Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du from Capel Curig.
Summits on this Route
Distance: 11.3 km
Ascent: 712 m
Start and Finish:
Post Code for Sat Nav:
Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du from Capel Curig. Details
I can’t think of another walk that has two summits with such unusual names, Hill of the Slippery Witch and Hill of the black hunting hound respectively. Now I haven’t a clue why they’re called that (I feel some research coming on) but some fields and even hills are named after the farm that farms it (possibly vice versa too).
As for Pen yr Helgi Du, I assumed there might be a farm called Helgi Du, or more likely, used to be a farm of that name. What there is at the base of the hill, is the climber’s hut called Helyg. I decided to check the old maps, and on those the hill is called Pen Helyg. So it is likely to have got it’s name that way. Still, I don’t have a clue what a helyg is.(*See bottom of page for more info)
For the walk, we started from Capel Curig with a short road section until we arrived at the footpath just beyond a house called Bron Heulog. The path is clear and easy to follow from here, as it pulls upwards gently and then levels out to take you across the moor over one brand new footbridge to a second, more elaborate affair near Maen Trichwmwd. A path should be evident starting the nice slog to the summit. Still, if you decide to take a breather, the views towards the Glyderau are superb. Once over half way, you then start to get views of a, today, snowcapped Carnedd Llywelyn to urge you on.
The summit has a few rocks that you might be able to sit on, but nothing approaching the usual hilltop luxuries we’re accustomed to. Thankfully, there was no wind today, so sitting in the open was pleasant enough. It’s an excellent viewpoint, dropping down to Llyn Cowlyd on one sheer side, or towards the main Carneddau ridge on the other. The peak ahead is our next target. Pen yr Helgi Du is not much more than a spur off Carnedd Llywelyn on the map, or from Pen Llithrig, but hides an exposed and steep descent on the far side.
Once you descend the path from Pen Llithrig, the path up Pen yr Helgi Du is clear. Very soon, the path levels out and you arrive at a cairn, from where a path branches off left to take you down the long grassy ridge of Y Braich. This is a false summit, as the true summit is about a quarter of a kilometer NW. A path again leads you to this summit, and immediately after it appears to take you over a cliff. You will wonder “Where has my path gone?”. Once you look directly down, you will see it. It needs a bit of care, especially as it zig-zags towards the sheer drop into Cwm Eigiau on your right. As it was slippery and sometimes icy underfoot today, i ended up lowering myself with little dignity using my arse as a main point of contact. I’m here still, so it worked, that’s the end of that.
Thankfully, you reach the col, where there is a pleasent ridge to take you across. The map shows a path that contours along the NW cliffs of Pen Yr Helgi Du, but it wasn’t apparent on the ground. I did pass one candidate, but i really didn’t like the look of it. Instead, you cross the ridge mentioned above, and it’s good walking. Before the pull to Llywelyn, there is a path that branches off left towards the inciting tarn of Ffynnon Llugwy. Of course, if you feel like it, then you may as well carry on over Carnedd Llywelyn too.
The upper section of this path requires care. It was wet and slippery today, and rather steep. This is the kind of path where a single walking pole would make the descent a lot easier. Fat lot of use my poles were then in the boot and under my spare rucsac in the study. At this point, if you look at your map, you will notice that once you finish the path, you reach a track. Nice easy walking you might think, but no. Don’t think of the tarmac bashing you’ll need to do. If dry you can walk alongside, but as it was damp, the angle of the grass meant you could be spending your time in descent much in the same manner as i descended Pen yr Helgi Du.
Once you do reach the track, your day’s walk is all but over, except for views of Tryfan and the Glyderau that are amongst the best. You will have a chance to extend your walk along the hill if you wish. At the 420m contour there is a leat that you cross, and there is a green track that follows it. This can take you back to the footbridge you crossed before starting the ascent this morning. I decided to yomp down though, and even then, you have the option of returning to Capel via the old Roman road. Once you reach the A5, turn left and then right past the climbers hut called Helyg. Turn left onto the old road, and it takes you directly to the carpark behind the Pinnacle.
*Footnote. About names. Apparently, Pen Llithrig y Wrach could also mean, Scabby, Slippery Hill – appropriate. But the Witch connection makes sense as there is a cwm nearby named after a silver horseshoe (but not marked on the OS map), which is an item connected to Welsh Witches. The whole makes sense, when one realises that a pure black hunting dog (Helgi Du) is the only thing that can kill a witch that has transformed herself into a hare in welsh folklore. Anyone interested in this further can buy the book “Enwau Eryri – Place Names in Snowdonia” By Iwan Arfon Jones, published by Y Lolfa (ISBN 086243374-6), from which the above information was researched.