#217 – The Carneddau and Llyn Llyffant

The remote lake of Llyn Llyffant, the highest lake in Wales (820 metres above sea level)

The remote lake of Llyn Llyffant, the highest lake in Wales (820 metres above sea level)

Since moving to North Wales five years ago, I’ve become a big fan of the mountains of the Carneddau, and I’m still having fun exploring hidden corners where I haven’t been yet.   One place on my ‘to do’ list for some time was the highest lake in Wales – sitting at 820 metres (2690 ft) above sea level, Llyn Llyffant (‘Frog Lake’) is also one of the smallest lakes in Wales.    A trip there was long overdue, so last July I set out for a visit.

The route, clockwise from the car park

The route, clockwise from the car park

The Carneddau

The Carneddau

Setting out towards Cwm Eigiau

Setting out towards Cwm Eigiau

Cwm Eigiau and the crags of Craig yr Ysfa

Cwm Eigiau and the crags of Craig yr Ysfa

The tiny lake is located just below Carnedd Llewelyn, the highest peak of the Carneddau, but the most logical way in seemed to be via one of my favourite Carneddau spots, Cwm Eigiau.    The views on the walk-in are constantly changing, with the highlight being the magnificent climbers’ crag of Craig yr Ysfa.

Craig yr Ysfa

Craig yr Ysfa

Legend has it that the crag was spotted by telescope in the late 19th Century by one of the famous rock-climbing Abraham Brothers – this would have quite a feat, as the telescope and user were in the Lake District at the time, about 150 kms away (90 miles or so), but there is a clear line of sight from Scafell Pike to Craig yr Ysfa, so the story may well be true.

Small waterfall on the Afon Eigiau

Small waterfall on the Afon Eigiau

The upper reaches of the Afon Eigiau, not far from its source

The upper reaches of the Afon Eigiau, not far from its source

From the Cwm I followed the small Afon Eigiau stream up to the lake.    The area is hardly ever visited, being off the beaten track, but in December 1957 it suddenly became the focus of much attention following a tragic aircraft crash.

*     *    *    *    *

English Electric Canberra

English Electric Canberra

The English Electric Canberra came into service with the Royal Air Force in 1951 as the first British jet-powered bomber, and for the rest of the decade the Canberra could fly higher than any other aircraft in the world, holding the world altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430 metres).   Designed originally as an unarmed, high-altitude bomber the type became a versatile workhorse in service in the UK and beyond.

The initial impact point of the Canberra on Carnedd Llewelyn (Photo Sept 2014)

The initial impact point of the Canberra on Carnedd Llewelyn (Photo Sept 2014)

On 9th December 1957 Canberra WK129 was taking part in secret radar tests.    The aircraft had flown from RAF Pershore in Worcestershire to the Carneddau, where it carried out trials with a radar station on the summit of Drum (traces of the radar station can still be found there).    The Canberra continued out to Puffin Island near Anglesey before turning to travel back to base.

Aircraft wreckage in the Afon Eigiau

Aircraft wreckage in the Afon Eigiau

Looking up towards the lake of Llyn Llyffant

Looking up towards the lake of Llyn Llyffant

The aircraft was flying in patchy low cloud when it struck Carnedd Llewelyn on the ridge connecting the mountain to Foel Grach.   The forward end of the aircraft broke up,  leaving fragments of the forward fuselage on western side of the ridge. The centre section, wings and rear fuselage crashed to earth near Llyn Llyffant, though other pieces did travel some distance beyond here.    The destruction of the aircraft was such that the crew of two must have died instantly.

More wreckage from the Canberra

More wreckage from the Canberra

The reason for the crash remains a mystery, though the aircraft was below its safety height at the time of the accident.    A possible explanation is engine failure due to icing – icing conditions on the day of the flight were forecast above 3000 ft, and the initial impact point is at around 3280 ft (1000 metres)

*     *    *    *    *

Border Collie ‘Mist’ at Llyn Llyffant

Border Collie ‘Mist’ at Llyn Llyffant

Llyn Llyffant is now remote and quiet and would make a great wild camp site.    I stopped for a coffee and sandwich break, ably assisted (with the sandwiches anyway) by Border Collie ‘Mist’.

Next to the lake

Next to the lake

Looking back towards Llyn Llyffant

Looking back towards Llyn Llyffant

Left to right - Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Pen yr Helgi Du and Craig yr Ysfa

Left to right – Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Pen yr Helgi Du and Craig yr Ysfa

Small group of Carneddau ponies and the only humans I saw all day

Small group of Carneddau ponies and the only humans I saw all day

When it came time to leave I set off for another air-crash site nearby.  Although overcast, the visibility was great with great views back to the mountains surrounding upper Cwm Eigiau (Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Pen yr Helgi Du and Craig yr Ysfa) and despite the fair conditions, I saw just four other humans all day.

The crash site of Avro Anson EG110

The crash site of Avro Anson EG110

On 14th January 1943, an Avro Anson on a training flight struck the side of Foel Grach.  There are several Anson crash-sites near to here, not because the Anson was an unsafe aircraft, but because there were many more flights over this part of Wales in WW2.    The crew survived the impact, and the pilot managed to walk to a farm in the valley below.    The RAF Mountain Rescue Team from Llandwrog (now Caernarfon Airport) set out and searched into the night, but had to take shelter in deteriorating weather.   The aircraft was found the next day with one survivor, the other two crew members having died of exposure.    There is now no trace of the crash.

‘Mist’ with Melynllyn (reservoir) below

‘Mist’ with Melynllyn (reservoir) below

Heading back along the ridge of Cefn Tal Llyn Eigiau

Heading back along the ridge of Cefn Tal Llyn Eigiau

The mountains of the UK are steeped in history, and the air-crash sites I had visited are part of that ongoing story, and make a fitting memorial to those who died, but I now had another important task lined up – ‘Mist’ was just about overdue for her dinner time, so it was time to head back home.

Back on the track – time to head for home

Back on the track – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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.
This entry was posted in 5. North Wales, Aircrash Sites, Border Collies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to #217 – The Carneddau and Llyn Llyffant

  1. Bob says:

    Great post Paul, that is one of my favourite walks in wales, me and my dad used to do that one a lot when I was younger. I was there with my kids last summer as well, great memories. If you ever do it again can I suggest one little change to your route which I always enjoy. When you get into cwm eigau and you turn due north following that little stream, head north as you did but for only maybe a few hundred yards to gain a little bit of height then cut across due west to the other stream and scramble your way up it. It’s really fun little addition to the route and there are also a few other pieces of plan wreckage to observe there too. Bob

    • Thanks for the comment Bob. Your variation sounds like the route I blogged in #151. If it’s the same route, the aircraft wreckage is from a Bristol Blenheim that crashed in 1940.

  2. I feel I must have been very near there but don’t think I’ve actually visited that llyn as I don’t remember seeing the crashed Canberra. Didn’t know about the ruins on Drum – don’t remember seeing them when I ‘bagged’ it years ago.

    • You would remember if you had been to Llyn Llyffant Carol – there are bits of aircraft all over the place.
      The site at Drum is much less obvious – you need to go on the east side of the fence to find any trace of the radar station. It was a mobile setup and contemporary photos show large army vehicles having problems negotiating the narrow lane up from Aber. It may well have been a similar setup to the one you worked on in the Hebrides.

      • I think finding bits of poor old Canberra scattered all over would upset me – we used to work with them. Luckily, it’s before my time so I wouldn’t know the crew.

        Bet the Drum one was a Type 4-7 – we had those at Larkhill and they were mobile units

  3. Pingback: #219 – Llyn Anafon and Drum in the Northern Carneddau | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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