After last weeks failed attempt to climb Drosgol (GW/MW-008) I was loath to do an alert for this attempt because I didn’t want to raise people’s expectations.
Again a favourable weather report for mid week pointed to the possibility of a good long walk so a call to my walking/climbing companion about where I wanted to go and what to expect soon followed.
This time the start point for the walk on the West side of the hill was approached from Tal-y-bont because the road is closed over the dam. At the start of the walk there is ample parking.
The first 2.5 km is on a flat-ish farm/miners track till you come to the first stream to cross after that there are no obvious path anywhere from this point on to the summit regardless of what is on either the OS or land ranger maps (more about that later); apart from sheep and the odd (old) quad bike tracks. I’ll also mention from this point you really are on your own, there is no mobile phone coverage (unless you are quite high on the hills) and you could feel very isolated being so far from any help if a accident happens. This is quite a serious walk and mountain/fell walking skills are required. The thing that struck both of us is that on this walk we didn’t see another person or sign of activity all day; often we will bump into someone else, even on the most inaccessible mountain top or in the most dreadful conditions.
Back to the walk. The stream is easy to cross but the surrounding ground is very wet and boggy. Once across you have a choice to either climb from here directly to the summit (in hindsight I would do that in future, assuming I go back) or to follow sheep tracks which are aligned to the “path” on the maps till you come to a point SW of the top. From here it’s just a case of working your way up. The topography is a mixture of boggy areas, little gills and steep grassy climbs till you reach the summit cairns, all can be strength sapingly difficult. On this summit there is some shelter from the wind but is still quite exposed out of it.
The climb up was quite pleasant, with the occasional glimpse of sunshine accompanying the superb views across the reservoir, but on the top conditions was appalling. Low cloud cover reduced the visibility to 50 metres, the wind was very strong and even though there was no rain everything got quite damp.
The antenna was set up and I settled into a nice but cold activation. Propagation appeared to be very much hit and miss with quite high levels of QSB on both 80 and 60 metres with many people reporting additional high levels of QRM and QRN. The highlight of the activation was a s2s with M0COP/P on G/WB-012. A quick listen on 40 metres and I knew with only 5 W my calls were not going to be able to cut the mustard today.
The choice was now to go back to the car or head towards Banc Llechwedd-mawr (GW/MW-007) fully aware of the time. We decided while we were here that a recon of the second hill would be beneficial for a subsequent visit; so using one of our GPS units we headed off in the direction of the hill. On clearing the upper part of the hill we were rewarded with stunning views towards the North. There are no crossings over the river marked on the maps between Drosgol and Banc Llechwedd-mawr so was surprised to see a new bridge at 52o28.991’N, 3o 49.087’W. Again, aware of the time we made our way down to the bridge and up the side of Banc Llechwedd-mawr. From this direction you come to a false summit, the real summit is another 700 m away. The top of this hill is very exposed with a tiny cairn/shelter which didn’t really help much. A number of calls were required before a reply was heard and even after a spot was posted for me contacts were not at the usual level I’ve become accustomed to. I was beginning to think I had a fault somewhere and at one point thought I might not be able to qualify the hill and didn’t really want to hang around too long because I was beginning to get quite chilled.
Time was now pressing and wanted to be at least back to the farm track before dark. Unfortunately our timings were a little off and no “injury time” was allowed. The terrain is not easy to traverse and slipping and sliding saps strength and considerably adds time. This is where you shouldn’t believe the maps. There is marked a path which goes to the South of Drosgal which we thought would be a better way of returning to the farm track than either going back over the top of Drosgal or skirting round the North side; it isn’t!! The “path” is no more than a sheep track picking its way across the steep embankment of the hill overlooking the reservoir and is very difficult to traverse taking quite a toll on your ankles and knees. I would suggest for subsequent activations going back over the top or towards the North would be preferable.
Here’s where the “injury time” would’ve been beneficial. Earlier I had bumped my right knee and at the time didn’t think much about it but I began to get twinges which was slowing me down and it seemed every time I slipped that was the knee which hit the ground first. We had realised there was no way of getting back before dark but at this point had no real idea just how long it was going to be. Before I say too much more we are both experienced at fell walking after dark so there was no “doom and gloom” in what was happening and were reasonably well prepared; it was just a case of plodding on.
I was now in agony with my knee which made progress painfully slow and now the light had faded which added to the difficulties, only one more gill and crest to cross a steep climb down to the stream and the walk back down the farm track. Suffice to say we made it back to the car safely although the last part took over an hour and a half in torch light to complete.
Both summits are doable in a day and in hindsight I wished I’d left them till winter bonus time to make up for the sore knee I will have to nurse for the next week or so.
They are well worth the travelling (and agony), and as 2 point summits, they seem to be over looked. If you are walk fit, have the right equipment (and attitude towards the hills) they are very rewarding with stunning views across unspoilt landscape.
Thank you to all the chasers that I worked and sorry if I missed anyone who was after this rare unique.