The Snowdonia Massif (courtesy of wiki).

Hendre Isaf NT Base Camp &

The Carneddau Range,

 Snowdonia - 1


15th - 17th April 2011


Hendre Isaf (meaning "lower winter dwelling") is a 400-year-old converted farm building on a 7,300-hectare estate that consists of 51 hill farms, forested valleys and high open moorland. It is still very much a working estate in a remarkably quiet and peaceful part of the Snowdonia National Park, yet only 6 miles east of Betws-y-Coed (pronounced "Betus-se-coi-ed"). Scanning framed photos taken before and after the conversion of the building, I could not help but wonder why the date, given as "Mei 2001", was written in German, until it dawned on me that the spelling was identical in Welsh. The delightful dwelling with its tiled flooring, open-plan kitchen, showers and lounge facilities, even has its own sprawling sofa, suggesting that "basecamp" tag might seem a tad inappropriate . Having taken the Friday off, I drove down in the morning with a colleague of mine, Dougie Bisset, whose Tom-Tom had inexplicably directed us off the M6 further north at The bunkhouse only being available around six in the evening, we decided to do some walking anyway, upon arrival in Betws-y-Coed in the early afternoon. Halfway up the A5 between Betws-y-Coed and Capel Curig we located a parking spot near Swallows Falls, as the series of waterfalls on the Afon Llugwy (River Llugwy) has been named. The climb, on the opposite side of the A5 to the river, took us through some forestland known as the artist's wood, until we reached a gravel road that led to a farm. Passing through the farm we eventually reached another gravel track which constituted a network of tracks. From a clearing we made out a number of wind turbines spinning hypnotically on a distant hillside. Suddenly a military jet flew low overhead from the east.



National Trust Basecamp Hendre Isaf, just outside Betws-y-Coed, North Wales.


Dougie and I encounter a pair of Highland cattle on our walk Friday near Ty Capel. [Photo courtesy of Doug Bisset]


Though the map indicated paths that led through the forest, it was obvious that many of the tracks weren't being used or were non-existent. So we found ourselves on the gravel roads mostly, though this did not deter from the enjoyment of the experience, particularly since the weather was quite splendid. Our aim was to reach a Roman Road known as Sarn Helen, named after the mother of Emperor Constantine, that ran to Rhiwddolion, an old slate quarry village. Making our way back down the hillside along a path, we passed a Landtrust cottage. Ty Capel, beside the stream that flows down the valley, was a school-cum-chapel in the days of the slate quarry. At the end of the nineteenth century the chapel served a community of 150 people. By the early twentieth century, the mines and quarries had closed and the miners drifted away to find employment elsewhere. Two cottages and the chapel were left abandoned until they were restored. Further down we encountered two red highland calves or kyloe on a farm, their eyes hidden by the hair of their fringe. Curiosity got the better of them and the fearlessly wandered over to the fence to greet us, their moist, pale noses sniffing as they strained through the fence. And what jolly friendly creatures they turned out to be! Passing through the artist's wood once more past Ty Hyll (The Ugly Cottage), we reached the A5. Crossing over this and the miner's bridge, we followed the Afon Llugwy back upstream beyond Swallows Falls, where the A5 crosses the river, reaching the car roughly three and a half hours after we had initially set out.

By the time we reached Hendre Isaf, some folk had arrived. Not all of the 17 beds in the bunkhouse had been fully subscribed and though I am usually afforded my own room due to popular demand, I was not expecting to be allocated a room which included its own en suite shower. I did however detect an element of jealousy creeping, based on some of the comments that did the rounds. We showered before driving down to a pub just outside Betws-y-Coed, for dinner. Our chief organisers, Martin Lighten and John Adams, away on walks on the Pennine Way and a holiday on Alderney channel island respectively, were notable absentees on this trip. Tim Porter seemed to have been given the responsibility of acquiring provisions, though it was Gordon who brought the stuff down in his car Friday. It was great to see Chris and Angelica along with 5-year old Mathew, who seems a walker in the making, like his dad. Maeve's fruit cake laced with alcohol had now become a feature of the hiking trips, a very generous gesture indeed.



