Another outing over the Carneddau, coinciding with a window of one and a half days of decent weather in the current wet and cold. The trip had to be fitted around dropping my son off early on a Saturday and then collecting him late on the Sunday morning. As I drove along the A55, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Arriving at Ogwen around 9:30am it was already busy and I ended up parking opposite the MAM hut at Glan Dena.
Getting out of the car, I could see that the Glyders were clear, but there was a thin cap of cloud over Pen yr Ole Wen. I wanted to do a decent walk on the Saturday, with a camp on a summit, leaving a short walk on Sunday morning giving me plenty of time to get back to collect my son. MWIS had promised that most summits would be clear of cloud and the wind and rain wouldn't arrive until Sunday afternoon. On that basis I decided to do a traverse of the main Carneddau ridge and camp on Pen yr Helgi Du.
I packed my sack and set off past the MAM hut to join the south east ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen. I had done the treverse the other way round last year with one of my daughters whilst wearing my Inov8 Roclite 295's. I had found these to be very comfortable, even when carrying a load. However, after all the wet weather I knew that I would probably get wet feet, but in the end decided the greater comfort of the Inov8's outweighed the dryer feet if I wore boots. I managed to get only slightly damp feet on the pull up to the foot of the south east ridge through several boggy patches.
Before starting up the ridge I filled my water bottles from the stream. One disadvantage of the Carneddau is the lack of any reliable water supply on the summits. Showell Styles in his "Backpacking in Wales" describes the position of a spring on ????, but I have never located it, although to be honest I haven't looked that hard. I shouldered my rucksack, which had suddenly gone from "quite light" to "heavy" with the addition of 3 kilos of water.
At the foot of the rocky gully I passed someone going quite slowly, who said that he was part of a party walking over to Aber. Higher up I met his companions, who said that he had the keys for their car parked at Aber, so one way or another he was going to get there! The upper section of the south east ridge seems to go on for ever. Each small rise leading to yet another flatter section, which in turn leads to another small rise. You can't really see the summit until you emerge next to the cairn.
The top couple of hundred feet were misted out, so I didn't stop, but continued down to the col between Pen yr Ole Wen and Carnedd Dafydd. This was just below the cloud and I caught tantalising glimpses of the sea to the west and the Ogwen valley to the east. Once I started to gain height on the way to Carnedd Dafydd, I was once again shrouded in mist. I stopped briefly on the summit to put on my wind shirt, as there was a very cold breeze. Dropping down towards the Black Ladders I emerged from the mist. In front of me I could see that only the top of Carnedd Llewelyn was misted out. As I began climbing the final slope to its summit a minor miracle happened and the mist lifted. The summit was just clear of the clag when I reached it.
I thought I might wander over to Foel Grach. I wanted to have a look around the shelter just below the summit. At one time someone from down in the valley used to make weekly visits to the refuge to make sure it was kept tidy and in a good sate of repair. The last time I can remember visiting it was in 1982, when I signed the visitors book there. However, just as I began to set off over the plateau, the mist dropped again and the views disappeared. Decided to leave Foel Grach for another day, I retraced my steps to the summit of Carnedd Dafydd and began descending the ridge towards Craig yr Ysfa.
I soon dropped out of the cloud and stopped for lunch just off the path, where I had camped with my daughter on my last visit up here. After finishing lunch and having a bit of a rest, I set off towards Craig yr Ysfa. Peering over the cliffs I could see two climbers high on Amphitheatre Buttress. If we ever get a warm settled spell, this is one route I want to take the children up. It's probably one of my favourite climbs. The climbing is generally easy, but it is a compelling natural line, which finishes right on the summit. A real "mountaineering" route.
When I reached the awkward rock step just above Bwlch Eryl Farchog, there was a large party there. Fortunately, most of them had already climbed down, so I didn't have to wait long. At the Bwlch they discussed whether to descend directly to the reservoir track, or continue up to the summit of Pen yr Helgi du. In the end they decided to follow me up the short scramble that leads to the summit. It was only about 4:00pm when I reached the summit and I debated continuing on to Pen Llithrig y Wrach to camp there. However, I didn't fancy the trek back along the road the next morning. By descending from Pen yr Helgi Du I could avoid the road and walk along the old A5.
I set up the tent and made tea. By this time the cloud had cleared from all the summits and the cold clear air meant that the views were spectacular. Despite seeing quite a number of people out walking during the day, I didn't see a single person after 6:00pm. Shortly after 9:00pm I was treated to a spectacular sunset. the temperature began to drop rapidly and I retreated to my sleeping bag. I had a quiet night with almost no wind. However, over on the Arans v-g was experiencing high winds around Creiglyn Dyfi. Just goes to show how much conditions can vary, even over a relatively short distance.
I was up about 4:30am on the Sunday morning. Sunrise was due around 5:30am, but it was already light. Unlike my last camp up here the weather was good. It hadn't frozen during the night, but there was a very cold breeze. I had a quick cup of hot chocolate and some cereal bars before packing the tent up. I was away sometime before 6:00am and headed down the south ridge back towards the valley. The light from the rising sun made all sorts of interesting effects on the surrounding mountains. I was soon back by the road. I ended up getting the wettest feet of the whole trip in the short section of path between the road and the old A5, where I couldn't dodge a very boggy section, but had to wade through.
After a short rest in the car, I drove round to Pete's Eats for breakfast and a short browse around Joe Brown's. This ended in a shopping "accident". I noticed that they had some Inov8 Roclite 295, the same as the pair I was wearing. These are probably the most comfortable shoes I have had, both for general wear and for walking. Thinking that Inov8 would either discontinue them, or bring out an "improved" version I didn't like, I ended up buying another pair to replace my current pair when they wear out.