Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tal y Fan, Drum & Pen y Castell

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Route: Cae Coch, Tal y Fan, Foel Lwyd, Bwlch t Ddeufaen, Drosgl, Blaen y Ddalfam Carnedd y Ddelw, Drum, Foel Lwyd, Pen y Castell, Sheepfold, Fron Haul, Afon Tafolog, Pen y parc

Date: 16/09/2017
From: Bwlch y Ddeufaen

Parking: Roadside close to Cae Coch
Start Point: Cae Coch
Region: Snowdonia - The Carneddau

Route length: 7.7 miles (12.4 km)
Time taken: 03:34
Average speed: 2.1 mph
Ascent: 822m
Descent: 818m

Summits: Tal y Fan (610m), Carnedd y Ddelw (688m), Drum (770m), Pen y Castell (623m)

Other points of interest: Bwlch y Ddeudaen

It was cool and damp when I arrived at the foot of Tal y Fan, having negotiated the narrow, gated road from Rowen - a paintwork-troubling lane and a far cry from the A470 on the other side of the valley.

My walk today (the start of a few days exploring north Wales) would cover the northern-most mountains of the country, those located on the fringes of the National Park - Tal y Fan, Drum and Pen y Castell. These fells enclose the Afon Tafolog which flows east from Bwlch y Ddeufaen (Pass of the Two Stones), which is only accessible by foot.

I parked half a mile up the road from the car park, using a grassy verge close to Cae Coch which would make more of a circuit from the walk. It had been raining heavily for a few days prior to my arrival and water was still flowing readily down the road. After the road bends west, a ladder stile crosses the high drystone wall into the Access Land beyond.
Looking down to the Conwy Valley
My parking spot at the side of the road with Tal y Fan in the distance
The path climbs easily up across marshy fields to a shallow depression between Tal y Fan and its other peak, Foel Lwyd. A visit to the summit of Tal y Fan is an out-and-back from this point.
The path climbs to Tal y Fan from Cae Coch
Looking to Tal y Fan
Pen y Castell and Penygadair
After the short grassy climb from the road, Tal y Fan has a rocky flourish, clad in boulders, peat and heather. After following the wall a short distance, a trig pillar marks the summit and some fine views.
Tal y Fan
Tal y Fan
Traeth Sands at the entrance to the Menai Strait
Tal y Fan's summit
To continue, I had to return to the shallow depression and climb Tal y Fan's neighbour, Foel Lwyd before descending into Bwlch y Ddeufaen via some thorny bushes. I referred to Ddeufaen meaning 'two stones' earlier, a reference to a pair of ancient standing stones that mark the pass' summit. The path across the path follows an old Roman road that joined Caerhun (Canovium) to Caernarfon (Segontium).
Tal y Fan from Foel Lwyd
Drum and Carnedd y Ddelw
Carnedd y Ddelw over Bwlch y Ddeufaen
The Roman Road in the pass
Though steep at first, the climb up towards Carnedd y Ddelw is straightforward, following the line of a fence until a track is reached. This track forms part of the route that crosses the entire Carneddau, ultimately ending up at the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen. Though originally listed as a Nuttall, Carnedd y Ddelw was removed from the list in early 2017 as it lacks the overall prominence from the col separating it from Drum.
Climbing up Drosgl towards Carnedd y Ddelw
Carnedd y Ddelw and Drum
Cairn on Carnedd y Ddelw
Drum, only a short climb further along the ridge, is the highest point of the day though the clouds had closed in and it had started raining when I reached the summit. Like Carnedd y Ddelw previously, the summit is capped by a large cairn, probably from the Bronze Age.
Drum
Tal y Fan
Looking northwest over Pen Bryn-du and Yr Orsedd
Drum's summit
In the cloud, the next short section needed some careful navigation to make sure I began my descent towards Pen y Castell heading in the right direction. Fortunately, a fence runs in much the same direction so can be followed if necessary. It wasn't long, however, before it had stopped raining and I had descended below the cloud where Pen y Castell is clearly in sight.
Leaving Drum
Pen y Castell
A glimpse into Pant y Griafolen
Drum and a cloud-covered Foel-fras
Overall, the summit is fairly uninteresting, as were the views today as much of the scenery was shrouded with low cloud. My advice, for the next part, would be to head south-east over Craig Cefn Coch to get to a track which leads beneath Penygadair and to the road back to the car. You could even visit the curious standing stones of the Pen-y-gaer hill fort.
Pen y Castell's summit
Afon Conwy from the summit
My route, though more direct than that described above, aimed northeast across the marshes of the Afon Tafolog to a sheepfold and ultimately to a marked green lane. This was hard work across rough, wet grass and the green lane was immediately extremely boggy, so much so that I ended up walking along the fence of the neighbouring field instead of wading through the water.
Looking back to Pen y Castell
Wild ground in Tafolog
Penygadair and Pen y Castell
The boggy bridleway
Heading back into the valley
Thankfully, the green lane eventually becomes a surfaced track which heads downhill to the minor road leading back to the car. An old bridge crosses the Afon Tafolog before the lane climbs back up to the starting point.
Conwy valley
Tal y Fan
Bridge over Afon Tafolog
Pen y Castell
Heading back to the car