The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Pen Llithrig y Wrach

Round Cairn


Ah, the 'Slippery Hill of the Witch'. Hasn't that just got to be a contender for best name ever? Although at 2,622ft it can hardly be called a hill... unless you're a Scot, that is, in which case even the incomparable Black Cuillin are 'hills'....

I last visited the summit cairn of Pen Llithrig y Wrach almost exactly four years ago, approaching from the south near Bron Heulog. This is perhaps the preferred way up, since it gives the traveller ample opportunity to take a look at several other monuments en route. Unfortunately, however, thick cloud and atrocious conditions moved in whilst I was but half way up back then. Hey, these things happen in the hills, sorry, mountains of Snowdonia. Don't they just? To be honest I had no intention of having another look today, my mind set upon a tentative ascent of the Creigiau Gleision opposite, a wary eye upon the cloud base. However, upon arriving and parking at the Llyn Cowlyd dam, following a drive up what might possibly be - in places - the steepest public road in all Wales (seriously) from Trefriw, improving conditions prompt a snap decision. Let's go see the old witch again, then.

So, leaving a couple of workmen actually working - yeah, I know, it freaked me out, too - upon the dam (demonstrating that hopefully we've learnt our lesson from the catastrophic failure of the Llyn Eigau dam in 1925...) I head westwards to ascend the long north-eastern ridge of the mountain. At the crest there is a sort of path, although diversions to view the aforementioned Llyn Eigiau render my approach to the summit a trackless, boggy, heathery slog. Never mind, since the views across Cwm Eigau to Carnedd Llewelyn and the central peaks of The Carneddau are sublime. A final grassy scramble and there is the summit cairn... clear of cloud this time around.

As with most North Walian Bronze Age summit funerary cairns, the construction of this 'un - low, earthfast, with overlying supplementary modern additions - will not blow you away in itself. However the positionning, towering above the forbidding, black jewel of the Llyn Cowlyd reservoir, with the 'grey-green crags' of Creigiau Gleision shimmering beyond, is truly breathtaking. The 3000 footers of The Carneddau sit beyond Pen-yr-Helgi-Du (peak of the black hunting dog) to the approx north-west, mostly crowned by their own Bronze Age monuments, whilst the incomparable Tryfan dominates Ogwen to the west, despite being in the company of numerous other serious mountains. There can be only one Tryfan, cairnless, but surmounted by its unique pair of stone sentinels. Shafts of light pierce the increasingly dark cloudbase above Moel Siabod to shine a myriad spotlights upon Dyffryn Mymbyr, scene of yesterday's visit. Then, to the north beyond Llyn Eigiau, I pick out the one and only Tal-y-Fan, the hillfort Pen-y-Gaer and Drum, site of yet another funerary cairn. Needless to say many other monuments remain unseen at this range. Is there anywhere they didn't go, these people?

The weather begins to deteriorate, the light also. Several used flare cannisters are a prescient warning. Time to leave, then. As I approach Cwm Cowlyd, vicious hailstone fronts beginning to sweep across the reservoir, I notice one (perhaps more?) possible hut circles/disturbed cairn-circles. Not sure.

Needless to say, darkness approaches.. and time has run out, the prevailing conditions now not the best.. and I've still got to negotiate the road back to Trefriw. Luckily the access gate, despite appearances to the contrary, has not been locked before me. It is a relief. Or perhaps the old witch took pity and sorted it for me?
28th November 2010ce
Edited 28th November 2010ce

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