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Cwm Eigiau #3 2 days / 17 miles (27km)

OS Route Map → Map Route file →

Date: 11 Mar 2014
Start / Finish: Dolgarrog.
Maps: OL17: Snowdonia & Conwy Valley or Harvey Superscale Snowdonia.

Day 1Llyn Eigiau, Craig Eigiau & Gledrffordd8.1miles / 2757 feet (13.0km / 840m)
Day 2Gwaun y Garnedd, Ffynnon Llyffant & Cwm Eigiau8.3miles / 864 feet (13.4km / 263m)
Ffynnon Llyffant

Another 2-day circuit of Cwm Eigiau, this time exploring the excellent upper reaches of the cwm below the eastern cliffs of Carnedd Llewelyn, a very seldom trodden pocket of the Carneddau cradling the hidden Ffynnon Llyffant, the highest lake in Wales. This exquisite wild rocky mountain landscape shows once again the rewards of leaving the paths and backpacking the little known corners: in favourable conditions there are real gems to be discovered.

After a long and extremely busy hiatus this was our return to the mountains in style: two days of unbroken sunshine and a landscape flecked with remaining snowfields on the high tops with unseasonally warm days for March.

Day 1 - Llyn Eigiau, Craig Eigiau & Gledrffordd

The initial steep climb of over 600 feet through the Coed Dolgarrog nature reserve progressed better than expected given the atrophied state of our leg muscles after 19 months off the hill, and part way up during a pause we had a pleasant surprise: gliding quite low over our heads skimming the treetops we saw the unmistakable russet body, greyish white head and forked tail of a red kite. We have seen these many times in mid Wales and we are aware of their great success story, but we didn't know they had spread as far north in Wales as the Conwy valley.

Reaching the familiar upper track around to Coedty reservoir, the whole area had been transformed since our last visit by a huge civil engineering project to replace the 90-year old Coedty pipeline. This affects the route at only one point at SH758668 just after the narrow lane joins on the right: among the construction paraphernalia there is a new (presently unmarked) footbridge to cross to the left side of the leat.

The snow-lined top of Carnedd Llewelyn could be seen across Coedty reservoir drawing us into the valley of the Afon Porth-llwyd, a most enjoyable approach to Cwm Eigiau on a good track whose watery edges were periodically dotted with balls of frogspawn. Llyn Eigiau was deserted today.

Coedty reservoir
Coedty reservoir (11 Mar 2014__09:42:05)
The Afon Porth-llwyd valley
The Afon Porth-llwyd valley (11 Mar 2014__11:06:57)
Llyn Eigiau
Llyn Eigiau (11 Mar 2014__11:20:34)
Llyn Eigiau
Llyn Eigiau (11 Mar 2014__11:21:20)

We took our usual route north-eastwards along the valley track past the old breached dam walls to the car park and followed the track onto the northern ridge of Craig Eigiau, leaving it to join the fence leading along the spine to the fine rocky summit. The aptly named Dulyn reservoir was just visible across the valley like a black mirror.

The distant views were hazy but the local mountain view was excellent, particularly towards the snow-flecked Llewelyn group. Just as on our last visit, the local raven cruised us and perched at the summit staring intently at us as we descended.

Dulyn reservoir below Foel Grach
Dulyn reservoir below Foel Grach (11 Mar 2014__14:17:13)
Rock landscape at Craig Eigiau
Rock landscape at Craig Eigiau (11 Mar 2014__14:27:38)
Carnedd Llewelyn from Craig Eigiau
Carnedd Llewelyn from Craig Eigiau (11 Mar 2014__14:33:01)
Pen Llithrig y Wrach & Creigiau Gleision from Craig Eigiau
Pen Llithrig y Wrach & Creigiau Gleision from Craig Eigiau (11 Mar 2014__14:33:53)

A most enjoyable easy stroll led us across the broad expanse of Gledrffordd to the bowl of Melynllyn reservoir, still sporting a snowfield on its upper flank. We climbed a few contours onto the lower slopes below Foel Grach, a series of broad flat grassy steps ideal for our tent pitch with a view to Pen Llithrig y Wrach. Later the sun sank behind the snowed-lined ridge of Carnedd Llewelyn and the temperature dropped very quickly.

