Carneddau – Aber to Trefriw
|25.8 km||1200 m|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
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Carneddau – Aber to Trefriw Details
This is a different approach to these hills, one that does leave you with difficulty in returning to your start point, but buses do pass through Trefriw. It’s also a route that contrasts along it’s way. You start in a wooded valley, cross moorland and secluded valleys, before crossing the highest land over Llewelyn. To top this off, you find yourself scrambling down Craig yr Ysfa and up Pen yr Helgi du before you finish the walk with a leisurely walk along Llyn Cowlyd and a leafy country lane takes you down to Trefriw.
We split the walk into three days, only as we wanted an extra wild camp in on the Friday night. It would be easily doable over two, with the decision to split into two even days and camp high (where you have to carry water to) or a strenuous and an easy day and camp lower. I suggest the spots i camped, but i do not give exact locations for obvious reasons. The two spots we did camp at were barely large enough for our small two man tent (TN Voyager Ultralight).
Distance, Ascent and Time 27km, 1500m, 10 hours
Difficulties Navigation on pathless sections and high Carneddau. Some difficult downclimbing with packs.
Start / End Aber to Trefriw
Facilities Cafe at Aber and Trefriw. Shop in Trefriw
Public Transport Sherpa Buses to Llanberis and Betws y Coed.
The walk starts from the Aber Falls car park at Bontnewydd, or from the A55 bus stop if you arrive by bus. As we intended to camp tonight, we took a lift to ensure plenty of time to find a suitable site. Take the path to the right of the bridge, through some pleasant forest, before it joins the main track. You are only on this track a short while, as you see a sign stating “Aber Falls via plantation”, follow this into the welcome shade of the forest.
There is really no navigation here, as the path leads you through the forest and out onto the scree slopes above the falls. The path here requires some care, as it is loose. Some sections are also a little exposed, including a section where the rocks are wet, slimy and difficult to cross. Once past this wet rock section, it’s straightforward enough, with the path leading into the boulder strewn Cwm yr Afon Coch. You may be lucky enough and find a pitch here for the night, but a rather lumpy one. Otherwise, continue along the clear path upstream until the slope on the opposite side is manageable.
Cross the stream (no bridges) and make your way up the slope. You will find a narrow path that contours around the hill that you will now need to follow. This gives an excellent view over the Cwm Rhaeadr Fawr. Again, read the terrain, and wait until the slopes on your left ease off. If you fancy a slog, then go for it. However, the path reaches a small grassy platform from where a barely discernable path starts uphill.
This is a slog anyway, and once over, Bera Mawr will be clear to your left. You will need to cross pathless and rough terrain to reach it, but there are faint paths you can follow. If visibility is good, you will see a platform that angles its way up through the crags, and this is what you need to aim for. There is a clearer path up here, and it leads past some interesting tors that are a great scramble up if you have the time. We contoured past Bera Mawr’s summit due to time wasted on some other tors, and continued across the flat moorland towards yr Aryg.
The best bet is to aim for the path that contours around Aryg on the far side of the moor, rather than make a beeline for it as this area appears boggy. The path is again difficult to follow in places, but soon takes you to the summit of Garnedd Uchaf, which we skirted around to find the good path up Foel Grach and Llewelyn.
Finally, with a path under our feet, we are able to climb up to Foel Grach,which is easily gained from here. Past its shelter, and taking the summit by a short scramble tothe left of the hut. The summit is unremarkable, and only the all round views make it worthstopping a while to get your breath back before climbing thefinal couple of hundred metres to Llewelyn. The path is easy for a short while, before it splits up where it becomes craggy, but find your way up and the path continues at the top clearly to the summit.
If it’s misty, then care is needed to descend the right way. In brightsunshine, this was easy as we could both see the ridge we were aiming for far below, and thelarge cairn at the top of the descent. The first section of descent is steep downto Penywaun Wen, along a zig zagging scree path, but eases for a while. The next section is the trickiest of the walk, and involves some committing down scrambling in sections. No doubt the worst is avoidable, but it’s more fun descending with legs jammed into cracks and hands keeping you from falling, wakes you up a bit.
Bwlch yr Eryl Farchog is a welcome respite, and despite being a narrow ridge, doesn’t feel exposed. The views down to Ffynnon Llygwy are worth a couple of shots from your camera. The ascent of Pen yr Helgi Du does feel exposed, and a scramble i found easy enough to descend recently, but harder to determine the best line from below. This is just a brief scramble, and you are soon at the underwhelming top.
Decisions need to be taken here. If you are on a day walk, then you can descend to Ogwn via Y Braich ridge, or if you were to continue for the day, then there is a clear path that takes you to the summit of Pen Llithrig and a path that’s intermittent in places that descends to the new footbridge at SH 716 609 and the path to Capel Curig or the continuation across to Llyn Cowlyd. We descended to the valley between Pen Llithrig and Pen yr Helgi Du as we were out of water and it had a river. Camping spots were few and far between in this tussocky terrain, but at least the water was plentiful and we found a spot just large enough for the tent (the tall grass made it very comfortable to sleep on).
To continue, follow the river, preferably on the right side as there is a steep gully across the other bank you will need to navigate around or descend steeply through gorse (ouch). You are aiming for the leat that contours around the hill as far as Maen Trichwmwd. This has a path alongside that is generally very good, but does show signs of being overgrown with gorse in places (all avoidable at present). The stiles to cross the fences at regular intervals are to be taken with care as they are often loose.
This easy walking takes you to a new footbridge that carries a bridleway from Capel Curig to Llyn Cowlyd and beyond. Day trippers will no doubt turn right to Capel, but the longer trip takes us along the pleasant shores of Llyn Cowlyd. The waters appear black, due to the peaty water and the depth of the lake.
Once past the dam at the end of the lake, which was clearly visible in this drought, you follow the track down initially along the large pipeline. The track veers away from the pipe, to arrive at a small car park at SH744 641, just note that this is a private car-park and not a public one. It is being used by a maintenance company at present. Turn right from the parking, and through a gate that marks the start of the yellow minor road (there’s a sign here prohibiting traffic from the track you just came from). There is some roadside parking here for those that are interested (2 cars?).
All that remains is to follow this minor road down to Trefriw, making sure that you look back at the Carneddau to admire this new aspect. You can also see Llyn Geirionydd to your right. The road leads directly opposite the Fairy Falls Hotel, or there is a cafe for those of a more temperate nature.