Monday, 18 September 2017

Cnicht & The Moelwyns

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Route: Croesor, Cnicht, Cnicht North Top, Llyn yr Adar, Cwm Corsiog, Clogwyn Brith, Bwlch y Rhosydd, Rhosydd Quarry, Moel-yr-hydd, Moelwyn Mawr, Craigysgafn, Moelwyn Bach, Caw Uchaf, Croesor

Date: 18/09/2017
From: Croesor

Parking: Croesor
Start Point: Croesor
Region: Snowdonia - The Moelwyns

Route length: 9.6 miles (15.45 km)
Time taken: 04:49
Average speed: 1.9 mph
Ascent: 1,215,m
Descent: 1,176m

Summits: Cnicht (689m), Cnicht North Top (688m), Moel-yr-hydd (648m), Moelwyn Mawr (770m), Craigysgafn (689m), Moelwyn Bach (710m)

Other points of interest: Cwm Croesor, Rhosydd Quarry

Cnicht looms high over Croesor and its classic pyramidal shape has earnt it the nickname 'the Welsh Matterhorn' though it stands some 3,700m lower than its illustrious Swiss counterpart and is a damn sight easier to climb.
Cnicht above Croesor
This walk starts from the aforementioned village of Croesor and makes a high circuit around the long valley that stretches northeast from the village and contains the remains of the extensive Rhosydd slate quarries. A Cwm Croesor round if you will.

After a bout of rain, we set off from the free car park in Croesor, passing through the village to a surfaced lane. Despite what is suggested by the map, a path runs all the way to the summit and is handily signposted in a couple of locations. The clouds were lingering in the valleys, occasionally sweeping across Cnicht's south ridge as we climbed higher.
A handy marker in the car park
Track leading up out of Croesor
Yr Arddu in the distance
Looking back towards Porthmadog
Moelwyn Mawr
Cnicht from the south ridge
The climb up Cnicht presents no real problems other than some rockiness towards the end, nothing that would trouble even the most timid hill walkers. The summit has a fine prospect, though was shrouded in cloud by the time we arrived as another shower drifted by.
Clouds cross Cnicht's summit
A distant Snowdon
Disused quarries below Cnicht
Cnicht's south ridge
Moelwyn Mawr
Looking down the south ridge
The final obstacle before the summit
Clouds in the lee of the south ridge
Yr Arddu
The south ridge
Cnicht has two summits, both prominent enough to be classed as Nuttalls and they stand only a few hundred metres apart. While we were visiting the North Top, the clouds lifted once again, revealing a superb view towards Snowdon, though remained stubbornly formed on the leeward side of the ridge, which is no bad thing when you have a camera in your hand.
Cnicht's summit
Looking towards the North Top
A distant Nantlle Ridge
The main summit of Cnicht
Cnicht North Top
Llyn y Biswail and Nantgwynant
With view opening up now, we followed the ridge down to Llyn yr Adar and the further still into Cwm Corsiog. By now the way ahead was visible, across a marshy upland to the expanse of the disused Rhosydd quarry. This is wild territory though the route through Cwm Corsiog to the quarry is not particularly interesting. That said, a look at the artificial Llyn Cwm-corsiog is worth it.
Foel Ddu and Moel-yr-hydd
Cwm Croesor and Cnicht
Moelwyn Mawr
Llyn yr Adar and Y Cyrniau
Ysgafell Wen
Ysgafell Wen and Moel Druman
Llyn Cwm-y-foel and Moelwyn Mawr
Cnicht
Llyn Cwm-corsiog
Foel Ddu and Moel-yr-hydd above the Rhosydd Quarry
Slate was first discovered at Rhysodd in the 1830's when quarrying commenced on a very small scale. As the easier won slate became exhausted, the quarry developed into an underground working following the vein of slate northwards and downwards.
Rhosydd Quarry
Rhosydd Quarry
Rhosydd Quarry
Spoil heap
Peak output occurred in the 1880's when over 6,000 tons per year of saleable slate was mined. A major blow to the quarry occurred in 1900 when the "Great Fall" occurred underground, in the southeastern section of the workings, destroying a large part of the most profitable reserves. The quarry never fully recovered.
Rhosydd Quarry
As the path passes through the quarry, be aware of the main adit entrance which is a danger, though had a considerable amount of water flowing out of it when I passed - a suitable deterrent for any subterranean adventures. I passed beneath a huge pile of spoil, using one of the inclines to get above the main working area. I hadn't realised that nearly 90% of quarried slate is wasted, hence the huge piles that remain.
Incline in Rhosydd Quarry
Rhosydd Quarry
Buildings above the main workings
Rhosydd Quarry
Rhosydd Quarry
Out of the main quarry working, the path returns to marshy upland as it climbs steadily up to Moel-yr-hydd, a modest summit that commands an expansive view across Blaenau Ffestiniog and its surrounds. Also in view for the first time are Craigysgafyn and Moelwyn Bach which, until now, had been hidden behind the larger Moelwyn Mawr.
Moel-yr-hydd
Blaenau Ffestiniog and Tanygrisiau Reservoir
Allt-fawr from Moel-yr-hydd
Moel-yr-hydd's summit
From Moel-yr-hydd, Moelwyn Mawr is the next major summit - the highest of the day. It stands across another marshy depression, above the earliest workings of the Rhosydd Quarry - an enormous hole in the ground. Here you can also find evidence of the 'Great Fall'. The vague path passes a few faded warning signs before it begins climbing Moelwyn Mawr's east ridge, culminating in a very steep, grassy push to the summit.
Moelwyn Mawr
Craigysgafn
Moelwyn Bach
The early Rhosydd Quarry
Moel-yr-hydd
Lookin across towards Cnicht and Foel Boethwel
The steep climb up Moelwyn Mawr
Moelwyn Bach and Craigysgafn
Moel-yr-hydd
Moel-yr-hydd and Llyn Stwlan
Cnicht
Moelwyn Mawr's summit
Benefitting its height and isolation, Moelwyn Mawr has fabulous views over Porthmadog and along the Lleyn Peninsula. A high reservoir sits on the eastern side of the mountain, Llyn Stwlan, which forms part of the pumped-hydro scheme of the Ffestiniog Power Station.
The plains of Morfa Gwyllt
Afon Glaslyn
Moelwyn Bach
Moelwyn Bach
Time was starting to creep away from me and there was still plenty of walking to be done, first a rocky descent south from Moelwyn Mawr to the sub-summit of Craigsygafn, the ridge joining the two Moelwyns but prominent enough to feature in its own right. It's rocky and moderately entertaining but over sooner rather than later.
Looking back up Moelwyn Mawr
Craigysgafn
Craigysgafn's summit
Moelwyn Bach is next up, via another steep ascent of around 100m. Above is an ominous looking overhang which I believe to be the result of further quarrying rather than the forces of nature. Atop the summit, by the cairn, are similar views to Moelwyn Mawr.
Moel-yr-hydd
Moelwyn Bach
Craigysgafn
Craigysgafn and Moelwyn Mawr
Carreg Blaen-Llyn looking towards Blaenau Ffestiniog
Moelwyn Mawr's summit
Returning to Croesor is easy enough though entails a long descent down Moelwyn Bach's grassy west ridge which falls to the valley at an easy gradient. Though marshy in places, the worst of any bogginess is actually in the wooded area close to Cae Uchaf. As this is outside of the Access Land, you have no choice but to make your way along the fringes of the woods. A further 1km along a forestry road is required to reach the car park in Croesor.
Porthmadog
Craigsygafn
Moel-y-Gest
The ridge leading down from Moelwyn Bach
Moelwyn Mawr and Craigysgafn

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