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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

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