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Home > Trips&Photos > Trips > Blaenau to Conwy: Moelwynion -- Carneddau traverse

Blaenau to Conwy: Moelwynion -- Carneddau traverse 3 days / 35 miles (56km)

OS Route Map → Map Route file →

Date: 30 Aug 2010
Start: Blaenau Ffestiniog rail station.
Finish: Conwy rail station.
Maps: Explorer OL17: Snowdon & Conwy Valley + a tiny bit of Explorer OL18: Harlech & Bala.

Train & Bus information:- Traveline Cymru Journey Planner

Day 1Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llyn Edno8.3miles / 3370 feet (13.4km / 1027m)
Day 2Llyn Edno to Llyn Cowlyd10.0miles / 3210 feet (16.1km / 978m)
Day 3Llyn Cowlyd to Conwy16.0miles / 4300 feet (26km / 1310m)
View from Moelwyn Mawr

A fine linear traverse of the mountains on the west side of the Conwy valley, starting and finishing at Blaenau Ffestiniog and Conwy rail stations.

The route follows the Moelwynion / Ysgafell Wen range to Moel Siabod and crosses via Capel Curig to the eastern Carneddau at Llyn Cowlyd. The excellent SE ridge is ascended to Carnedd Llewelyn and the main Carneddau highway followed as far as Carnedd y Ddelw, where the route breaks away to cross to the northern outpost of the range at Tal y Fan, reaching the Sychnant Pass via the nature reserve.

The route is described as ending at Conwy station, but I parked on the western outskirts of Conwy at Mount Pleasant and walked through the town and across the estuary bridge to Llandudno Junction, the principal station of the locality with a direct train to Blaenau without changes.

Due to time limitations I returned directly along the road from the Sychnant Pass to Mount Pleasant, but a more satisfying finale would be to traverse Conwy Mountain to the outskirts of the town.

Day 1 - Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llyn Edno

I arrived in Conwy early and strolled through the attractive walled castle town and over the estuary bridge walkway, a quite enjoyable saunter with views over the water to the many small boats moored there. The train journey from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau was pleasant and the mountainous western side of the Conwy valley was enticing as ever, the sudden appearance of Moel Siabod looming above Dolwyddelan being a highlight.

A short walk out of town to Glanpwll and I was on the signed footpath above the valley on the lowest slopes of Craig Nyth-y-gigfran, a gentle start arriving at the uppermost buildings of Tanygrisiau and the Stwlan access track. Some groups of climbers were roped up on the lower rocky crags of Moel-yr-hydd, almost invisible in the picture below. Llyn Stwlan formed an attractive scene in the sunshine if the scruffy foreground concrete and pipework were ignored, backed by the Moelwynion and Craigysgafn.

Rock climbers on Moel-yr-Hydd
Rock climbers on Moel-yr-Hydd (30 Aug 2010__12:40:40)
Llyn Stwlan
Llyn Stwlan (30 Aug 2010__13:09:19)

From Bwlch Stwlan I made an out-and-back ascent to Moelwyn Bach, a fine viewpoint at the southern outpost of the route and bolstered today by the superb clarity. By the time the pictures were captured the midges were beginning to congregate, the summit apparently being the only spot without any air movement, and I made a hasty descent back to the bwlch with the blighters in hot pursuit.

The breeze picked up again for the enjoyable traverse of the rocky Craigysgafn and onto the trig point of Moelwyn Mawr, splendid views throughout.

Hebog & Nantlle ridges from Moelwyn Bach
Hebog & Nantlle ridges from Moelwyn Bach (30 Aug 2010__13:46:56)
The Arenigs & Arans from Moelwyn Bach
The Arenigs & Arans from Moelwyn Bach (30 Aug 2010__13:47:27)
View to Moelwyn Mawr from Moelwyn Bach
View to Moelwyn Mawr from Moelwyn Bach (30 Aug 2010__13:48:05)
Moelwyn Bach from Craigysgafn
Moelwyn Bach from Craigysgafn (30 Aug 2010__14:22:16)
View to Lleyn from Craigysgafn
View to Lleyn from Craigysgafn (30 Aug 2010__14:23:21)
Cnicht from Moelwyn Mawr
Cnicht from Moelwyn Mawr (30 Aug 2010__14:56:12)
View from Moelwyn Mawr
View from Moelwyn Mawr (30 Aug 2010__14:57:04)

Wishing to keep the route as natural as possible, with no contrived detours apart from Moelwyn Bach to ensure an end-to-end line, I bypassed the North Ridge Top and Moel-yr-hydd and descended eastwards, swinging around north to the old extensive Rhosydd quarry buildings in the valley. I left the northbound path higher up and walked around Llyn Cwm-corsiog to ascend gently NE to the ridge at Llyn Terfyn.

