Mountain running, mountain quarries, mountain bothies. Just lots of mountains.

What is a tetrahedron?

Written by Haydn Williams

After some pretty miserable weather on runs recently, I had high hopes for change a few weeks ago. Our merry band started from the foot of Tryfan and by the summit were engulfed in glorious sunshine wind, clag and snow. However, by the time we’d continued on to the Glyders and started our descent to Pen y Pass things were starting to look up. We picked up Phil et al. in the car park and set off up a busy Pyg track towards Crib Goch – photo below courtesy of Euan.

By now the stiff breeze had dried the rock nicely, and so we had a relaxed trip over the ridge and onwards up Crib y Ddysgl (all without mentioning the ‘H’ word, to keep some members of the party happy!). Through the pandemonium of Snowdon summit we continued, and then onto more scrambly fun up Y Lliwedd. I bailed out at Pont Bethania and let the others continue their rather epic day over Cnicht and beyond. After meeting up with them again for a tasty pub dinner and GCSE revision I retired back to the club hut, safe in the knowledge that I could have a lie-in for once.

Sunday dawned windy, but that didn’t deter me from inflicting an old railway on Zoe, Susie and Andy as our destination for the day. Specifically, this was the Rhiwbach tramway, which served a number of slate quarries east of Blaenau Ffestiniog. It was built in 1861 and was in use for a solid 100 years. The last quarry to close was Maenofferen in the 1990s; the buildings are all disused now, although small amounts of slate are still produced by ‘untopping’ the old quarry workings, i.e. removing the roof and extracting the supporting slate pillars which were originally left in place to hold it up.

Maen-offeren workshop. © Haydn Williams 2017
Maen-offeren workshop. © Haydn Williams 2017

The buildings have clearly suffered over recent years, but there’s still plenty of interesting stuff hanging around. The visual scars left on the hillsides around Blaenau Ffestiniog mean that it sits in a ‘hole’ in Snowdonia National Park, but its industrial importance is recognised in its designation as a Historic Landscape in Wales by Cadw, and the fact that there are several scheduled monuments too.

Maen-offeren workshop. © Haydn Williams 2017
Maen-offeren workshop. © Haydn Williams 2017
Everything on this board is mounted to a single bit of slate! © Haydn Williams 2017
Everything on this board is mounted to a single bit of slate! © Haydn Williams 2017

After wandering around the empty sheds we continued up moss, along old mining inclines, and over drainage leats to finally reach the tramway. The views of the Moelwynion were quite impressive, and we could even the see downhill tracks at Antur Stiniog which James and I visited a while ago. As you’d expect, the going got easier from there because we were on a disused railway, albeit one sitting on moorland at 500m above sea level.

Near-vertical moss climbing on the way out of Maen-offeren. © Haydn Williams 2017
Near-vertical moss climbing on the way out of Maen-offeren. © Haydn Williams 2017

We followed the tramway past two reservoirs used to provide power, initially via waterwheels and then, from 1910, to generate electricity (and they’re still doing so today for Llechwedd). After this you reach the other quarries, with all of the exploration opportunities they provide. The wind was bitterly cold so we didn’t hang around for too long but we did have poke around in Blaen-y-cwm until the water level in the tunnel we were in reached mid-calf and we beat a hasty retreat!

View from the innards of Blaen-y-cwm quarry. © Haydn Williams 2017
View from the innards of Blaen-y-cwm quarry. © Haydn Williams 2017

After that it was a pleasant plod back to Blaenau Ffestiniog, followed by ice creams in Criccieth. Excellent!

The following weekend started in a promising manner, with some pub grub to fortify Alex, Mark and me for a walk onto Bleaklow for the night.

Pre-walk fuel-up. © Alex Hyde 2017
Pre-walk fuel-up. © Alex Hyde 2017

We climbed in pleasant weather to a location which will remain undisclosed on this particular blog (but in reality is very easily found by Googling or, heaven forbid, studying a map to find interesting places). Candles and ginger tea soon made the place more homely, and we had as good a night’s sleep as can be expected in such places.

Our humble abode, as night falls. © Alex Hyde 2017
Our humble abode, as night falls. © Alex Hyde 2017
It's not a mess, it's organised chaos. © Alex Hyde 2017
It’s not a mess, it’s organised chaos. © Alex Hyde 2017
Me and Mark looking cosy inside. © Alex Hyde 2017
Me and Mark looking cosy inside. © Alex Hyde 2017

The following morning was distinctly laid back, but we eventually got ourselves together and wandered up Alport Dale and then back down the Pennine Way and over Featherbed Moss.

Relaxed morning. © Mark Chadwick 2017
Relaxed morning. © Mark Chadwick 2017
Alport Dale. © Alex Hyde 2017
Alport Dale. © Alex Hyde 2017
Heading down from Bleaklow Head. © Mark Chadwick 2017
Heading down from Bleaklow Head. © Mark Chadwick 2017

It would have been rude to leave without visiting the pub again, so we each demolished a dessert purely out of courtesy. On reflection, this blog post has basically been an argument to support the thesis that all adventures should end with something sweet. I can’t help but feel that more evidence needs to be gathered to really reach statistical certainty though…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.