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.

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25 Comments to “Arenig Fawr – death on a mountain”

  1. Nice report that mate, good pics – and those two dogs? My goodness how adorable! 🙂 You make me wish I had a dog to take out on my hikes and camps lol

    Shame about the sheep in distress you witnessed. Very sad indeed. Makes my blood boil that kind of thing and I’m really pleased you reported it. Best thing you did mate. Being a country boy (well, until my teens) and having family who still farm, believe me you did the right thing.

    I recall watching a similar scene on Win Hill with a friend some months ago. I just got my ‘country boy’ hat on and was shouting and bellowing at the dog owners whose dog was running amok.

    All I got in return was a mouthful of foul language/abuse. I’m afraid to say such incidents are a result of ignorance and lack of respect, however they are rare thankfully. What galled me the most about the scene I witnessed, was how the owners had blatantly ignored the glaring sign informing folk to keep their dogs on a lead and that they left the gate ajar, too.

    Oh well….lovely trip report and two adorable dogs out having fun! 🙂

    • Hi Terry, they are probably the best looking two dogs on the planet, but them I am biased (obviously Reuben is the better looking out of the two which makes him the best looking dog on the planet!). I have to say that we did walk them off the lead at times but they were always closely under control, when woolly temptation may become too much its back on with the leads. I think that some people simply don’t give much of a toss about anything or anybody to be honest. The owners had fun too!

  2. James, good post. Pity the trip ended in such a manner. Did the Dutch couple have leads with them ? Like the dogs photos . Reuben looks a bit daft in some of them 🙂 Having met him he is probably the best behaved dog I have come across.

    • Reuben looking daft? Surely not Mark! Did not spot any leads with the Dutch couple, although they may have had them in their packs. Reuben was not well behaved on his walk this evening up to the local park, pulling on the lead like a naughty dog. He has his moments though.

  3. Great post, James. Some top pictures of Reuben and Dougal; they did seem quite fond of each other after the initial establishing of boundaries! What Reuben is thinking about atop this particular trig point is: ‘I wish this pervert in a sun hat and sunglasses would stop following me around’.
    As Terry points out, it really is down to dog owners to be in control of their dogs on the hill, especially when sheep – or deer for that matter – are around. It says it all when you get abuse from people who are letting their dogs run amok.

    • Indeed they did appear to be the best of friends Pete. Reuben often reminisces when he is sitting on the back porch in his favourite rocking chair whilst watching the sun go down.

  4. Having walked The Fatdog around the mountains for 5 years now I’m pleased to say I’ve never come across a really bad example of dogs who are not under control.

    Mind you even the mildest mannered can have their moments if you’re nor careful. Who would have thought Maisie had a thing about chasing mountain hares! She’ll amble past sheep etc and never bat an eyelid, but big bunnies…that’s a different thing altogether. I never expected it…until she shot off after one on Glas Maol. I’ve never seen a hare laugh so much as it trotted away. After that I learned to keep an eye open for the unexpected.

    Good on you for reporting the incident. The total lack of control that those people showed (especially with 2 dogs) is what can give people who are careful with their dogs a hard time from farmers and landowners.

    • Thankfully it was the first time for me Ken. Reuben is fine around sheep as long as they stand still, it unexpected movement that gets him excited. I am assuming that Maisie has not even come close to catching a hare?

  5. Dogs can be trained not to chase things. Simple as that. No excuse for that couple allowing that to happen. Nice hills and your dog and Pete’s have become the best of pals Nice to see dogs out with there owners behaving.

  6. like it round there. nice post as ever, shame about the dogs. Saw some really nasty behaviour in the Pyrenees…single dog usually OK, dogs in packs is a different thing. One young bull got its face chewed off and then wanted revenge….we happened to be the nearest thing at that point. Scary few minutes that.

  7. Extremely bad luck meeting those clowns in this excellent area, usually very few people at all. Well done on taking action to report it.
    Definitely a good choice for a summer weekend, the south ridge especially for a camp – a favourite.

  8. Always the odd idiot to spoil things Geoff. However it is a lovely area. Last time I camped on the south ridge it was blowing a gale and tipping it down, not the most friendly of places then!

  9. Last time I was up there it was four feet deep in snow! 🙂

  10. Witnessed a similar, albeit with a less unpleasant ending, incident in Brecon Beacons. Couple standing doing nothing as their dog ran off chasing some sheep. When the dog finally returned they didn’t even put a lead on him but just carried on as if nothing happened. It is the minority like this who give us sensible dog owners a bad name.

    • I think I remember you writing about that in one of your blog posts. Its the fact that people do nothing about it when their dogs run off that annoys me. They could at least try and rectify the situation.

  11. You asked the question James – did Maisie ever catch the hare? Thankfully no…well quite frankly never near – in fact the hares seemed to treat it as some sort of game, putting almost no effort into the chase at all. They used to turn uphill – then sit and wait for her as Maisie ground to a halt. There was no sense of urgency on the hares part. It wasn’t really a chase. The whole scenario was bizarre and downright hilarious.

  12. I’ve posted on Pete’s blog about what a thoughtless act this was. Real shame that it marred what looked like a great day. This route is next on my list when I get a day off from home to hit the hills. The photo of Reuben asleep on your pack is a cracker – what a little star he is! What’s he thinking? If he’s anything like Dougal probably “Can I eat piece of …….!”

  13. Sorry to hear about the incident. We always walk with our dog – standard poodle – and we are so careful around sheep. We took her for some training with sheep as we don’t ever want to be in a situation where we lose control. It was with Company of Animals. She is not bullet proof with sheep but it gives a little bit of confidence. She is also whistle trained so if she does get the scent of something the whistle brings her back. But however good the training is when there are sheep around – lead on. (We sometimes talk for our dog – so we suggest she is saying – I can’t see properly with my lead, what sheep?)

    On the brighter side – love your pictures and the two dogs. We have acquired a website and iPhone app and we are building a library of walks for others to enjoy. Would be great to hear your views and we are always looking for contributors.

    • Training your dog with sheep sounds like a great idea. I must also try whilstle training. With Reuben it is a case of if sheep around then its lead on, no furries to chase then he gets his freedom. I popped in breifly to your website and it looks good. I will have a proper look over the weekend. I hope that the iphone app is working well.

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