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The Southern Carneddau

A circular route north of the Ogwen Valley


Leaving the A5 at a point directly below the North Ridge of Tryfan and a short distance from the eastern end of Llyn Ogwen, a track is seen to leave the road on its northern side by a small copse of trees. This track passes a farm - Tal y Llyn Ogwen - before gaining the open mountainside beyond by a stile over the stone wall.

I was surprised by the abundance of young lambs here as it was now mid May but this year's winter had been a long and cold one. As I crossed a boggy section I anticipated the ford of the Afon Lloer - the stream that descends from the unseen tarn of Fynnon Lloer high above - which can often become a raging torrent and prove a challenge after wet weather which is most of the time in the Ogwen Valley. This occasion however, after a dry spell it was just a case of walking across stones which are normally hidden by the thundering water.

The path now headed up the opposite bank and the steep hillside beyond, seemingly in a variety of directions though there are now yellow wooden marker poles to guide the way. It's just a case of slogging uphill and not straying too far from the river if you wish to make use of the ladder stile to cross the - very substantial - stone wall that crosses the mountainside above.

Beyond the wall the path soon began to follow the river which descended a mini gorge on the right in a series of waterfalls and rocky pools. Behind me, the rocky spike of Tryfan soared skywards in front of the equally craggy Glyders ridge. As the angle eased, the terrain opened out and the path became vague once more. I noticed high up to my left a party of walkers beneath a rocky chimney that breached the crags of Pen yr Ole wen. That was my route and I was helped by the fact that I'd done it before and knew it wasn't all that hard. It had been misty the last time though so this was the first time I'd seen it from below.

There are a couple of ways up here - just follow your choice of path - as the route again steepens and easy scrambling over rough ground is encountered. I was soon up to the other party who were sorting out ropes and various other pieces of climbing kit though from what I remembered they wouldn't need them. Those walkers who have bottled out of attempting Tryfan's North Ridge and come up this side instead hoping for an easy walk with nothing scary to fall off are now faced with a daunting looking rock scramble that cannot be avoided!Up I went hoping not to get stuck while the other walkers watched from below. The route here was certainly steep but I had remembered correctly - there was no shortage of hand and foot holds and someone of my modest abilities was able to enjoy climbing straight up without delay. The route is also fairly enclosed so the considerable height above the Ogwen Valley is scarcely noticed. After 30 or 40 feet the angle eased to be followed by some more, slightly less steep, rocks then I was back on the path. Moments like these on a walk are approached with trepidation, climbed with enjoyment and finished with a relief of not having to do it again though this time I would gladly have done the steep bit again.

From here the path carried on up the ridge with steep drops down to the deep pool of Ffynnon Lloer - source of the Lloer - on the right and steep craggy slopes falling to the Ogwen Valley on the left. It became rapidly colder as I climbed and the wind gained in strength - now I was level with the top of Tryfan opposite - and a short final ascent led up to the flattish top of Pen yr Ole Wen. The name means Peak of the White Slope and the summit marks the end of the Carneddau Range in this direction. At 978 metres it is curiously the same height as Scafell Pike in the Lake District so no small hill this one! The wind blew with a bitter chill as light flurries of snow began to fall or rather blow horizontally past - winter was reluctant to leave the high places.

I now turned north - where the wind was coming from - towards my next objective Carnedd Dafydd. The way lay over stony ground first of all downhill and then up the opposite side of the ridge in a long steady ascent. The rough path led past the outcrops of Carnedd Fach before reaching the numerous cairns and stone shelters adorning the top of Carnedd Dafydd. The wind here blew with a frozen blast that dispelled all thoughts of spring though the snow had now stopped and beyond the coastal hills the slate grey sea lay flat and lifeless looking over a kilometre below. I found the south facing shelter and settled down for lunch.

Beyond Dafydd's summit the route lies along the ridge connecting that peak with Carnedd Llewelyn the highest of the Carneddau at 1064m or 3491 feet. A wide easy track leads eastwards across the first part of the route though it was more interesting to follow the crest of the ridge a little to its left. The area is wide and plateau-like but to the North along the first half of its length the ground drops away in a series of thousand foot cliffs known as Ysgolion Duon - the Black Ladders. This precipitous wall is unseen from the Ogwen side and is in contrast to the whalebacked ridges and relatively gentle slopes on the southern side of this part of the range. The cliffs themselves overlook the wild and remote valley of the Afon Llafar which leads in due course to Bethesda which is invisible from here.

