Yr Elen North East Ridge Scrambling Route
Route Summary:Hewitt of Yr ElenThis walk includes the Nuttall of Yr Elen
|13.32 km||798 m|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish:
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Yr Elen North East Ridge Scrambling Route Route Map and GPX DownloadDownload file for GPS
Yr Elen North East Ridge Scrambling Route Details
Yr Elen is usually the one people miss off when they’re doing the Carneddau, often only getting a look in by those doing the 14/15 Peaks. Today we made it the sole aim of the route – and were pleasantly surprised.
Yr Elen North East Ridge Full Route Guide
The walk starts in Gerlan in Bethesda – with parking being a bit problematic. Walking up from the A5 doesn’t add much to the overall distance.
1 Set off up the minor road – taking the left hand junction when the road forks (there’s a road sign here showing you that both routes are dead ends!).
2 Continue up this road, until it deteriorates into a track, ending eventually at the disused pumping station shown on the map, a derelict red brick building on the ground. The path into Cwm Caseg begins immediately besides this – or behind the trailer in the photo below. You can clearly see the track contour the left hand side (north) of the valley and this is basically what you need to follow all the way to Llyn Caseg.
3 The track is initially good, but deteriorates soon enough and you’ll end up having to find your own route by contouring low along the side of the valley and avoiding the boggy bottom at all cost! You’ll pass a small disused quarry (marked on the map) as well as an old settlement that’s barely more than mossy rocks but has an impressive sheepfold within. There’s a path lower down as well that can be used as an alternative.
4 Keeping left, 5 km after the pumping station you come to a stream, Afon Wen, and another set of impressive sheepfolds. You’re surrounded by mountains with the route ahead obscured y Carreg y Gath. There’s a definite route up to Foel Grach up this ridge, but we plodded on further up and below Carreg y Gath and forming a huge semi circle in order to get to the other side of Yr Elen.
5 This final section passes close to a waterfall below the virtually unknown Cwm Bychan, and eventually curves around to the head of the cwm and the small tarn of Ffynnon Caseg. One section of this route is very wet where a multitude of streams cascade down the hilside, I went in knee deep a few times! So keep high and to the left to avoid the boggy area. We crossed the stream lower down and ended up on the spur above the lake, you’ll need to keep to the same side of the stream if you intend to actually visit Ffynnon Caseg.
6 You’ll have walked a good 7km to get here – and only on the very last pull to Ffynnon Caseg has it really felt uphill. Thankfully, you’re somewhere around the 700-750m mark already. The headwall of this cwm is an imposing place, if not rather overwhelming in scale. I had to take a number of ultra wide angle photographs to get the image below in order to convey the view.
7 Now the slog begins. It’s only a vertical 100m, but steep to the crest of the ridge.
8 On the ridge – the route is straightforward. Even if it looks impressive from this angel, it’s hardly a scramble, more of a steep and rocky walk along a mostly grassy ridge. There’s one steep section, and unfortunately that’s really the entire scramble! I didn’t want to believe it, but it was only a 15 minute walk from the ridge to the summit.
9 On a good day, the views must be stupendous! We were forced to imagine them today. Here’s one from the archives instead.
Today was more like…
However… it did clear enough to get a good look down at Yr Elen North East Ridge.
10 Descent is straightforward, if steep, with the start of the path clearly marked by a cairn roughly to the north west of the summit. Once past the steep scree, it levels out as you cross Foel Ganol (barely more than a few rocks) and along a wide grassy ridge that flattens out even more towards Braich y Brysgyll.
11 The path dutifully vanishes at this point, and you need to descend the final 50m or so to the boggy looking Cors Gwaun y Gwiail. Cors means it’ll be a boggy area – so you have an idea what to expect! We dithered for a while as we could always go south and cross Afon Llafar and hit the good track that side of the valley, or north and try our chances crossing the Afon Caseg to rejoin this morning’s track. We needn’t have worried as there is a path of sorts across, but it’s not easily discernible unless you’re right on it.
12 You’re basically heading for the wall that forms the boundary between the open access mountain and the farmland lower down. The right of way can be accessed at SH648 658. While the footpath crosses the boundary, there’s no stile and you’ll need to cross the gate to continue. The next km or so across the fields is much boggier than the rest of the walk put together. While you can follow a rough track across the first field, sections were knee deep, but easily avoidable. Aim for the south western corner of the field and you’ll finally find a stile and some indication you’re on the correct path.
13 Keeping the wall to your left, and a keen eye on the yellow right of way arrows, the path is wet and not obvious. It doesn’t help that some of the boundary walls have altered either. You can also see the farm buildings at Gwaun-y-gwiail that also give you an indication you’re going in the right direction! Best of luck!
14 On arrival at the farm – you’ll need to go right into the farmyard and head on downhill between two barns and through a gate. This brings you in front of the farmhouse. There are dogs here, but they were secured except for a friendly little terrier. Finally – follow this track round as it improves into a metalled road and you’re soon back at the route’s start.
Overall the ascent is highly recommended as being as good as any route up Yr Elen, with a rugged and lengthy walk in to boot. Cwm Caseg is worth an explore in itself, and defiantely a wild camp or two, as well as having a few more wild ascents of the Carneddau that we’ll explore soon enough. However, don’t expect Yr Elen North East ridge to be a classic scramble, it’s just a steep walk with extensive views in an impressive setting. If you’ve got the time, you’re better off continuing to Llewelyn and descending back via either Yr Aryg ridge or from Carnedd Dafydd rather than taking the right of way to Gwaun-y-gwiail.