Paul picked me up in the morning at about 0630 at M6J10. A little concerned by drastic weather forecasts predicting more snow and ice on the roads than in an arctic winter we were not too sure whether to head to our intended target at Pistyll Rhaeadr, or to stop at Church Stretton and do Caer Caradoc.
As we passed Telford we were struck by quite a heavy rainstorm, but as we passed the cloud it quickly became apparent that we had just gone through the only cloud in the sky. Our early pessimism soon mothballed in to warm enthusiasm. The conversation for the rest of the journey dominated by the views that we expected to have. It was an easy decision to make to head over to Pistyll Rhaeadr.
As we arrived at Pistyll Rhaeadr at 0815 the first clouds began to emerge. It was quite disheartening, as the sky had been clear for the entire journey. We found a parking place, which was quite easy as we were the first arrivals of the day. We then wandered up to the waterfall, and found a track to take us up to the valley from which it fell. I didn’t expect a great deal of the waterfall to be honest, but it was pretty impressive, shame about it being 20 mile too far west though.
The track up from the car park was very icy which I did find a little worrying, but we took our time on the way up, and as soon as we were off the track at the top we never had a problem with ice again all day….ha! We had planned to follow the Nuttall book route on Post Gwyn and then head up on to the main Berwyn ridge. We quickly decided that if we could ford the brook we could save quite a considerable amount of time. We walked along Afon Disgynfa for some time until we gained the confidence to jump across. A quick height test revealed that it was deeper than my trekking pole, very cold, and moving quite quickly. You certainly would not have wanted to fall at this point.
We arrived safely on the other bank of the stream and headed up Cwm Gloywfa towards Post Gwyn. This section of the route took longer than we had anticipated. We spent a large quantity of time fighting against the heather, until eventually we emerged on a plateau with a rise directly in front of us that was clearly the summit area. This after crossing a fence that has grown somewhat since the map was drawn. Even descending to the base of the rise was quite heavy work in the heather. When we weren’t fighting heather we were fighting log grass with boggy ground below.
At times on this ascent we had been treated to every condition the British winter can throw at you -snow, sleet, hail, and scorching sunshine. As we crossed the summit area we saw a rainbow directly in front of Moel Sych dropping down to the Afon Disgynfa. We fought our way around the heather to the head of the valley, and crossed the valley bottom, reascending on the other side towards Moel Sych, which had already spent most of the morning in the cloud. We had submitted Post Gwyn at about 1000, by 1130 we had battled our way through approximately a mile of heather and long grass, and were on the main ridge. We paused here for a few minutes to have some coffee and to catch glimpses of the snow covered Arenigs under the clouds. We could see quite clearly by this point that Moel Sych was in quite a considerable snow cloud.
The path along the Berwyn ridge was quite good in winter condition, though one would imagine that it would be like crossing a large bog in summer. On many occasions I broke through the ice on which I was walking, indeed on one occasion my fall was broken only by a very painful region striking the ground. This did not continue for too long though, as the ice quickly became thicker as we ascended. As we ascended in to this zone we met our first human of the day, a gentleman from Halesowen who had slept in his car on the pass. Not long after this visibility began to reduce, and by the time we were on the 827m summit of Moel Sych it had all but disappeared. Paul on the summit cairn of Moel Sych.
We paused only for a moment before plodding on to Cadair Berwyn. We stopped only momentarily here before heading for the shelter below. It was quit dark and very cold at this point. We had only seen one other person all day, so I was quite startled when two people from Shrewsbury entered the shelter about 30 seconds after us. I was quite bemused that they were eating. I had not eaten all day, but I certainly wasn’t about to take the gloves off. I looked briefly over the parapet in an attempt to take a photograph of Cadair Berwyn, but it was simply too dark. Within ten minutes of leaving the shelter we were on the top of the old summit. Not pausing to take a picture we immediately turned in to the wind and hail, and battled our way back to Moel Sych.
We headed stright down the ridge, though never found the ‘path’ the runs straight down the middle of it. We ended up descending Cwm-Rhiwiau, battling through the heather all the way down, and even when we reached the valley floor were unsuccessful in our attempts to find a consistent path. We arrived back at the bottom of the waterfall at 1500, very hungry, and very thirsty. We hadn’t been able to eat all day, and I had run out of Lucozade before we had ascended Moel Sych the first time. Everytime I go to the local Sainsbury’s their supply of isotonic seems to be depleted by exactly the amount that I took on my last visit, this time they had but a measly litre. I hope they have ordered some more by now! I was understandably very happy to see the cafe at the foot of the waterfall was open, and drank a giant pot of tea, and ate a fantastic jacket potato. I was somewhat bemused on leaving the cafe as to the sign on the gate which read ‘Do not let the goat in.’ My bemusement promptly ceased when the goat joined me in the gents!