A cloudy day on the Carneddau
13th February 2009.
Map: Landranger 115
Weather: Cloudy down below us and up at the summits. A heavy wet mist.
From Gerlan nr
Copyright OS-Click on map to enlarge, then hit the back button to return to blog
After the last few walks I’ve had I was hoping for more of the same weather, needing sunglasses to keep the snow blindness at bay. Alas it was not to be and the forecast was so bad for visibility that we decided to walk on high even though we wouldn’t see anything. If we had kept to a low level walk we wouldn’t have seen anything either, so we decided to mount an assault on a few Welsh 3000 footer ‘s – well more of a lumber up there than an assault. I drove down to
The Afon Llafar
There was a misty layer low down today and we couldn’t see very far ahead, just a hint of what was to come. The lower slopes were clear of snow as the thaw had set in this last week, and we passed by a field full of Welsh Ponies looking well laden with the dew. The initial route followed the single track road up to some farm cottages, and passed over a fast flowing stream – Afon Llafar which tumbled over mossy boulders – even the trees were adorned with ferns, the misty air perfect for growing here. We left the lanes and cut across the fields on a fairly good path, that is well trodden, It wasn’t as boggy as it could have been as the ground was still relatively firm from the cold snap we have had – but today’s temperature was around a balmy 8deg. When I looked back down to where we had started, the cloud had come further up the valley – it looked like a sea mist had come up from the coast, and the visibility had dropped markedly from when we had started. So we were sandwiched between two sets of cloud, momentarily in the clear but we couldn’t see too far ahead, and we knew we would be entering the cloudbase sometime soon today. There were lots of large erratics littering the lower slopes here, nestling amongst the sheepfolds in places.
Looking back down over
The mist beckons – up to Mynedd du
Single file ahead
The landscape soon opened out to coarse pasture, with clumps of dark green reeds looking a bit less weighed down now that most of the snow had melted. Obviously that was lower down and as we met the rising ground that led up Mynydd Du the snow patches became more frequent which added to the long grind up towards the summit (eventually) of Carnedd Daffyd – part snow / ice / grass and scree. Today’s route would give spectacular views all around and up, but this was the second time I have walked in cloud on the Carneddau, so maybe it will be third time lucky when I return later this year. I suppose we gradually entered cloud at around 600m, meaning that the visibility gradually disappeared and we got a little moistened. Now I know that walking up high hills is hard work but today was a little cruel as the low visibility plays some tricks and the long walk to the summit gave lots of false summits. The path winds its way up the hillside and is quite narrow, probably due to people walking in single file. As usual I took plenty of pictures even though there wasn’t much to look at most of the time – a good excuse for a breather. To our left were steep crags with big drops to the valley floor below, according to the map – have a look at the contour lines. We peered into the abyss now and again and the dark void looked none to welcoming, but gave some atmospheric shots. But on we plodded and gradually made up ground, with the slopes before the summit steepening as we got closer.
Another false summit
Are we there yet….no
Another false summit
Icy ground below the last climb up to Carnedd Daffyd
Nearly Made it - the last summit phew
The last haul up to the top was up a scree / boulder field, with lots of snow lying in between. It turned out easier to boulder hop than walk in the snow, as we never knew how deep we would sink – dangerous if you stood in the wrong place. It’s significant that I didn’t take a photo up this last haul to the top as it was not only a bit colder, but hard work, and when we got to the top I couldn’t raise a cheer, just a gasp and grunt. After recovering our composure we decided that it was well worth the effort for the views – in our minds. Looking over the edges it was hard to distinguish the snow patches from the cloud down below. It was ghostly quiet today, with the cloud damping any sounds – not that there was much up here, so we didn’t linger as there isn’t a summit shelter, and if there was it would have been full of snow anyway. From the summit of Carnedd Dafydd the path turns eastward and drops gently down to Cefn Ysgolion Duon along a rubble strewn path, bouldery and icy in places. But if you look at the route map you will see that there is one almighty drop to the north side of this ridge down to Ysgolion Duon – something over a thousand feet in less than a quarter of a mile – it must be a spectacular view and quite vertiginous when it’s windy, we stayed away from the snow cornice banked up against the side of the ridge - I bet it’s induced a bit of wind in a few people as well.
