The Nantlle Ridge and Cwm Ciprwth Copper works
13th August 2009
Map: Landranger 115
Weather: Initially rain, followed by more rain, clearing to rain at the end of the walk.
From Rhydd Ddu up to Y Garn, taking in all of the Nantlle ridge 7 summits, dropping down to Cwm Ciprwth. Walk up Cwm Pennant to the head of the valley and return to Rhydd Ddu through the forest: 15.3 miles by Satmap Active 10 gps with a diversion
Three of us had been down to the Nantlle Ridge a couple of months ago and had been frustrated by some inclement weather. So we set a date and returned to Rhydd Ddu and were frustrated by some inclement weather. We pretty well knew our fate the day before as the forecast was not so good. The last time we were up on the ridge, we got blown off by some severe turbulent wind – not me for a change but a meteorological phenomenon. The forecast was mixed but I think we all knew we were in for a wet start.
Head down and grind uphill
I’m not last for a change – getting wetter
So self, Mike, Max, Mark and Robbo all kitted up in full gear ready for the off. We kept the thought of a chance of clear weather later – well we can all dream. We set off from the roadside above Rhydd Ddu at a good clip and Mountain Mike (fit from his exertions in the Scottish Hills) soon led the way up to the steep slopes up Y Garn. I usually take about 150 snaps when out for a good long walk, on the basis that if 10% turn out OK, then I would have a good record of the day. But today I ended up with very few good pictures and a soggy lens cleaner and a misty, damp camera. Mike was first up to the wall near the summit, with the rest of us gradually converging up the slopes – us seniors taking our time. The views at the first summit were nil, just a fine all invading misty drizzle that insinuates itself into every crevasse of your waterproofs. But at least the wind wasn’t blowing like last time and there was a small chance of a clear spell.
Three ghostly figures appear from the first summit
It is fairly flat along to the second summit, but it soon became apparent that the rocks and boulders were treacherously slippery and care had to be taken walking up to the second
The obelisk for the Jubilee – no way up today
Robbo offers a helping hand
The Obelisk has a geocache on top apparently and Mark had a go at climbing up, but it was far too treacherous. Only a madman would attempt this – so he did – but the geocache lived to fight another day and so did Mark. We all took some fuel on board – soggy butties are delicious, and we admired the views – never seen so much lovely mist since the last time here. Then the fun started down off Myndd Tal-y-mignedd to Bwlch Dros-bern was simple enough, but the route up to the 5th summit involved a small scramble or a short walk around to the side of the ridge. Mad Max asked what we wanted, so we all grunted scramble - slippery rock or not.
Robbo before his trip – watching out for the failed scrambler
Mad Max pondering his route to the top
Mike in waiting pose – he does this a lot
A brief moment of clarity – looking back to the obelisk
One out of the five of us didn’t make it due to the fact he had nobody to give him a shove up and over. A & B got a good shove up with the boot, onto a small quartzite, knobbly hold – the rest of the rock was very slippery with the fine mist. C got up quite easily because of his longer arms. D got a shove from E, and E had to go all the way down again to look for a different route up - a bit frustrating for him really.
There was some beauty around despite the rain
Almost up to the lunch spot
The Geocache prize coin
Five go walking – Mark, Mike, Robbo, Self and Max
Apart from the rain, all was well with our world as we topped out towards the 5th peak of the 7 summits and then calamity struck. Robbo went hard over on his ankle and was in considerable pain for a little while. But being a real trooper he walked it off as we made our way along Craig cwm Silyn towards Garnedd Goch. Then to add insult to injury the mist momentarily cleared to give us a brief glimpse of the valleys below, ad behind us the Obelisk appeared for a few seconds. We snapped away thinking we were in for a real treat with the skies clearing, but it was a cruel hoax and the misty curtains drew once more, but at least it stopped raining long enough for us to get some lunch. We made our way up to Garnedd Goch and had a sit down and relax. Max and Robbo scrabbled around for the geocache and explained the intricacies of chasing around the countryside for small Tupperware boxes. Luckily for us this one had a coin in – nice and shiny – and Robbo will be transporting it to another part of the globe somewhere. We posed for a quick picture together by the summit shelter, before setting off once more towards the last part of the Nantlle Ridge – Mynedd Craig Goch. Once more the rain started to coat us with an all consuming mist –wet, wet, wet, as we dropped down 500ft to go up again, but all on a gentle incline. It was easy walking for a while, but obviously not for Robbo, as the strain told on the uneven ground.
The valley down to Cwm Ciprwth gathers us up
And this was as clear as it got
One of the falls close to the mine works
By this time I didn’t take many pictures as my camera was rather soggy, and the lens a bit moist. Once we had bagged the last summit the biggest problem in dropping off the hill was the lack of any discernable paths, not even any sheep tracks. It was a mix of heather, boulders and boggy moss and reeds – the moss mounds here were huge but wet. Myself, Robbo and Mike had full waterproofs on, but Mark and Max were now just wearing shorts and had very wet feet. Following Max along it looked like the tide was coming in and out with each step as there was more water inside his boots than outside.
