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Backpacking in the Carneddau

Backpacking in the Carneddau


Postby smirnie71 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:14 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn, Foel Grach, Pen yr Ole Wen

Date walked: 08/06/2013

Distance: 32.3 km

Ascent: 1575m

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Once every so often all the outdoors ducks line up in a row. I had booked this weekend off months ago, Fiona managed to get Friday off a very busy work schedule, the weather forecast was promising sunshine for the first time in ages and our wonderful dog sitter was able to look after our fur faces for the weekend. I could hardly believe our luck.
With an eye on the weather I planned a couple of two night backpacking trips. One was to take us to Patterdale and from there up on to the fells south of Ullswater, the other to the Carneddau. We haven't done any walking in the Lakes at all as we are always whizzing past to visit family in Scotland or heading to Snowdonia which is closer and therefore cheaper to get to. We can also manage a full day in Snowdonia without the fur faces getting too hacked off with our absence.

Come Friday it was clear we were heading to the Carneddau and after having read umpteen trip reports about this range as well as having admired its whale back hills during walks up the Glyderau and Moel Siabod I was excited to be heading into the heart of these hills for an exploration. It was also time to try out some new bits of kit I've been given and acquired in the last couple of months including some Exped mats from the lovely Martin Rye, a Sawyer Squeeze water filter I've been sent to review and the Powertraveller Powermonkey Explorer I got last week.

Whilst I'd set out a fairly ambitious route which required us to reach Foel Grach for our first camp in order to complete it, this was just a plan and as well as getting a good walk in I also wanted to enjoy and really experience the walk so we were in no rush. Having decided to drive over in Dave the Van so we had the flexibility to sleep in our 'mobile home' *snort* we slowly made our way into Snowdonia stopping at the Moel Siabod cafe in Capel Curig for a hearty lunch and an ale. We got chatting with a lovely man who'd just started working at the cafe. He gave us some great tips for wild camp spots and on welsh pronunciation. Transpires it was the photographer Nick Livesey, who's work I've been following for some time and love. Then it was off to the car park behind Joe Browns to faff with our gear and packs. It was just gone 5pm when we left Capel Curig, heading up the A5 to find our path into the Carneddau. Already it was obvious that the route plan was going to be ditched and it didn't matter. It was a glorious sunny evening and so it would remain for the whole weekend.
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Bluebells in the sunlight

Our path took us north, gently up the hill side towards the head of Llyn Cowlyd, a long reservoir nestling between the steep flanks of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (Slippery Hill of the Witch) to the west and Creigiau Gleision to the east. The going was easy thanks to the recent drier weather and those stretches which are more bog prone had sleepers laid over them.
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Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir with craggy Creigiau Gleision to the right
We crossed a small foot bridge and followed the very obvious path along the west shore of the llyn right the way up to the dam. The path fords umpteen little streams that run down into the reservoir so the path was a bit soggy in places and our foot wear soon filled with water. I was cursing my choice of boots, which definitely need to be reproofed and are showing signs of age. It was warm though so damp socks weren't really a hardship. All these streams also gave us a chance to try out the Sawyer Squeeze filter. I love it, it's so simple to use and weighs next to nothing.
From the dam we followed a track north west to contour round the hill and down towards Llyn Eigiau. Once past the long abandoned farm at Eilio we decided to set up camp for the night. It wasn't until now that I realised I hadn't been recording our track on Viewranger. Curses!
We found a nice little flat spot, slightly elevated with great views of the Eigiau valley and after a round of sheep poo golf were ready to pitch our tents. It's the first time Fiona and I have slept in separate tents so it took a wee while to get ourselves set up, gear organised and dinner cooked. I was glad we stopped when we did. The Exped mats are superb and it's the first time I've felt comfortable camping. The walk in clearly didn't exhaust us so although I got to sleep quite quickly I was tossing and turning in the night. At ten past four the dawn chorus started and I was woken by a cuckoo. I stuck my head out of my shelter and was greeted by an assembly of sheep as well as a dusty pink dawn. Sleep was futile so I got up and pottered about making a brew.
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Wild camp by Eilio farm

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Sun rising over the Llyn Eigiau valley and Maeneira, Carneddau
An hour or so later I woke Fiona up with a brew and suggested we head off to make the most of the cooler early morning hours. We decided to have breakfast later in the morning and so were on our way by six thirty.
Within the hour the sun was beating down and we were getting nice and warm.
Somehow the pack which had felt fine yesterday was feeling like a dead weight on my shoulders. I wonder whether removing the external aluminium staves in an effort to reduce the weight was a school girl error. A few hundred grams more when a pack already weighs 1.75kg (Karrimor Bobcat 65) isn't going to make a real difference and I couldn't get the weight balance right on my hips. A lighter pack and a proper fitting are on the cards once I can afford it.
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From the footbridge over Afon Eigiau at the head of Llyn Eigiau

