to start early or extend the day with more walking, I still miss him.
Friday – Back in Criccieth
Left Friday early afternoon hoping for not too manic bank holiday traffic. Funny enough, I had almost none as I cruised through mid Wales all the way into Snowdonia. Over the years I’ve done this journey a few times now and stopped along the way here and there to go walking. And every time I drive up more pieces fall into place when I recognise those hills, towns and villages again. So although sitting in the car for more than four hours, I actually really enjoyed the drive.
Arrived at Llwyn Bugeilydd campsite just a mile North of Criccieth town centre at 18:30. A simple site, but had everything you need including really friendly owners/managers. Pitched up my re-proofed tent (I learnt my lesson in Sweden), changed into my running gear, parked up down at the beach promenade and went straight for a run to recce the last part of the walk we do from Criccieth.
Runs at the tail end of a day are just as special as the early morning ones. The light is dipping everything into soft colours, there are very few people about and there is a calmness and peace that makes running such a delight.
I rarely ever run for time or distance. I just run. I’ve done a 10k in Bristol for time and I’ve done my half marathon in the Mendip Hills for distance. I enjoyed both events, but I run because I enjoy the experience of being outside, feeling grass, gravel, rocks and roots under my shoes. Getting the engine going and feeling your body do what it was built to do. Especially after having sat in a car for such a long time.
7k later I was back at the car with a smile on my face. Drove back to the campsite, nice hot shower, then food sitting outside my tent, looking forward to the walk on Saturday.
Saturday – Three Moels and a Sleeping Dragon
I had eyed the weather over the past week and it looked like a typical British weekend with sun, rain and wind and a forecast changing every four hours as to when I would get which one of the three. Saturday at least looked like the best day, so it had to be the mountain day for me. Still, rain and low cloud was forecast for the afternoon with early clouds lifting mid-morning. Hm. We shall see.
Left the campsite at 8am and parked up in Beddgelert 8:30am. I love being early. No traffic, no parking issues and just a chilled start.
The plan was to head up Moel Hebog. The big impressive hulk of a mountain sitting right over the village, thus featuring in many a photo. It’s one of those mountains you just want to climb because it’s right in your face. Hebog has two smaller companions to the North, Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn, which are also Welsh 2000s. Together they make a nice 12k loop straight from Beddgelert.
Started on the Beddgelert – Rhyd Ddu bridleway before turning off left to start my ascent up Moel Hebog on a little path relentlessly winding it’s way up. It was overcast with cloud shrouding the higher tops in the area, and thick without any wind. I was very soon drenched in sweat and glad for short breaks of just a minute or so, looking back down towards Beddgelert, enjoying the still amazing views.
Or I stopped, having found another most amazing (in my view) tiny flower, getting down on all fours to get a better look at it. The joys of being a Mountain Leader Trainee. Walks are so much more rewarding when you find such beautiful little gems.
Soon the scramble up Y Grisiau started. I had been looking forward to it and despite the humid thick air and worsening views, I loved it! There were a gazillion options for route choice, you could have it easy or difficult, never exposed or dangerous. A few bits of eroded path with scree here and there but never too much to be annoying. Once I lost my balance coming off just another hands-on bit and had to drop down to all fours in order to prevent a fall of 5-10m down. Oopsie. That would’ve been the most ridiculous and unprovoked incident.
Instead I carried on eventually reaching the flatter top of Y Grisiau with the last few minutes to the top of Moel Hebog and thick cloud around me. Boo.
Don’t get me wrong, it had been a brilliant walk so far. Five-minute break and a chat to a guy who arrived just after me. Apparently it was his third attempt and the third time he had no view.
In thick cloud I carried on over Moel yr Ogof and up to Moel Lefn. Down, up, down, up. It was mystical up here with rocky shapes just barely visible in the soft thick clouds. Like snarling beasts they always stayed far away enough not to threaten me as I wound my way past them.
I had layered up to hold the cold wind at bay and had lunch sheltered behind a wall just having come down from Moel Yr Ogof.
The last real obstacle was a plantation before I hit the bridleway between Beddgelert and Rhyd Ddu. Plantations look easy on the map, but I hate them. If the tree have been cut down, it can be tricky to navigate through and it’s often boggy and full of branches and roots. If the trees are still standing, paths can be awfully boggy and hard to find.
Only the first bit through the cut down tree section was a bit meh, then the path contoured the hillside through nice wild vegetation. Back amongst the trees the path was actually easy to find and not very boggy. I really loved this bit.
Back in Beddgelert it was time for ice cream and coffee. Then over to Craflwyn, a National Trust site with woods and another walk to recce. After 13k and 850m elevation gain I still felt very fresh and fit.
First was the walk up to Dinas Emrys a very small hill with big views to Beddgelert and the three Moels I had just climbed. Long story short, King Vortigern wanted to build a castle here, but every night the walls his masons had built were destroyed. Turned out there were two dragons living underneath, fighting every night. So the dug into the hill, found the dragons – one red and one white – who woke up and fought. The red dragon won and there was peace. He now sleeps under Dinas Emrys and is the national symbol of Wales. The one you find on flags etc. What a nice story.
Views from Dinas Emrys were indeed quite lovely! Back on the main path I took a loop around the woodland which really was a nice change from my walk earlier. Summed up to another 7k I’d had my fill of walking for the day.
Quick shop at a manic Tesco in Portmadog on the way back, then cooked up a nice chilli at the campsite and chilled.