The three tops of Ysgafell Wen lead on to the heartland surrounding Llyn Edno.

Rhosydd quarry  buildings and Foel Ddu
Rhosydd quarry buildings and Foel Ddu (30 Aug 2010__15:56:44)
Llyn Cwm-corsiog
Llyn Cwm-corsiog (30 Aug 2010__16:08:45)

Llyn Edno is always a heartwarming sight to the wilderness backpacker, seen earlier this year in stupendous icebound glory on my Yr Aran & Cnicht winter trip, but this time it was sunlit blue water and vibrant heather that beautified the scene. The rather rough terrain around the lake was very wet on the horizontal bits and I backtracked upwards some distance to hunt for a reasonably dry pitch on soft moorland grass. I found a good one but the lake was unfortunately out of view.

Approaching Llyn Edno
Approaching Llyn Edno (30 Aug 2010__17:30:12)
Llyn Edno
Llyn Edno (30 Aug 2010__17:39:19)

Day 2 - Llyn Edno to Llyn Cowlyd

The early light on the lake presented another fine view over the water as I crossed the boggy head and picked up the thin path over the flanks of Moel Meirch.

Early light on Llyn Edno
Early light on Llyn Edno (31 Aug 2010__07:45:27)

The path below Cerrig Cochion to Bwlch Rhediad was very boggy in parts but with some ingenuity and weaving around I made it dryshod. The ascent to Carnedd y Cribau doesn't look far on the map, but as I have previously noted, it seems much longer and I never underestimate it. It is a grand ascent though with brilliant views to the west in particular.

Llyn Gwynant with Moel Hebog & Yr Aran
Llyn Gwynant with Moel Hebog & Yr Aran (31 Aug 2010__09:10:03)
Snowdon horseshoe from Carnedd y Cribau
Snowdon horseshoe from Carnedd y Cribau (31 Aug 2010__09:50:10)

The western ridge of Moel Siabod is a long gradual grassy affair, a stark contrast with the superb Daear Ddu ridge of the eastern side that I ascended in winter on my The Dolwyddelan Hills #2 trip. The summit presents excellent views, including a classic aspect of the Snowdon Horseshoe.

I couldn't remember exactly how to find the descent path to Plas y Brenin without confronting rockfields but it soon became clear: follow the edge overlooking Llyn y Foel towards the foot of the rocky rise at the north end and walk leftwards to pick up the start of the well worn slanting path above Llynnau Mymbyr down to the forest edge. Carefully watching the unsigned turns in the trees, I arrived at the footbridge to the A4086.

North ridge of Moel Siabod
North ridge of Moel Siabod (31 Aug 2010__11:57:57)
Classic Snowdon view from Moel Siabod
Classic Snowdon view from Moel Siabod (31 Aug 2010__11:58:37)
Llynnau Mymbyr from Siabod path
Llynnau Mymbyr from Siabod path (31 Aug 2010__13:06:34)

From the major road junction near the car park (public toilets) I walked northwards on the verge of the A5 to pick up the bridleway to Llyn Cowlyd, a gradual ascent that arrives at a footbridge with the towering heathery slopes of Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Creigiau Gleision beautifully framing the lake.

The day had seemed unduly tiring and I couldn't face the daunting planned traverse of Pen Llithrig today: I slowly ascended the lower slopes scanning for a suitable pitch among the dense heather and tussocky grass on the shelves, eventually finding a good one with a view back to Moel Siabod from the door. A spur on the way up gave a grand prospect over Llyn Cowlyd.

There was a cooling breeze as I pitched the tent, but later as I sat inside I noticed the midges massing around the porch: it had died completely and I quickly zipped up the door, imprisoned until the chill of the clear dusk deterred them.