Leaving the rough stony ground of the cliff edges I rejoined the wide track and made fast progress to Craig Llugwy before the ridge narrowed on its approach to Carnedd Llewelyn. I met a few more walkers coming the other way and negotiated the ridge beyond. There are no difficulties here - it not being particularly narrow or precipitous - just rough underfoot again. If the aim was to avoid ascending Carnedd Llewelyn a descent can be made from near Craig Llugwy or from the far end of the narrower ridge where you start climbing again - but study the map carefully - there are still cargs to avoid. It's easier to stay on the marked path over Llewelyn especially if unfamiliar with the area!

Another tiring slog brought me up to the deserted top of Carnedd Llewelyn where I had a brief rest before descending the south east ridge of the mountain. The weather had cleared somewhat and the views now extended far off across Wales to the faint outline of the Arenigs away near Bala. Down near Llanwrst in the Conwy Valley to the East and a long way below the sun was out lighting the landscape in vivid greens though here it was still winter as I descended past some large snowfields in the cold wind.

An easy path led down the wide ridge with views down to the tarn of Fynnon Llugwy - actually a reservoir - on the right of the ridge. the path leads on up the ridge to Pen yr Helgi Du after the low point of the ridge but I was turning off before then. Before the low point was reached though I had another scramble to negotiate - easier than the one I'd done earlier though this was downhill. Clambering down a short rocky barrier of 10 or 15 feet was the only tricky bit and I had soon turned off the ridge following a steep path in the heather heading down to Ffynnon Llugwy. Before turning off I had had a look across to the other side where lay the remote Cwm Eigiau. The plateau beyond Cwm Eigiau had been where I had assisted with a mountain rescue a couple of years before on another ascent of Carnedd Llewelyn from that direction.

With my coat now away in my rucksack - it was much warmer again down here - I followed the trail past the tarn and as the sun finally emerged reached a single track metalled road that led in a straight line back towards the valley. With Tryfan and the Glyders outlined against the late afternoon sun I trooped easily along towards the A5 where a short walk to the right would bring me back to the car.

Pete Buckley May 2010

Essentials >>> Up 920m >>> Down 920m >>> How Far? 15.1km >>> How High? 1065m/3494ft

For more routes in Snowdonia please see the table of contents below

Posted by PeteB 07:58 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Y Lliwedd from Pen y Pass

A section of the Snowdon Horseshoe route


Often climbed as part of the Snowdon Horseshoe route but rarely on its own merit, Y Lliwedd is the prominent peak to the left of Snowdon when seen from Capel Curig. If it stood alone it would be one of the finest mountains in Wales but falling just short of 3000 feet and overshadowed by its loftier neighbour mean that it is ignored by the masses. As a result it makes a quiet and enjoyable short trip from Pen y Pass.

Pen y Pass is a victim of its own success. Here in a great mountain setting at the top of the Llanberis Pass, the number of cars typically abandoned for the day do as much for the view as would a junkyard. Parking, as can be imagined is a nightmare and in Summer when it's running it is far preferable to get the bus up here.

Having found a space, I left the car park via the gate at its far end and set off up the Miners Track which winds around the contours, climbing only perceptibly for nearly 2 miles passing Llyn Tayrn down to the left to reach Llyn Llydaw. From here there's a classic view of Snowdon - or so often of the big grey cloud obscuring it - and of the cliffs of Lliwedd rising to the left.

At the large iron hut, I took the left path - the other continuing to Snowdon via Glaslyn - and followed the lake a little way before crossing a footbridge and beginning the ascent of the stony slopes towards Y Lliwedd seen ahead. I dubbed this bit 'the motorway' as it was a trailconstructed of stone steps. As this section ended, the ascent became steeper and there is temptaion to take a short cut straight up the slope but it seems easier to follow the path bearing right until you're almost under the steep cliffs above. There's no really hard bits here as the path finds a way up via a couple of short easy scrambles which led - surprisingly quickly - to a large flat area. This is deceptive as the summit is still some way off!

