4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
Anyone travelling through the Ogwen Valley for the first time would be forgiven for ignoring the huge grassy whalebacks which form the northern wall of this handsome defile.
Indeed, with Tryfan’s striking good looks and the rock studded cwms of the Glyderau on display it’s little wonder that the Carneddau are shunned by those hankering after exciting scrambles and memorable days on classic rock routes.
However, if it’s a superb walk in relative solitude you’re after then folk in the know will point you at those big old lumps where scenes of genuine grandeur can also be won, but unlike the cheap thrills of their Ogwen brethren, the secrets of the Carneddau must be earned.
Spaciousness, fantastic views and an atmosphere of the ancient await you on this route which crosses some of the highest mountains in the principality. From the large lay-by opposite Gwern Gof Uchaf cross the road and take the track into a copse of trees, passing Glan Dena (the MAM hut) and then Tal y Llyn Ogwen farm.
A stile leads onto boggy ground where marker posts serve as a useful guide to the driest passage through the morass and a crossing of the Afon Lloer.
The way ahead follows the left bank of the stream and over another stile until a levelling off heralds the entrance to Cwm Lloer, a wonderfully secluded mountain sanctuary.
Bounding the left hand side of the cwm a blunt rocky ridge offers by way of a short gully (often iced in winter) an easy scramble onto Pen yr Ole Wen’s East Ridge which, after a bit of collar work puts you on the top of your first peak of the day.
Time to get your get breath back and enjoy the view which is quite frankly stupendous, revealing Tryfan and the Glyderau cwms to perfection.
On this top –the true cornerstone of the Ogwen scene- a real sense of scale and the unique spaciousness of the Carneddau is felt for the first time, a feeling that will remain for the remainder of your walk...visibility permitting! So onwards to Dafydd which is a simple matter of following the broad ridge passing en route the ancient cairn of Carnedd Fach.
Soon there is no more up and a palatial summit shelter awaits windswept walkers intent on gobbling up a fine vista which has grown to include the Irish Sea, a large portion of Anglesey, The Rivals on the Lleyn Peninsular and across Cwm Llafar to your next destination.
Carnedd Llewelyn is the undisputed overlord of the Carneddau and the way onto this lofty dome is not only a very fine ridge walk but simplicity itself.
Following the rim of lonely Cwm Llafar is a straightforward business even in poor visibility but beware, false steps too close to the edge can’t be recommended as the winter playground of Ysgolion Duon (The Black Ladders) falls precipitously away unseen to the north.
Approaching the col of Bwlch Cyfry Drum the ridge narrows pleasingly and a glance over your left shoulder will reveal those sombre steeps to great advantage.
A brief slog up loose zigzags lands you on the third highest mountain in Snowdonia.
If you're anything like me you will sit a while and immerse yourself in the timeless atmosphere that is all pervasive hereabouts.
Standing as it does at the hub of the range, Llewelyn throws out four ridges and on leaving the summit it is important to take the right one so if it’s at all claggy it’s well worth taking a compass bearing.
That done, a good path heads down towards Bwlch Eryl Farchog, (a narrow ridge connecting Llewelyn to Pen yr Helgi Du which can be tagged onto the day if you’ve not had enough) but between you and the bwlch lies the descent of a short slabby bad step.
It’s not difficult (grade 1) but care is needed as it lies above steep slopes and a slip would really spoil your day! A short way along the ridge and to the right a zigzag path leads down to the Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir where it is not unusual to meet wild Carneddau ponies grazing by the lake shore.
The arrow-straight water board road is unkind on tired feet as is the remaining road walk along the A5 but those final miles are worth every ounce of discomfort for what has been a most salubrious day in the hills. © Nicholas Livesey - UKHillwalking.com, Oct 2011