Yr Elen and the Cwm Llafar Horseshoe from Gerlan
This walk in the Carneddau that is just a little wilder than the usual Ogwen and Aber ascents
|13.3 km||994 m||7 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish: Gerlan (SH632664), or Lay by at SH638660.
None on route. Pubs and shops in Bethesda.
River crossing. Steep, loose ascents. Sections of tricky boulder scrambling. Navigation over pathless sections or the whole route in mist!
Buses from Bangor or Bethesda.Traveline for UK Public Transport
Parking and Post Code for Sat Nav (where applicable):
Very limited – suggest starting in the village.
Check out our Best Mountain Weather Forecast?
Yr Elen and the Cwm Llafar Horseshoe from Gerlan Route Map and GPX Download
Summits and Places on this Route
Yr Elen and the Cwm Llafar Horseshoe from Gerlan Details
The ascent of Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewelyn via Cwm Llafar is just a little wilder than the usual Ogwen and Aber ascents. You soon find yourself off the path, and either navigating over quaking mires or loose boulders. If you like a bit of off path action, this is for you. As an added bonus, you get to climb Yr Elen and both Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd.
Yr Elen and the Cwm Llafar Horseshoe from Gerlan Full Route Guide
1 The walk starts from Gerlan, which is one of the parts of Bethesda. From Gerlan Road in the village continue along this road for a kilometre or so, ignoring the first uphill junction to your left. Continue past the farm at Gwaun y Gwial (ignoring the footpath signs here) and continuing right along the track seen in the photo below. You’ll need to turn left at the next farm.
2 Cross the stile into the first field. The path is intermittent, occasionally damp, and you need to keep an eye out for the way-posts to navigate across this rough farmland. It’s simple enough, and the path soon becomes easy to follow along the south bank of the Afon Llafar.
3 You can follow this path as far as you like, but you need to be picking your spot to cross the Afon Llafar safely. You’ll want to be heading towards the higher ground on the opposite side of the valley, marked as Braich y Brysgyll on the map. This is the start of the Elen ridge. A good point to strike out from is where the path passes a few sheepfolds on the opposite side of the river and there are some ahead on the same side. Between these the path crosses a wall (SH 648 654) which you can follow to the river.
4 Take your best guess to cross the flat land, we followed a small stream (not marked on the map) that had short grass, but was very boggy. Care will be needed to cross here under wet conditions. Tack up to the first summit on the ridge, barely much more than a few rocks at the start of the ridge but you are already at 500m.
5 The journey becomes much easier now, as there is a path to follow. It is steep and grassy in places, with some flat sections. Foel Ganol is a welcome respite if you like a break on the way up, but nothing will save you from the final, loose, relentless pull up Yr Elen. The only redemption is that once the path flattens out, you are on the top; no false summits here.
6 The summit of Y Elen is an airy viewpoint, as was the ascent, and you can peer into Cwm Caseg and it’s tiny tarn. At the ‘summit’ to the left, you can look down a scree filled gully that is apparently an ascent route. What is also clear is the magnificent ridge walk you have ahead. From Yr Elen to Carnedd Llewelyn, over to Dafydd and down Mynydd Du.
7 It is straightforward now. An easy descent to Bwlch Cwm Caseg (named from the Cwm, un-named on the map) then leads to the last bit of noticable effort as you regain altitude to the top of Carnedd Llewelyn. This can be tricky in mist, and I leave it to you and your map to work the best route in that case.
8 There is only a single shelter on the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn, so stuff in and make sure old ladies with walking poles don’t poke your eye out as they leave. Today it was exceptionally windy, the chill must have brought the temperature down to close to freezing. Of course, I’d laughed at the thought of bringing gloves the night before.
9 Now you’re warm again, you follow the most obvious path southwards and cross the wide, easy ridges of Bwlch Cyfryw-drum and Cefn Ysgolion Duon. There is some easy scrambling here if you want it, but nothing exciting, and all avoidable. Make the most of the views here towards Yr Elen, Pen yr Helgi Du and the Glyderau, and you are atop Carnedd Dafydd before you know it.
10 There is a complex of shelters on the summit of Carnedd Dafydd, but none provided respite in today’s hoolie. So instead of lunch, it was a descent instead. From the shelters, continue towards the summit and drop down to it’s right where a path of consolidated scree leads down, which still needs a care as it would move underfoot. Careful navigation is required here, as you can clearly see the grassy ridge of Mynydd Du ahead, but beyond the bouldery slopes of Carnedd Dafydd.
11 You will need to avoid these boulders by keeping right and on the scree path – rather than crossing the boulder field. It’s doable on the grippy rock, but a right pain to cross!
12 What’s left is a pleasant, grassy ridge walk that takes you down to the path you left this morning. There are some exposed sections on the right if you want them, with revealing views of Carnedd Dafydd’s cliffs. Once you are back on the path , retrace your steps back to the starting point.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.
Latest posts by Dave Roberts (see all)
- Keen Men’s Karraig Boot Review - June 14, 2019
- Navigation Skills 3 – What’s the best map for walking? - June 3, 2019
- Best Walks from Ladybower Reservoir and the Upper Derwent Valley - February 23, 2019