Sunday 14 May 2017

The Cwm Eigiau Horseshoe

The Cwm Eigiau Horseshoe 14-05-2017

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Route: Trasbwll, Cerrig Cochion, Clogwynyreryr, Cefn Tal-llyn-Eigiau, Craig Eigiau, Gledrffordd, Foel Grach, Gwaun y Garnedd, Yr Elen, Carnedd Llewelyn, Penywaun-wen, Bwlch Eryl Farchog, Pen yr Helgi Du, Y Lasallt, Bwlch Tri Marchog, Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Craig Ffynnon, Hafod-y-rhiw, Llyn Eigiau

Date: 14/05/2017
From: Trasbwll

Parking: Trasbwll Car Pak
Start Point: Trasbwll
Region: Snowdonia - Carneddau

Route length: 13.3 miles (24.4 km)
Time taken: 06:03
Average speed: 2.2 mph
Ascent: 1,299m
Descent: 1,303m

Summits: Craig Eigiau (735m), Foel Grach (976m), Yr Elen (926m), Carnedd Llewelyn (1,064m), Pen yr Helgi Du (833m), Pen Llithrig y Wrach (799m)

Other points of interest: Melynllyn, Cwm Caseg, Cwm Eigiau, Craig yr Ysfa

Despite being on the quieter side of Snowdonia, this high-level circuit of Cwm Eigiau ranks as one of the classic walks in North Wales. Ridges, narrow aretes, high mountains and brooding crags were all on the agenda today with a promising forecast to boot.

