Carneddau in the Clag

After an amazing overnight camp in the Carneddau in April, I had high hopes for Saturday’s last-minute decision to camp somewhere around Carnedd Llewellyn. The weather had been great, the suntan lotion was packed – but needless to say, things didn’t quite work out as intended.

I always love the cross-country blat up the back roads from Welshpool via Llangynog, with the Berwyns and  Hirnants either side of you, and Arenig Fawr on the skyline as you head downhill into Bala. The profiles of the Snowdonia mountains as the A5 climbs up from Cerrigydrudion was stunning, but tops all looked a little blurry…

I stopped for a pee at about 7:30  in Bettws. Not recommended, as the main public loos (20p a visit) were shut, with just a single loo (and queue to match) in operation. Worse yet, it was just a loo. No basin, towel, soap or hand-dryer.  0/10.

Onwards to Ogwen,  and I was parked in the long lay-by below Tryfan and walking by 8.05, giving me about 90 mins before sunset. Wanting to be camped up high not too long after then, I took the reservoir road to Ffynnon Llugwy, then climbed up to the ridge below Craig Yr Ysfa. I could see cloud just over the tops, but it was tantalizingly coming and going. Across the valley, Y Garn and Tryfan were both still clear. Before you reach the ridge, there’s one damp corner on the path which is worth exploring . You’ll see plenty of Butterwort (all in flower at the moment), but if you search carefully you can also find Sundew (also insectivorous) and  Milkwort here.

After you reach the ridge, there’s a brief but simple scramble up over Craig yr Ysfa. It feels pretty innocuous going up, but looking down the sense of exposure is phenomenal as you can’t easily see the ledge at the start of the scramble. As I reached the top, I had a bad twinge of cramp in one calf muscle, and decided that now would be a good time to find a pitch. At around 9:45 I found a flat spot with decent shelter and put the tent up and got supper on the go, watched by eight wild Carneddau horses, including a foal that can only have been a few weeks old.

After the daylight went, I took a map, compass and headtorch and headed on up for a wander.  The fog had come down noticeably, and while the torch was great for seeing the rocks I was walking on it was little use for identifying the path. I turned round after about 20 mins and navigated my way carefully back to the tent.

Plenty of rain in the night, and I could hear the wind getting up, but the Scarp was brilliant, even though I’m still working out how to get it rigged best. It was light around five, but I dozed on until seven when I saw how little I could see outside…

I got the camera out to capture the tent in all the clag, only to be greeted by a “Please Charge Battery” message, and little else. The weather had closed in, and visibility was down to about 20 yards. I ate and packed, then headed on up to the summit, waterproofs now on. The original plan was to go out and back to Yr Elen, on to Carnedd Dafydd, then back to the car via the SE ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen, but Yr Elen would wait for another day.

I met the first group of the day as I headed down towards the Black Ladders – a Paddy Buckley runner with a small group of supporters. He’d been running for around 21 hours and would have covered about 90km over 40 peaks in that time.

The wind picked up on the ridge to Carnedd Dafydd, and got even stronger below Pen yr Ole Wen at the head of Cwm Lloer, but as I dropped down the ridge towards the A5, the rain had stopped and I came out below the cloud. The weather had taken it out of me more than I’d realised, as I was slow, tired, and far from confident on the short gully scramble down to the Afon Lloer. From there, you head to the ladder stile, and then the way to the road is marked by the occasional white post.

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