Our route took us south west around beautiful Llyn Eigiau into Cwm Eigiau. It was a stunning morning. We passed Eigiau Cottage and went on to the Cedryn Slate Quarry where the Cwms industrial past is incredibly evocative. There are great tips of slate, the mining works at the foot of Pen Yr Helgi Du (Hill of the Dark Dog) draw a picture of how the slate was mined and the industrial buildings of the quarry are still quite intact in places. I find it difficult to reconcile the assault on the senses that slate mining must have generated with the tranquillity of Cwm Eigiau now. I found myself drawn in by the place and this is where we stopped for breakfast. Chocolate Granola, nom!
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Slate tips and tumble down buildings of Cedryn Slate Mine

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Tenacious Tree which has grown out of one of the quarry buildings. Nature reclaiming the land

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Cedryn Slate Quarry, a great big hole dug out of the mountain side and piled high on either side are the tips.
The irony is having built all the quarry buildings and infrastructure and dug a huge hole in the mountain it turns out the slate wasn't very good and the whole thing shut again after 11 years in around 1880.
We filtered three litres of water and were good to go.

Next came what for me was the hardest part of the day, a steep pull north west up the cwm to the summit of Foel Grach, our first Hewitt of the day. Despite the dry weather the ground was still boggy in places and I found the going really hard. At one point my head got the better of me and I had a mini melt down. Obviously there is still a lot of emotional stuff knocking about from my depression and I just stood there propped on my walking poles heaving great big sobs. To add to my crappy head place the sun had brought out fornicating daddy long legs by the million. They weren't best pleased with us for walking over their love shacks and made their displeasure known by swarming around us. Plus by now my shoulders were very sore from the pack.
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Carnedd Llewellyn and Yr Elen from the southern flank of Foel Grach

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Fiona at the summit of Foel Grach

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Foel Grach looking south
So reaching the summit didn't bring with it the deep elation I usually feel. Time for lunch and a rest so we feasted on oatcakes, primula cheese and salami sticks. We took off our sodden boots and socks, left them out to dry and dozed off on a lovely flat rock a few metres from the summit cairn. About an hour later we packed up and headed towards Carnedd Llewellyn. Having got the nasty climb up to Foel Grach out of the way, the rest of the afternoon was fairly easy going.
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Looking down into Cwm Eigiau from Gwaun y Garnedd on the way to Carnedd Llewellyn

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Pen Yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig Y Wrach from the summit of Carnedd Llewellyn

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Foel Goch and Elidir Fawr on the Glyders from Carnedd Llewellyn

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Fiona on the summit cairn, Carnedd Llewellyn
Once on Carnedd Llewellyn I was getting my old mountain mojo back again despite the dratted backpack and exploring the rock strewn lunar landscape of Wales' second highest mountain was great fun. It was the first time we encountered more than a handful of people at any time this weekend but the summit is plenty big enough. Fiona and I stashed our packs and wandered around the plateau taking photos and enjoying the sun. It was clear that in order to get more water we were going to have to drop down quite far into one of the valleys so we decided to head to Pen Yr Ole Wen via Carnedd Dafydd and see how we were doing for time.
I loved the walk over to Carnedd Dafydd, especially the slightly airy Bwlch Cyfryw - Drum arete with wonderful views down Cwm Llugwy to Ffynon Llugwy to the east and Cwm Pen - Llafar to the west.
The path took us along Cefn Ysgolion Duon to Carnedd Dafydd and the sun was really hotting up by the time we plodded to the summit.
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Bwlch Cyfryw - Drum arete leading to Carnedd Dafydd

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Looking back along the arete to Carnedd Llewellyn

