Llech Ddu Revisited

Hewitts: Carnedd Dafydd

Date walked: 05/04/2018

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 11km

Ascent: 892m

Following our mini epic of Llech Ddu from the back of the upper cwm, while the post walk aches came and subsided I couldn't stop thinking about the day we'd had. I pored over the incredible detail available on Google Earth and tried to compare the terrain with my photos. Where had we gone wrong on the approach to the shoulder? Could we have done it in the conditions that day? What was the full ridge like? It looked superb and I wanted to climb the whole thing. The nagging itch wouldn't go away. But I wanted to climb it in snow again. What to do?

Well, in the few days after our Friday jaunt it had warmed up, but nights had remained cold and snow was due on the following Wednesday with Carnedd Dafydd temperature forecast as minus 5 overnight. And Thursday was forecast to be a day of sun sun sun. Sure enough, the Ogwen webcam showed snow down to low level on the Wednesday, gone later in the day, but I hoped some would remain on the north-face of Dafydd. Even with things looking promising, on Wednesday evening I dithered over whether to go. The same thing early Thursday morning. I don't really know why, maybe a bit of trepidation after what we'd experienced? Sarah encouraged me to go, saying I'd regret it if not, and I knew it was going to be the last of the winter snow. She was correct as always so I finally set off at 10.30, very late for me. Sarah had made my sandwiches whilst I packed the sack, a great division of labour lucky me! The sun was indeed out in a cloudless sky as I headed onto the A5. I reckoned this road would be a slow nightmare beyond Wrexham so, instead, carried on north and onto the A55 for the dash to the west and Bethesda. No holdups this way so a good choice, and as I got near, from a high point on the road I saw the wonderful sight of a snow-covered Carnedd massif. Brilliant, still enough snow to make it feel like winter!

llech ddu 2.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I was able to park on the high lane in Gerlan so saved a bit of time on the walk-in, but wasn't away from the car until 1:15. Sun glasses on and just the base layer needed on the top half for the hot walk to come. I knew the way and made fast progress so was at the point where you turn into the cwm a little over an hour later, enjoying the blue sky and fluffy clouds, and the snowy sight ahead. I had a chat with a guy who was walking down from my onward route, he said he'd been on the ridge but it seemed odd the direction he was coming from, and there were no footprints on the ridge. Strange, perhaps it was a ghost I'd been talking to......

fine outlook on the walk-in

The end of the ridge and the cliffs looked magnificent and the sun was reflecting strongly on the rocks, it turned out they were covered in thin ice. I could clearly see where I'd need to go to be at the correct place at the start of the ridge and the early features of it looked exciting.

the sun shines on the ice. the shoulder above the rocks just left of centre, the rock platform at the top of the pyramid above that, wonderful

So I set out on the slog up past the waterslide, quickly into the snowline for the 200m of ascent to the point where I'd turn hard left, the sun glaring down over the lip of the upper cwm ahead. I soon discovered that the snow was in a completely different condition than last time, now there was ice frozen to the grass and the newer snow was harder and bonded firmly to that. No sliding off then, each footstep was much more secure. I kept further to the left than I'd done before and was able to make out patches of the trodden route so that also eased the climb, and 30 minutes later I stopped to take stock of the onward route, keen to avoid any mistakes.

heading up into the icy cwm

It was good to take time perusing the route and surroundings whilst having a drink and snacks, noting the ice on the slabs to my left and the larger patches of snow ahead. Now was the time to get the crampons on and axe out. I don't mind admitting I was feeling slightly nervous, unusual for me, probably from the worked-up state I was in after the previous visit, expectation, and exhilaration.

point at which the way turns sharp left, above the iced slabs

But it was no problem! I set out on what was the obvious route gleaned from my close viewing of Google Maps and there were traces of the path in places. As I got further there was lovely neve, just my crampon points making a mark in the snow. There was still that steep slope to the left and the drop below it but the going was good. At one point there is a narrow section where the drop to the left is more pronounced but it was a breeze by now with the crampons.

toward the shoulder, steep drop on the left, Yr Elen beyond

pristine neve nearing the shoulder

looking back down the approach ramp

I took my time to savour it, the exposure to the left eased a bit and suddenly I was at the flat shoulder with the quartz rocks. Just brilliant, and amazing! Now you see close-up the start of the scrambling to come and the wonderful views all around from this superb perch, along with the drop to the valley.

