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Snowdonia Peaks

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The High Carneddau, Snowdonia 24-2-2018

Another great day in the Snowdonia mountains and this time a range that I last visited way back in the late summer of 2010 and quite different conditions. Although I have visited the last couple of summits, CARNEDD LLEWELYN & PEN Yr HELGI DU since then, this is the first time of doing this round for over 7 years and what a great walk it is, even though the wind had a biting edge to it for the most part, it was a great clear winters day. Warm sun, biting wind, blue sky with a hazy mist over towards southern Snowdonia. A walk that covered around 10 miles in about 7.5 hours.
An early start saw me parked up and ready to go around 8am on this crisp sunny Saturday morning with only a handful of cars parked on the layby on the main A5 in the OGWEN VALLEY. Across the bridge over the Afon Denau, through Glan Dena following the path along side the Afon Lloer that proved to be a bit tricky in places as there was quite a bit of hard ground with patches of ice and the crossing of Afon Lloer wasn't as straight forward as in the summer months as there was alot of ice on the rocks and boulders making it a bit interesting. Glad to say that is was crossed with no mishaps :-) The path follows Lloer to the main FFYNNON LLOER  that sits in a Cwm below the summits of PEN YR OLE WEN and CARNEDD DAFFYD  I didn't visit the lake but turned off, left, to take in some scrambling up and over a short rock face before continuing on the path that brings up on to the summit plateau of Pen Yr Ole Wen. There was quite a bit of snow overhanging the ridges and patches on the paths and the summit plateau. It was as solid as the rocks but not enough to wear any sort of spikes. As long as you gave the ridges a wide berth the terrain posed no real problems.
My route for the day
Looking across to Pen Yr Ole Wen and my route from the A5
Crossing the Afon Denau at the start
Looking across to Y Garn and Llyn Ogwen
On the path that follows the Afon Lleor
The crossing of Afon Lleor wasn't as easy as it looks with lots of ice on the rocks
Keeping well away from the iced over path
Ffynnon Lloer below the crags of Carnedd Dafydd
Start of the scramble which posed no problems and only had small pockets of ice in some crevices
Patches of solid iced snow along the ridges
Keep off the snow!!
Ffynon Loer from the ridge line
Pen Yr Ole Wen Summit @ 978 m (3,209 ft)
Summit views to a distant Snowdon with Y Garn, centre, Glyderau to the left
Summit view of my route over to Carnedd Dafydd
The wind had picked up here with a real icy bite to it so not a place to hang around for to long so it was off along the fairly wide ridge on to CARNEDD FACH which is an ancient stone built burial cairn with a large wind shelter built on to it. Quite impressive and provides a bit of a rest bite from the wind that isn't available on Pen Yr Ole Wen. Out of any shelter, the wind was whipping up and quite strong in some gusts but the way forward was straight forward enough in the clear conditions although to the south there was what seemed quite a bit of hazy cloud obscuring the views and at one time it looked like TRYFAN had disappeared altogether! To the North though, it was as clear as it could of been with good views towards the coast.
Good clear views of the outlaying Summits of the Glyderau with Elidir Fawr, in the centre, being the northernmost peak on the range
Looking back with a hazy Tryfan to the left
The impressive stone shelter of Carnedd Fach with a clear blue sky above
View back to Pen Yr Ole Wen and a distant Snowdon
Carnedd Fach shelter @ 960m (3149ft approx.)
Looking across to a very hazy Southern Snowdonia
From here it was onwards and upwards to Carnedd Dafydd, which again, despite the wind, posed no problems. There was a few patches of solid snow but again these were easily avoidable on the wide rocky plateau and it wasn't long before I reached the stone shelter on the summit. The shelter here had about four sections to it but I don't remember it being like this, but then it is a few years since I was up here and the old memory bank may be missing a bit!. Anyway, another rest before heading off again.
The way upto Carnedd Dafydd
Carnedd Dafydd Summit Shelter @ 1,044 m (3,425 ft)
Summit views out to the coast
Carnedd Dafydd summit shelter
The way forward towards Carnedd Llewelyn
Hazy summit views across the Ogwen Valley towards Southern Snowdonia
From here up to Carnedd Llewelyn is the more interesting ridge walk as you pass over what is known as Ysgolion Duon (the Black Ladders) a famous palyground in Snowdonia for climbers to do there stuff. They are quite impressive to look at from above but with quite a bit of solid snow clinging to the ridges I kept my distance so I couldn't see if anyone was out climbing them today. The ridge past here gets a bit narrower on the approach to the final ascent up to Llewelyn, not a knife edge ridge but narrower than the wide-ish plateau that I've just been on. There was also a bit more lying snow on the ridge, well trodden and quite a few foot holes that again posed no real problem. The wind had also died down a bit and thankfully the threat of any hazy mist rolling in stayed away making the way ahead nice and clear. The Carneddau range is quite notorious for having low cloud on it making route finding and visibility a pain, especially at this end with the sheer drops of all the crags of the Black Ladders.
The Black Ladders with Carnedd Llewelyn in the distance
The Black Ladders
Looking back on my route towards Pen Yr Ole Wen
The Black ladders
On the narrower ridge towards Carnedd Llewelyn
The final pull up to Llewelyn wasn't too bad and the only obstacle was a large patch of ice that was navigated with no slip ups, followed by a zig zag path through a couple of snow patches. The summit was where I saw most people as there are various ways of getting here and everyone seemed to arrive at the same time. Not everyone hung around so peace and quiet soon returned. Up to now I had seen/passed about twenty others along the way, so with the dozen or so on Llewelyn, it was still a quiet day especially as it's quite a long walk as opposed to some of the smaller and more popular circular walks in the area. Another unique thing about the CARNEDDAU MOUNTAINS is that it is the largest contiguous areas of high ground (over 2,500 or 3,000 feet (910 m) high) in Wales and covers around 125 square miles, taking in seven of the fifteen mountains that are over the 3000ft mark, known as the WELSH 3000s Another thing that is unique to this part of Snowdonia is the Carneddau Pony.  There's reported to be around 200 roaming free and only being rounded up once a year by the farmers for a health check they are a protected species of wild pony. Unfortunatley I didn't spot any on my walk today but have come across them on numerous occasions.
Across the ice patch to Llewelyn
Snow patch below the summit
Carnedd Llewelyn summit shelter @ 1,064 m (3,491 ft)
Carnedd Llewelyn Summit
Carnedd Llewelyn Summit
Carnedd Llewelyn summit view
Carnedd Llewellyn summit shelter
 After hanging around the summit for about twenty minutes I made my way off in the direction of my final summit of Pen Yr Helgi Du. This was quite a drop and there was a couple of large solid snow patches to negotiate, and if they would of been a lot bigger they would of needed some sort of spikes to help cross them as there are a lot of rocks and boulders on this descent and a risk of injury. As it was, careful placement of feet and a small bum slide got passed the worst of it and all was well. It was here that I saw a bit of a strange thing and had me rubbing my eyes wondering if I'd had too much sun. A skier came in to view making his way up the boulder fields complete with skies and kitted out in ski boots!! Now I do know that the area is quite popular with local skiers/snow boarders when there's lots of snow about but I couldn't fathom out why someone would take the trouble to go to the lengths he'd gone to, to only ski for about 30 seconds an then walk back down again!! And people think we're mad for walking up and down mountains! :-)
The Carneddau Skier
Once past the snow lines, there is a bit of scrambling to do, as the path goes over some more popular climbing crags of Craig Yr Ysfa with some good views down in to Cwm Eigiau, before reaching the col of Bwlch Eryl-Farchog and another small easy scramble to the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du. The wind had died down a lot here and once on the summit it could of been mistaken for a nice springlike day with hardly any wind and feeling quite warm in the sun. In fact coat, hat and gloves were now firmly in the back pack as I enjoyed another twenty minute break taking in the fine views on offer.
My way down and across the solid snow patch
My descent view across to a distant hazy Moel Siabod

