Rhinogau and grasslands

19°C, light rain

grassy approach with the quarry on the hillside in the distance

I drove away from Snowdonia with a heavy heart this afternoon. A polar opposite to the feeling I took with me last Friday. It felt almost routine, and would perhaps, be not such a big deal. Saturday I climbed Rhinog Fawr along a similar route to previous times. The route included some excursions off the track, and the final ascent was over rougher scrambling ground.

Sunday was supposed to be a lower level walk over to the next valley (Cwm Nantcol) in search of a sight seen last year partly hidden in the bracken. After coming down from Rhinog Fach, I passed a strange sight near some over-grown quarry workings. The land was claiming back buildings and tip constructions which had become part of the soil. The land had coated them in moss, malm grass, heather and bracken. However, part hidden in the lush vegetation was a staircase. A staircase out in the wilds that plunged down into the darkness. What a sight! No time to take any pictures- I felt some stress caused by time pressure and the fear of loosing daylight. The image strongly burnt into my mind, though I regret its location was not strong fixed enough in my mind’s map.

There were interesting sights to be sure. But even with 2½ hours of searching, I could not find that staircase. It can’t have gone, a solid structure like that, made of slate isn’t going to collapse into the soil. A trip back seems like the best idea now. I will have to approach it from the same direction as last year’s hike: may as well climb the mountain (G. Fach) too before descending by the same route. Maybe that’s the secret.

The walk over the pass to camp in Cwm Bychan was long. I decided to cross the valley-head to avoid the cattle that caused my steep detour on the approach in the morning. It only took a mile to reach the main route up the north side of the valley, but there was a difficult wall to cross. I could find no gate, break or rock to use so I did carefully choose a place which seemed more stable and less likely to get me in trouble. After some struggle to cross that and a wide stream, I was on my way. Still, it was 6pm and a 2 hour walk lay ahead.

Descending the next valley was steep, but the soft peaty soil between the stark white tuff rocks cushioned by tender feet then I was onto grasslands again. The sun got lower towards the horizon, the ground wetter and more marshy and the grass was above waist level. With the angle of the sun, each blade shone bright emerald which shimmered in waves. Those waves move like the sea, crests and troughs pushed backwards by the wind fresh from the sea. I had run out of water and my belly was rumbling. No time to hesitate, the sun got lower, threatening darkness before I was back down to camp.

I made it with a raging hunger. A steady lowland walk through grasslands turned into a 9½ hour yomp.

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