Bank Holiday Hike – Moel Famau

August bank holiday weekend in the UK, is often remembered for terrible weather and long queues on the motorway, but when a friend texted from my sober social circle, inviting me to hike Moel Famau (Mother Mountain), I couldnt resist.

The hill in the north east Welsh county of Denbighshire, is the highest and most popular of all the hills in the Clwydian Range, and at only an hours drive away from home, I am not sure how I’ve overlooked it all these years.

Being mindful of how heavy the traffic can get at this time of the year, and being an early riser, I got all my stuff ready the night before, and pretty much woke up, dressed, grabbed my backpack and drove one hour west.  Starting on a motorway, the roads gradually got smaller the longer I drove, with the final few minutes ending up on a small almost single track road in places, as I arrived in the The Clwydian Range area of outstanding natural beauty.

I got to the lower carpark pretty much as it opened at 8am, it’s a large carpark with toilets, picnic benches and a play area, the fee was £2 (cash only) when I was there, but there is also a smaller carpark further down the road, which had an card payment options.  My plan was to eat breakfast once I got there, enjoy the views and wait for the others to arrive, so with my overnight oats and a flask of coffee, I had the pick of the seating area, and chilled for a while.

Important to note, there is virtually no phone signal in this part of the park, so if you are meeting other people, get your meet up details spot on. I briefly got a signal & texted one of my friends, who had actually parked further down the road, luckily they realised where I must be, and we all eventually found each other and headed up the trail.

There are multiple routes to the summit, I photographed the information sign at the top of the carpark, but had no idea which we were doing. My friends had all done the hike a few times before though, so with that in mind, I decided to do no research, and was just happy to just follow their lead. Turns out we were doing the Jubilee Tower Circular, one of the moderate tracks, but for those wanting something less or something more, there are plenty of other options.

The hike was wonderful, the views spectacular, it was foggy at the start of the day, but as we began our climb, the fog lifted and the sun came out. With it being such a clear day, the views went on for miles, down to the River Dee, across the rest of the undulating hills of the Clwydian’s, and even over to Snowdonia in the distance with fields of purple heather all around us.

There is quite a steep bit to get your heart pumping at around a third in, but we found a bench to rest and hydrate, before continuing up to the summit. As far as hikes go, it didnt take that long to get to the top, at least not along this path we took, and as it was only late morning, it wasn’t too busy either. With the weather warm and sunny, we ended up sitting on the ground, eating our snacks, taking in the views and having a good old natter for maybe an hour! Usually at summits, its cold and windy, and you only have time for a quick selfie before you lose the feeling in your hands, but the weather was on our side, and as this is only actually a hilltop at 558 metres, (when you think Snowdon further to the west is 1,085 metres), you’re not really that exposed to the elements and can really take the time to appreciate the incredible scenary.

After about an hour, and almost losing the dog who ran off to chase a squirrel, we slowly headed back down, arriving back in the now almost full carpark. A quick change of shoes and one podcast later, I was back home, with that tiredness you only experience from a good walk and fresh countryside air. Bank holiday Sunday, done right!

 

 

Hike to Snowdon Summit

The tallest mountain in Wales, and only second to Ben Nevis in being the highest summit in the whole of the UK. Its only a 2 hour drive from where I live in the North West, and its somewhere I’ve fancied doing for many years. Not because I’ve been a hiker or mountain explorer for years, but so many people I know have already hiked it and by people who I considered no fitter than myself, so I always had it on my bucket list to do.

Many times I’ve had offers or plans to hike it, but they always fell through, plus being an inexperienced hiker, I didnt want to do it solo or with someone even less experienced than me, so I always relied on someone else to organise it and so it never actually got organised.

Until 2020 happened, and a combination of all my foreign trips being cancelled, most things I could do socially had to be outside, (so hiking was No1 on my list) and the first hike I did with Bee Sober Manchester mentioned that Snowdon was planned for mid September. I quickly cleared my calender, booked a single, contact-free hotel room in Llanberis, the town inside the national park and got in training!

We decided we would start early on the Saturday morning, as all of us had arrived the night before, so it wasnt too painful to get up and get to the Pen y Pass carpark around 5.30AM so we could grab one of the limited car parking spaces (otherwise, you’re best to use the park and ride). The majority of the different paths all start from this carpark, so for £10 all day, its well worth it. Plus, there is wifi, handy if you’re co-ordinating a meet up with others, as phone service is sketchy and there’s toilets too.

We set off early to avoid the crowds, which have swamped to Snowdonia since lockdown, as well as to witness the sunrise on our way up, and boy was it worth it.

There are a number of different routes up to the summit and even a train, which I think you have to pre-book, but it wasn’t fully in service due to Covid. We hiked up the Pyg track, then came down on the Miners track, and its a route I would advise any first timers to do. It was completely managable for someone who hasnt done a whole lot of hiking in the last few years and the ascent only involved a bit of a scramble, with a lovely flat path down below on our way back. There’s lots of places to stop, (have a sneaky wee) rest, eat and take in those amazing views, absolutely worth the early start and we were back down by 12 and we looked back on the growing crowds with relief that we had avoided them with our early start. Also, by staying close by in Llaberris, I was having a hot shower and rest by 12.30.