RHINOG FAWR (720m)
I started this day's walk from the village of Bronaber which is served by the Dolgellau to Blaenau Ffestiniog and Aberystwyth-Dolgellau-Porthmadog-Bangor buses, giving an almost hourly service. Initially there's a half mile walk along the A470 but the verges are wide so it's perfectly safe. Possibly the bus driver would drop you off/ pick you up at the beginning of the lane to Craigddu-isaf if you asked, although traffic does tend to travel very quickly along this straight road.
Leaving the main road the objective for the day, Rhinog Fawr is straight in front with its companion hill Rhinog Fach on the left. There's about 3km of road walking to start but the lane is quiet. On reaching Craigddu-isaf (where there is parking space) the path cuts across a felled area of the woodland; it was pretty boggy in the conditions of August 2008, so on the return I followed the forest road past the farm instead. Just beyond the farm there is a signpost which marks the splitting of the paths to Bwlch Tyddad and the Roman Steps, which is the path for Rhinog Fawr, and to Bwlch Drws Ardudwy for the route to Rhinog Fach.
The path to the Roman steps gradually works its way through the woodland partly by a stream past waterfalls - plenty of water to be seen this August.
Once out of the forest the true nature of the Rhinogs becomes apparent with rock and heather dominating the scene. Straight ahead in the depression Llyn Ddu, the day's first objective, but first the path to the Roman Steps is followed bending round to the right.
As Bwlch Tyddad is approached the Roman Steps come into view and continue to the other side of the pass.
I knew that somewhere in this area the path for Llyn Du branched off but it was by no means obvious and I spent a good ten minutes trying to find it. Oh! for some decent signposts.....
Once found the track remained reasonably clear all the way up to the lake. It heads off southwards from the Roman Steps path in a roughly southerly direction under the crags before turning and climbing south-westwards.
The climb through the rocks and heath was enjoyable although the towering mass of Rhinog Fawr's cliffs was somewhat daunting. How the hell was I going to get up there?
Unusually for me a lunch break was taken at the bottom of the hill rather than the top. It had taken about two and three quarter hours to get from Bronaber, somewhat longer than expected because of the route finding problems. The peace and quiet of this beautifully situated lake must make it an idyllic place on a warm sunny day............
Once again it wasn't clear where, or if, there was a path leading up from the lake. The map shows one but finding it was another matter. Initially I tried a route which looked promising but it lead straight onto the rock slabs seen in the photo above. A retreat and a wide circuit away from the lake eventually found a track which climbed around the south eastern corner of the lake. The map shows this path working its way up through the crags above the lake but in the murky conditions I didn't feel terribly happy about trying to find this route.
From the end of the lake I could see a wall heading up hill from the Roman Steps so I made my way across the heather to it and found, as expected, a rough track leading uphill.
The path climbed steeply in places and I was rewarded with hazy views over Cardigan Bay towards Harlech and Porthmadog with Gloyw Llyn lake below. By now my spirits, which had not been convinced I'd reach the summit began to feel more confident. A clear path diverged from the wall heading steadily uphill. Several other paths appeared as I made my way uphill. Visibility became very poor and I decided to mark my position on the path using my GPS so that I could take the same path back down without difficulty. One of the reasons for my cautiousness was my desire to catch a particular bus back from Bronaber and I didn't want to waste any more time route finding.
Eventually the summit was reached. It was raining and quite windy so I didn't stay long before retracing my steps. The climb from the Llyn Du had taken an hour. The walk back to Bronaber was without incident, although more care than usual was needed because of the poor conditions under foot. The whole walk had taken about six and a half hours.