Looking back up to Carnedd Llewelyn and the skiers short trip
Looking down on Ffynnon Llugwy and Pen Yr Helgi Du on the left
View down on to Ffynnon Llugwy
Pen Yr Helgi Du

Short scramble up to Pen Yr Helgi Du
Looking back to my route across the high Carneddau from Pen Yr Helgi Du @ 833 m (2,733 ft)
The High Carneddau from Pen Yr Helgi Du
 Another wide plateau, this time of the softer option of grass, made for quite a warm and pleasent descent, as I made my way to a fence line that led to the service road below and eventually back to the main A5 and the car. Again, the walk along the grass ridge was easy in this fine weather but can be a bit challenging when its a bit misty and it was easy on the feet. The hardest part is the road walk back down the service road and the A5, a bit of a killer after all the mountain terrain and something that I don't relish.
Hazy Summit view of the Ogwen Valley and Ffynnon Llugwy
The ice shark of Helgi Du :-)
My ascent along the grassy ridge
Follow that fenceline
Looking back on the descent of Pen Yr Helgi Du from the service road
A hazy Ogwen Valley
View back to Carnedd Llewelyn & Pen Yr Helgi Du from the A5
The High Carneddau from Pen Yr Ole Wen to Pen Yr Helgi Du
Another great day in this great area, that at times looked like it was in the throws of Autumn and also felt like early Spring in the warm sun but the snow, ice and biting wind across the tops told me we were still in Winters grasp. Looking at all the cars that were now parked in all the various lay-byes and car parks in the Ogwen Valley, told me that there was a lot of people out making good use of the fine weather on offer. I hope it dosen't take me another seven years to do this walk again as it is Snowdonias best high level walk with some fine views and varied terrain thrown in. Brilliant!

Video of the summit views

Cheers :-)

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