Melynllyn reservoir from Gledrffordd
Melynllyn reservoir from Gledrffordd (11 Mar 2014__15:16:47)
Pitch on Gledrffordd
Pitch on Gledrffordd (11 Mar 2014__15:55:16)

Day 2 - Gwaun y Garnedd, Ffynnon Llyffant & Cwm Eigiau

A cloudless and windless dawn and we were quickly warmed by the quite potent sun as we set off to capture the early light on the landscape around Gledrffordd and Melynllyn. We resumed the upward trek onto Gwaun y Garnedd, a broad flat grassland before the rocky rise of Foel Grach, and met the main ridge path where we captured the view to Yr Elen.

We noted this flat expanse as an ideal pitch spot for the future, provided it isn't too windy of course - there can be few places more exposed to the elements.

Pitch on Gledrffordd
Pitch on Gledrffordd (12 Mar 2014__07:55:15)
Early light on Melynllyn reservoir from Gledrffordd
Early light on Melynllyn reservoir from Gledrffordd (12 Mar 2014__08:30:43)
Early view to Craig Eigiau
Early view to Craig Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__08:37:24)
Carnedd Llewelyn from approach to Gwaun y Garnedd
Carnedd Llewelyn from approach to Gwaun y Garnedd (12 Mar 2014__09:17:20)
Foel Grach from Gwaun y Garnedd
Foel Grach from Gwaun y Garnedd (12 Mar 2014__09:21:26)
Yr Elen from Gwaun y Garnedd
Yr Elen from Gwaun y Garnedd (12 Mar 2014__09:34:40)

The main objective now was to return across Gwaun y Garnedd and contour around to the upper slopes above Ffynnon Llyffant. The terrain turned out to be easy and apart from the excellent view of the eastern cliffs, we quickly realised that in these conditions the upper cwm would be something very special. An easy descent brought us to the lake, superbly located at the foot of the cliffs. Here, and further down the cwm near the outflow stream, are pieces of wreckage from an English Electric Canberra B. Mk.2 that crashed in 1957.

We descended the upper cwm on the right side of the outflow stream, seeking out the best line in superb wild terrain just made for exploration with a backpack. The infant streams hereabouts converge to form the Afon Eigiau that cuts a deep cleft lower down, and a final easy descent brought us into the lower cwm where we walked across rather wet ground to a broken grassy causeway leading to the old quarry ruins. The quarry track leads easily out of the cwm and across the bridge to join the outward route.

Descending into upper Cwm Eigiau
Descending into upper Cwm Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__10:14:45)
Ffynnon Llyffant
Ffynnon Llyffant (12 Mar 2014__10:18:56)
Ffynnon Llyffant
Ffynnon Llyffant (12 Mar 2014__10:21:14)
Ffynnon Llyffant
Ffynnon Llyffant (12 Mar 2014__10:43:20)
Outflow stream of Ffynnon Llyffant
Outflow stream of Ffynnon Llyffant (12 Mar 2014__10:52:26)
Rock cliffs of Carnedd Llewelyn in upper Cwm Eigiau
Rock cliffs of Carnedd Llewelyn in upper Cwm Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__10:55:01)
Looking back in Upper Cwm Eigiau
Looking back in Upper Cwm Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__10:58:09)
Wild rock landscape and pools in Upper Cwm Eigiau
Wild rock landscape and pools in Upper Cwm Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__11:02:45)
Wild horse in lower Cwm Eigiau
Wild horse in lower Cwm Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__12:10:09)
Craig yr Ysfa and wild horse from lower Cwm Eigiau
Craig yr Ysfa and wild horse from lower Cwm Eigiau (12 Mar 2014__12:24:38)