For all sorts of reasons I haven’t been getting out on the mountains of the Carneddau over the summer months as much as I would have liked, so a free day and a reasonable weather forecast was all it took to tempt me out. Border Collie ‘Mist’ is always up for a long mountain day, so rucksack packed it was game on!
Recent Carneddau outings have been on the east side of the range, so I felt ready for a change. Yr Elen is a firm favourite, but I usually go up the North East Ridge (see posts #159 and #186) so I decided on the approach from the north-west instead. Setting out from Gerlan near Bethesda, there was low cloud sitting on the tops of Yr Elen and Carnedd Dafydd, but all was going well until the planned stream crossing of the Afon Caseg.
The soggy state of the approach to the stream should have been a clue, but on arrival at the Afon Caseg it was obvious that the water level was much higher than on previous visits. Perhaps I’m just getting soft as I get older, but leaping across slippy, greasy rocks was no more appealing than getting down to it and getting wet! Regular visitors to the Scottish Highlands such as ‘Mountain Coward’ would have been amazed at the amount of ‘faffing-around’ going on and would have plunged straight in, but I ended up going about 1 km upstream to keep dry feet!
Once on the slopes above the stream things started to pick up, as did the altitude. The gradual approach that would have been possible had I crossed the stream earlier was replaced by a more brutal ascent to the tiny un-named peak leading to Foel Ganol, but once there it was steady-away heading along the crested ridge before the shattered stony face of Yr Elen led up to the summit plateau.
Yr Elen must be one of the most cursed at hills in North Wales. It is one of the 15 ‘Welsh 3000 ft Peaks’, but to tick it off means leaving the main ridge of the Carneddau at Carnedd Llewelyn for a ‘there and back’ trip to Yr Elen before resuming the main ridge, and that at the end of a long mountain day – its saving grace is that it is one of the most beautiful mountains in North Wales. My day was much less ambitious, and a steady plod soon had me on the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn, the highest peak of the Carneddau at 1064 metres.
The route between Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd involves a height loss of 130 metres before a height gain of 110 metres to get to Carnedd Dafydd, but the gradients are all fairly gradual and the scenery is good enough to distract. This part of the route is a delight in most conditions, but to see it at its best try winter with loads of snow – you would imagine you were in the Alps.
The final peak of Carnedd Dafydd was soon ticked off, with ‘Mist’ heading straight to the summit shelter – this is nothing to do with being tired, more an association of the likelihood of sandwiches being produced, but we had already carried out that ritual on Carnedd Llewelyn so a dog biscuit had to do instead. Then it was time for the long descent from Carnedd Dafydd to Gerlan via the ridge of Mynydd Du – a great day out which left me wondering why I had left it so long to re-visit the Mountains of the Carneddau.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock