A walk in the Carneddau
This walk was based upon a walk featured in Trail Walker magazine, September 1992 issue.
The walk starts from the village of Bethesda. I was dropped off around 9:00am (Thanks Dad!) A narrow path leads into the woods, and you soon arrive at a junction. Both paths lead (according to the map) to the same destination. The left hand fork is slightly shorter. The article says left, so I went left. As it had been raining a lot recently, and the left hand path includes a section of ascent over some large rocks and mud, the ground was slippy. Not too surprising then that I slipped and got my hand covered in mud. The dog also had rather muddy paws by this point, not that it bothered her. When you emerge from the woods, you are presented with views up Nant Ffrancon, with Pen yr Ole Wen on the left. As you can see from the picture, the peak was already in the clouds.
The Trail Walker article mentions walking alongside a wall until the 700 metre contour. What it doesn’t mention is that this is over 3 kilometres, that you have to cross a couple of streams, or that there is no path on the ground. Pen yr Ole Wen sits in plain view, teasing you, saying “Look how far away I am, and see how steep my sides are”. The ascent starts off very easily.
By the time we had reached the 600 metre contour, the cloud had come down sufficiently for us to have less than 50 metres visibility. It’s at this point that things stop being horizontal, and the altitude starts to climb. I was continually checking the GPS, both to make sure I was on track, and to see just how much further we had to climb. The article says continue in a straight line to the ridge, but in such poor visibility it was hard to know whether you were going straight or not, especially when you reached some rocky sections. In time however, we reached Bwlch yr Ole Wen, and met a group of about a dozen other young men. These were the first people I had seen all day, and it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only person strange enough to be out on the hills on a cloudy November Friday. From Bwlch yr Ole Wen a quick stroll along the wide path led us to the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen. As you can see, the views were non-existent, though you could just tell that there was a steep drop to the North.
From Pen yr Ole Wen, the path led us back to Bwlch yr Ole Wen, then bacame more vague as we passed over Carnedd Fach, and climbed up to Carnedd Dafydd. The map makes it look as though the landscape around Carnedd Dafydd is rather interesting. In the fog however, it’s rather bland and featureless. At the top we stopped while I put my hat and gloves on, and we actually met three more people. Down over Cefn Ysgolion Duon, and I probably went too far to the left, and spent a lot of time clambering over rocks. Having looked again at the map, it now appears that I could have taken a path 50 metres to the right and saved a lot of time and energy. Over the narrow path at Bwlch Cyfryw-drum, and finally I could fold my double-sided map back to the easy-to-fold side! All of a sudden, the cloud thinned briefly, and the sun shone through, illuminating the snowy flanks and peak of Carnedd Llewelyn. The only problem was that it was difficult to tell by eye just how far away it was. The path was clearly visible, and we hurried along with renewed enthusiasm.
At the summit we stopped and enjoyed the barely visible view, and we were briefly gifted with the sight of a rainbow.
The dog ate her lunch, and begged for a fairly hefty portion of mine. Several more people turned up, and a couple were continuing to Foel Grach, so rather than navigate for myself we followed them. They however had a small daysack between them, whereas I had a rucksack for man and dog for two days. I managed to keep up however, and it wasn’t too long before we arrived at Foel Grach. Then came the interesting bit. The article mentions that the path South-East from Foel Grach is barely visible. I didn’t expect it to exist anyway, plus in the cloud it would have been near impossible anyway. Instead I simply set coordinates on the GPS to take me to the south of the rocks on the West of Melynllyn, then round to its south side. This was basically follow the GPS and a compass bearing for a kilometre. Unfortunately the map doesn’t mention just how damp and occasionally boggy the ground is. By this time the light was starting to fade, and I was starting to worry a little about dropping down 100 metres to the shore of Melynllyn. As we came round the south of Melynllyn, we chanced upon a wide path which appeared to continue down Cefn Tal-llyn-Eigiau. This boosted my confidence, as I don’t entirely trust the GPS, and I’m wary of trusting my map-reading skills too. At the start of the descent to Melynllyn, I decided that it wasn’t too steep, so we walked cautiously down. Upon arriving at the shore of Melynllyn, I had to decide where to pitch the tent. There were no suitable places at the south end of the dam, so we walked along the shore to the north end. Lo and behold at the north end there is a nice flat patch of ground. Some pebbles had been moved recently, so I wasn’t the only one who had camped here recently. Tent up, kettle boiled, water fetched, dinner on, dog fed, map checked, in bed for 8:00pm. Anyone who knows me won’t believe that, but hey, it was dark, and I planned to get up early in the morning.
Morning came, and I was up early, in order to be on the move nice and early. The cloud had risen, and it was now possible to see down to the Conwy Valley, though it wasn’t possible to see that much of it.
The dog was ready for more walking… (she had no choice)
As you can see from the article, the idea is to get back on to the ridge and continue on to Conwy. We walked the path to Dulyn reservoir, and came across the bothy mentioned in the article, just as two people were leaving it. Yet more slightly unhinged people!
The problem from this point was that the article and the map didn’t appear to agree with each other. This is because the fence mentioned in the article is not marked on the map. Unfortunately the article doesn’t mention how boggy the ground is either, so after a bit of wading through mud and a lot of head scratching we set off up to the ridge. About half way up, however, there is a very steep incline, and as my legs were aching, and I had blisters on my heels (again), I decided to wimp out and walk down the valley. The walk down to Bron-y-Gadair is actually quite a nice walk. It’s a bit muddy at times, and it had old, metal ladder stiles, with tubular rungs. The dog had extreme difficulty with these, as there was nothing to rest her paws on. I found the easiest way to get her over was to get over myself, then reach back over, coax her over and grab her collar and help when she was struggling. Once she was on top on the stile, it was easiest to stand well back and let her jump down, as she was very muddy. As you walk down the valley, you are guided by posts indicating an underground cable every 100 metres or so. These are reassuring, though it’s hard to get lost, even for me! As you get to Ffrith-y-bont the path has been diverted (or at least it had in the wake of foot and mouth) and follows a parallel track down to Bron-y-Gadair. We stopped here for a rest, while a farmer in the fields above whistled at his sheepdogs, and my dog wondered what was going on. From here it was all road walking down to Ty’yn-y-groes (where I stopped at the pub for a much-needed drink), then further along the B5106 towards Conwy, to another pub (can’t remember the name) where I had another drink and the dog struggled to keep her eyes open.
We were picked up from here and whisked home to soak our weary feet. Unsurprisingly the dog slept all the way home