The heights of Eryri.
Snowdonia contains all of the tallest mountains in Wales. Five of these are over 1000 metres (significantly taller than anything in South Wales, where Pen y Fan tops out at 886 metres). Two of these peaks are in the Snowdon range, two are in the Carneddau, and one is in the Glyderau. The two highest are Yr Wyddfa (1085 metres) and Carnedd/Garnedd Ugain (1065 metres) - summit of the Crib y Ddysgl ridge, and are generally thought of as Snowdon (renamed by the Victorians). However, correctly, the name Snowdon refers to the massif, and the peaks have their own Welsh names. The Glyderau massif contains the fifth and sixth highest peaks. The Glyder Fawr peak is fifth highest, at 1001 metres, but at the time of this trip, it was thought to be 999 metres, and although it would have been possible to stand on the summit cairn and claim to be at 1 km, that would have been considered cheating.
Snowdon is a wasted mountain. Being the tallest in Wales (far taller than anything in England) it is obviously a major attraction. The path to the top is more like a road, with a continual flow of traffic in the form of tourists, walking to the top. I have no desire whatsoever to accompany the traffic jam. To make it worse, there is a mountain railway to the top, which totally takes the shine off a walk. Getting to the top of a personal investment only to find that the lazy have already got there by train and look down on you? No thanks. Crib y Ddysgol is better, being at the end of the precipitous Crib Goch route. However, it is usually visited only as the summit on the way to Yr Wyddfa, so once again, no thanks.
For this reason, I had never broken 1000 metres in Wales until now (the previous record was 893 metres on Cadair Idris). This is due to not looking far enough North. A couple of ridges North is the Carneddau massif, with two of the other 1 km peaks. This walk will conquer them both. The tallest is just 21 metres lower than Yr Wyddfa, and that is a worthwhile sacrifice, as far as I am concerned. I consider these far more worthy achievements, and can have the pride of knowing I walked a wild route up the third and fourth tallest mountains in Wales, and finally broke 1000 metres.
- The weather forecast showed this was going to be the best day of the holiday, but the start was less than promising. Looking over Llyn Gwynant towards Snowdon and the Glyderau, none of the tops were showing. The Carneddau climb over 500 metres beyond the cloudbase, and I nearly turned around at this point.
- Then at the end of the Glyderau (Y Foel Goch, 805 metres, and Gallt yr Ogof, 763 metres) and the end of the Carneddau (where Llethr Gwyn is the highest at 678 metres), the clouds cleared, leaving the Carneddau bathed in sunshine for the entire day (the only day that it was clear for the whole holiday).
- The Carneddau.
- Tryfan (917 metres), by far the most popular of the Glyderau, and the second most popular of all the peaks in Snowdonia. It looks absolutely superb the way it rises above the surroundings, but even on this winter's day, there were hundreds of people climbing it. Too crowded for my tastes. Just to the left of it is Glyder Fach (994 metres).
- The firsts of my targets; Pen yr Ole Wen (978 metres). Steeply up the right side, on a path that does not exist, up the crags above the farmhouse. Every description I could find told me to go that way instead of following the obvious footpath up the let side shown on the map. They were right.
- The immense amphitheatre of the Glyderau where my walk started. Tryfan, the Glyder Fawr ridge (1001 metres), Y Garn (947 metres) and Foel-goch (831 metres). This is the view that would accompany the climb. All of the Tryfan climbers spent most of the day in the fog while I was enjoying this. Hah!
- Nestled in the middle is the frozen Llyn Ogwen.
- Clouds pouring over the ridge between Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr.
- Clogwyn Mawr crags on Carneddau.
- Looking down the Afon Llugwy towards the ends of the Carneddau and Glyderau.
- Carnedd Dafydd (1044 metres) - the hump on the right, not the spikes - from Ffynnon Lloer. This was to be my next target, my first Welsh peak over 1000 metres.
- Pen yr Helgi Du (833 metres), Pen Llithrig y Wrach (799 metres) and Llethr Gwyn, the Eastern Carneddau.
- Carnedd Dafydd from the crags on Pen yr Ole Wen, showing the drop down to Ffynnon Lloer.
- Tryfan surviving the cloud cover of the Glyderau.
- The Carnedd Dafydd ridge with Carnedd Llewellen in the background, taken from Pen yr Ole Wen. A new Welsh altitude record; 978 metres. On the left is the edge of Ynys Môn.
- From the ridge is the breathtaking view over the Glyderau. Y Garn, Foel-goch, Elidir Fawr (924 metres) which connects to the main ridge at Mynydd Pervedd (812 metres), and Carnedd y Filiast (821 metres). On the far right is the mess from a slate quarry. There is a far worse one on the other side of the ridge, but thankfully it was too dark to use my camera when I saw it, so you shall be spared the horror.
- Foel-goch looks absolutely stunning from up here.
- Setting a new Welsh altitude record on Carnedd Dafydd; 1044 metres.
- Looking towards Carnedd Llewelyn (1064 metres), across Ysgolion Duon, the Black Ladder. The cliff is 200 metres, and the valley starts another 100 metres below it. To the left are many more summits in the range, but all are less than 1000 metres. The most obvious one is Foel-fras (942 metres), with Garnedd Uchaf (926 metres) appearing as a low lump in front of it.
- Frozen waterfalls on the cliff.
- Below Carnedd Dafydd, the cliff reaches its highest, with a drop of 500 metres from the peak to the start of the valley.
- Carnedd Llewelyn across the Bwlch Cyfryw-drum ridge. The distance and climb is deceptive. Or perhaps I was just tired after rushing to complete the walk while the daylight lasted. Either way my knee hates me.
- Pen yr Helgi Du.
- Setting a third Welsh altitude record, 1064 metres on the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn.
- Drips blown into ice spikes on the summit rocks.
- The way down off the Carneddau, towards Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach. The way down follows the Bwlch Eryl Farchog ridge to its lowest point, then drops beside Ffynnon Llugwy. From there it follows the road to the main road in the valley and up to the car. There is an alternative along Pen yr Helgi Du, but my knee was failing me, and I needed to cut the walk short. I had originally intended to return the way I came anyway, so I was not missing anything.
- The huge 300 metre drop from Bwlch Eryl Farchog into Cwm Eigiau. The path runs right beside this drop.
- The razor sharp Bwlch Eryl Farchog.
- Carnedd Llewelyn from Ffynnon Llugwy.