The mountains of the Carneddau in North Wales are a fairly recent obsession for me – when I first walked here, I started by checking out the main summits (as you do) then began exploring odd corners where people tend not to go. But sometimes I feel the need to stride off across the heights, and this was one of those days.
The Carneddau are not glamourous, exciting hills like the Snowdon Range or Glyderau, but they have their moments. The mountains may lack the sharp, knife-edge ridges of the other ranges, but they are huge in area, and these mountains make up the largest land mass higher than 750 metres (about 2500ft) south of the Scottish border. A walk here is usually going to be a ‘biggy’!
There was a simple plan – start from Gerlan near Bethesda, and head for Carnedd Dafydd via the broad grassy Northeast Ridge, a route I hadn’t taken before. A dull day with ‘flat’ light conditions didn’t hold much hope for photographs, but things improved along the way. The map suggested that the long ridge would be a bit of a plod, but the ascent passed quickly. My next objective was Dafydd’s big brother, Carnedd Llewellyn, but I had a small diversion along the way.
* * *
Most of the military air-crash sites in the hills of the UK date back to WW2, when flying training was carried out more frequently and often in poor weather conditions, but some accidents occurred in peacetime. On the night of 14th March 1950 an Avro Lincoln bomber took off from RAF Scampton on a training flight, but weather conditions deteriorated during the flight, and Avro Lincoln RF511 was one of three aircraft diverted to RAF Valley on Anglesey.
The other two aircraft landed safely at 0300hrs on 15th March, but at about the same time news came in from Bethesda police station that an aircraft had crashed nearby. Half an hour later the RAF Mountain Rescue team based at Valley set out to the crash site, arriving there at 0520hrs. The crew of six were all killed in the crash – a Court of Inquiry determined that the likely cause was that the aircraft had turned onto a South-easterly course over Anglesey instead of the reciprocal course out to sea.
There is very little evidence of the crash at the impact site, but larger pieces of wreckage still lie in the cwm below.
* * *
After my visit to the crash-site, I carried on over Carnedd Llewelyn, the highest peak in the range – from there it wasn’t quite ‘all down hill’, but the hard work was done. On the way, my attention was drawn to the east face of Yr Elen, where the Northeast Ridge was looking good in the afternoon light, and I found myself already planning my next day out in the hills.
However, I still had this walk to finish. After Llewelyn came Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian (formerly named Garnedd Uchaf), followed by Yr Aryg, Bera Bach and Gyrn Wigau. The descent is over rolling grassy hills, rather than the mountain ridges on the ascent, but it made for fast easy walking.
I later realised why Border Collie ‘Mist’ seemed to be in such a hurry – dinner time takes priority over everything!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock