I've lived in the shadow of the mighty Moelwyns for 11 years, but I was often discouraged from exploring by their popularity, feeling the mountain would always be too busy. Each summer, everyone you spoke to seemed to be headed up there.
Then something changed...I was at Wrysgan one day and kept walking, up the Ceseiliau Moelwyn (the armpits of the Moelwyn- who said Welsh was dull?) between Moel yr Hydd and Clogwyn y Bustach, just for the hell of it. I ended up finding a magical landscape that few had explored.
As a result, I have come to know the Moelwynion pretty well this year- I started in February, combing the lower regions of the Moelwyn Mine and skidding about in the snow on my backside- and I'm still stravaiging about looking for interesting nooks and crannies at the time of writing.
I really wanted to take a look at the upper parts of the Moelwyn mine; the earlier bits that nobody bothers to photograph or explore. So I started out on the customary trudge up the Stwlan Dam road- pretty soon, it became very misty. I couldn't even see the dam wall until my face was about four feet away, but the mist did thin out occasionally and afforded me a glimpse of what might have been, on a good day.
I do have a GPS device, but so far it's mysteries have eluded me. I actually know how to use a compass - although in situations when I have got into trouble (such as that time on Ben Cruachan) it wasn't much use. On the Ben, the mist came down really thickly and my companion and I were badly disorientated. I thought I had a handle on things, but nothing seemed to be in the right place. Then I heard the raucous growl of a railway locomotive and a two-tone horn- instantly, from the direction of the sound, everything made sense and we were able to safely descend. Clearly, I must only climb hills near a railway line in future.
But back to Wales. I climbed up the horrible muddy scramble inbetween the rocks to the left of the dam wall and soon I was beside the quiet, mysterious waters of the Llyn. The hydro valve room loomed darkly out of the mist, like a scene from a 'sixties Dr Who episode. Everything was eerily silent. I plotted a course that would take me up to the first, low run-in adits - and I didn't do too badly, they soon loomed into view. There's a line of them going on up the flanks of Moelwyn Bach and they are very frustrating, having been filled in or run-in. I suspect they were for the most part trials, although the higher ones do have plenty of spoil outside. Here's a photograph of them during a break in the mist.
From this point, the mist seemed to concentrate in the Vale of Ffestiniog below- unusually it cleared for long periods near the top of Moelwyn Bach. I wandered ever upwards, following a track made by fellow mine-curious folk. This mine and its adits were all worked in the early 1800s, and judging by the tips, were not very productive. Eventually I joined another track as I arrived at a flat working area with a collapsed adit and lots of spoil.
The going was tough now, and it was a stiff climb to the top working area at 1,700 feet. The waste up here was extensive and there was a pit, with walliau and what looked like a small barracks. I explored the pit, to find an adit, walled up. The pit wasn't a large one, but that it had been dug at all, in a place like this- I guess they had different ideas about what constituted an eyesore back then. Not that I consider a quarry pit to be anything but a benediction on the landscape, but now I have seen it, I can't unsee it, and I keep noticing it when driving along the valley towards Trawsfynydd or walking along by Brynglas.
There's not much information about the quarry out there. All the references are that this was a spectacularly unsuccessful venture in a difficult spot. I guess that might have been true, the waste rock lying about is definitely low grade slate and the tips are nothing compared to the later enterprise on Moelwyn Mawr. But it makes a spectacular walk and is a fascinating feature. I ended up sitting and having my lunch on a rock outside the barracks, enjoying the changing view as the mist flitted from the tops. I was watched by the inevitable Raven, who lost no time in swooping down on my lunch spot once I had vacated it. The satisfied "cronk" let me know that he or she appreciated the chunk of sandwich I had left.