Penllech Beach wild camp – part 1

The northern coast of the Lleyn peninsula in North Wales is a wild and (relatively) quiet place. It’s well away from the tourist hot-spots and difficult to find down winding single track roads without any signposts to help. The coastal scenery is very beautiful, with rocky headlands and sandy beaches and narrow coves. It bears comparison with much of the north Cornish coast.

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I’ve done wild camping trips to this area before, staying on the headland above Porth Or, or Whistling Sands as it’s known. I already knew that beach but this time wanted to find somewhere new. I arrived early to explore up and down the coast, trying to find the most promising photogenically-interesting beach. I specifically wanted a combination of sand with interesting rock textures.

The beach was practically deserted when I got there and by about six o’clock it was completely empty. I would have liked bigger waves and some more interesting clouds to add more interest to the shots but nature doesn’t always provide.

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As the sun went down colour started to arrive and I saw more and more textures in the rocks and ripples in the sand. It’s always worth staying around for fifteen minutes or so after the sun has gone below the horizon because you can get some really interesting colours then.

I found a lovely spot in the grass above the beach to spread my bivvy bag. It was an unusual treat to be warm and still enough to sleep with my head out of the bag. Alarm set for 4:10 am, shots of the sunrise will appear in part 2.

Nantlle Ridge overnight – part 1

Drive from Caernarfon towards Beddgelert on the A4085, past Llyn Cwellyn, and you arrive at Rhyd Ddu. It’s a hamlet with pub and cafe and is the starting point for one of the paths up to Snowdon from the south-west flank.

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The path along the Nantlle Ridge. The path sticks to the ridge crest with vertical drops on the right to the sharp summit of Mynydd Drws-y-coed and continues towards the right edge of the shot. In the distance on the left is Moel Hebog.

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The bridges of Anglesey

The island of Anglesey is separated from the Welsh mainland by the Menai Strait, about 16 miles long and between 400m and 1100m wide. This narrowing causes quite dramatic tidal effects, looking in places like a racing river. The strait is bridged in two places, by Telford’s Menai suspension bridge and the rebuilt Britannia bridge, with less than a mile between the two. Looking down from the Anglesey side on a clear day gives a magnificent view of the strait, the bridges and the Snowdonia mountains immediately behind. However, I wasn’t there on a clear day. It was cloudy and drizzly and grey – typical June welsh weather. I found this quite suitable for the industrial revolution architecture of the two bridges, especially in black and white. These pictures are the result.

Bristly Ridge

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Bwlch Tryfan, Tryfan and eastwards.

Bristly Ridge is one of the best known scrambles in Wales. It’s only grade one but has some great exposure and positions and is an adventure all the way. The scrambling starts at Bwlch Tryfan, the saddle between Tryfan and Glyder Fach, and it’s often done in conjunction with the Tryfan north and south ridge traverse. I’m not fit enough for that at the moment, perhaps later in the year.

This was a perfect day for it, bright, not too windy, not too warm, and not too busy. Navigation to Bwlch Tryfan is fairly easy and the paths are good except for the steep, loose, slog from llyn Idwal to Llyn Bochlwyd.

The mountain scenery around Ogwen and Idwal is, in my opinion, second to none. Sharp peaks, acres of rock, deep blue lakes, and a distant view to Anglesey. With very easy access from the car it has to be one of the best places in Britain for mountain adventures.

As soon as you leave the shores of Idwal to climb above the climbing crag of the Gribin Facet you leave any crowds behind. The views of the lake and of Y Garn and then down the valley to Anglesey get better and better. Then you reach the quiet lake of Llyn Bochlwyd in its spectacular cwm with a great view of the west face of Tryfan.

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Llyn Idwal and Y Garn

Upwards easily to Bwlch Tryfan between the rocky arms of Tryfan and Bristly Ridge and a welcome break with a sandwich and to watch the line that people were taking to start the scrambling. I hadn’t brought a guide book with me so I was relying on the route being very well marked by the passage of countless feet and hands.

The trodden route seems to lead most naturally to a very obvious cleft in the rock, which seems to provide a good route up. Reading the guidebook when I returned, I’m not convinced it was the right way but it’s the way I took and it was, indeed, well worn and polished. The scrambling was good, up the narrow gully between steep rock walls. The moves were good and satisfying but not hard until a section is reached that is very loose underfoot. This led to an awkward chimney that gave a tricky couple of moves.

Eventually you leave the gully to see great views of the Ogwen Valley. At this point I was definitely back on the proper line – there was nowhere else to go. The scrambling continues over towers and blocks with some tricky moves and exposed positions. It’s never that hard but sometimes it’s comforting to have someone to follow because it isn’t clear that the route you’re taking won’t lead you into trouble. At one point I had a nasty couple of moves downwards to get down off a block which I could have avoided on the right.

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The awkward down-climb, after I’d done it
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On the upper section of the ridge, looking at the spectacular rocks of Glyder Fach’s east face.

Finally I arrived on the wide summit plateau. Moonscape would be a good description. Huge shards of rock stick out at all angles, creating fantastic rock sculptures all over. The most famous of these is Castell y Gwynt, the Castle of the Winds. There’s plenty of easy scrambling still to be done if you want it, traversing over these jagged outcrops. The views are panoramic and, light and haze permitting, you get a particularly good view of the Snowdon Horseshoe.

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The Snowdon Horseshoe from Glyder Fach summit.

A good way down is to scramble down the Gribin Ridge back towards Llyn Bochlwyd but I’ve done this several times and it’s hard work. The easier way (longer but more straightforward walking) is to continue over Glyder Fawr summit and down to the Devil’s Kitchen. This was mostly fine but about half way down from Glyder Fawr summit the path seems to drop away vertically. When you look over the edge you see that it’s still there but much steeper on an almost-bare scree slope. I was on my backside several times during this most unpleasant loose section so I had a nice sandwich break at the tiny tarn in the cwm between Glyder Fawr and Y Garn, before the descent into Devil’s Kitchen.

This next section is very steep but the path has been laid with blocks so it’s good going. The rock scenery is fantastic. You have the choice either left or right around Llyn Idwal. I chose right, so I could look at the climbers and go and lay hands on the perfect rock of the Idwal Slabs.

Not far now back to the car.

  • Distance: About 5.5 miles
  • Ascent: About 800 metres
  • Time: About six hours
  • View the route on Plotaroute.com

 

The best view in Wales?

In response to the WordPress Daily Post challenge Solitude

…in which we discuss how you can find one of the best views in Snowdonia with a minimum of muscle power and far from the usual madding crowd.

I went on a photo trip to Snowdonia yesterday. I’d met a man on top of a welsh hill on sunday and we were chatting about the distant views to the Snowdonia mountains and the amount of snow we could see. The chat wandered, as it does, and he told me about the Moel Siabod cafe, in Capel Curig. That was enough to give me my starting point for the day. From there I wasn’t sure but once out of the cafe my feet wandered into the wild lands behind. This path will take you over to Trefriw and Llanrwst and the Conwy valley if you let it but I didn’t wander far. I started to tramp through the pathless heather and scramble up the many rocky knolls and hills that I knew would have good views up and down the valley. I wasn’t disappointed, these views must rank among the finest in Wales and with a very modest outlay of effort._igp8765 Continue reading