The stroll down from Carnedd Daffyd
The broad path towards the narrower ridge – great views – apparently
Robbo and Mike smiling before crossing the narrow ridge
Gradually as we moved along to Bwlch Cyfryw-drum the path narrows and the snow had drifted to form a lovely looking apex to walk across – about 3ft wide. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so lovely if we could have seen either side – actually the snow covered slopes didn’t look so bad, but it would have been a very long slide down these slopes to the valley floor. Luckily for us the prevailing conditions meant that although the snow was still firm, it took a good boot depth and wasn’t icy beneath its crust. A gentle stroll across proved most exhilarating, and with the aid of a pole quite safe – although what a Pole was doing up here I don’t know, he should have been building something. After we crossed this ridge a dark mass loomed out of the murk and another grind up to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn ensued – some 500ft of climb but it felt like a few more. The snow here overlay icy patches, which made progress up the slopes slow, as we had to be careful not to sink between boulders or skid back downhill. Eventually the path wound up a loose scree slope as we approached the summit
The ridge starts to narrow
We were careful along here
On the scree slope up to Carnedd Llewelyn
We sat down on the shelter to stoke up on some drink and food, but it was too cold to hang around, so we set off down the stony slopes, veering around to the West to walk over to Yr Elen – our final 3000footer of the day. Robbo led the way over steering majestically with GPS in hand, and as he was so occupied he didn’t fall over – yet. All of the exposure was now on our right with 500 – 600ft drops down to Cwm Caseg, and again the views would be spectacular on a clear day. At this stage we were in heavy misty cloud, which leaves everything that’s exposed very wet in a short time. I had some problems keeping the camera lens clear today and I ended up with a lot of blurry shots, some of them to good effect, but a lot of others not up to scratch. The ground over to Yr Elen wasn’t too bad although there were some large snow cornices that looked like they were ready to depart from on high to the valley floor below, and needless to say we didn’t walk on any of them. We did find a peaceful spot to stop on the way over, and we sat looking over a long snowy slope that invited us to sledge down, with the big drop behind us. We didn’t see much wildlife up here and the only noise was the slurp of tea and soup, and a gentle munching of sandwiches.
Almost a white out – more of a grey out on the way around to Yr Elen
The ridge across to Yr Elen - easy enough here
The view back towards Carnedd Llewelyn from our lunch spot
On our way up to Yr Elen
All the drop was to the north side of the path
This snow cornice looked ready to depart to the valley
As we reached YR Elen we took some time to take in the last peak of the day before setting off the top to the NW down a very steep scree slope. It isn’t marked on the map but it does exist on the ground, and zig-zags down the steepest parts. Today it was very icy-snowy, so we stayed on the edge and took our time coming down with the aid of walking poles. The scree slope gave way eventually to a grassy slope, covered with some nice large patches of snow. The snow was great to walk down the slope in as it takes away some of the strain on the knees and of course provides some amusement depending on who is taking a tumble. As we approached Foel Ganol – a lower rocky outcrop below Yr Elen, we spotted some Welsh ponies grazing contentedly on the slopes below. Apparently they usually run off when approached but I suppose we were just dark figures moving slowly through the mist, and they didn’t seem perturbed by our presence.
The steep scree path down from Yr Elen – guess who's from Wales? Clue - he has a blue pole
Down to Foel Ganol
The broad slope down from Yr Elen
After passing Foel Ganol we cut away to the East down grassy, reed covered slopes towards the Afon Llafar to pick up a path shown on the OS map that supposedly crossed the river by a bridge. The ground here looked like we should be sinking ankle deep in ooze, but it was still firm enough thankfully and we remained dry footed. The amount of reeds present provided some cover for birdlife and I was more surprised when a Golden Plover sprang out of cover and flew sharply away. The only other bird we saw, and mostly heard was the Chough – with its distinctive orange beak. There were a lot more ponies grazing away down here, but again they weren’t bothered by our presence. We walked over to the river full of expectation and were only slightly disappointed to find that there wasn’t a bridge to cross, so we thought how we will cross the river – easy we said looking further downstream – we were sure there would be a place to cross using the boulders as stepping stones. Of course we had the perfect weather to do that – wet, icy and slippery. We worked down the river bank and eventually found a small island that looked a likely spot.
Walking over to the Afon Llafar
The hillside on the right is the flank of Mynedd du
The crossing point of the Llafar
Hoping down onto the turf was easy enough and then taking care using a walking pole as a prop we stepped lightly across to the far bank. The we being self and Mike, with Robbo bringing up the rear. All was well until he made his final step up to the bank, when he lost his footing and attempted a double back flip in the pike position into the Afon Llafar. But despite laughing hard I managed to hold on tight and Mike got a grip and between us we dragged him onto the bank – a very close run encounter. If I’d been a true photographer I might well have let go! But not really, it would have been a mighty shock to the system falling in such cold water. A high spot on the low spot, if you see what I mean. From here it was a gentle walk back down towards Gerlan, following the path we had taken this morning. I was surprised how long it had taken us today, and to be honest I hadn’t thought about the time all day. The low cloud still clung around the hillsides and we didn’t get much of a view as to where we had been earlier, and the visibility wasn’t any better than this morning.
Looking back up to our route down from Foel Ganol
A last look back
Mole City FC
We noticed what must be one of the tiniest football pitches in the country – they probably spend 90 minutes playing, and 2 hrs going to fetch the ball back from the river. We had plenty of exercise today and the views that we didn’t have will tempt me back later this year and next time I’ll make sure it’s so clear I’ll be able to see for miles and miles – maybe. Another good days walking in good company - brilliant.