|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 01 Nov 2006
Start / Finish: Bethesda. Free car park on the main street by Spar (623667).
Maps: Explorer OL17: Snowdon.
|Day 1||Carnedd y Filiast & Elidir Fawr||6.2 miles / 3460 feet (10.0km / 1054m)|
|Day 2||Y Garn & the Glyderau||5.0 miles / 2070 feet (8.1km / 630m)|
|Day 3||Gallt yr Ogof to Carnedd Llewelyn||6.4 miles / 3210 feet (10.3km / 978m)|
|Day 4||Carnedd Dafydd & Foel Meirch||6.1 miles / 880 feet (9.8km / 268m)|
A superb mountain backpack of the peaks around Nant Ffrancon and Ogwen, including six of the 3000' tops of Snowdonia. After a very mild October, a northerly weather stream had chilled the air and the visibility was excellent on the first three days, despite the first brief snowfall of the season at the pitch below Foel-goch.
The route from Bethesda to Carnedd y Filiast is the same as for the Y Garn trip except for a minor variation in the line of ascent from the quarry, and the description is largely copied from there.
Walking S out of Bethesda and turning R on the B4409, a quarry access road branches off L on the W side of the river. At 624656 a walking and cycling path goes L alongside the river at the edge of the huge slate spoil heaps. An information board briefly describes the route of the path and the efforts being made to regenerate the landscape: 'swell-gel' is added to the base material to assist the plants, which retains many times its own weight of water. Trees and other plants are slowly becoming established on the lower slopes and we found the route very pleasant and easy walking, with the added attraction of the waterfalls of the Afon Ogwen. Unlike the last trip here, we could see the towering cone of Carnedd y Filiast ahead, a daunting climb with cold weather gear and 4 days of supplies.
This time we accessed the open hillside at a gate into Cwm Ceunant, and roughly followed the stream to its source before slanting R up the rough face of the cwm. A thin path eventually appeared that eased the going and followed the edge to the final climb onto the summit, which commanded a fine prospect out to the sea and enticing views inland to the higher peaks of the circuit. The cold wind really made its presence felt after the mild October as we walked on to Mynydd Perfedd and down to the neck of Bwlch y Marchlyn with the reservoir below. Elidir Fawr is derided by some, but is a shapely mountain from this side and the climb to the rocky summit is very pleasant.
A short climb gains the last summit of the day Foel-goch and we pitched the tent at Bwlch y Cywion, sheltered from the northerly wind. We had time to walk out to the spur of Y Llymllwyd, which gave a good view back to the cliffs and over Cwm Cywion to Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan. The inflow stream to Llyn Cywion yielded very good water.
The clear starry sky before dawn quickly clouded over and we were soon surprised by snow falling on the tent as the high tops were clipped by mist. We hauled the packs back inside the porch but it didn't last long, however it was enough to turn the nearby peaks a greyish white for the rest of the morning. The sunlight piercing the grey clouds over Tryfan made a fine moody picture and the mist had just lifted above the tops by the time we reached Y Garn. The sun soon triumphed and blue sky prevailed as we reached Llyn y Cwn, where we collected water at a small inflow.
The climb to Glyder Fawr can hardly be described as exciting, a river of scree followed by a steep loose zigzag of earth and grit, but the summit area more than makes up for it. It was 10 years ago that we were last here, and the weird landscape of jagged spikes and rocky towers seemed even more grotesque and striking than we remember it, while the views were superb from the ridge. Approaching Castell y Gwynt, the chaotic jumble of rocks obscures the path, if such it can be called at this point, and we made our way round to the huge rockpile atop Glyder Fach, though we didn't climb to the top of the boulders this time!.
Descending to Llyn Caseg-fraith, we couldn't resist taking the familiar classic picture of Tryfan reflected in the water on such a bright day. A detour S to the stream head yielded water that had a reedy tang but was not too bad, and a final climb to Y Foel Goch made an excellent pitch in a splendid setting.
The dawn heralded one of those rare mornings to be savoured at length, crystal clear and hardly a breath of wind, with nearby mountains sharply defined in the orange light and a sea of dark peaks to the South stretching as far as Pumlumon, with wisps of inverted mist between them. A short easy climb gains Gallt yr Ogof, the last summit on this side of the circuit.
Last time we descended NW on trackless terrain into Cwm Gwern Gof not far beyond the summit, but we found a good path on the left side of the ridge that appeared to offer an easier descent NE following the ridge line - a big mistake!. The path arrives at a pair of stiles in a fence and disappears: just beyond is a precipitous gully dropping straight down to the valley, heather and broken rocks on one side and smooth near-vertical slabs on the other. A small herd of feral goats stopped and watched us, perhaps amazed to see ungainly bipedal animals in such an unsuitable place!. We made a tiring traverse very slowly north-westwards through the heather and rocks, then slanted down to the wet valley floor, replenishing water at a small stream and finally gaining Telford's old road.
Crossing the Afon Llugwy to the A5, we took the waymarked path that crosses a leat to the open hillside and becomes an easy track of cropped grass, climbing at a gentle angle directly to the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du. The terrain changes character instantly on the narrow steep rocky ridge above the cliffs of Ffynnon Llugwy and Cwm Eigiau, which gives great views down on either side. We crossed the bwlch and clambered up the rocks of Craig yr Ysfa, which often causes some apprehension for nervous people coming down, and a surprising number of people were out on a weekday in November. We had a mild case of the dreaded 'Mr. Mountain Safety Man' when one of them asked oblique questions that cast doubt on our competence in ascending Carnedd Llewelyn not long before sunset, only his joviality saved him from sharp answers.
On the final climb we saw mist materialising quickly around our altitude and we put on a spurt of energy to make the summit in time, but we were too late by literally seconds: one moment there were dark mountain peaks peeping through the white mist and low sun, the next they were gone, before we had chance to take out the camera. Within a minute the stony windswept plateau had reverted to its normal grey state, and we made our way northwards on compass bearing to the first pitchable area of grass below the rocky cap, one that we had spied out on a previous trip. The stream at the head of Cwm Bychan provided excellent water. We did get one good view of a strangely mist-free Yr Elen against the dusk sky.
Nothing had changed by dawn and the mist held sway again as we returned to Carnedd Llewelyn. There were tantalising glimpses of hazy blue above as we waited a while in the windshelter but to no avail, so we set off along the Ysgolion Duon path to Carnedd Dafydd, although it was a pity to miss the superb scenery and views of the cliffs. From the cairn we set off roughly NW, keeping a close eye on the compass as the vague intermittent path descended the bouldery slopes. Finally after a large boulder field we cleared the mist and saw the final objective ahead, the recently promoted mountain top of Foel Meirch on the edge of Cwmglas Bach. It is worth the short ascent to this top for the grand views into the cwm and the towering cliffs beyond. A pleasant and straightforward walk along the Mynydd Du ridge brought us onto the waymarked footpath to the water works buildings and the head of the road into Bethesda.