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Cwm Pen - Llafar

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Cefn Ysgolion Duon leading to Carnedd Dafydd
Here we took the obligatory walk to the top of the cairn and then tried to get shelter from the sun in one of four little shelter 'nests' on the summit. After a quick breather we set off south west for our final Hewitt, Pen Yr Ole Wen. I really wasn't sure which descent was going to be our best bet. Water was running low and we were starting to feel quite tired.
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Our fourth and final Hewitt, Pen Yr Ole Wen with the Glyders in the middle distance and Snowdon in the background
Shortly after we got to the summit we were joined by a group of four walkers so we had a brief chat with them about the best way to get off this wee beastie. They recommended descending the east ridge which I had considered but it's nice to get validation. Off the able mountain goats hopped while we lumbered down the steep path behind them. It wasn't long before we lost sight of them so we just took our time and in my case tried not to topple over because of my pack.
It's a steep and rocky path. After a while the walking poles became more of a hindrance than a help so I lashed them to my pack and made use of hands free.
Progress was painfully slow and I still have a long way to go in terms of gaining confidence and ability to go down hill fast on this sort of terrain. The constant ramming on the knees was alleviated by a wee down climb that was actually great fun.
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The best part of this down climb was Fiona's happy grin at the bottom. We both really enjoyed it
I've suspected but now know that Fiona's a bit of a rock monkey, she was grinning from ear to ear at the bottom of this down climb. I'll be booking her a trip to the climbing wall soon!
Finally we stumbled on to flatter ground where a wall dissects the Afon Lloer on it's way down from Ffynnon Lloer. We were out of water and it was after 7pm so we sat and looked across the river to see if we could see a camping spot. The alternative was another nine kilometres down the road to Capel Curig and a night in Dave the Van. Neither of us fancied the walk. We found a spot, got water, lazed about and made dinner. whilst loitering we got chatting to a lady who'd planned to camp a short distance away but had forgotten her tent inner. Ooops! She decided to set off to a hut in Llanberis she has access to. Apart from her and a few others heading up to Ffynnon Lloer we didn't see another soul til morning. I was very tired and the cold I'd been nursing had set in with gusto so dinner was a quick meal of Smash and smoked sausage, soup and a hot chocolate with cake in my sleeping bag. I think I fell into a coma for about four hours. Definitely the best night's sleep I've ever had outdoors.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the view from our shelters was of the mighty Tryfan!
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Sunday morning and the view from our tents. Tryfan and the Glyderau in Alpen glow
We were up and away at about seven thirty, down more boggy ground, around the cottage and out on to the A5 within an hour or so.
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Panorama of Tryfan, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr, Y Garn and Llyn Ogwen

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Mist rising from the Ogwyn Valley looking towards Capel Curig
We crossed the A5 and picked up an easy path running along the foot of the Glyders to Capel Curig and stopped after a couple of kilometres for breakfast.

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Ogwyn Valley
Shortly after ten we rolled into Capel Curig all sweaty and smelly. Dave the Van was a very welcome sight and we changed into lighter, fresh clothes, commandeered the only toilet cubicle that was working and suitably refreshed made our way back to the Moel Siabod Cafe for a richly deserved fry up, coffee and banana cake. By this point I'd lost my voice so everyone was happy!
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smirnie71
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 249
Munros:12   Corbetts:3
Grahams:1   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:5   Hewitts:24
Islands:7
Joined: Dec 30, 2009
Location: Falkirk

Re: Backpacking in the Carneddau

Postby Phil the Hill » Thu Jun 13, 2013 12:48 pm

Great report - love the view from your second campsite.

Reminds me of when we ran out of water on Carnedd Llewellyn. Being more used to walking in Scotland, we headed for what we thought was a patch of snow. Turned out it was an outcrop of quartzite boulders! We ended up sucking on apple cores for moisture.
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Phil the Hill
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 331
Munros:261   Corbetts:26
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Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Location: Wallington, Surrey

Re: Backpacking in the Carneddau

Postby smirnie71 » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:17 pm

Hi Phil!
Thank you for your comments. Sucking apple cores eh? Suppose it's better than sucking eggs.
It's quite a long haul down to get water and just didn't have it in me to go down and head back up again. That said the Tryfan View campsite made up for it all in the end :)
:D :D
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smirnie71
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 249
Munros:12   Corbetts:3
Grahams:1   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:5   Hewitts:24
Islands:7
Joined: Dec 30, 2009
Location: Falkirk

Re: Backpacking in the Carneddau

Postby StevenF » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:38 pm

Great pictures and good report!

I tried to do this walk (but starting with Pen Yr Ole Wen first) in april, starting at Idwal Cottage. When I got to the top of Pen Yr Ole Wen the fog was so dense I couldn't see anything. just decided to go down but I didn't feel safe going down the same way I got up (a bit too steep), and I just decended by going North and then South East after reaching some sheepfolds. It's boggy but an easy decent if you are carrying a big pack.

Anyway, it's clear I should return to the area and finish this walk!
StevenF
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 133
Munros:1   Corbetts:1
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:75
Wainwrights:77   
Joined: Feb 2, 2011

Re: Backpacking in the Carneddau

Postby smirnie71 » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:47 pm

Yes you should definitely return and continue the walk, Pen Yr Ole Wen is the gateway to some incredible hills and cwms. And yes, I think you really made the right choice not returning the same way, we were warned off doing so and I'm glad we heeded the advice.
Looking forward to going back and exploring some of the eastern Carneddau. :D
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smirnie71
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 249
Munros:12   Corbetts:3
Grahams:1   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:5   Hewitts:24
Islands:7
Joined: Dec 30, 2009
Location: Falkirk

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