Moel Siabod - A lonely mountain
Moel Siabod is an isolated mountain in Snowdonia overlooking the town of Capel Curig. It's the highest of the Moelwynion peaks at 872m and on a clear day offers views of 13 of Snowdonia's highest mountains. As it's less popular with tourists than Snowdon, it's a great option if you're looking to avoid crowds. There are a few paths up to the summit; one from the Pen-y-Blas mountain centre just outside of Capel Curig, another from nearby Pont Cyfyng and the third from Dolwyddelan on the South side of the mountain. This latter path is very steep towards the top, so if the weather's bad or you are not particularly experienced in mountaineering, it would be advisable to take another route. Moel Siabod's summit is very rocky and the paths are difficult to follow during the last 70m of ascent due to the craggy terrain. Some scrambling is required on all of the trails and appropriate hiking footwear is required, especially in wet weather. Make sure you take an adequate navigation system with you as it can be disorientating finding your way back down. There are some very steep cliff-faces on the South-East side of the peak.
We took the trail from Pen-y-Blas, parking in a lay-by just past the mountain centre. The trail starts by crossing a bridge over the lake, then winds its way up through the forest with rugged moorland to the side and sheep grazing all around. There were several crossings during the forest, so we kept checking our map to make sure we stayed on course. Once through the trees, the path veered to the left over a sty and onto the moorland. The gradient increased as the paths continued ascending and at times disappeared from under our feet, leaving us guessing which way to turn. We were passed by three runners, so watched them race upwards and made note of the general direction they were headed in. As we neared the top, the ground leveled out onto a slight ridge and we noticed an Israeli guy we had met previously, so stopped to chat and take a break. Clouds swept around the mountain and started to cover us; we put on our raincoats and continued hiking. Our visibility faded as we progressed into the cloud and we lost the path completely. We reached a false summit with a circular walled space and a few hikers huddled out of the wind to eat their lunch. They pointed us in the right direction and wished us luck. The final stretch to the top required scrambling over rocks and boulders, which was pretty fun but slippery under foot.
The summit wasn't particularly obvious to us as it was all covered in cloud, but the water fountain gave it away (a lot of Snowdonia's peaks have a brick water fountain at the top). We sat on some jagged boulders to have our photo taken before getting scared of the sheer drop behind us. The wind wasn't particularly high, but it was very damp and we didn't trust our balance enough to sit on the edge for long, so moved to a flatter surface for a quick snack break, before heading back down again. We didn't want to stay and get cold, so hiking back down out of the cloud felt like a wise decision. Our original plan had been to hike down the South side of the the mountain and loop back round to the car at the bottom. However, we decided to go back the way we came as the weather was bad and the South side is a lot steeper, which could have been dangerous if we lost our way. It didn't take very long to descend, but we had to use our GPS device to find the path a couple of times. Being surrounded by cloud is not great when trying to use a map and compass; it's very hard to check you're on course when you can't see any landmarks!
As we exited the cloud, we entered the forest and found our way back to the car without any further need for the map. Although tired, we felt very accomplished and satisfied with the hike. The sun even started to come out as we got back into the car; typical! As our new Israeli friend had said though, the clouds and rain are all part of the experience and are just as beautiful as a the sun!
What do you think? Have you ever hiked around Moel Siabod before? Let us know in the comments below!