I have liked the Carneddau range in northern Snowdonia for a long time. The combination of rough rugged crags, broad sweeping ridges and feelings of remoteness certainly appeal to me, especially when the neigbouring ranges act as a magnet to most visitors leaving this range a little more peaceful.
I’ve visited the range and climbed its highest two peaks on many occasions and traversed it from north to south, Yr Elen, sitting out at the end of the narrow (ish) ridge attached to Carnedd Llewellen was always one I’d “have to come back to” despite its enticing shape and tantalising proximity. More recently I’d grown nervous about conditions in particular about the potential to slip on the scree path or be blown off by cross-wind, so with a period of settled and dry weather over the recent weekend, it seemed an ideal time to go.
I headed to Snowdonia and to one of my regular campsites, the Bryn Tyrch Farm campsite in Capel Curig. This is a great site, with good facilities and several very good bunkhouses available – best to book them in advance though. The best thing about it though is the proximity to the excellent Bryn Tyrch Inn, perfect for re-fueling and rehydrating after a long day on the hill…
There is a downside to this though as most of my fellow campers will attest to the small group of guys who left the Inn at closing time and thought it would be perfectly reasonable behaviour to sit round their tents chatting until about 2am. Not very impressed, and I must confess to being very ‘English’ and tutting a lot without actually going to complain…
Still, after not much sleep I rose early for breakfast and was out of the campsite before the noisy neighbours had stirred.
Just a short drive into the ever spectacular Ogwen Valley, and parked up on the roadside near the Ogwen Mountain Rescue Team base.
My route started with a kilometer or so along the road to then start the ascent on the Welsh Water road up to Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir. This gives a nice warm-up and in the glorious sunshine affords tremendous veiws up the valley.
From the reservoir, the path climbs steeply with some interesting short scrambles up onto Bwlch Eryl Farchog. As I approached the steeper section, so the wind picked up and I confess to contemplating a retreat due to the lack of sleep. If I continued I would be committed as for me descending by the same route would be more difficult than continuing.
I was also considering the wind blowing across the ridge onto Yr Elen and whether to miss that out again. However for now I continued, and the reward on reaching the bwlch are views further into the Carneddau range, along with the scramble to come.
On dry rock, with the sun shining down this was a short and very enjoyable little problem to get through, and from here the route continued on up the eastern flank of the highest peak of the day, Carnedd Llewelyn.
It is a rare thing to be able to stop and enjoy such magnificent visibility in Snowdonia, with rib after rib of hills disappearing off into the distance you just have to reach for the camera.
Carnedd Llewelyn is a broad open summit marked by a relatively small cairn and a shelter where I took the opportunity to get out of the fresh breeze and have a break for food and reflect on the scramble. It had been a long time since I’d done a scramble like that and was delighted with how comfortable it had been.
After my break and a quick map check, I headed off to find the main objective for the day, Yr Elen, which is not visible from Llewelyn’s summit. After it comes into view there is a steep decent to the bwlch (more than 150 metres down) before the ridge leads back up to the summit plateau marked at one end by a very small cairn, and at other by the end of the spikey ridge down to Cwm Caseg. I remember bivi-ing there as a student and getting ‘buzzed’ and soaked by the down-draft by a helicopter come to make sure we were ok…
I spent a few minutes on the summit before making the trudge down and back up to Carnedd Llewelyn for another break for food and a brew, then to start the return down to Ogwen. Crossing Bwlch Cyfryw-drum it is interesting and a little humbling to reflect that just below is crash site of an RAF Avro Lincoln which crashed in March 1950 killing all crew. A small memorial marks the location. I mention this partly as there has long been a very close relationship between the RAF and Mountain Rescue stemming from searches for wartime aircraft that crashed in our hills and mountains.
I decided to head down more or less direct, picking up the stream Afon Bodesi and following it all the way down. It’s quite steep in places but with care and putting the occasional zig-zag in it’s fairly straight forward.
During the descent I looked down and saw this RAF Seaking SaR helicopter preparing to take-off from the rear of Ogwen MRT. Another reminder that they are always on call to help those in need and why I am raising funds for Mountain Rescue volunteers. It left a few minutes before I reached it, and the air was still pungent with the aroma of aviation fuel.
It had been a fantastic day in sublime near perfect weather, and I returned to my campsite (via the chippy in Betws-y-Coed…) feeling very happy with my days work. Here are a couple of extra bonus snaps from the back of the campsite. They don’t really fit with the rest of this report, but I had to share them anyway…