The views to the South and down into the wooded valley of Nant Gwynant open out as the ridge is gained. Now I followed a steepish path, sometimes on grass and sometimes over boulders and rocky outcrops, up past the prominent peak of Lliwedd Bach, which can be gained in 2 minutes from the path, and presently steeply up to the East Peak of Y Lliwedd.

Keeping on the crest give spectacular views down the gullies of the northern crags though the edge can be avoided if you prefer. A small depression brought me to the slightly higher West Peak with its incomparable views of the Snowdon Horseshoe ahead. The most impressive view though was back across the vast hazy distance from the Clwydian Hills in the East past Berwyn, Arenig Fawr and the Arans to Cadair Idris far to the South. Far below were streched out the intervening valleys leading to a glistening sea.

I'd last stood here on a day when a low grey ceiling of cloud had hidden all views of the hills from lower down but having climbed above the temperature inversion, I'd stood alone in the still clear air as if on a small rocky island looking out over a white sea. Only the nearby peak of Snowdon and a distant island floating on the horizon - Cadair Idris - had been visible, basking in the Sun beneath a sky of clear blue and seemingly cut off from the unseen world below.

Now though I returned to the East Peak - which I think is the slightly more impressive top - and had a sandwich and my vimto sat on the edge accompanied only by a pair of hopeful looking seagulls, before making my way back to the hive of activity at Pen y Pass.

Pete Buckley June 2007

Essentials >>> Up 570m >>> Down 570m >>> How Far? 9.1km >>> How High? 898m/2946ft

Llyn Llydaw and the Glyders

Llyn Llydaw and the Glyders

Y Lliwedd

Y Lliwedd

Posted by PeteB 13:47 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Arenig Fawr

An interesting summit in a remote part of Snowdonia

The path led away behind the small copse of trees where I'd parked the car just off the single track road. The nearby pylons were the only link with the outside world that I'd just left, and the only sounds to be heard were the sheep which inhabit the North Wales Hills and the breeze rustling the leaves overhead. The main road was far enough away to be inaudible. I'd turned off the A4212 just after Llyn Celyn about 10 miles west of Bala and driven for perhaps half a mile along the minor road signposted to Arenig. There was just one other car parked at the start of the path to Arenig Fawr.

Setting off I followed the left fork of the track through the gate and soon passed a small disused quarry on my left.The path climbed slowly and steadily across the grassy uplands while my objective, Arenig Fawr rose steeply ahead just to the left of the path. Arenig Fawr is a little unusual for this area as while most of the surrounding mountains such as Moel Llyfnant also seen ahead, are mainly huge heathery hills rising from the wide grasslands, it has a more craggy nature with rocky ridges and corries - more like the peaks of central Snowdonia which I could see in the distance away to the right. It's also a good deal higher than its near neighbours so is an impressive peak when seen from a distance.

As I approached the start of the ridge, the view to the west gradually expanded and I could now look across the vast moorland landscape to the Rhinogs near the west coast of Wales. To their right rose the shapely Moelwyns and then the high mountains of central Snowdonia. All about was a sense of isolation, for algthough I was still within Snowdonia National Park this is one of the least frequented parts of Wales.

Here the path was almost level and there was a short boggy section to contend with just before a wall. Heading up the slope with the wall on my right I soon reached dry ground as I made my way up the ridge. The remains of what was once an electric fence followed the wall as I ascended the steep tussock country of the ridge, soon finding a faint path which was easier than going straight up. After a steep ascent the angle of the slope eased for a short while and the path led to the right and over the wall by a stile. Now I followed it up the other side of the ridge which soon became steep again and rockier than before though there were no difficulties to tackle, just an enjoyable ascent which took me quickly to what appeared from below to be the top.

This false summit is the end of the steep section, the path now leading gradually around towards Arenig Fawr about half a mile further on. I followed the broad ridge around until a final haul brought me to the peak with the survey column and the monument to the American servicemen killed when their Flying Fortress crashed here during wartime operations in 1943.

