Monday, 14 June 2010

Moelwyns and Cnicht

It was recently that I wrote about the Vaude Power Lizard UL and its first trip in the Moelwyns. The review dominated that post and I didn't say much about the following morning after we'd packed away the tents and headed up Cnicht and Moelwyn Mawr or indeed the day before from Beddgelert. It was beautiful weather that second day, permitting a memorable vista which will be seared onto our retinas for years to come. It's the true delight of wild camping to be on a hill when most people have not even awoken from their slumber or are casually perusing the Sunday broadsheets and we were blessed with the perfect weather and, frankly, a perfect hill in the diminutive but utterly endearing Cnicht.

It was a long walk in from Beddgelert as we started our walk into the Moelwyns, in reality, at the north end of Llyn Gwynant heading up to Bwlch y Rhediad. The ascent up to the Bwlch was pretty torrid as we battled through a small forested area, the bridleway disappearing into obscurity within a maze of sheeptrails inside the sylvan canopy. We took a short recess at the conclusion of that energy-sapping climb and sat, ate and savoured the first views. It was the first time my old friend had been to Snowdonia and, hitherto, his experiences had not included hills above several hundred metres. This was new to him and his surprise and excitement was rousing.

As we followed the fenceline to Moel Meirch to bag our first peak as a team - a scrambly 607m - we were starting feel something akin to pure joy. The weather was good - breaks in the cloud, cool and fresh with little in the way of rain. The ground underfoot was boggy this is not novel in the Moelwyns. There was wind of course, an omnipresent phenomenon in any hillwalking I do, and it was draining but not even that could dampen our enthusiasm. We pass Llyn Edno - one of the wonderful things about the Moelwyns is the proliferation of mountain Llyns - and head up to Ysgafell Wen. The wind catches us and we sit in bewildered awe at the hills around us.

The area around Llyn yr Adar, our chosen spot for the overnight camp, was implausibly boggy and it was some time before we settled upon a reasonable place to pitch. As we set our stove to do its work, we sat and began to comment on the day. It was a enthusiastic, enlightening conversation that set the tone for all our trips in the future - a sense of what we both sought from our partnership in the hills. We resolved to assault Cnicht, less than 2km away, in the early morning light and munched through our dinner with contented chatter before sipping away at the port we'd brought - which had become something of a tradition after our Hadrian's Wall Path trek the year before. As the sun set on the Moelwyns, we delighted in a great day.

The next morning, after we had warmed ourselves with a mug of hot tea and breakfasted on some sugary honeyed porridge, we packed our kit away and headed off for Cnicht. The weather was exceptional - a cool wind (strong, as usual) but a lustrous, steel blue firmament and deep, warming sunshine. The air was as crystal clear and we could see for miles. Keeping Foel Boethwel to our right and taking in Llyn y Biswail, we began to walk up to Cnicht's North Top. The views of Moelwyn Mawr to the south were breathtaking.

Leaving the North Top behind us, we pushed on to Cnicht itself. Within what seemed a few scant moments, we were scrambling easily up to the apex of the sharp, craggy peak of what has become one of my favourite mountains. At only 689m, Cnicht is not the highest Trail 100 peak but it one of the most loved. It is simply a wonderful peak and shall occupy a special place in my heart from some time to come. Perhaps the wonderful weather and the spectacular panorama unfolding before us, gifted by the crystal clear air surrounding the indomitable champion, are to blame. The wind had been around 45mph the day before, according to MWIS, and it had certainly felt fairly draining as we'd battled our way towards our camp spot via Ysgafell Wen. It had not got any less ferocious overnight. Recalcitrant and invigorated, we carried on.

Looking back along the ridge to the Cnicht North Top:

And, rather strikingly, the views of Yr Aran and the Snowdon range to the north were awe-inspring. We had to be fairly dragged away from the peak of Cnicht and it was with genuine remorse that we headed back to Beddgelert but with memories forever.

Whatever the wind, it had been worth it. We had to get back home to London so we did not have time for anything more than Moelwyn Mawr but we'll be back - Moelwyns are a rather special range I think, and we had a great walk over Moel Meirch and Ysgafell Wen the day before, but Snowdonia will have to wait as this coming weekend, we're off to Scafell Pike and Bowfell...


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