Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewellyn via Bethesda

Hewitts: Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn, Yr Elen

Date walked: 13/05/2010

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 14km

Ascent: 1060m

Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewelyn via Bethesda
“This should be quite straightforward” I thought as I and my walking partner Stuart set off through Bethesda town centre. The plan was head through the town and into a three-mile long valley heading towards the Carneddau range of mountains. I’d walked them before but from their benign side, starting at the lake of Lyn Ogwen. After about fifteen minutes, we were through the town and into the valley. It was a beautiful sunny day which showed off the lush valley in glorious contrast to the precipitous northern faces of the Carneddau, complete with menacing crags and gulleys, still ominously hidden in shadow.

The valley approach was a long one and I had plenty of time to consider how we would actually make the ascent from the valley floor to the actual summit. I felt sure that eventually we would reach a point, perhaps a mile away from the cliff faces where an obvious line of ascent would present itself. The approach also meant that Stuart had built up a 30 second distance between us and, with little guilt, I took out my MP3 and listened to a couple of recently bought albums.

We got closer and closer to the cliffs and still no obvious line. I could see in the distance that Stuart had stopped and was similarly perplexed. Eventually I joined him at a point where the valley path simply disappeared. Stuart’s guide book insisted that there was a route to our right and up the face, though there was little sign of any common route, so we began to work out our own plan. I felt exhilarated as we discussed the possibilities. Rather than follow someone else’s route, it was a chance for us to use our skills and route-finding, almost as if the mountain had come alive with possibilities and the only limits would be those we placed upon ourselves. I balked at the thought of attempting the sheer cliff faces, not without any climbing equipment at least. We knew that the best chance of ascent was to the right of the Carnedd Dafydd north face and began trying to work out the best route. Much of the route was sheer, but there did appear to be a reasonable line meandering through the right side of the face which involved a 200 meter climb up over a buttress with a waterfall to the right of it. After that, it appeared to be a reasonably straightforward 600 – 700 meter slog up to the summit over some straightforward rock.

The first part was reasonably straightforward comprising of boulders with generous holds and grass in between, together with snow from the snowstorm of the day before. As we started this ascent, the mountains began to give up this hidden north face to the sun and the temperature began to rise quite quickly. Rather than drink my water, I began to eat snow where possible. I’ve always had a paranoia about being stuck at the top without any water, miles from anywhere. By this time Stuart had disappeared over the top of this section. As I reached the top, I could see a silhouette in the distance. As I reached the top of this section, the full face that we were to scramble up became fully visible. The gradient was reasonably steep and unremitting, worse still was the makeup of the face. Rather than being full of solid rock, it comprised of a nasty combination of loose rock and patches of snow. I worried that I would either slip on the snow or come free from the rock itself. “This is going to be a real slog I thought”, as I started off. Stuart was already on the face which helped me plan my initial line, but he soon disappeared because the sun was directly over us.

For a couple of hundred meters the face was reasonably straightforward, but got steeper and steeper and, worryingly, the handholds required commitment to loose rock. I felt certain that Stuart would have found the upper ridge by now and was waiting, but I still had to take my time. Some of the snow was making it pretty hard going and I was busy trying to position myself over rock formations that would stop me falling far if I slipped. Eventually, I managed to capture Stuart’s silhouette high up above me. He was gesturing to go right. I gave him the thumbs up because he obviously knew something about the line I’d taken but almost immediately I got into some difficulty because the snow was causing difficulty with footing and, whilst I would normally be confident that my upper body strength would allow me to hold on if I slipped, the loose rock would not allow me this saving. “Deep breath and keep calm” I counselled myself whilst undertaking a couple of tricky manoeuvres.

Strangely, although always one move away from injury or worse, I felt a sense of enlivenment in the danger. A couple more risky manoeuvres and almost at a point where the cliff face became more level and, all of a sudden I could see Stuart peering over a rock at me. I was half expecting a volley of abuse for taking so long, but he seemed relieved. He explained that he’d been trying to get me to move away from a precipitous drop but I’d moved out of view. He’d seen a walker on an adjacent ridge peering across where he thought I was. Beginning to wonder whether I’d slipped, he had been debating whether to go back down to look. I assured him that I had just been taking lots of photos and enjoying myself, but in truth, it was a decent scramble which needed my full attention.

Despite the slog, we were still not at the summit, although the rock now was big and very dry and it was fun to hop from one to the other knowing that the worst was behind us. At the summit, the mountain opened up to us and there were some magnificent views. We could see the Glyderrau and Tryfan in all its glory and behind that, the Snowdon massif. We could also see all of Anglesey and even Holyhead in the distance. A truly superb day out.

Still, not much time to linger. We had Carnedd Llewelyn next, though we’d done the most trick part of the trip. Now for the enjoyable ridge traverse across to Carnedd Llewelyn and back to Bethesda via the smaller peak of Yr Elen. It was great fun now and we ate up the distance between the two peaks hopping from rock to rock and enjoying the views. Eventually just a short slog of 150 meters or so to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn. Again, some wonderful views of the North Wales coast unlocked as well as a decent breeze. Time for lunch and then the decent.

In contrast to what had gone before, the path to the rest of the journey was very good. Yr Elen was a pleasure, made even more enjoyable by the discovery of £5.35 at the summit. By the condition of the coins, they must have been there over winter. Still, the cash was happily bagged and we were on our was back down into the valley. A crunching decent nevertheless which took its toll on the knees.

During the decent, we were on the opposite side of the range to the Carnedd Dafydd cliff face we’d ascended. I caught up with Stuart. He was staring at the face we’d negotiated and couldn’t believe that we had. I spent some time looking at it and trying to work out why we’d even thought about climbing it at the time. For some reason it looked steeper from a distance that it had at the base.

The long ascent also gave me time to think about why we do such things. I think it’s to do with living on the edge. Some people get drunk and fight at nightclubs; some people join the army and seek danger in that way. But it’s also more than that. It’s about conquering a real fear of danger and learning to control emotions in a positive sense. Couple this with the tremendous sense of freedom that walking in such places, be it a Munro or humble top and you’ve got a really intoxicating addiction for the hills and some spare change to boot!
Eating snow with Tryfan in background
Finally it levelled out and became fun!
Steep and impossible to see above
Heading off towards Carnedd Llewelyn
Stuart, starting up Carnedd Dafydd
Looking back across to Carnedd Dafydd

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Location: Largs
Interests: Mountaineering, climbing, scrambling, walking, running and badminton.
Activity: Rambler
Pub: N/A
Mountain: Stob Ban
Place: Jura
Gear: Grivel Rucksack
Member: BMC and MMC
Camera: Canon 450D
Ideal day out: A decent ridge walk with plenty of scrambling to boot
Ambition: Every mountain...

Munros: 134
Corbetts: 16
Grahams: 7
Donalds: 2
Wainwrights: 24
Hewitts: 42
Sub 2000: 1
Islands: 9

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Trips: 1
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 1060m
Hewitts: 3

Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Last visited: Aug 11, 2022
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