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A return to Moel Hebog, Snowdonia

August 30, 2015 · 21 comments

This post is dedicated to my Mum, who also climbed this mountain when she was probably in her 60’s – and she also got lost at the end.

Happy Birthday, Mum! (it’s her birthday today)

Date walked: 6th July 2015

Distance: around 5 miles

Map used: OS Explorer OL17 – Snowdon

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Avid readers of this blog will recall that my friend Bob and I failed comprehensively in November 2013 when we tried to climb this 2,569 feet peak.  So when Bob suggested we try again I was more than happy to settle this Unfinished Business.  We stayed once more at the excellent Sygun fawr Country House Hotel. I had the cooked breakfast (wonderfully crisp bacon, tasty sausage, slightly over-cooked poached egg – I passed on the black pudding), Bob had deodorized kippers (well, to my nose, anyway). He is trying to eat “smart”.

We were intending to follow the route as laid down by Steve Aston in the booklet “Hill walking in Snowdonia”. First published in 1988, we reckoned the hills or route would not have changed much in the intervening 30 odd years.  And besides we had the up to date map, GPS and compass and the hard-earned knowledge of where, at first at least,  NOT to go.

Walking straight from the hotel only added a mile or so to this 8 mile hike. We set off  around 10am; it was raining heavily. I hope this isn’t a spoiler but just to put what follows into context, it continued to rain heavily for the entire day.  Which is why you only have a very few pictures to break up my prose; those that I did take were done on my iphone.

We were very careful at the beginning to check our route against the map which was being kept dry by a holder dangling from Bobs neck. I recognized several points that we had passed on our way down from the last visit and with only a little hesitancy we were soon puffing our way across the contours. In distance it is barely a mile from the lower slopes of the hill to its peak.  But that mile took us quite some time.

The steeper parts were more like very rough and uneven steps with some requiring not just a stretch but a haul with the arms, too, to make the next one. Once or twice we  seemed to be blocked by boulders and had to find a way round. And then towards the top we were scrambling on loose scree, made looser, probably, by the fact that the ground was very wet. Gullies, usually dry, were today streams. We didn’t have any doubt that we were on the right route- cairns appeared periodically to assure us of that – but we could only see 50 to 100 yards.  We knew that as long as we were going up we would eventually find a trig point but it was a great relief when we did.

The summit of Moel heborg, near Beddgelert, Snowdonia, photographed by Charles Hawes

Bob, looking very cheeful

There was going to be no hanging around today to enjoy the views. Just a quick selfie and we were trying to work out our route off the mountain. I was completely disoriented so the compass, a careful reading of the map and Bobs good sense were brought to bear and we headed off.

Our plan was to carry on to the lesser peaks of Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn. That meant two more descents and two more ascents. A few hundred yards of struggling down the slippery grass track (it being much less worn) and a fall each put it in my mind that we might save these hills for another day and take a shorter route back through Beddgelert forest.

Shhep near the summit of Moel Heborg, Snowdonia, photographed by Charles Hawes

I thought you deserved a sheep pic at least

Bob agreed. We were finding going down not only harder work but slightly scary; a fall in the wrong place could cause us some significant damage. We came across a man in his 40s with two young women companions who were heading up to the trig point. I managed to think them bonkers without for a moment reflecting on our own folly. He suggested that today the effort of making the other peaks would offer scant reward and that settled it.

Walking off Moel Heborg, Snowdonia, photographed by Charles Hawes

Bob is even more cautious than me on the decents

I think we both fell over a couple more times before we reached the track that descends, still quite steeply, north-east towards the forest. It was very narrow and the forest seemed huge and very murky ahead.

Near Moel Heborg, Snowdonia, photographed by Charles Hawes

The sheep probably enjoy the peace and quiet on these wet days

Our acquaintance said that the route through it was well, marked, though. As we descended, so visibility improved, but the rain, if anything, increased in intensity at the moment Bob suggested that it was brightening up.

Near Moel Heborg, Snowdonia, photographed by Charles Hawes

Still pretty murky

We were both wet through. My boots were as damp as everywhere else, though in these conditions I didn’t feel inclined to start composing letters of complaint to the manufactures of my “waterproof” gear; there are some days that you are just going to get wet.

A stile marked the end of the hillside and the beginning of the forest.

I can’t make out if Bob is laughing or grimacing

The marked path may have been the most direct way back to Beddgelert but it was narrow and also still quite steep. Rather than get a further horizontally applied soaking from the adjacent bracken and brambles we decided to take a wide forestry track that much more gently wound its way down to Welsh Highland Railway track that follows the bottom of the valley.

When we did cross the track it was at the wrong place. We had missed a turn in the path that would have taken us fairly directly back to the village. By the time we realized our mistake we had almost reached the A4085. There was no way we were going back, so we had to tramp along the roadside for a mile and half; I  was glad of a sound, flat surface to walk on.