Llyn Cowlyd
Llyn Cowlyd (31 Aug 2010__16:16:17)
Approaching Pen Llithrig y Wrach
Approaching Pen Llithrig y Wrach (31 Aug 2010__16:18:20)
Llyn Cowlyd from Pen Llithrig y Wrach spur
Llyn Cowlyd from Pen Llithrig y Wrach spur (31 Aug 2010__16:35:51)
Pitch on Pen Llithrig y Wrach slopes
Pitch on Pen Llithrig y Wrach slopes (31 Aug 2010__17:31:57)

Day 3 - Llyn Cowlyd to Conwy

I packed up most of the kit inside the tent but the midges were absent in the chilled autumnal dawn air as I ventured outside. The ascent of Pen Llithrig was nevertheless a slow sweaty business and the views were dull and hazy, but they began to improve as I approached the low pile of slaty rocks at the summit. The descent to Bwlch y Tri Marchog and ascent to Pen yr Helgi Du has a commanding view over Cwm Eigiau, a favourite area of ours in the eastern Carneddau elevated by a strong sense of remoteness.

As Ffynnon Llugwy came into view I began the steep rocky descent to Bwlch Eryl Farchog, whereupon I ran into one of the worst swarms of midges I've encountered for some time: they were clearly setting up an ambush in the one spot where they knew I could only move slowly on the steep rock, and I also had to stop and remove my pack to access the Mosiguard. I made the fastest ever descent to that bwlch and marched swiftly on.

Morning view from Pen Llithrig y Wrach
Morning view from Pen Llithrig y Wrach (01 Sep 2010__07:47:59)
Ffynnon Llugwy from Pen yr Helgi Du
Ffynnon Llugwy from Pen yr Helgi Du (01 Sep 2010__08:59:40)
Craig yr Ysfa & Carnedd Llewelyn
Craig yr Ysfa & Carnedd Llewelyn (01 Sep 2010__09:00:19)

Clambering up the rocky step on Craig yr Ysfa, I felt the first sign of a welcome cooling breeze and I plodded very slowly up the SE ridge of Carnedd Llewelyn to a deserted stony summit plateau. The air was clearer by now and a superb mountain view was on show to the west.

Walking northwards into the cool breeze to descend the stony summit area, I found renewed vigour and made swift progress on the easy path, a well worn highway linking the outlying tops. I left it at Drum and followed the fence to the little visited Carnedd y Ddelw. The Carneddau ponies and foals were grazing on the wide plateau as usual, quite unperturbed by humans.

View towards Carnedd Dafydd from Carnedd Llewelyn
View towards Carnedd Dafydd from Carnedd Llewelyn (01 Sep 2010__10:22:36)
Ponies at the Carnedd Gwenllian / Foel-fras bwlch
Ponies at the Carnedd Gwenllian / Foel-fras bwlch (01 Sep 2010__11:48:05)
View from Foel-fras
View from Foel-fras (01 Sep 2010__12:01:33)
Llwytmor & Llyn Anafon
Llwytmor & Llyn Anafon (01 Sep 2010__12:28:24)

I descended alongside the fence to Bwlch y Ddeufaen, the deep burgundy slopes of Foel Lwyd gaining stature all the way and seeming formidable in the midday sun. A steep climb by the wall gains the heathery 603m Dewey top.

A path continues on to the northernmost summit of Tal y Fan, an elongated spine of bouldery rock and heather rising abruptly from the moor and topped by a trig point on the south side of the wall.

Approaching Tal y Fan
Approaching Tal y Fan (01 Sep 2010__13:57:57)

I took a short path descending directly from the ladder stile to the foot of the summit rocks and joined an easy path ENE along the base. This was much quicker than picking my way along the undulating ridge and it rejoins the wall further along. Where the wall kinks right I left it to descend northwards to the old quarry and onto the good track around the eastern flanks of Cefn Maen Amor. There are many tracks in this open grassy landscape peppered with ancient remains and careful mapwork is in order.

I crossed to join the North Wales Path, which we walked years ago in its infancy before it was officially designated, and in the area of Waen Gyrach the obvious track is clearly a much better line than the pathless one marked on the map. At SH 746758 care is needed to take the correct ascending track to the nature reserve boundary on Maen Esgob.

Much of the heather in the Sychnant Pass reserve has been burned quite recently and I found the charred twisted landscape bizarrely appealing against the colourful background of heathery hills beyond. A direct track cuts off a small loop of the NW Path.

Burnt heather in Sychnant nature reserve
Burnt heather in Sychnant nature reserve (01 Sep 2010__15:54:16)

The sinuous path weaves around to arrive at the Sychnant Pass car park. The original plan was to traverse Conwy Mountain, a logical and satisfying conclusion to a fantastic walk, but time and energy were running out and I followed the minor road eastwards back to Mount Pleasant.