Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du from Capel Curig
A walk up the outlying Carneddau summits of Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du from Capel Curig
|16.04 km||845 m||6 hours 30 mins|
Activivity Type: Hard Walk
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Summits and Places on this Route
Pubs, cafes, shop and toilets in the scattered village
Care with navigation required as the paths are not always as clear as they could be. The descent from Pen yr Helgi Du is steep and loose in places.
Paid for parking available in the Snowdonia National Park car park behind Joe Browns.
Limited Sherpa service passes through Capel Curig from Betws y Coed and Pen-y-pass/Llanberis/Beddgelert.
Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du from Capel Curig Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download
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Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du from Capel Curig
This circular walk up Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du starts from Capel Curig, and takes you over this pair of underappreciated outliers of the Carneddau. You can easily extend the walk to include Carnedd Llywelyn, or even over Dafydd and Pen yr Ole Wen to Ogwen if you want a more challenging walk.
I can’t think of another walk that has two summits with such unusual names, translating as Slippery Hill of the Witch and Hill of the Black Hunting Hound respectively. While Pen Llithrig y Wrach could also mean, the scabby, slippery hill, the witch connection makes much more sense as there is a cwm nearby named after a silver horseshoe (but not marked on the OS map), which is an item often 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.*
The climber’s hut of Helyg at the base of the hill is possibly a corruption of Helgi, with the mountain being noted as Pen Helyg on some old maps.
Full Route Description Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du
1 The walk starts from the National Park Car Park behind Joe Browns in Capel Curig. You’ll need to cross the A5 and follow it for around 1km. Just past the house known as Bron Heulog, you’ll spot the clearly marked footpath.
2 The path is clear and easy enough to follow from here, as it climbs gently uphill before levelling out over the wide moor. You’ll need some care in mist on this section, to make sure you keep to the path.
3 Eventually, the path crosses a large footbridge near Maen Trichwmwd where it splits right towards Llyn Cowlyd, or directly ahead for Pen Llithrig y Wrach. This section leaves little to write home about, being more of a slog than anything. However, the views towards the Glyderau and into the Carneddau provide some welcome respite from the hard work. The path steepens as you approach the summit.
4 After around 2km and 400m of climbing, you’ll reach the summit of Pen Llithrig y Wrach. It’s not particularly welcoming, boasting a few rocks that you can delicately perch upon, but no cairn or other features. You won’t be stopping for lunch here when the wind’s blowing. On the other hand, the summit’s an excellent viewpoint, down to Llyn Cowlyd on one sheer side, or towards the main Carneddau ridge on the other.
5 Pen yr Helgi Du may not be much more than a spur off Carnedd Llywelyn, but is much more substantial from this angle. The path descends to Bwlch y Tri Marchog, before following the clear path up Pen Yr Helgi Du.
6 The path soon 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, Y Lasallt, whilst the true summit can be found by continuing along the path for about a quarter of a kilometer NW.
7 From Pen yr Helgi Du’s summit, the way ahead isn’t obvious as it seems to drop over a cliff. Thankfully, once you begin the decent the path becomes apparent. It requires some care, as it zig zags steeply down into Bwlch Eryl Farchog, with a steep drop into Cwm Eigiau to your right.
8 Once you reach Bwlch Eryl Farchog, a pleasant ridge can be followed towards Carnedd Llywelyn. While you can continue up and over Craig yr Ysfa onto the highest of the Carneddau, the route instead descends into Cwm Llugwy. This path can be found at one of the lowest points of the bwlch, so if you find yourself climbing then you’ve probably gone too far.
9 The upper section of this path requires care, being loose and slippery in places and steep for the whole initial section. There are excellent views down to Ffynnon Llugwy to make up for it.
10 Eventually, it levels out and you’re on a good path high above the lake. This is easy to follow but does disappear as you reach the track at the end of the lake. Just head towards the track, which descends to the A5. The going is fast, but the tarmac can be tough going on tired feet. Some excellent views towards Tryfan and the Glyderau that are amongst the best will partially make up for it. Note that at the 420m contour the track crosses a leat which has a path that follows alongside it. This can take you back to the footbridge you crossed before starting the ascent this morning.
11 Once you reach the A5, turn right and then left turn left towards the Gwern Gof Isaf campsite. You’ll reach the old coach road, where you turn left and through the campsite. This track is largely flat and an hour’s steady walking should find you back in the carpark behind Joe Browns.
*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.
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