#159 – Horses and Dragons – The Northeast Ridge of Yr Elen

Yr Elen

Yr Elen

The route (clockwise) with Yr Elen, the aircrash site (1) and the site of the wreckage (2)

The route (clockwise) with Yr Elen, the aircrash site (1) and the site of the wreckage (2)

One of the highlights of my trip out the previous week (see post #158) had been a great view of Yr Elen in the afternoon light. Yr Elen looks like a ‘proper’ mountain, but doesn’t get too many visitors as it lies at the end of a spur, isolated from the main plateau. The light had picked out the Northeast Ridge, known as the ‘Dragon’s Teeth Ridge’, and before I got back to the car I had decided that this would be my next trip out.

The northwest side of Yr Elen just after setting out – not looking promising ….

The northwest side of Yr Elen just after setting out – not looking promising ….

…. but sunshine over the hills of the Glyderau!

…. but sunshine over the hills of the Glyderau!

Yr Elen stands at a height of 962 metres (3156 feet) making it one of the 15 mountains in Wales over 3000 feet high. I had decided to follow the river (Afon Caseg) to what is regarded as the most remote cwm (valley) in Wales. At the head of the valley lies a small lake called Ffynnon Caseg (the ‘Mare Spring’) named after the wild ponies frequently seen in these hills.

Old sheepfold by Afon Caseg, with my valley route stretching out ahead

Old sheepfold by Afon Caseg, with my valley route stretching out ahead

Remains of the ancient settlement, with Yr Elen beyond

Remains of the ancient settlement, with Yr Elen beyond

View of the Glyderau from the ancient settlement

View of the Glyderau from the ancient settlement

The weather didn’t exactly look promising as I set off, but the cloud started to lift as I passed an ancient settlement, possibly dating back to the Bronze Age – the stones used to build the settlement were later plundered in the 18th Century to build a nearby sheep fold. The Bronze Age builders certainly had a good eye for a view, with the nearby hills of the Glyderau dominating.

My route, heading towards where the valley narrows

My route, heading towards where the valley narrows

Waterfall in the upper reaches of the narrowed valley ….

Waterfall in the upper reaches of the narrowed valley ….

 …. and the view looking back to the route in

…. and the view looking back to the route in

The walk in to the settlement had been fairly level, but as the valley ahead narrowed the faint track started to gain height.

Cwm Caseg, possibly the most remote cwm in Wales, with the small lake of Ffynnon Caseg

Cwm Caseg, possibly the most remote cwm in Wales, with the small lake of Ffynnon Caseg

Looking up to the summit of Yr Elen, with the Northeast Ridge on the right skyline

Looking up to the summit of Yr Elen, with the Northeast Ridge on the right skyline

Border Collie ‘Mist’ at the ruins of the old hafod

Border Collie ‘Mist’ at the ruins of the old hafod

The ruins of the hafod, thought to have once been the highest in Wales, next to the small lake

The ruins of the hafod, thought to have once been the highest in Wales, next to the small lake

The cwm comes as a complete surprise, with a tiny lake sitting below towering crags. Next to the lake lie the ruins of a tiny hafod (summer dwelling) thought to have been the highest in Wales when it was occupied. The long walk in, and the remote setting, must have made this a very lonely place to live, and getting the groceries delivered must have been a headache to say the least!

View down to the hafod (just visible) and the lake seen from the Dragon’s Teeth Ridge

View down to the hafod (just visible) and the lake seen from the Dragon’s Teeth Ridge

“Here be Dragons …” – the ‘Dragon’s Teeth Ridge’ alias the Northeast Ridge

“Here be Dragons …” – the ‘Dragon’s Teeth Ridge’ alias the Northeast Ridge

Looking down to my walk-in route ….

Looking down to my walk-in route ….

…. and looking up to more ‘Dragons Teeth’

…. and looking up to more ‘Dragons Teeth’

‘Mist’ chilled out, and unimpressed by all the talk about dragons

‘Mist’ chilled out, and unimpressed by all the talk about dragons

The view back down the ridge

The view back down the ridge

“Come on then – we haven’t got all day!”

“Come on then – we haven’t got all day!”

There were no horses at the ‘Mares Spring’ today, so it was time to check out the Northeast Ridge for Dragon’s Teeth. The ridge is well named, as the rocky crest is decorated with sharp rocky teeth, making for spectacular views, though there is no technical difficulty – I kept a fairly steady pace going up, with an impatient Border Collie checking back to see why I was taking so long.

The northeast facing cliffs of Yr Elen, leading to Carnedd Llewelyn ….

The northeast facing cliffs of Yr Elen, leading to Carnedd Llewelyn ….

…. and a view of the previous week’s route up Carnedd Dafydd (see post #158)

…. and a view of the previous week’s route up Carnedd Dafydd (see post #158)

Carnedd Llewelyn ahead ….

Carnedd Llewelyn ahead ….