on the shoulder looking back down the valley

first scramble ahead

Fine as this place is, I was particularly keen to get to the rock platform that is so obvious from below and is visible from here at the top of the initial scramble, I had seen folk on this when at the top of the ridge the previous time and it looked an even better perch. There are various ways up this steep scramble, whatever you feel like. I went a short way along the ledge that runs to the east then started up what was a mixed rock and turf route, beautifully covered in a thin layer of snow and ice. It was great! A bit of everything and the turf was frozen for the axe pick, what a joy it was. I could see my target of the rock platform and approached it on its right, savouring every move, then up on top which is turf covered and a great place for another stop to gawp and take it all in.

initial route, perfect

target the flat platform block at the top

last section to the platform

The full ridge route ahead is visible from here, but not the detail! Cloud was now coming in ahead of me, but no matter it was high.

on the platform looking up the ridge to come

and looking back, Yr Elen again

So onwards over some gentle terrain of rocky steps and grass before steeper rock steps lead to the large sloping boulder which is directly at the top of the unmissable fault-line gully that slashes straight down the ridge into the cwm you ascended at the start. This boulder is maybe 10m long and slopes away from you if you decide to go over the top. I reckoned it would be clear of snow since its slope points it south toward the sun and I didn't fancy walking over it in crampons, so it was around the side for me. I took a look at the large ledge on the right but that leads into the top of the gully, so chose the left side. There are 2 ledges to choose from, one above the other, both narrow and with a nice steep drop below. Lovely! A look down the gully then a few rock steps to climb above this onto a flattish stance from where you can look back down at the situation of the sloping boulder and its slightly Christmas tree shape (imagination required). Another fine spot for that steep view down to the valley and giving a wonderful feeling of height.

the sloping boulder in the foreground

and looking back down on it

Beyond this the ridge steepens all the way to the summit slope screes and rocks. I enjoyed the initial walk over hard snow then up the rock outcrop. There are now a series of these steep outcrops, with a useful flat section between them. I kept to the ridge top in most places, bypassing rocks that would have been awkward in crampons. There was plenty more superb frozen ground to enjoy with the crampons and axe and I savoured each move. How lucky was I to be getting these conditions in April?!

first steep rock outcrop

I reached the place where Mark and I had joined the ridge on our minor epic a week ago, and took a good look at the ground we'd ascended and investigated exactly where we'd joined. Already great memories! On to the last of the steep outcrops, the first part of which I avoided again to the left, then the outcrops diminished in height and petered out as I headed up the final slopes.

jumbled blocks near where we joined the ridge last time, choose your route

looking back from on high

mixed terrain

last of the large steep outcrops

still fine ground

heading onto the top slopes

Wonderful neve again to take advantage of as I zigzagged to the summit ridge and west to the summit cairn which I reached at just after 5. No-one about, just a few footprints, and fabulous views. Although hungry now since I'd only snacked all the way to here, I thought I'd get down a bit and get the crampons off before stopping properly. So a farewell to the summit and down the snowfields to the northwest, threading through the rocks following some kind person's footsteps. Wonderful hazy sun views to the west and a spiky Elidir Fawr. I stopped as planned and fuelled up, and was back at the car in an hour.

descent neve and westward view

The itch of wanting to climb the ridge again had been well and truly satisfied, I was quietly glowing with the satisfaction of a goal achieved and a second adventure in this superb place as I set off home.

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Attachment(s) Hewitts: Carnedd Dafydd
Date walked: 30/03/2018
Distance: 11.7km
Ascent: 957m
Comments: 2
Views: 78


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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Date walked: 20/12/2017
Distance: 13.3km
Ascent: 983m
Views: 2


This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
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Hewitts: Helvellyn
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Attachment(s) Wainwrights: Causey Pike, Scar Crags
Hewitts: Causey Pike, Scar Crags
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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Date walked: 11/11/2017
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User avatar
Pub: Clachaig
Mountain: Ben Lui
Place: Glencoe
Ideal day out: scramble, ridge, snow
Ambition: Move to Scotland!

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Joined: Nov 13, 2008
Last visited: Apr 25, 2018
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