I paid my respects to the airmen - flowers had been left by the memorial - it was good to know people cared enough to bring them all the way up here over 60 years later. The memorial faces west - towards America.

Lunch was in the open shelter just below the summit mainly due to the cold wind which now blew up here. Because of its isolated position, Arenig Fawr has some of the most expansive views in North Wales with the whole of central Snowdonia visible from north to west; the south is dominated by the 3 distant peaks of Cader Idris, while back to the east stand the Arans - just short of 3000 feet - and the great whaleback ridges of the Berwyn Range. North of the Berwyns, the foothills roll away towards Llangollen and the Clwydian Range. Away east over the Berwyns and beyond, great clouds had built up - masses of cumulus several miles high though here the weather remained settled if cool for May. Westwards the cloud shadows moved across empty looking tracts of moor and grassland dappled with tarns and dark patches of forest.

Heading onwards, I followed the ridge down to the south and back up to the slightly lower south top of Arenig Fawr. This opened up the view down to the remote plateau linking Arenig Fawr with the next peak Moel Llyfnant - a heathery wilderness scattered with tarns. I followed the ridge #down out of the cold wind . It was fairly steep in places but again easy, being grassy slopes rather than crags, until I found a faint path at the bottom of the slope which led between heather covered hillsides and small rocky outcrops. The way back down was to the rightbut first I headed to where the tarns were a short way further on.

There was no sign of anyone up here nor even a sign that people had even been here recently. I sat by the further tarn and drank some water from my bottle enjoying the warm sunshine and the far off sound of skylarks somewhere overhead. The peak of Arenig Fawr rose across the tarn appearing to stand entirely on its own. Suddenly the sun went in and the clear sparkling waterturned dark and cold looking. It became chilly for sitting around so off I set again thinking what a good campsite this would make.

I retraced my steps back to where a fence was visible below - the way down I'd seen from near the bottom of the ridge - and descended to cross it. Again a faint path - probably made by sheep - led around the slope heading gradually downhill and towards Moel Llyfnant. I was making for the col between that peak and Arenig Fawr from where a wide track would lead me back to the start point.

It is best to head towards this col and double back on the main track as it is fairly steep to just go straight down and while the slope is not particularly craggy, the stream forms a ravine lower down that is best avoided!

The weather was again perfect as I followed the track and gave me clear views across Snowdonia to the west and the only vague bit was just before the wall I'd followed up the ridge. Here a boggy section lasting no more than 200m had to be negotiated just after the ancient ruined farm of Amnodd-wen which itself was quite fascinating. Other than that it was a wide path all the way. The weather didn't hold good on the drive back though - after Bala I encountered torrential downpours and back at the campsite near Oswestry, it hadn't been so good all day. For once the Welsh Mountains had had more sunshine than the lowlands!

Pete Buckley May 2008

Up 550m >>> Down 550m >>> How Far? 12.5km >>> How High? 854m/2802ft

For more walks in Snowdonia please see the table of contents below.

Posted by PeteB 11:33 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Foel Fras and the Northern Carneddau

Where the mountains meet the sea


In the northernmost part of the Snowdonia National Park is a little frequented region of remote valleys and high mountain ridges known as the Carneddau. The northern part of this region, populated by small herds of wild ponies, contains the last outpost of the high summits of the Welsh Mountains. From the 3000 foot elevation of the windswept cairn on Foel Fras, the land drops away sharply to the North Wales Coast. This is where the mountains meet the sea.

At the higher car park there were 2 other cars and a covered trailer which was home to several sheep. I don't object to the £2 per day charge at Aber Falls lower down but the walk up the road adds a mile and isn't much fun. To get here you cross the bridge by the Falls path and follow the single track road steeply uphill. There's only space for a few cars here so at weekends or in the holidays it's likely to be a road walk. If you have to do this, once you're under the power lines, you're almost up.

From here there's a sign marking the North Wales Path which heads across the hills overlooking the North Wales Coast - that will be our return route - but a track leads off to the right up a remote valley and heading into the mountains in a roughly southerly direction.

