The hills and mountains of the Carneddau of North Wales don’t have the ‘wow’ factor of the Snowdon Range or the Glyderau, but for lovers of solitude and connoisseurs of wild places these hills beat the pants off anything south of the Scottish Highlands. I had a couple of gaps to fill in my knowledge base of these lovely hills, but Chris and I were both showing signs of coming down with a cold bug – an easy day was called for, but easy days are not easy to find in this wild group of hills.
I finally decided on a linear ‘there and back’ route up Foel Grach from the end of the road to the lake of Llyn Eigiau. Foel Grach is hardly a pushover, and at 976 metres it’s the 8th highest peak in Wales – however, the car park is at about 376 metres giving a height gain of only 600 metres. With 6 kms each way, it looked like ticking the boxes for an easy day.
Our route started by following an easy track. We left this to follow the broad ridge of Cefn Tal Llyn Eigiau, leading to a broad plateau at Gledrffordd. The ridge has a fence that makes a useful navigation handrail, but beyond there the route becomes more typical of the Carneddau, with few features of note. What it does have is a feeling of being in wide, open spaces.
It was a steady and undemanding route to follow, and with clear weather conditions the navigation was easy. In mist or bad weather the picture would have been entirely different, and these hills are not the place to start learning navigation skills.
In fact, the hills are so demanding in bad weather that it was felt necessary to build a shelter just below the summit. The hut is designated as just that, a shelter for emergency use only. It lacks even the most basic amenities you would find in a bothy, but it has undoubtedly saved lives in bad weather. It certainly doesn’t intrude or dominate, and if heading north towards Garnedd Uchaf from Carnedd Llewelyn it’s easy to miss it, as I did the first time I came up here.
There were swirls of mist crossing the higher tops, including ours, so we didn’t linger too long. A steady descent by our outward route took us back easily to the waiting car. I realised afterwards that in following this route I had made my only mistake of the day – in looking for a nice easy option I had overlooked a slightly longer (but no more demanding) return via Cwm Eigiau, This would have added only 2 kms distance and about an 30 minutes walking, with more dramatic views. Ah well, there’s always next time.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock
p.s. The cold bugs that prompted an easy day out are still with us a month later ….