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Cwm Eigiau / 2 days / 17 miles (27km)

OS Route Map → Map Route file →

Date: 13 Jul 2008
Start / Finish: Dolgarrog. Good roadside parking on the B5106.
Maps: Explorer OL17: Snowdon & Conwy Valley.

Day 1Moel Eilio & Craig Eigiau7.7 miles / 3350 feet (12.4km / 1021m)
Day 2Cwm Eigiau & Pen Llithrig y Wrach9.2 miles / 1520 feet (14.8km / 463m)

A 2-day circuit of the fine and remote Cwm Eigiau hills from Dolgarrog, visiting a new Dewey top Moel Eilio and the splendidly rocky summit of Craig Eigiau and returning via Llyn Cowlyd. The changeable weather pattern of the summer continues and again the clarity was excellent in the clear sunny periods of this trip, giving dramatic skies and sharp views.

The valley between Llyn Cowlyd and Dolgarrog is as messy and confusing as the map suggests, and our choice of return route didn't work out well in the mid section. There are tracks on the ground but not on the map and vice-versa, and ladder stiles that are not on any path, marked or otherwise, but you never know until you try. Having perused the aerial photography of the valley we now have a rather better understanding of the situation for future trips.

Day 1 - Moel Eilio & Craig Eigiau

No time to warm up today after the drive to Dolgarrog: a very steep climb of 600' begins at the road and zigzags up through the dense woodland alongside the large twin water pipes that seem to disappear upwards to infinity in the gloomy confines of the trees. At a stile the pipes continue their ascent at an easier angle to a contouring track that makes an attractive and refreshing open walk around towards Coedty reservoir, following the course of a leat. There are good local views from here and soon Moel Eilio and the Carneddau hills come into view.

Moel Eilio and Coedty reservoir
Moel Eilio and Coedty reservoir (13 Jul 2008__08:58:45)

At a gate before the reservoir we left the lower track to follow the byway that climbs above the trees towards Moel Eilio. This is access land and hopes of a trouble free ascent were raised by a ladder stile just off the byway giving access to the lower slopes of the hill, an ascent initially on easy grass but becoming rougher as the terrain turned to deep sphagnum and bilberry. We followed what resembled a vague sloping rampart with firmer footing that curved upwards to arrive at a higher fence, but this one was barbed and we could see no stile for some distance either side. Some deft gymnastics and a short last climb gained the summit, a good viewpoint with the enticing Carneddau to the S and W and Conwy Bay to the N, a relaxing spot where very few feet ever tread.

Creigiau Gleision & Llyn Cowlyd from Moel Eilio
Creigiau Gleision & Llyn Cowlyd from Moel Eilio (13 Jul 2008__10:53:32)
Pen Llithrig y Wrach & Pen yr Helgi Du from Moel Eilio
Pen Llithrig y Wrach & Pen yr Helgi Du from Moel Eilio (13 Jul 2008__10:53:55)

We descended the pathless slopes westwards with no further obstacles to join the good valley track to Llyn Eigiau and the broken dam wall, where a notice further on by the shore warns about the danger of flash flooding. Despite the presence of the waterworks and concrete, this is a lovely spot if the immediate surroundings are ignored with Pen yr Helgi Du and the crags of Craig Eigiau making a brave show across the sunlit waters.

Llyn Eigiau & Pen yr Helgi Du
Llyn Eigiau & Pen yr Helgi Du (13 Jul 2008__12:33:23)
Llyn Eigiau
Llyn Eigiau (13 Jul 2008__12:34:14)
Llyn Eigiau & Craig Eigiau waterfall
Llyn Eigiau & Craig Eigiau waterfall (13 Jul 2008__12:34:58)

A good track heads NE to the road end and car park, passing the gaping breach in the dam wall that caused so much devastation in 1923, and at the car park we turned L onto the good track that climbs around the NE shoulder of Craig Eigiau. Just after a stile we left the track to follow the wall and fence towards the summit crest, a long arching spine of rocks and one of the best tops in Wales in our view. We spent a while clambering about the nooks and crannies of this ridge where large skew boulders slant down into rough grass and bog cotton, and the highest point is at the southern end, a thin jutting slab of rock where a permanent cairn, if one were necessary, would be impossible to build.

