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.