Cfen Ysgolion Duon, above the Black Ladders.

Hendre Isaf NT Base Camp &

The Carneddau Range,

 Snowdonia - 2


15th - 17th April 2011

What came next I had not remotely anticipated or prepared myself for. In order to reach the highest peak on our walk, that of Carnedd Llewellyn, we first had to navigate along a narrow ridge with a steep drop on either side and though I would not describe it as knife-edge, I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. Apart from being quite steep, the ridge, known as Bwlch Eryl Farchog, was still shrouded in fairly dense mist. Due to the dramatic nature of the landscape and my innate need to capture it all on camera, I was inevitably trailing behind the others. On the descent down to a sort of saddle, Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir suddenly came into view to the south. As the vast expanse of Cwm Llugwy, carved out millions of years ago by glacial activity, opened up before us, I stood there in total awe, speechless with wonder. What a breathtaking place, God's own country, as Dave later described it. It was then that a number of hikers who had taken the path past Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir had reached the ridge below the section of the ridge we had just descended, meaning that they had bypassed Pen yr Helgi Du altogether. The ridge then rises up to a vast plateau. Here the views of Cwm Eigiau to the north are even more spectacular and Tim went off to explore the edge of Craig yr Ysfa. Ahead of us, Dave and Dougie continued across Penywaun wen as it rises steadily towards Carnedd Llewellyn, whilst Tim and I trailed behind. Tim was keen to stop for lunch sometime soon prior to reaching the summit, as the wind tends to increase the chill factor above the cloud line. I preferred to press on and get the worst of the climb over with, so I decided to join Dave, who subsequently had a change of heart and went back down again! I found some shelter just short of the summit and proceeded to munch on my rye bread Leicester cheese and salami sandwiches, washed down with tea from my flask, whilst enjoying the scenery. It wasn't long before Tim and Dougie joined me, leaving Dave behind! Strange but true.


The saddle of Bwlch Eryl Farchog, with Cwm Eigiau to the left.


Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir, carved out millions of year ago by glacial activity.


Dougie up ahead as we ascend the ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog towards the plateau, where the path continues along Penywaun Wen.



The path across Penywaun Wen rises steadily towards Carnedd Llewelyn, at 1064 metres, the highest point of the Carneddau range.


View from the plateau on the edge of Craig yr Ysfa down Cwm Eigiau; Dougie, Tim & Dave press on up Penywaun Wen.


View of Cwm Eigiau from Craig yr Ysfa - the dome to the right is Pen yr Helgi Du, our first summit of the day.


Tim on the edge of the world along Craig yr Ysfa, above Cwm Eigiau.


Afon Eigiau from Craig yr Ysfa.


The ascent of Penywaun Wen, looking back - ahead, the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du and the ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog - to the right, the reservoir of Ffynnon Llugwy.


Heading south, we descended the highest point of the Carneddau range, leaving behind the cairn stack at its summit. From this point onwards, one descends Bwlch Cyfryw-drum, before reaching a long of ridge known as Cefn Ysgolion Duon, both of which join Carnedd Llewellyn with the next highest though not final summit of the day, Carnedd Dafydd, a cairn designating its altitude at 1044 metres. Though the path had been clear along the ridge, the valley below to the west-north-west, now shrouded in cloud, can only be ascended by specialist climbers. It is known as Ysgolion Duon or The Black Ladders, scary stuff indeed and not for the faint-hearted, if the link below - Welsh winter climbs - doesn't convince you! We passed many folk en route, not least a group of possibly two dozen school kids, mostly girls, in a group, bounding across Cefn Ysgolion Duon, illustrating how people of all ages enjoy and appreciate the splendour of the British landscape and its hills and mountains. Even fell runners were to be seen, the norm rather than the exception on most mountains of England and Wales. From Carnedd Dafydd, the route continues to another set of cairns known as Carnedd Fach, where, looking south-east, a smaller lake in the valley below known as Cwm Lloer, can now be viewed head-on. The lake, first visible as we descended  Bwlch Cyfryw-drum, is known as Ffynnon Lloer. Beyond it to the east the landscape gives way to Ogwen Valley, along which runs the A5 back to Betws-y-Coed. The Afon Lloer (River Lloer) flows from this lake down to another larger lake (still out of view at this stage) located adjacent to the A5. We stopped for another sandwich and tea which may have been at either Carnedd Dafydd or Carnedd Fach, sheltering within the walls of a cairn structure. Each member of our hiking club as his/her own preferred habit - Tim explained that he likes to take 3 lunch-breaks. John Adams, on the other hand, religiously stops at one o'clock precisely, even if you're hanging by your pants from a cliff overhang! I am partial to my stops too!