Following this track with the river below and to my right, I passed just one person, the farmer and his dog out to round up more sheep presumably to join those already in the trailer. Beyond the river on the hillside above its far shore, I passed an ancient stone sheepfold and then on my side, a small herd of the wild ponies which are local residents, grazing just above the path. They eyed me with some curiosity as I passed - clearly not many people passed this way. The local farmers actually round them up generally once a year and they are checked by a vet for disease, but the rest of the time they wander the mountainsides of the Northern Carneddau unchecked. Now ahead as the path began to climb a steeper gradient and curve to the right, could be seen the snow covered bulk of Foel Fras, the northernmost 3000 foot peak in North Wales and my object for today. Patches of grey cloud skimmed its summit but the weather, though chilly was still fine.

Presently I arrived at the lonely tarn of Llyn Anafon, actually enlarged by a small dam across this side, in a wild hollow in the hills below Foel Fras and the rugged tors of Llwytmor. Here I parted compant with the track which leads along the low dam wall, and branched off across the hillside climbing the heathery slopes steadily. I was aiming for the saddle between Foel Fras and Drum, the nearer peak up on the left. Being pathless, the going here immediately became harder though the only real hazards to watch out for are getting wet in the boggy patches. I wouldn't recommend this route in mist though. If you lose visibility half way, a bearing of just south of SE or 135 to 140 will see you on the ridge in about the right place where a clear path is found.

The wind rose and it became very cold as I approached the col. Soon with views opening out over the snow covered Carneddau Range and the green lowlands between the Afon Conwy Estuary and Llanrwst on the far side of the ridge, I began the last part of the ascent of Foel Fras. The path here is obvious and when it vanished under the snow cover, the ice encrusted fence and wall on the left provided clear directions up the broad ridge.

The highest point was soon reached and is marked by a trig point a few yards from a wall which runs across the top. I was treated to intermittent views out to sea and south over the snow covered Carneddau as the grey cloud base was just level with the summit. The temperature was well below freezing and the stiff wind made it feel even colder so I didn't linger for long. After a brief lunch in the shelter nearer the wall I was off again.

The descent to the col seemed to take no time at all and this time I continued on over the summit of Drum - itself a good viewpoint - before joining a wide track leading back down with expansive views out to sea. I briefly left this main trail to visit the summit of Carnedd y Ddelw which is seen ahead before the path bears left. This minor summit is crowned by a vast and ancient looking cairn and affords views across to Llandudno with the Great Orme clearly outlined against the sea. Back again to the main path which I followed steadily downhill stopping to remove layers as it warmed up and the wind dropped in strength.

This section is particularly easy, all being a steady downhill and I soon reached the crossroads in the path where I turned left following for Aber. This was now the North Wales Path and it descended gradually across the hillsides following a line of pylons until after a bend to the left the car was again in sight.

The route could be done in either direction but my preference is this way round, taking the shorter steeper route up to Foel Fras with its brief pathless section and finishing with a long easy downhill stretch.

Pete Buckley February 2008

Essentials >>> Up 800m >>> Down 800m >>> How Far? 14.5km How High? 942m/3091ft

For more walks in Snowdonia please see my walking routes homepage or the table of contents below.

Posted by PeteB 14:53 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Carnedd Llewelyn

The Cardeddau from the East

The 3 dogs sitting in the road refused to move so that I was forced to drive around them. It was only after I'd passed that they got up and I saw indignant faces staring after me in the wing mirror as if they owned the road. This was the beginning of what was to be an eventful day out and it began with some excitment as the single track road set off at such a gradient that it was simply a case of engage first gear and point the bonnet at the sky.

This road leads from the sheltered depths of the Conwy Valley at Tal y Bont to the hidden valley of Cwm Eigiau 1200 feet above and seems to head straight up without a pause rather like Hard Knott in the Lake District. Once the height was gained though, the road, now with several gates and grass growing through in the middle, headed first through woods then into the open expanse of the upper valley that you wouldn't know was there from below. Gone were the leafy lanes and birdsong of Glan Conwy, here the breeze carried only the sound of distant sheep to break the silence of Snowdonia's mountains.

