Archive for September 12th, 2011

September 12, 2011

Arenig Fawr – death on a mountain

by backpackingbongos

It was two men and two dogs who left the cottage in the lush Tanat valley to head into the wilds of Snowdonia.  Reuben and Dougal, occupying the back seat were now the best of friends.  The original plan had been to climb Moel Siabod as I wanted to show Pete one of the best views in Snowdonia.  However, the drive to Blaenau Ffestiniog the day before had taken a lot longer than anticipated.  The Arenig hills were much closer and occupy a wild and unfrequented corner of the National park.  A good destination for a busy August weekend.

8.7 miles with 670 metres ascent

Our route involved a short section of road walking, something that I am not very keen on.  It was decided that it would be best to do this at the start, rather than at the end of the day.  A layby on the minor road south of Lynn Celyn was a convenient spot to leave the car.  The mile or so walk along the road was actually rather pleasant with little traffic.  We were soon climbing up the track that leads to Llyn Arenig Fawr.  The grassy track was a pleasure to walk on after the initial climb, giving us glimpses of the reservoir nestling below the brooding bulk of Arenig Fawr.

The track then descended gently towards the tiny little MBA bothy.

The bothy has a great location underneath the wall of the dam with a line of cliffs as a backdrop.  We poked our noses inside and came to the conclusion that it is not a place we would choose to sleep in.  There are two sleeping platforms designed for the vertically challenged and a tiny fireplace.  There really is no room for anything else.

Crossing the stream flowing from the reservoir we joined the path that climbs the east ridge of the mountain.  The August colours were at their best, the purple of the heather contrasting nicely with the green of the bracken.

We soon passed a couple we had been following since leaving the road.  They were Dutch and had a couple of dogs with them which definitely were not under control, we had noticed them some distance from their owners earlier on.  Reuben went over to say hello and was promptly pinned down by the larger of the two.  No harm done we shrugged this off and after a brief chat climbed further up the hill.

Every now and then Reuben and Dougal would fling themselves to the ground for a quick cuddle.

The path that we were following for some reason started to contour the hillside rather than going upwards, we left it and slogged up rough grassy slopes to the main ridge.

The isolated position of Arenig Fawr and its height provided us with an extensive panorama as we approached the summit.  To the north the endless moors of the Migneint were laid out beneath our feet, framing the main Snowdonia peaks.  There was a great feeling of space and distant horizons.

Reuben was happy to oblige with one of his trig point poses, as usual staring wistfully off into the distance.  I often wonder what it is he is thinking about at such moments.

Lunch was a leisurely affair, sitting behind the substantial stone shelter it felt warm in the sun.  The exertion of the previous day on the Moelwyns and the climb up to the summit appeared to take its toll on Reuben, who was soon laying down with his head on a pack for a rest.

Which quickly turned to full on doggie snoring………….

The peaceful moment was soon shattered by young Dougal who spotted a family approach the trig point.  For some reason he decided to have a good old bark at them, totally ignoring Pete’s requests that he remain quiet.  Despite Pete’s apologies the family did not look too pleased and without returning our greetings decided not stop at the summit.

The Dutch couple arrived just as we were about to leave, pleasantries exchanged we set off down the excellent south ridge of the mountain.

This is a place of real character.  The initial steep and well-defined ridge soon gives way to a plateau of many little rocky knolls and lakes.  It is a great spot for wild camping, an area where you see few people.

We followed sheep trods weaving amongst the rocky knolls then a fence towards the saddle between Arenig Fawr and Moel Llyfnant.  Pete spotted a bit of a commotion coming from just below the summit we had left, it appeared the two dogs had run off from the Dutch couple and were chasing a group of sheep.  We though that they would soon give up but instead they managed to separate one and focused their attentions on that.  We watched in horror as the dogs chased it further and further down the hill until they finally brought it down.  By now the owners were a huge distance away and rather than running after their dogs simply stood there calling them.  We used Pete’s binoculars to see what was happening with the sheep which by now was on its back with its legs in the air.  Somehow it managed to drag itself up and start running again, the dogs in hot pursuit.  Several times it managed to get up after being brought down, running a few hundred metres before the dogs were on it again.  The chase finally finished in a sickening manner when the sheep tumbled over a low cliff, bouncing through the rocks below.  We noticed that the owners had not really moved and were still near the top of the mountain.

We both decided that we should report the incident.  We were also aware that we had two dogs with us and were worried that they could be mistaken for the culprits.  Reuben has got a bit of Staffy in him which Daily Mail readers will recognise as a ‘devil dog’, a killer of everything that moves if you believe the guff often written.  I definitely did not want a case of mistaken identity.

We stomped on down to the track leading back to the minor road, passing a couple looking up at the cliffs where the sheep fell.  We could see the dogs above barking at what we initially thought was the dead sheep, it made my stomach turn to see it was still moving.  After a quick chat with the couple about what we had seen we made quick progress to the road and flagged down a likely looking vehicle.  The guy inside knew the local farmer and made a quick u turn to inform him what had happened, armed with a good description of the couple, their dogs and where their car was parked.

We arrived back at the car, an enjoyable day in the hills marred by the ugly incident.  Reuben and Dougal were completely unaware of the drama that had taken place and were soon cuddling up on the back seat.