The first shot after lunch! Reaching the cairns of Carnedd Llewelyn, at 1064 metres, the highest point of the Carneddau range.


View from Carnedd Llewelyn. A smaller lake, known as Ffynnon Lloer, comes into view, nestled in the valley known as Cwm Lloer.


View from Carnedd Llewelyn at 1064 metres, the remaining section of the walk up ahead, shrouded in mist.


The descent of Bwlch Cyfryw-drum from Carnedd Llewelyn.


Dougie, Tim & Dave on the descent of Bwlch Cyfryw-drum towards Cefn Ysgolion Duon (above the Black Ladders).


The summit of Pen yr Helgi Du, below it the ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog and the splendour of Cwm Llugwy, the reservoir of Ffynnon Llugwy nestled in its midst.


The cairns can be seen on the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du (looking back), below it the ridge and saddle of Bwlch Eryl Farchog.


Slate rock.


On walks in any part of England and Wales you will find people of all ages - here the young encounter the older generation!


Snowdonia is a region in north Wales and a national park of 838 square miles (2,170 km2) in area, designated as such in 1951. The English name for the area derives from Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560 ft (1,085 m). In Welsh, the area is named Eryri. One assumption is that the name is derived from eryr ("eagle"), but others state that it means quite simply Highlands. In the Middle Ages the title Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia (Tywysog Cymru ac Arglwydd Eryri) was used by Llwelyn ap Gruffudd; his grandfather Llwelyn Fawr used the title Prince of north Wales and Lord of Snowdonia. Prior to the designation of the boundaries of the National Park, the term "Snowdonia" was generally used to refer to a much smaller area. The traditional Snowdonia thus includes the ranges of Snowdon and its satellites, the Glyderau, the Careneddau and the Moel Siabod group. The Park is governed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which is made up of local government and Welsh representatives, and its main offices are at Penrhyndeudraeth. More than 26,000 people live within the Park, of whom about 62% can speak at least some Welsh. The Park attracts over 6 million visitors annually, split almost equally between day and staying visitors, making it the third most visited National Park in England and Wales. Whilst most of the land is either open or mountainous land, there is a significant amount of agricultural activity within the Park.

Snowdonia may be divided into four areas:

  • The northernmost area is the most popular with tourists, and includes (from west to east) Moel Hebog, Mynydd Mawrand the Nantlle Ridge; the Snowdon Massif; the Glyderau; and the Carneddau. These last three groups are the highest mountains in Wales, and include all Wales' 3000-foor mountains and are as such included in a list of what are known as the Welsh 3000s.

  • The second area includes peaks such as Moel Siabod, Cnicht, the Moelwynion, and the mountains around Blaenau Ffestiniog.

  • The third area includes the Rhinogydd in the west as well as the Arenig and the Migneint (this last being an area of bog), and Rhobell Fawr. This area is not as popular with tourists as the other areas, due to its remoteness.

  • The southernmost area includes Cadair Idris, the Tarren range, the Dyfi hills, and the Aran group, including Aran Fawddwy, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom south of Snowdon.

Many of the hikers in the area concentrate on Snowdon itself. It is regarded as a fine mountain, but can become quite crowded, particularly

with the Snowdon Mountain Railway running to the summit.


Enjoying a (second) lunch/tea break at the cairns on Carnedd Fach. Dave checks the GPS.


Ffynnon Lloer comes into view, nestled in the valley known as Cwm Lloer.


Dougie, Dave & Tim somewhere near Carnedd Fach behind them are the mountains of the Snowdon Massif.



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