I parked the car in the car park that's next to Llyn y Dywarchen, hoping to take a bit of a short cut, but we went the wrong way, turned right around the rock Clogwynygarreg instead of left, this took us into a very boggy area and we were forced to take a very circuitous route. But in the end we got to a place where we could see the route, just up a steep long winded slope from here.
In the distance before us there was a group of people, we aimed for them, they were on the path. By the time we got to where they were they had moved on up the path to the stile, a sit down later and we were on our way to the stile. Above the stile is Foel Rudd, a peak at the end of an arm coming off from Mynydd Mawr, it is high above us but 125 meters below the summit cairn. It was about here that I started to get really out of breath, and my legs got very heavy, it never used to be this hard. At the top of Foel Rudd the whole eastern side of the mountain opens out before us, Moel Eilio is from here just a stones throw from Craig Cwmbychan and it's cairn, that one we'll see later. Y Garn and the Nantlle ridge has opened out into the long and scary view that it is, the view to Snowdon across Llyn Cwellyn has been there all along dominating the view east.
After another short sit down we are making our way towards the still sitting walking group, which has turned out to be a group of women, huffing and puffing our way through their midst one of them comments upon my nice camera, but I'm too out of breath to utter anything more then uuuhuuhn in a thank you type noise, no energy to say she has a nice something or other, just enough energy to keep following Alken, one foot in front of the other.
The ground is now a wide ridge, on the right the ground falls away gently to Cwm Planwydd, but on the left Craig y Bera's cliffs of certain death drop straight down to the ground far far below, across that valley Y Garn rises up into a dome like massiff, it has two great cairns upon it, running off from those two cairns the Nantlle ridge runs off terrifyingly wonderful towards another cairn upon Craig Cwm Silyn.
Whilst we're looking over the cliffs of certain death, a woman joins us, we exchange pleasantries and move on some more, a woman on a mountain on her own ? not seen one of those before. It's really not far to the top from here, breathing has returned to normal and the legs have attained their normal weight.
Way up at the top and the cairn is before us, nobody else is up here yet, so we get a few photos in before every one else comes. The views are amazing, from the Lleyn peninsula to Caernarfon, which I mistakenly took to be Bangor, one can see a very long way in all directions, and it is a feast for the eye. The cairn has spread far and wide, but enough remains for numpties to have constructed three large but low shelters out of it. We pick one and have our butties, they don't even touch the sides. The lone woman has arrived and is now taking her own photos, a woman after my own heart, I wish. Then the group of women arrive and take over the largest of the shelters, then a mixed couple and then another, on our way down two more women pass us, is this a girl's mountain, 9 out of 10 walkers were women, you don't see that very often. How very refreshing.
The women have taken over the top of the mountain so we decide to take our leave, a few more photos and were off down the gentle slope to Craig Cwmbychan and it's good looking cairn.
One of the great things about being a megalithically-minded (and hopefully reasonably enlightened) hillwalker is that sometimes everything you hold dear in the field comes together in one glorious combination. Another is that people tend to leave you alone when they think you are mad. Bonus! Then again perhaps they know something I don't.... wibble...wibble..
Anyway, the great passage grave upon Seefin, in County Wicklow, is probably the greatest example of this 'combination' I've yet experienced, but an expedition up the 2,291ft elephantine bulk of Mynydd Mawr in Central Snowdonia isn't that far off, in my opinion. Being an isolated peak, the views from Mynydd Mawr are absolutely sensational, particularly from the vertigo inducing Craig-y-Bera to the exquisite Nantlle Ridge and across the Cwellyn Valley to Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon itself. However study the map further - particularly Coflein's annotated example - and you will see that the greater part of Central Snowdonia is one gigantic, upland Bronze Age burial cemetery. Not as immediately obvious as any of the great Irish sites, granted, but there nonetheless and mainly subject to the attentions of people who couldn't give a monkey's about it for one reason or another.
Coflein describes the huge burial cairn at Mynydd Mawr's summit thus.... 'a large sub-circular summit cairn that measures 22m in diameter by up to 2.5m high. It is constructed of small-medium angular scree stones piled together. There has been later delviing (sic) to form three drystone shelters which are built into it. Each of the shelters measure up to 3m in diameter by 1m high'.
So, more destruction of a once magnificent monument, then. What's new? Thankfully, however, the cairn is in a very real sense only a symbollic marker of the location, the sense of place at which is, well, above everything normally experienced in this day and age. Across the valley the new multi-million pound cafe upon the summit of Snowdon is clearly visible, while we're content to let the grave of some great predecessor be treated like this. Well, it is just a pile of stones, after all......... or is it?
Note that there is another substantial cairn - also 'amended' somewhat - upon the rocky promontory of Craig Cwmbychan, overlooking Nant-y-Betws roughly to the NE. Both cairns are best reached from Planwydd Farm, a little above the inflow of Llyn Cwellyn. A steep climb, but then the reward matches the effort. Ten times over.