Last year, whilst we were camping on the Llyn, three of us escaped for a day in the hills. Our wander along the Nantlle ridge was, we hoped, the beginning of a new tradition. Accordingly, we’d hatched plans this year, chosen our day, and retired to our tents on the night before the appointed morning with an agreement to be up and out early, weather permitting, there being, we agreed, no sense in hauling ourselves up a hill in the rain to look at clouds from the inside. When the morning crept in drear and wet, the Shandy Sherpa and I were both up anyway, but to our amazement, the Adopted Yorkshire Man, otherwise known as the Eternal Weather Optimist (amongst other things), a man never known to decline an opportunity for a walk, stayed resolutely in his crib. He would probably tell you that he looked out at the rain dashing against his campervan windows and, based on previous experience, assumed that we would both still be snoring.
We shall have to attempt to resuscitate that ‘tradition’ next year.
A more firmly established feature of these trips is our annual mass hike up Carn Fadryn. But we didn’t manage that one either! Instead, a more select band, including some of the older children, branched out with a walk on Yr Eifl (or the Rivals, in anglicised form).
We started from the conveniently high car park on the minor road above Llithfaen. These standing stones/sculptures, with a plaque with Welsh verse, are, I think, a relatively recent addition. A bit of unsatisfactory internet research, unearthed the planning application and decision, and the fact that they commemorate local quarrymen, but not the identity of the sculptor.
It hadn’t been the most promising of mornings, in fact the weather had been chiefly characterised by some very odd clouds over the campsite….
But as we set-off up-hill, there were odd patches of blue appearing – not enough to patch a sailor’s trousers, as my mum likes to say, but maybe enough to make a sailor kindle faint hopes about the weather over the next few hours. Certainly enough to have the Eternal Weather Optimist and the Shandy Sherpa, who in an astonishing volte face seems to have become the Apprentice Weather Optimist, enthusing that it was ‘blueing up’.
The gentle bracken clad lower slopes of Yr Eifl are criss-crossed by paths, but thanks to some navigational muppetry of the highest order, we found ourselves not on any of them, but plodging through bog (despite the surprisingly dry nature of most of the ground hereabouts), climbing fences, heather bashing and generally making fools of ourselves. The cause of this cock-up has been the subject of a great deal of debate and recrimination since. Suffice to say that, without any recourse to maps, we arbitrarily decided that a small rocky knoll, was ‘the other Rival top’ and made a bee-line for it.
This is it….
Impressive, eh? You can see the cause of the confusion. I bet that loads of people make the same mistake. After a frontal lobotomy.
Now that I have looked at a map, I can see that it is the rocky shoulder Caergribin. I should point out that I was only following orders – the Shandy Sherpa and the Adopted Yorkshire Man were In Charge. They were the officially appointed hike-leaders. Neither of them so much as looked at their maps. I, on the other hand, didn’t even have a map to look at, so s’not my fault, honest.
Anyway, by now the genuine ‘other Rival’, Tre’r Ceiri, had hove into view, easily identified as such by it’s possession of genuine contour lines. Quite a few of them in fact, and some of them unsportingly close together.
I’ve never climbed Tre’r Ceiri before. To be honest, I’ve never heard of Tre’r Ceiri before. What I can’t understand, on either count, is why not. It’s a truly astonishing place. If you haven’t been there yet, then book a day off work, hoik out a map, get your tickets now, dubbin your boots. Resolve to live a better life. Truly: this is something not to be missed.
It’s a cracking little hill in its own right, but what’s really special are the extensive archaeological remains of an Iron Age hill-fort. Carn Fadryn has something similar, but this is even more impressive. It’s surrounded by a very wide, low wall. Apparently it was once 4 metres tall, although how we can know that with any confidence escapes me.
What’s beyond dispute, however, is that it was, and is still, very wide .
Here’s A crossing through the wall and into the fort.
The wall encloses a huge area, essentially the entire top of the hill.
Within there are numerous hut circles, over 150 in total. I counted ‘em. P’raps.
The fort continued to be occupied into the Romano-British period, when as many 400 people may have lived here. A gold-plated brooch from that time was found here.
I suppose that from one perspective, it’s just a ramshackle wall, but, given it’s antiquity and the extent to which it’s still intact, I don’t understand why it’s not more famous.
We spent a while exploring, before finding a sheltered spot for a butty stop.
The purists’ route. Grade 3S. Prob’ly.
There’s something really appealing about hills close to the sea. The views from the rivals – of the peninsula, of the hills of Snowdonia, of the huge bays extending away to the north and south – are absolutely spectacular.
Two more Yr Eifl summits – Garn Ganol and Garn Fôr.
I was particularly taken with the look of these neighbouring hills, the rocky lump of Moel-Pen-llechog and the rather more shapely ridges of Gyrn Ddu, Gyrn Goch and Bwlch Mawr. They aren’t big hills, but I’ve made a mental note that they need to be ticked off before too long.
After lunch we exited the fort via this…
…doorway? (Can this be an original feature?) And descended to the pass between Tre’r Ceiri and Garn Ganol, where there was a tad more boggy ground, but nothing to really fret over.
From there, a superb little path climbed upwards and leftwards, threading its way neatly between the boulder fields and presently depositing us on the summit (564m) of Garn Ganol, the highest of the Rival peaks.
The summit cairn has an unusual addition: A4H. And therein lies a tale, I’m sure.
Caernarfon Bay and the Gyrns again. We have to go up there next year, if only so that we can pull faces and be ‘gurning on the Gyrns’.
We sat on the top, drinking in the view and eating more butties.
Garn Fôr – we didn’t climb it this time, so as to have an excuse to come back to Yr Eifl another time. That or bone-idleness. You decide.
The view down the peninsula. Carn Fadryn is the highest of the hills in the middle distance. The hill right out at the end is Bardsey Island.
At this point things went slightly awry. The Pieman recently reported his discovery of the Teesdale Fighting Ant. Or perhaps their discovery of him. But I’m afraid that the problem is more widespread than first thought. It seems that the little fascists have annexed Wales. Apparently, they’d already spread their towel over the sward where I chose to sit. And they took umbrage. Pugnacious little blighters. Sadly, despite the growing discomfort, I was too dense to realise that I was under attack, and by the time I finally did move, they’d fashioned a pincushion from my left ‘thigh’. Be warned – they draw blood.
A happier insect encounter on our way off the hill…
…we saw a couple of these large, furry oak eggar moth caterpillars. No, there weren’t any oaks about, but the name refers to the acorn-like shape of their cocoons. Bizarrely, the most popular posts on this blog seem to be the ones featuring photos of large caterpillars, so hopefully this will make one or two people happy. I was just pleased that it didn’t bite me.