View south-west on the morning of the walk, from the A5 towards Tryfan - the twin rocks of known as "Adam & Eve" can just be made out along the ridge.


View of the path along the farm road just off the A5, heading north-east.




Half an hour into the walk - view towards Tryfan along the canal running across the hillside. Tim, Dougie & Dave.


Reaching the footbridge at the canal, just below the incline known as Y Braich. Dave, Tim & Dougie.


Slogging it up the incline of Y Braich towards Pen yr Helgi Du, at 833 metres.


C'est moi at a small lake halfway up Y Braich wetland.


First view of of the valley to the north - Cwm Eigiau with Afon Eigiau (River Eigiau) flowinh through it and the old slate mines scarringthe landscape.


The descent of Bwlch Eryl Farchog ridge from Pen yr Helgi Du - Dougie an Tim up ahead.



The descent of Bwlch Eryl Farchog ridge - to the south the reservoir known as Ffynnon Llugwy appeared in the mist, in the valley of Cwm Llugwy.



Two contrasting views of Bwlch Eryl Farchog - looking back up the ridge (left) and looking down towards the saddle, with the others waiting for me.


Dave, Tim & Dougie in the saddle of Bwlch Eryl Farchog, looking north towards Cwm Eigiau and Afon Eigiau (River Eigiau).


The following morning, walking route options were discussed over breakfast and two main groups emerged. Maeve had been taking advice from Tim Porter on a walk off the B5106 they had done the previous day, through forests to higher ground affording views of a number of reservoirs. Dougie was in two minds but I decided to join Dave Ashby and Tim Porter, who were planning a circular walk on a route that would include Carnedd Llewellyn, at 1064 metres, the highest point of the Carneddau range in Snowdonia (also the highest highest peak in Wales after Mt Snowden) and Carnedd Dafydd, the third highest point in Wales, at 1044 metres. The four of us drove along the A5 west of Capel Curig until we reached a road that leads up to the reservoir known as Ffynnon Llugwy, parking at the gate. The weather was glorious though the peaks seemed shrouded in cloud. Looking south-west from the A5, we could clearly see a mountain group known as Glyderau (The Glyders), a name derived from the highest peaks in the range, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. The word Glyder is derived from the Welsh word Cludair, meaning "a heap of stones". Dave pointed the twin rocks of "Adam and Eve", each 3 metres high and 1.5 metres apart, which hikers often jump across, on the summit of Tryfan. We set off on our walk. Many hikers take the path up the road towards the reservoir however, after leaving the A5 a bit further back towards Capel Curig along a farm road after crossing a cattle grid, a path swings up the hillside until one reaches a stile, after which a footbridge allows one to cross a canal running across the landscape for miles. From here its a long. hard slog up an incline known as Y Braich until one reaches the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du, at 833 metres. Below this to the north lies the valley known as Cwm Eigiau and Afon Eigiau (River Eigiau), with visible evidence of disused slate works. The summit shrouded in cloud, we were cold, so we continued on.


Leaving the saddle of Bwlch Eryl Farchog, we ascend the ridge to the plateau, where the path continues along Penywaun Wen.


Another view of Afon Eigiau.


The path along Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir rises up to the saddle along Bwlch Eryl Farchog ridge - a hiker can be seen in the foreground.


This view north-east of Cwm Eigiau, with the old slate works below clearly visible and Afon Eigiau flowing down the valley.


The Carneddau Range, Snowdonia [1] [2] [3]

[UK - index] [Home Page]


Links to other websites:

  • National Trust Hendre Isaf Basecamp - webpage

  • National trust Craflwyn Basecamp - website

  • National accommodation, Snowdonia - webpage

  • Betws-y-Coed pronunciation - webpage

  • Betws-y-Coed - town website

  • Mountain hiking in Snowdonia (photos) - a website

  • The Carneddau (photos) - a webpage

  • Views of the Carneddau from Foel Goch - webpage

  • Carneddau walk & track (similar to the walk we did) - a webpage

  • Carneddau walk (photos) by Rambling Pete - a webpage

  • Fifteen peaks of Snowdonia - webpage

  • Welsh winter climbs (The Black Ladders) - wikipage

  • Tryfan and Adam & Eve - wiki