We explored the crag edge a little further southwards and returned towards the top to make a very comfortable pitch.

Ascending Craig Eigiau
Ascending Craig Eigiau (13 Jul 2008__14:47:47)
Pool & rocks on Craig Eigiau
Pool & rocks on Craig Eigiau (13 Jul 2008__15:16:09)
View west from Craig Eigiau
View west from Craig Eigiau (13 Jul 2008__15:21:15)
The rocky spine of Craig Eigiau
The rocky spine of Craig Eigiau (13 Jul 2008__15:22:37)
Pitch on Craig Eigiau
Pitch on Craig Eigiau (13 Jul 2008__15:54:54)

Day 2 - Cwm Eigiau & Pen Llithrig y Wrach

Despite the early calls of the skylark the pitch was so comfortable we overslept the alarm, and we opened the door to an atmospheric mix of blue sky, white cloud and swirling curtains of mist. We headed south westwards across the expanse of grassy moor, curving around the boggy central area and descending towards the stream that tumbles down into Cwm Eigiau. Although the high Carneddau were wreathed in mist there were superb views of the early turbulent sky eastwards and down into the cwm.

The stream passes the old quarry buildings and joins the other infant streams to form the Afon Eigiau, issuing forth from a causeway where we crossed to the old spoil heaps. This is a splendid wild and remote cwm enclosed by the towering crags of Craig yr Ysfa and surrounding mountains.

Turbulent early sky & Craig Eigiau
Turbulent early sky & Craig Eigiau (14 Jul 2008__08:12:20)
Cwm Eigiau
Cwm Eigiau (14 Jul 2008__08:46:16)
The infant Afon Eigiau
The infant Afon Eigiau (14 Jul 2008__09:29:33)

We took the upper of two thin paths that climbs gradually around the face of the cwm towards the bwlch between Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach, a path we have followed before but a long time ago. However, as we remembered, the path peters out but we couldn't remember the detail of the best line to take and we turned upwards too early, eventually resulting in a heart-poundingly steep and exhausting climb through dense bilberry and heather alongside a rocky rib that brought us out on the ridge well above the bwlch on the near side. The subsequent climb up Pen Llithrig y Wrach seemed like nothing in comparison and there was the reward of superb views of the length of the cwm and valley.

Pen Llithrig y Wrach
Pen Llithrig y Wrach (14 Jul 2008__11:56:50)
Cwm Eigiau
Cwm Eigiau (14 Jul 2008__12:02:33)

The views were short lived and the mist, which had been threatening to gain sway for some time, quickly blotted out the sun and engulfed everything. We descended to the southern end of Llyn Cowlyd and took the good path alongside and above the lake, a path we had not walked before and it was excellent, with great views of the steep slopes on either side.

From the northern end of the lake we took a pecked path shown on the map, a track that faded somewhat but joined the line of the valley pipeline. Here there were stiles in place alongside the pipe but the line was extremely wet in parts and the terrain to avoid the bogs was very arduous. Eventually on arriving at easy ground we left the pipeline and ascended L to join an upper track, the same one we had followed outwards to the foot of Moel Eilio. Hence we followed the outward route down to Dolgarrog.

Had we studied the aerial photography beforehand we would have known that the good track from the lake down the middle of the valley would (very probably) have led us all the way back to the contouring track at the top of the climb from Dolgarrog. That will be our plan next time if we ever return through this area.

Update 03 Mar 2011: My Eigiau & Cowlyd trip of 01 Mar 2011 confirmed that this track does indeed lead directly back to the outward route above Dolgarrog.