…. but we’re going ‘off-piste’ (the Lincoln crash site is the rocks central in the photo)

…. but we’re going ‘off-piste’ (the Lincoln crash site is the rocks central in the photo)

An attractive ridge joins Yr Elen to Carnedd Llewelyn, the highest peak in the Carneddau group at 1064 metres (3490 feet), but this wasn’t on today’s tick list – instead I went ‘off-piste’, heading for the site of the aircrash that occurred here on 15 March 1950, and which I had visited the previous week (see post #158)

Small shelter at the wreckage site utilising part of the seat armour from the aircraft

Small shelter at the wreckage site utilising part of the seat armour from the aircraft

Looking uphill to the impact site, roughly in the centre of the photo

Looking uphill to the impact site, roughly in the centre of the photo

Memorial plaque to the crew members killed in the crash

Memorial plaque to the crew members killed in the crash

Part of the aircraft undercarriage

Part of the aircraft undercarriage

 Rusty propeller hub and the view down the valley towards Bethesda

Rusty propeller hub and the view down the valley towards Bethesda

Aluminium spar from the aircraft

Aluminium spar from the aircraft

Avro Lincoln RF 501 was a peacetime aircrash, unusual in an area where most of the aircraft crashes occurred in WW2. The previous week I had found few signs of the accident at the impact site, high above the cwm, but lower down there were still large items of identifiable wreckage. The memorial plaque tells its own sad story, with two of the aircrew having been decorated for bravery in the war – the pilot, Squadron Leader John Shore, had been captured after being shot down on a bombing raid, and had subsequently escaped and made his way back to England.

My route out down Nant Fach ('Small Stream')

My route out down Nant Fach (‘Small Stream’)

The cliffs of Ysgolion Duon (The ‘Black Ladders’) on Carnedd Dafydd

The cliffs of Ysgolion Duon (The ‘Black Ladders’) on Carnedd Dafydd

Looking back towards the head of the valley (crash site to the left and Ysgolion Duon right)

Looking back towards the head of the valley (crash site to the left and Ysgolion Duon right)

My route back to the car took me below the impressive cliffs of Ysgolion Duon (the ‘Black Ladders’). The afternoon sun made the crags look quite inviting, but there is nothing for the summer rock climber here as the cliff is best known for its collection of fierce winter climbs. Having had two good Carneddau days in as many weeks, a plan began to hatch as I walked out. I had a route in-waiting crossing the Carneddau plateau, that I had been putting off for some time – another week of fine weather would remove the excuses ….

Heading home

Heading home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s. the weather did hold out, and a week later I was out again on a crossing of the Carneddau Plateau from Ogwen to Conwy – almost 30 kms (18 miles) with 1521 metres (5000 feet) of height gain. Come back in two weeks for the story in post #160

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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14 Responses to #159 – Horses and Dragons – The Northeast Ridge of Yr Elen

  1. Pete Buckley says:

    Nice peak Yr Elen though I’ve not been for a while… I like the photo looking back down the ridge.

    • Cheers Pete – I’d never done the NE Ridge before, but the whole walk was just great! The walk in is through fairly unwalked and remote terrain, and the ridge itself is a beauty! I think I’ll be back there before long 🙂

  2. I think there’s a scramble somewhere up Ysgolion Ddu? Love the NE ridge and, after seeing your great photos of it, would like to do it again. Didn’t know that was the most remote cwm though…
    Carol.

  3. I think the scramble you are thinking of Carol is the Llech Ddu Spur (Grib Lem) – a Grade1 scramble with 3* recommendation – there’s also a scrappy Moderate rock climb (I think it’s called ‘East Ridge’) on the main crag, but the drainage of the cliff and its north facing aspect doesn’t make it a popular place in summer – winter routes go from Grade III to VII – that’s if we ever get a ‘proper’ winter again.
    As for the remote nature of the cwm, I was crafty enough to include the word ‘possibly’ in the sentence 😉 It must be a contender though, as approaching Yr Elen from the west you have to go round to the east side of the mountain to reach the cwm.

  4. LensScaper says:

    I can see you are making the best of this Indian summer, Paul. This route in today’s post – is there a trace of a path on the up route, or are you just making it up as you go along? The ridge is aptly named, some fascinating projections, indicating I presume how the landscape was deeply folded millions of years ago. I’m looking forward to reading your traverse – it’s a route I’ve looked at on the map and thought that must be the ultimate ridge route to the north coast.

    • On the way in there’s a well defined track heading for an old quarry, but as the valley narrows it’s a case of ‘find your own route’.
      The only signs of human activity I found (apart from the old hafod) were a couple of spent flare cannisters which I suspect came from an RAF Rescue Sea King, so I’m not going to moan about that!
      There was a Sea King working in the cwm the day I did the traverse, so the area is probably a regular training spot for the RAF, being quiet and out of the way.

  5. johndburns says:

    do you know about this, nominations close today! http://awards.tgomagazine.co.uk/tgo-awards/

    • Thanks for that John. For some reason I haven’t been getting email updates of your posts, even though I’m following, so I’ve some catch up reading to do 🙂
      I might just nominate your blog fot the TGO Awards – the cartoons are a great idea 😀

  6. A very interesting read – and nice to see that sky getting bluer as the post progressed. The cwm is particularly imposing. I wonder what the area was like when the ancient settlement was in use – it looks quite bleak now as a place to live – presumably it was very different before sheep etc., or maybe not. The plaque is sad – it must feel strange for the relatives to see that wreckage.

  7. MiaMichaelaa says:

    beautiful! I love mountains! I love your pictures!
    I grew up reading Enid Blyton and she often mentioned Wales mountains, and while all these time I was only imagining how Wales mountains look like now I find out what’s so special about them that Mrs. Blyton mentioned them so oftenly. They are indeed beautiful and breathtaking!
    thank you for sharing 🙂
    Mia

    • Thanks for the comment Mia. If you haven’t done so yet, check out post #159 for some great mountain views – if you like snow on your mountains, check out post #125 (one of my favourites!)
      Good luck with your change of lifestyle – that’s a mountain to climb as well, but think of reaching the summit 🙂

  8. Pingback: #186 – Yr Elen, Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  9. Pingback: #208 – Back to the Carneddau. Again! | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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