Further down the valley the works come into view
One of the old ore buckets?
This is totally unexpected in the middle of nowhere
It was starting to really persist it down
Max, Mark and Mike led the way down into Cwm Ciprwth where the delight of the day awaited us. Robbo really struggled now with the lack of path and not being sure of his footfall, and it looked painful every step of the way. Of course the persistent rain didn’t help, but at least we had some sort of view now we had dropped down below the cloud base. The valley gathered us in as we dropped further down the hillside, we passed by a few falls and there below us were the remains of the Cwm Ciprwth Copper mine – a 25ft waterwheel with some connecting wooden struts. These stand alongside a few ruined buildings – some more information can be seen here – www.penmorfa.com/cwmciprwth / . It was great to see this in the middle of nowhere and is well worth a visit. We had a good mooch around even though it was very wet and the ground very boggy.
One of the long wooden links
The big wheel – better than the amusement parks
A mini chandelier – the fine mist settled on the seed heads
Our walk began to fall to pieces about now, as I crossed the river by a plank to look for another path and unfortunately didn’t spot the yellow marker posts a little further on. So we walked down the other side of the river, following a quad bike track – which was handy as we were walking across very soggy ground at the base of the hillside. But we reached a bit of an impasse at the fast running stream of Ceunant Ciprwth, and the old crossing point – a plank on some concrete – was missing. So Max and Mark just waded across the stream as they couldn’t get any wetter anyway - the rest of us had dry feet. So we wandered a little further downstream, but the valley got steeper, so Mike went looking for a place to cross. So we waited, and waited, and eventually decided that Mike was a jumper downstream. So we had one more look to find a crossing and had no choice but to return upstream to the mine workings and walk the plank – there was no way Robbo could jump with his ankle knackered. So it was a splodge back uphill, more strain for Robbo and really the consequence of all of this was quite sever at the end of a very long day.
The first picture for a while – still wet – that’s Moel Hebog in the distance
Back at the mines we crossed over the stream and ducked under a hole in the drystone wall – well bollix I thought – there was a path that not only went down but up as well – I took a mental note for next time up! We followed the yellow markers down through some old sheepfolds, passed by an old mineshaft, and beyond a spoil heap to walk steeply down through woodland to reach the valley floor. Unbeknown to us Max had negotiated a lift for Robbo, but Robbo was feeling a little peeved at his ankle and didn’t want to stop, and disappeared up the lane. So the decision was made for us to all continue on towards the end of the walk. Cwm Pennant must be a magnificent valley when the sun is shining, surrounded by majestic hills on both sides of the valley, with the famous Moley Bog prominent – but not today as it kept it’s secrets in a cloudy cloak. Further up the valley the farmer was charging £1 for car parking – no doubt it must be busy sometimes at the weekends. There are many remnants of better times in the valley – a dilapidated farmhouse and old mine workings - some EEC money is being put to use mending fencing though. It was still a pleasure to view all around despite the rain, and as we left the farm track the ground rose steeply once more as we made our way up the valley side to the old mine workings along Cwm Trwsgl.
Nearly down out of the cloud
Rhydd Ddu and the pub in sight
There are lots of old buildings to look around here as well, but we didn’t hang about as we had explored them before and the day was long already. Robbo plodded on manfully up to Bwlch-y-Ddwy-elor and on through the plantation forest, getting closer to the end. Soon enough we got out of the trees and wouldn’t you know it the cloud had lifted, with some patches of blue to the South. Y Gran was still covered in an angry looking cloud cap. But the day wasn’t yet at an end, and as we approached Cwm Marchnad the fast running water left no option but to dip a boot in. But with careful foot placement my feet stayed dry. But behind us was calamity once more as Robbo went over on the same ankle again – ouch ouch ouch. We all felt for him, and he had no option but to hobble the last ¾ mile back to the cars, and that included sinking into a boggy patch as well. We finally reached the car after 10 ½ hours of slog, with blue skies shining above Y Garn and the village pub lit up by a shaft of sunlight.
Harrumph – no comment
Y Garn still playing hard to get
The smart ones amongst us had bought a change of clothes – my feet were dry, but my pants haven’t been so wet for about 50 years or so. This was a great walk in good company and it was nice to meet Mark and Max for the first time. We sat in the pub for a quick pint and all agreed we’d have to return in the sunshine sometime to do this magnificent route – strenuous but worth it. Unfortunately for Robbo his ankle swelled up like a balloon as he had strained his tendons – so he had to have feet up for a little while – but he’s ready again now – bring on the sun, and maybe its 3rd time lucky for a look at the Nantlle Ridge.