The walk starts from a remote car park located at the end of a superbly winding, gated, single-track road from the village of Tal-y-bont. There's space for around 15 cars - get there early enough and you can have it all to yourself. The route can be completed in either direction, I chose an anti-clockwise circuit, leaving the best of the ridge walking for later in the day.
Cwm Eigiau on a fine morning
From the car park, a straight track leads towards Clogwynyreyr, the termination of the ridge of Craig Eigiau, the first peak of the day. The track (the remains of the route to the Melynllyn Hone Quarry) leads around the base of Clogwynyreyr into the secluded valley of Pant y Graifolen, bringing Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian and Foel-fras all into view.
The track leading away from the car park
Craig Eigiau
The track rises gently to a gate where I left it, heading uphill to gain the ridge of Craig Eigiau, all the while views of the Carneddau were improving. Visible now was the small lake of Dulyn Reservoir or Llyn Dulyn. Though the lake is very small it is incredibly deep, plunging to a depth of nearly 60m, almost as deep as Windermere, England's largest lake. Its name (black lake) is derived from the towering Craig y Dulyn cliffs above which cause the lake waters to be very dark.
Craig Ffynnon and Pen Llithrig Wrach
Cerrig Cochion
Drum and Pen y Castell
Carnedd Gwenllian
The Melynllyn quarry road at Clogwyn Maldy
The Cefn-Tal-llyn-Eigiau ridge finds its highest point at Craig Eigiau, the top of a series of cliffs that shelter Llyn Eigiau below. The summit is formed of interesting sheets of rock with a tilted slab marking the high point. From this vantage point, I could see some showers forming to the west, no doubt heading in my direction.
Looking into Pant y Graifolen towards Pen y Castell
Cefn Tal-llyn-Eigiau
Afon Porth-llwyd
Carnedd Llewelyn, Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian and Foel-fras
Craig Eigiau
Craig Eigiau's summit looking to Carnedd Llewelyn
The view to Pen Llithrig y Wrach
A broad grass ridge, Gledrffordd, joins Craig Eigiau to its parent Foel Grach with an obvious path leading towards the summit. It's easy to wend around on the ridge - to the north, the small Llyn Melynllyn is well seen while the enormous Craig yr Ysfa dominates Carnedd Llewelyn's south-east ridge.
Craig Eigiau
Looking across Gledrffordd to Carnedd Llewelyn
Foel Grach and Melynllyn
The Gledrffordd ridge
Carnedd Llewelyn
Skies begin to darken
While plodding up to the summit of Foel Grach, the rain arrived and was falling quite heavily by the time I reached the very top. Luckily, the clouds remained high so I could still see the views around me. There's an emergency refuge built just below the summit and, given the rain, I had a quick look around and a pause as the worst of the weather passed.
Looking through Bwlch Eryl Farchog
Showers stream into the Conwy Valley
Approaching Foel Grach
Foel Grach's summit just as the rain arrived
The shelter below the summit
With full waterproofs on I began the climb towards the top of Carnedd Llewelyn along the Gwaun y Garnedd ridge, leaving the path occasionally to peer down into Cwm Eigiau and the tiny Ffynnon Llyffant. The rain had eased as I reached the top but, instead of aiming for the summit, I turned to the west, intent on visiting the outlying summit of Yr Elen.
Carnedd Gwenllian
A damp Carnedd Llewleyn and Yr Elen
Ffynnon Llyffant with added rain spot for effect
The north ridge of Carnedd Llewelyn
Clouds draped across the lower slopes of Carnedd Gwenllian
Looking back to Foel Grash as the weather clears
A trip out to Yr Elen is well worth the extra effort - the high ridge that attaches it to Carnedd Llewelyn is a spectacular place and the crag-rimmed Cwm Caseg is stunning. Yr Elen itself also has fine views to the west and an up-close aspect of the western faces of the high Carneddau. While tramping around on Yr Elen I noticed the SAR helicopter heading into the Ogwen valley - sadly this turned out to be a response to a fatality on Tryfan, rather than a training exercise.
Yr Elen pokes up above the ridge of Carnedd Llewelyn
Yr Elen
Carnedd Dafydd
Elidir Fawr and the immense Atlantic Slab of Carnedd y Filiast
Yr Elen
Yr Elen's summit looking to Carnedd Gwenllian
Carnedd Llewelyn from Yr Elen
After returning to Carnedd Llewelyn, I sought shelter from the wind for a quick bite to eat before continuing my route east, descending the ridge of Penywaun Wen. It's easy walking above the huge wall of Craig yr Ysfa until a final rocky step needs to be negotiated at the very end - this can be tricky in the wet or if it's icy.
Carnedd Llewelyn
Yr Elen
Cwm Caseg
Foel Grach and Carnedd Gwenllian
Carnedd Llewelyn's summit
Penywaun-wen and Ffynnon Llugwy
Moel Siabod and Ffynnon Llugwy
Tiny Ffynnon Llyffany in Cwm Eigiau
Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach
Cwm Eigiau
Ffynnon Llugwy
Pen yr Helgi Du and Fynnon Llugwy
The rock step on Penywaun-wen
The step drops you onto the narrow Bwlch Eryl Farchog, a superb arĂȘte that separates Cwm Eigiau from Cwm Llugwy. Ahead is the imposing north-west ridge of Pen yr Helgi Du.
Bwlch Eryl Farchog and Pen yr Helgi Du
Carnedd Dafydd
Craig yr Ysfa
Despite first appearances, the short scramble up the ridge should pose no problems while affording fantastic views back across the bwlch, Craig yr Ysfa and Carnedd Llewelyn as well as aerial views of Cwm Eigiau to the east and Cwm Llugwy to the west. The scramble ends at the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du.
The north-west ridge of Pen yr Helgi Du
Craig yr Ysfa and Cwm Eigiau
Carnedd Llewlyn and Craig yr Ysfa
Pen yr Helgi Du is a fine mountain with a broad, grassy summit and is shaped much like an arrowhead - the north-west ridge forming the point. I still had quite a way to go so I didn't hang around for too long, beginning my descent down the east ridge into Bwlch y Tri Marchog - the pass of the three horsemen. The pass has its own minor top, Clogwyn Llech Lefn - it would have been rude to pass it by.
Pen yr Helgi Du's summit
Tryfan and the Glydrau
Capel Curig and Moel Siabod
The climb up Pen Llithrig y Wrach is fairly dull, a grassy tramp at the end of a long day. Still, upon reaching the top a superb view of Llyn Cowlyd, Wales' deepest lake, is revealed. Across the water are two of the less-frequented Nuttalls; Creigiau Gleision and its North Top. I'd get some much better photos of them this time I was here.
Pen Llithrig y Wrach
Cwm Eigiau
Pen Llithrig y Wrach
An interested onlooker
Looking back towards Pen yr Helgi Du and Carnedd Llewelyn
Pen Llithrig y Wrach's summit
With the final descent in sight, I spent some time checking in at HQ, enjoying the weather and solitude of Pen Llithrig y Wrach, contemplating its curious name. Translated it means the slippery peak of the witch, perhaps a reference to surrounding bogs and its resemblance to an archetypal witch's hat.
The craggy Gallt yr Ogof
Tryfan, Bristly Ridge and Glyder Fach
Llyn Cowlyd
Creigiau Gleision
Craig Eigiau and Llyn Eigiau
Ranks of wind turbines
Cwm Eigiau
A long but easy descent through the heather leads from Pen Llithrig y Wrach to Craig Ffynnon and, eventually, to one of the old mine roads that litter Wales. This one, in particular, formed the route of the Eigiau Tramway, a narrow gauge, horse-powered tramway which operated from in the late 1800s and served the Eigiau slate quarry. One of the remaining bridges is still visible today.
Creigiau Gleision
Craig yr Ysfa and Carnedd Llewelyn
Craig Eigiau
The ridge to Craig Ffynnon
Craig Eigiau
The valley of Afon Ddu
The quarry road
The track leads to the breached dam wall of the Eigiau reservoir. The dam burst in 1925, following over 600mm of rain in just five days, killing 17 people in the village of Dolgarrog.
The breached dam
The breached dam
Pen Llithrig y Wrach
Pen Llithrig y Wrach and the breached dam
Cwm Eigiau
A straight track leads from the breached dam back to the car park where the car was duly awaiting my return. This is a spectacular walk from start to finish and one I thoroughly enjoyed as I continue my exploration of North Wales.