Carneddau Backpack

It was the week of the Royal Wedding, which I wasn't interested in watching. The weather, which had been warm and sunny for weeks, looked as though it would hold out for at least two more days, so I decided to go to North Wales for a couple of days.

I intended to follow one of v-g two day routes over the Southern Carneddau. I had done the section traversing the main ridge, from Pen yr Ole Wen to Carnedd Llewelyn and then on over Pen yr Helgi Du, as a day walk several times in the past.

I arrived in Capel Curig about 10:00am and easily found a space in the car park behind Joe Browns. I wasn't sure about leaving the car there overnight, but couldn't find any signs forbidding overnight parking. Before setting off on the walk, I called in at the Pinnacle store to get a sandwich for lunch and buy a bottle of Sprite.

When I had finished packing my sack, I set off down the old A5 towards Ogwen. I walked past Gallt yr Ogof and soon the East face of Tryfan appeared round the side of the hill. The walk along the valley seemed further than I remembered, but soon I was passing through the two camp sites of Gwern Gof Isaf and Gwern Gof Uchaf. The track emerges onto the A5 nearly opposite to the Glan Dena path. The footpath is waymarked and proceeds uphill next to the wall of ???. After a short distance the wall is crossed via a ladder style and the path carries on uphill. This section can be wet, but the month of dry weather ensured that the ground was bone dry. The path follows the Afon Lloer up towards Ffynnon Lloer, which remains invisible until you are on the south ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen.

The south ridge is a pleasant easy scramble and much preferable to the horrible slog of the normal route from Ogwen. It was while I was making my way up the steep slope to the bottom of the south ridge that I began to realize how heavy my sack felt. It had been fine in the valley, but was really slowing me down going uphill. Usually, I am quick going uphill, but slow on descents. This time I was really struggling going up.

I stopped to refill my two Platypus one litre bottles and the 600ml Sorite bottle from the Afon Lloer. I was aware that I wasn't going to find any more water from here until I reached Llyn Colwyd the next day. In his book "Backpacking in Wales", Showell Styles describes finding a spring near ????, but I didn't think I would be so lucky. I needed to cook at least one dehydrated meal, have a couple of hot drinks and also have water to drink for the rest of today. I had worked out that two and a half litres would probably be enough, but ideally I would have liked a bit more, especially as it was a hot day.

The South ridge seemed to go on for a very long way, but eventually I arrived at the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen, where I flopped down by the cairn. I ate a couple of Kellogs bars and drank some of my water and began to feel a bit better. Now I had gained the plateau most of the ascent was over and my heavy rucksack didn't seem quite as heavy.

I set off towards Carnedd Dafydd over the stony ground. The views were spectacular, with no clouds and very little haze. Although it was half term week, there weren't that many people about. I stopped for another rest at the huge cairn just below the summit of Carnedd Dafydd, then made the short descent towards the top of Ysgolion Duon. The last time I had passed this way was after my winter ascent of Western Gully in 1986. We had emerged on the summit in the dark, it was a cloudless night and the moon was out. Stupidly I didn't use the compass and we ended up descending back to Ogwen, rather than Gerlan.

This time I could see my objective, Carnedd Llewelyn clearly in front of me, so there would be no excuse for getting lost! As I walked along the edge of the cliffs I began to feel a cold breeze from the East. By the time I had reached to foot of the SE ridge of Carnedd Llewelyn it was strong enough to buffet me about. Luckily I was sheltered on the ascent of the ridge, but on the summit I was once again exposed to the full force of the wind. Time was getting on and I was quite tired, so I abandoned my idea of going to look at the refuge on Foel Goch and set off down the descent towards Craig yr Ysfa.

A few hundred feet below the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn there was a flat grassy area away from the path. It was in a hollow sheltered from the strong easterly wind, with a jumble of rocks behind to give more shelter. I soon had the tent up and got the stove going so I could have a hot chocolate. I had to be careful how I moved, as I kept getting cramp in my legs. More worryingly my left calf muscle was quite swollen, although not painful. Eighteen months ago I had suffered a DVT in my right leg and I was fairly certain that I now had one in my left leg.

I didn't feel like a big meal, so finished off the remains of the sandwich I had bought in Capel Curig for lunch. Reviewing the water situation, I had enough to make a hot breakfast cereal and a couple more mugs of hot chocolate, whilst still having a bit more than a quarter of a litre to last me until I reached Llyn Colwyd. I settled into my sleeping bag and started listening to a few Podcasts on the iPod. A couple of times during the night I nipped outside to look at the stars and watch the light of the coastal towns. It was quite cold outside and according to my watch the temperature inside the tent was 2.7C, so it was probably about freezing outside.

I slept quite well, but was awake when it started to get light around 5:00am, although the sun didn't come up until nearly 6:00am. I made myself another hot chocolate and had a hot breakfast cereal, which I hoped would set me up for the day. My legs didn't feel too bad and most of the swelling around my left calf had gone down overnight.

I was packed up and ready to go shortly before 7:00am. I made my way down past Craig yr Ysfa stopping to look down at the top part of Amphitheatre Buttress and Pinnacle Wall. I met an early riser coming up the rock step on my way down to the col. Once I reached the col, I had another quick look at my left calf, which was now swollen up again, but not painful. I toyed with the idea of descending to the forestry road below and returning to Capel Curig along the valley. However, I didn't fancy the descent down the loose slope and decided to climb up to Pen yr Helgi Du and see how I felt. I always enjoy the scramble up this ridge and although there were a couple of low clouds blowing past, most of the sky was clear. The summit was closer to the top of the ridge than I remembered, which was a pleasant surprise. However, it was shrouded in mist when I arrived.

I had another look at my swollen leg and decided that I may as well continue over Pen yr Helgi Du and see how things went. I got out the map and took a bearing and of course as soon as I had done this the mist cleared and I could see exactly where I wanted to go. It's quite a long descent to ???? and I wasn't looking forward to the re-ascent up Pen Llithrig y Wrach. However, the slope wasn't as bad as it looked and I was soon over the steepest part. The summit was still some distance away, but it was easy going. I don't recall ever having climbed Pen Llithrig y Wrach before, it was a first for me. It was still early, so I had the summit to myself.

I drank the last of my water and began descending the South East ridge. On my way down I met three other people sweating up towards the summit. There is a small path most of the way down. However, I lost it a few hundred feet above the lake. I bush-whacked down the final descent through some tussocks and boulders to reach the path alongside Llyn Colwyd. My original intention was to continue along the ridge of Creigiau Gleision before dropping back into Capel Curig. However, I was concerned about the state of my leg and decided to climb up to the col above Llyn Colwyd and follow the path along leading South East past the end of Creigiau Gleision, back towards Capel Curig.

I had to cross the stream that runs into Llyn Colwyd, but the first bridge I came to was blocked off with wire. Looking at the map, I could see there was another bridge a short distance away. I filled my water bottle from the stream and set off. In a few hundred yards I came to the bridge and crossed over the stream. Once on the other side the path drops gently towards the A5 coming out near to a house called Bron Heulog. There remained a half mile walk along the road back to the car.

I made myself a couple of brews and set off for Pete's Eats in Llanberis for a fry up. A trip to the hospital the next day confirmed that I had another DVT, so back to taking the rat poison!