Llwytmor via Marian Rhaeadr-fawr
|17.24 km||1082 m|
Activivity Type: Hard Walk, Scrambling
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
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Llwytmor via Marian Rhaeadr-fawr
This is an alternative approach to Llwyd Mawr (Llwytmor) from Aber that avoids the usual route via the screes to Cwm Coch and instead takes a higher route across the scree slopes that is a little hairier in places! It isn’t wet like the lower path (a stream crosses one section) and takes you straight onto the higher slopes of Llwytmor Bach (Technically the Little Big Grey Hill!)
Alternatively, you can approach via the plantation in order to come out on the slopes, and is one we’ll cover later on.
Having completed numerous walks in the Carneddau over what is now over *cough* *cough* years of walking, I imagined that the only walks left from this end would be the dross. In the south, I’ve a couple of gems left to do, but in the rolling northern Carneddau there are only variations on a theme. I knew there was a direct route up Llwydmawr Bach – Little Big Grey Hill – which is noted on maps as Llwydmor and which I’ll use for clarity rather than correctness. I didn’t expect it to have many positives, bar the off path navigation practice I was sure to have.
You can start the route from the bus stop at the village, or at the car parks further up. The walk from the village is easy, along a narrow lane, with only cars to watch out for. It’s even signposted, so no excuse.
To confuse matters – there are two car parks for Aber Falls. If you start at the lower of the two, the one that’s directly next to the road, then you need to follow the path to the right along the riverside towards the falls.
If you park at the upper car park, reached by following the same road but crossing the road at Bont Newydd and taking a sharp right. Follow the directions and the car park here has proper toilets to boot, which the parking fees help towards funding. From this car park. follow the waymarked path through the forest, which soon joins up with the very easy and wide path up towards the falls.
If you’re dressed for the high mountains, you’ll look just as out of place here as you would on the summit of Snowdon at any time of year. This is dog walker, off chair buggy and walking off the Sunday lunch territory.
You can follow this path all the way to the falls, or alternatively take the path through the forest that brings you out above the falls but exactly where you need to be for the walk. Your choice.
Just before the falls, assuming you took the low road, there’s a path upwards towards the forest that’s easy to spot as there’s a National Trust Carneddau sign and a stile. You’ll need to add a short dogleg to visit the falls, which is well worth it. Follow this path upwards through the scree to the forest.
Looking ahead, the walk does look rather daunting. The lower path leads to Cwm yr Afon Goch, which feeds Rhaeadr Fawr. Confusingly, the river then changes it’s name to Afon Rhaeadr Fawr, and 2km further along to Afon Aber despite being the same river. However, you need to look up at our route. The keen of eye will spot a path contouring high above that leads directly towards the cliff face and with no obvious safe route. That’s your route.
To attain the higher path, your best bet is to just follow the forestry edge as there’s no single clear path. You could also continue along this route to attain the slopes of Llwydmawr Bach, but you’ll be missing out. Once on the path, we had a rather confused looking party who’d arrived at the edge of the forestry and were looking intently at our progress. They were clearly uncertain of the best route, or were just curious as to where we thought we were going!
The contouring path turns out to be quite pleasant, and less eroded than the one lower down, but the scree is still rather loose and you’ll need to take care not to cause too much movement. There’s a couple of places where the path itself is loose, but nothing hairy. The most worrying thing is that the way up the cliffs isn’t obvious until you actually reach them.
You turn a corner and you’re faced with a loose and muddy scree chute, where you’ll need to keep to your left and as close to the rock as possible as this provides the maximum stability. There’s some sweet exposure, nothing major, but enough to give the ascent some excitement.
This short section survived, and you’ll have a short section of very easy scrambling in front of you. It’s barely scrambling, but involves some largish steps in order to attain the next section of path. It’s also pretty steep, with no indication of a way ahead once climbed. The main hazard being loose sections, so take care not to dislodge any rocks and ideally keep to the outcrops rather than the stones that are easily dislodged.
The top of this scramble brings you out on much easier territory and a surprisingly wide path. The bad news is that this path soon peters out and you’ll need to set off on whatever direction looks the easiest. The best way is to follow the top of Marian Rhaeadr-fawr for the simple fact that the views are best in that direction. Set off directly on a bearing to the summit and it’s a pure slog.
I won’t deny that this is also a slog, but much more pleasant one for at least the first section. In mist, there’s a wall where you need to change direction for the summit – also a good indicator in fine weather.
The summit of Llwydmawr Bach is thankfully reached quickly enough, with a small shelter that’s large enough for one or a larger summit shelter just around the corner. Some of the group that we’d spotted below appeared on the summit, but most of the group hadn’t fancied the route we took and there was only a handful, who were looking for the rest. Leading that group seemed like herding cats. At least they looked well equipped and were out for a right old wander.
From this point, the route continues virtually off path all the way to Foel Fras. You’ll find a track that often vanishes as soon as you’re on it. In mist you’ll need some straightforward compass work to find the flat summit. There was a trace of path that we followed, that leads past the site of a Heinkel He111 aircraft crash – with more info at these links:
It’s quite striking that there’s still a bare patch of mountainside here where the aircraft burnt out over seventy years ago, as well as some visible wreckage.
The summit of Llwydmawr is a bit of an anticlimax, a wide plateau with few features. An intermittent path leads south west to the wide col that needs crossing before the route again sets off uphill to the summit of Foel Fras. In mist, a compass bearing should find the summit easily enough, just aim off to the east of the summit in order to find the wall that crosses the summit and follow the wall to your right and the summit is close by.
The wall is most useful as a shelter, except on those days where the wind blows parallel to the wall. Fortunately, today wasn’t one of those and we were able to shelter comfortably next to the dusting of snow that had fallen overnight.
Descent to Aber is easy, if long winded. The wall from Foel Fras continues all the way to the roman road at Bwlch y Ddeufaen, although it turns into a fence well before you start to ascend Drum. At the wide col known as Bwlch y Gwryd, you can descend to Llyn Anafon as the shortest return, but the path is boggy and intermittent until you reach the lake. Alternatively, following the path parallel to the fence brings you to the minor summit of Drum. We found the large group who were below us in Llwytmor here, apparently they’d contoured around somehow or other.
It’s easy now. The fence provided an off path route to Bwlch Y Ddeufaen from where the roman road leads to Aber. Easier still, the wide path from Drum is impossible to lose, and at the roman road there’s even a finger post that directs you to Aber and the start of the route.
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