The village was surprisingly busy with small groups of wet walkers (campers some of them!) milling around. But we were the only customers in the antique shop and tea rooms by the bridge. Bob practically stripped off to his undies, boots and all and found that his change of shirt in his backpack was also damp. I just hung up my outer layers to drain off in the porch and squelched my way to a little table upstairs.

I ordered carrot cake and mumbled something about loving it when it has a thick icing. It came with a bowl of clotted cream on the side! A cup of tea has never tasted so good. So I had another. And then another. And then we left for a wet walk home. We drove to the pub that night.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia August 30, 2015 at 7:21 am

Makes me shiver.

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Charles August 30, 2015 at 2:01 pm

More fleece!

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Anne Wareham August 30, 2015 at 8:56 am

Bonkers. Glad you do it but I haven’t the faintest idea why!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESSICA! Xxxx

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Bob August 30, 2015 at 11:59 am

It was probably the wettest walk that we’ve done together.it also made me determined to speed up my descents.weight loss and walking poles are my strategy.

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Anne Wareham August 30, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Falling down must be quickest?

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Charles August 30, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Only briefly. Then its a long wait for the air ambulance.

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Charles August 30, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Yes, the wettest in our combined memories. I’ll take you on with your poles anyday.

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Bob August 30, 2015 at 12:02 pm

also , in modern idiom , we bigged up your mums’ walking achievements.
Happy birthday to Charles’ mum.

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Paul Steer August 30, 2015 at 1:15 pm

I glory in your wetness .

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Charles August 30, 2015 at 2:06 pm

We could have been wetter!

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John August 30, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Well the usual great photos …. (turns off standard text insertion) ….. Happy birthday to Charles’ Mum, without whom we wouldn’t be able to imagine Charles sliding down a wet grassy slope on his wot rhymes with “Mum”. And the pics are at least atmospheric. (And Toolstation sell a completely waterproof, semi-disposable 2-piece set for £6.40+VAT. Surprisingly tough too.)

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Charles August 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm

I begin to disbelieve anything that claims to be !00% waterproof. I reckon the wet gets in around the openings.

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jessica hawes August 30, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Thank you to your followers for their kind birthday wishes. It’s good to have those memories, now that climbing my stairs is a major effort! love Ma – Jessica A. Hawes b.30.08.1927.

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jessica hawes August 31, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Thank you to your followers for their kind birthday wishes. It’s good to have those memories, now that climbing my stairs is a major effort. love, Ma b.30.08.1927.

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Julia August 31, 2015 at 7:18 pm

happy birthday to your mum

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David Marsden September 5, 2015 at 8:54 am

What a shame, Charles. It is always sad when an adventure isn’t smiled upon by the mountain gods. And a wet day in the mountains is rarely very enjoyable. But at least carrot cake makes up for it (without clotted cream, I think) – and even for wet undies. D

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Charles September 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

Yes, it is. Maybe I need to make more sacrifices? It wasn’t the best carrot cake, though the clotted cream helped.

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Kev "The Yank" September 6, 2015 at 5:37 pm

4 Things today… 1) We finally arrived home last night just after 2100 hrs ending our holidays, and we were exhausted and tired from being gone for 5 weeks; Second) a belated birthday greeting to Jessica A. Hawes, from the hometown of Homer Simpson, as I could not post sooner, as I had no internet connection nor anyway to connect if I had had one; C) Thank you to both you & Anne for your hospitality, the visit to Veddw was truly one of the high points of our trip; Lastly) how odd you wrote about walking in the rain, for our experience walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path was that the weather in Wales is ALWAYS warm and sunny with a gentle breeze to cool the brow…!

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Charles September 6, 2015 at 6:10 pm

How lovely to hear from you! I was wondering how you both were. Next time I go walking in the rain I shall pack my very special towell! Good to hear that you are safely home and it was lovely to meet you. I just wish we had got Grace to do us a private show of her routine.

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Kev "The Yank" September 6, 2015 at 7:41 pm

It was OUR PLEASURE to meet YOU! I will make you a deal, next time we come over to continue our journey along the coast path, and we stop by, Grace will have a special stand-up show for you, probably about walking in Wales, hiking boots, and of course, Welsh tea biscuits (?? or Sea Biscuits? or to our American palates, oversized round toast???). Oh, and if you invite us for Tea, you will have to clarify if we are invited to Tea, or invited to Tea. I am surprised Anne has not made a hat out of the towel yet, she sure was keen to do so! If you can keep her from doing so, next time I’ll bring a hat!

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Charles September 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Too kind, Sir, too kind. Hey, that sounds like a good deal! But we won’t take to back to that sub-standard eatery. Those buns were embarassingly bad. If we invite you for tea that will mean tea and cake/bikkis. If we invite you for supper it will be the evening meal. Some people make invitations for drinks but that just confuses everyone so we don’t do that. I will keep my towel under lock and key unless I take it out myself.

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