From the car park a wide but damp track led towards the mountains at the end of the valley, climbing only slightly for the first mile or so. Passing the old dam walls and crossing the stream below an isolated farmhouse, llyn Eigiau came into view across to the right as the path led towards a half ruined farm which is marked on the map as Cedryn, in thr distance below the peak of Pen Lithrig y Wrach. After here the track descended over a boggy stretch by the river before crossing it and passing a barn or hut and heading into Cwm Eigiau. My objective Carnedd Llewelyn still with a generous amount of snow now appeared above the top of the valley. From this side, Carnedd Llewelyn presents quite a precipitous face compared to the smoother slopes seen from the Glyders and Snowdon. Soon the path reached some ruined mine buildings below the crags walling the top of Cwm Eigiau where the route would bear off up the slope to the right.

After a stop for water by the old mine, I began the ascent of the slopes to the north. The map shows a path, though there are only vague traces of this on the ground, the most visible of these following a shallow ridge with the stream on my right. I don't recommend this route after heavy rain as this section is verging on damp enough to venture into bog trot territory and would certainly do so after wet weather! Equally to do this route in mist would be to invite getting lost. Higher up was less wet though and the views began to open up into central Snowdonia over the intervening ridges behind. A more obvious path was picked up traversing left across the slopes of Foel Grach and soon I was above Pen Lithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Ddu for a second rest stop on the tussock grass of Foel Grach's upper slopes. Ahead the way led over a small snow field and up towards Carnedd Llewelyn, the ground becoming rougher and rockier as the path steepened towards the summit.

Carnedd Llewelyn or Llewelyn's Cairn is the highest point of the Carneddau Range of northern Snowdonia and the third highest point in Wales and the view befits a peak of this stature. The sweeping ridges of the northern Carneddau stretched to Foel Fras while beyond the bulk of the slightly lower Carnedd Dafydd rose the rocky Glyders on the far side of the unseen Ogwen Valley though these summits are perhaps not seen to their best from here, the most eyecatching of the range being the shapely pyramid of Elidir Fawr at its western end - that's the peak overlooking the slate mines above Llanberis. Beyond, Snowdon and Crib y Ddysgl appeared between Glyder Fawr and Y Garn. East of here, the peaks dominating Cwm Eigiau appeared a long way below but then this summit at almost 3500 feet is one of the highest in the UK south of the border, a reason why my coat was needed and the snow remaining between the rocks was making little effot to melt in the sun.

My route back led down the ridge and up again to the lonely summit of Foel Grach where there is a small hut or bothy just below the top on the eastern side. From here I followed a roughly south easterly course - sometimes with, sometimes without a faint path to follow - aiming for the northern edge of the grassy plateau seen below. This is a route down that isn't recommened in mist as not only are you likely to get wet, there are crags to the east of Foel Grach to be avoided. Too far left and you're near the edge of these - too far right and you're in the middle of a boggy plateau.

Having avoided both a bog trot and falling off, I caught up with 3 people who asked for assistance - I'd seen them from above not making much progress. They turned out to be Arthur, Hazel and their son Chris who was about my age and practising for the 3 peaks. Seems he'd fallen in a hole in the tussock grass - very easily done and broke or badly damaged his ankle. They were all well equipped and an accident like that can happen anywhere but the first priority was to call the mountain rescue as he was clearly unable to walk down and would need a stretcher.

The area here, though easy ground, was very remote and few walkers come this way so they were pleased to see me. In addition it was getting colder as the late afternoon sun sank lower and darkness would bring temperatues near zero. To combat the wind, a sheltered hollow near the plateau's edge was found with Arthur regularly walking to the edge so as to be visible from below. I waited with the party until we had confirmation that the rescue team were on their way.

I continued on down the hill, following the plateau edge until the slopes below eased off. The descent was still steep and rough - impossible for someone unable to walk properly - followed by nearly 2 miles of track back to the car park. I was pleased to see the rescue Land Rover as I rounded the last bend and confirmed to its occupants the location where where they would find Chris and his parents. They wouldn't have long to wait now.

Pete Buckley April 2008

Essentials >>> Up 740m >>> Down 740m >>> How Far? 16.3km >>> How High? 1065m/3491ft

For more walks in Snowdonia please see the table of contents below.

Posted by PeteB 17:01 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

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