Saturday, 2 January 2016

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Bryniau Clwyd


27.12.15  Moel Fama (SJ 161 626)

Moel Fama (SJ 161 626)

To say that Moel Fama is a popular hill is an understatement, as it’s one of those honeypot hills that seem to attract the multitude, on almost any day outside of extremely bad weather days, one can expect to meet a number of people on the many paths that lead toward its high point.  On days when the weather is set fine the throng of the multitude usually takes in people wearing a variety of garments from bra clad females ascending for charity, to shoe clad budding mountaineers seemingly more appropriately dressed for an hour in Marks and Spencers to the obligatory push chair pusher and the occasional hill walker, you can always spot the latter as they look perversely overdressed when compared to the rest of the throng.

Today I ventured north with Lou, through a landscape ravaged by recent floods - persistent rain over a two month period had caused severe damage to many districts, but thankfully today’s forecast gave us a window of opportunity, before the rain returned.

We drove to the top of Bwlch Penbarras where the narrow road skims its way across the hill with a tarmacked parking area to the north and a gravelled overspill to the south.  By the time we arrived cars were tightly packed along the roadside to the east of the bwlch, indicating that the place was full.  Just as we prepared to admit defeat, the reverse lights lit on a car ahead, and we were in.  

The ascent of Moel Fama from Bwlch Penbarras is not difficult, as two main paths and a slightly off piste option will take the budding mountaineer upward where all paths join and the Jubilee Tower on the summit then dominates the view to the north.

As we set off up the grassed and earthen path, flickers of sunshine illuminated a land that had cast out nothing but greyness for many a week.  Down in the flatland of valley, the Afon Clwyd flowed through Rhuthun (Ruthin) and on into the country beyond, becoming in itself abstract and endless. 

The Vale of Clwyd with Rhuthun nestled below

The budding mountaineer prepares for her ascent

To our west all the higher Eryri peaks were submerged under a winter cloak of darkening sky, this western view foretold the weather for later in the afternoon as the cloud slowly became gloomier, and crept ever nearer.

Within a few minutes of setting off we were chatting to a young woman who was out with Penny the dog. It was the first time Penny had been up a hill and she looked a little circumspect - I can remember the feeling.  During our ascent Penny was never too far away from us and we watched with amusement on occasion as she stopped, looking at her surroundings, sometimes not responding to the light tug on the lead, but stubbornly standing her ground, wanting all the uphill to stop and a cosy warmed fire to appear so she could curl up and fall asleep.

All paths (and Penny the dog) lead to the summit

We opted for the middle path on our ascent and quickly made progress to the point where the robust outline of the Jubilee Tower appeared out of the moorland surrounds of the hill.  This edifice was constructed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of George III, an unusual construct and somewhat obliterating the summit of an otherwise rather beautiful hill.  By the time it had come into view, our path ahead had become a coloured panorama of post-Christmas walkers, out enjoying the fine weather, and the view.

It was great to be out with Lou.  It was her suggestion we visit Moel Fama as her last ascent was during her college days some 35 years ago, and she had been long since planning to repeat the experience.  I had to smile though, as she wondered aloud why the summit looked so far away, and why the hill had become so much steeper. 

The Clwydian hills form an extended north – south ridge and are one of the few extended ridge walks that I have not completed in Wales.  I'm too fat and old for that to happen now.  I’m happy enough though pottering about on the hills, getting enjoyment visiting smaller P30s and re-visiting hills with friends, and enjoying their company.

Looking north from the approach to Moel Fama

As Lou and I headed ever upward, the sun, as it is prone to do, cast out magical light on the land.  This is common during the winter months when its position in the sky is relatively low - the blue overhead was sharply contrasting against a blackening mass of high cloud, the darkened silhouette of the tower accentuating the colour in between.  It was however but a fleeting sight, before the illuminated landscape disappeared, and the view took on a monochrome stillness.

The Jubilee Tower atop Moel Fama, a robust edifice constructed to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III

As we reached the summit it seemed the whole of north-east Wales was there. We had passed the ubiquitous push chair pusher, or to be honest, they had passed us,  reminding me of a steep and challenging ascent to a Greek church during the unforgiving heat of a Mediterranean summer, when I was overtaken by a man with one leg.

Although Trimbling the summit of Moel Fama was not a necessity, I had it snugly packed and I felt it chomping at the bit, so I quickly positioned it atop my rucksack at the remaining natural high point of the hill.  I attempted to herd the multitude of dogs and their accompanying humans away from the Trimble, as it beeped its way to 300 data points collected.  By the time five minutes of data gathering was complete the weather had changed and a thickening mass of murky weather was encircling the hill.

Gathering data from the remaining natural high point of Moel Fama

As we began our descent, the peaks below us appeared encircled and sometimes shrouded, as the growing mist engulfed them.   It was time to get back, and hopefully we would make it to the car before the rain clouds we could see in the distance, reached us. 

Moel Fama on our descent with sun accentuating its moorland colour

As we arrived back at the car I quickly changed and proceeded to drive us south over the Horseshoe Pass which was by now submerged in drizzle and cloud. We headed onward to Glyn Ceiriog which was wet and dank and getting dark.  We’d been lucky on Moel Fama, as the gloomy wet weather surrounding the hill had stubbornly stayed put for most of the day, a bit like Penny.


Survey Result:


Moel Fama

Summit Height:  554.8m (converted to OSGM15) (Trimble GeoXH 6000)  554.9m (converted to OSGM15) (Leica 530)

Summit Grid Reference:  SJ 16124 62669

Drop:  c 278m

Dominance:  50.10% (Dominant status confirmed)



For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}



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