We had two weeks off and the plan was to travel up to Scotland for a 4 day winter trek through the Cairngorms before heading to Newcastle to see family. To split up the driving time we planned on stopping off in North Wales for a few days as well. I’d never been to the Rhinogs and Sally wanted to explore the area more having spent some time there already. It also gave us an excuse to do a recce for a potential wild camping weekend we might offer through Lightfoot.
After loading the van with all the gear we’d need for two weeks, we set off for Dolgellau. It was a nice drive and we travelled through some lovely areas to explore in the future. We’re all about finding new places that maybe aren’t popular places to walk. At Lightfoot we want to offer the opportunity to get into these places that are beautiful, quiet and different rather than offer the same experience that every other adventure or expedition company does.
We reached Dolgellau, ate and picked up some supplies for our two days in the mountains before finding somewhere to park up and stop overnight. We’d found a car park on Google Maps a few nights before that was near the start point. We pulled up and found it actually allowed overnight parking so long as people left a donation. And handily there was toilets and a pub nearby. We parked, got things sorted for our overnight stay, organised the kit we’d need and headed to the pub to look over the map and find an interesting way into the terrain we wanted to cover.
I’d never read much about the Rhinogs but Sally had walked and camped in the area a few times, saying that she’d never sees anyone there because the terrain can be challenging; boggy, steep and plenty of crags to scramble. As I’m training for my ML I decided I wanted to lead and act as if this was with a client. Rather than marking out a route we would have a start and end point and then work on short legs to get us there based on the terrain we encountered.
After finishing our drinks we went back to the van and climbed into our bags to watch some shows downloaded onto the iPad. Nothing better than being tucked up and waiting for the first day of an adventure to arrive.
The next morning we got up and made breakfast. While eating and having a coffee we looked over Mawddach at the wild life paddling about, then looked up at where we were heading for.
It was cold and looked to have escaped the dusting of snow that some of the other surrounding ranges had.
Locking the van up and paying to cross at Penmaenpool Bridge, we made our way into Muriau-cochion Wood. It was a nice forest track but we left the path and headed north over some some rough terrain with a lot of dead bush and nice crags to scramble. It was was hard work, especially with packs on, and it definitely took us longer than we anticipated. But eventually we got to the foot of Craig Aderyn.
Following a wall up we climbed over more crags and rocks before eventually reaching the top of the ridge and walked along to the trig point on Diffsys.
The wind had picked up, it was a lot colder and where the bottom of our trousers were damp were soon frozen. But the views across were amazing. From the snow covered Cadair Idris to the coast at Barmouth and out to the Irish sea. My photos don’t really do the views justice.
There was still enough light left to stand around and pick things out but it was getting to the point where we needed to find somewhere to camp. We’d highlighted a place at Llyn Dulyn but when we got there we found the ground was pretty boggy and uneven and the wind was at least 40mph. It was getting colder so rather than go on and try to find somewhere a bit more sheltered (which we knew would be at least another hour away) we found some flat dry ground and stuck the tent up. Given how windy it was I’m surprised we managed, but we crawled in and dragged our ruck sacks in after us. The approach in had taken too long and now, at the end of the day, we felt it.
While there was no arguing where we were was beautiful, sometimes the glamorous photos you see as a backdrop to where you’ve camped aren’t always that great. The cold and damp we felt highlights the realism of wild camping. Its not always golden sunsets and warm nights.
The wind battered the tent, which led to a terrible nights sleep, but it held. I’d left my water bottle in the porch and it was frozen solid the next morning but we were warm. After breakfast we broke camp, packed away and made our way along the ridge. It was freezing cold and a difficult start but after moving we started to warm up.
A biting side wind picked up as we walked across the ridge. We knew we wouldn’t get as far as we wanted on this trip so decided to make our way down and get out of the cold. We identified a small track coming down from Y Llether so took it and contoured round for a bit before descending along a wall.
As we got lower the ground gave way from frozen to boggy with more crags to scramble down. Near the bottom we made our way over to a 4×4 track and followed that out through the forest at Mynydd Gla-Llyn-Forwyn. We picked a nice trail through the forest and followed it down back to where we started.
After dumping our gear at the van and cleaning up in the toilets we went to the pub for food and a run down on what we found on this trip. Essentially the way we would take a group in was no good. We’re pretty fit and experienced and even we found it tough going. But on our walk out we found a nice easy way up that would save us and be easier for people.
There is something there to offer a small group but we’ll have to go back to do more exploring as I suspect people need to be comfortable with scrambling around rocks. I think we’d need to be careful and make sure we had a route nailed down before offering it out.