The Carneddau via Llech Ddu Spur

A few people from work have been doing occasional scrambles in Snowdonia lately. The last was up Tryfan last year. There was a plan to repeat this on Tuesday and do Bristly Ridge which we missed last time. I fancied something a little different though so suggested we head to the Carneddau instead. The aim was to tick off Carnedd Llewylyn and Carnedd Dafydd (the 2nd and 3rd highest peaks in Wales) and to scramble up the Llech Ddu Spur, none of which I had done before.

The revised plan was agreed upon and Simon, Rhys, Nick and I set off towards North Wales under cloudy skies. The weather had cleared somewhat by the time we reached Bethesda but there were still some low clouds obscuring the hilltops.

We parked up, and were soon heading off up into an impressive valley with the Carneddau shrouded in cloud at the far end.

Towards the Hills
Towards the Hills

It was easy going to start with past berry laden Rowan trees lining scrubby farmland and then off onto the hillsides with the Afon Llafar burbling away to our left.

The weather was improving all the time and we soon left the hustle and bustle of the modern world behind us. This part of Snowdonia is less well trodden than many other parts and we were soon the only people around. The trail wasn’t that well defined but was still fairly easy to follow at this point. We followed it up onto the grassy slopes of Foel Meirch. This was a bit of a mistake as we should have stayed along the valley floor for a little further rather than gaining altitude. It wasn’t too much of a problem though. The sun was now shining and the clouds had lifted so we could see the entire vista of our planned route ahead of us. We decided to scramble down off the slopes of the hill we were on and head across to the base of the Llech Ddu Spur.

Llech Ddu Spur

The Llech Ddu Spur is billed as a “stunning Grade 1 scramble in Snowdonia that most people have never even heard of “. From our vantage point we could see it clearly and could easily pick out the intended route. It follows the ridge that you can see cutting from the left to right of the photo below.

The Llech Ddu Spur Ahead of us
The Llech Ddu Spur Ahead of us

As we were already level with the base of the spur we would miss out some of the less inviting clambering up over the scree slope beneath it and would now be able to make our way directly to the base of it.

We paused for a snack in the sunshine and then set off towards what looked like quite an imposing buttress of rock leaning off the northern flanks of Carnedd Dafydd. We scrambled across the scree slope and re-joined the intended path as it made its way diagonally up a grassy ramp towards some quartz bands. It was here that the Llech Ddu Spur (also know as Crib Lem) started in earnest.

We were soon hauling ourselves up rocky steps and runnels on the shoulder of the spur. There were slightly easier routes to either side of the main ridge but we took the more direct route on large positive handholds and nice dry grippy rock.

There was some exposure here and there and always that slight vertiginous feeling of height but it was all fairly straight-forward most of the time. We soon reached the Christmas Tree slab and paused for photos. Another couple caught us up here but they were the only people we saw on the spur so we waited a while and let them go off ahead of us.

Photo Opportunity
Photo Opportunity

From the vantage point of the Christmas Tree Slab the next couple of sections looked as though they may pose some problems, but once on them it was back to more of the same with nice holds and a steady scramble up towards the top of the rock strewn upper slopes of Carnedd Dafydd.

The Carneddau

With the main event of the day done it was onto the summit for a quick lunch stop. This was accompanied by views of Tryfan, the Glyders and Cwm Idwal to the south and Snowdon beyond that. The clouds had now lifted completely and it was a gorgeous summers day with fluffy white cumulus clouds scuttling across the sky. The views to the North over to Anglesey and the waters of the Irish Sea were equally as stunning. A friendly seagull seemed to agree as well. A helicopter was hovering somewhere near the cantilever stone on Glyder Fach too as we took in the views around us.

We were soon on our feet again and heading off along the ridge top towards Carnedd Llewelyn, the second highest peak in Wales.

Walking along the Ridge
Walking along the Ridge

I think it was from the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn that Simon spotted the Gwynt y Mor windfarm in Colwyn Bay.

Windfarm
Windfarm

I think everyone else had seen it ages before but something about it caught Simon’s eye and it amazed him. I don’t think he quite knew what it was as he pointed it out to us in incredulous tones. We all looked a little bemused at him and said, “yeah. it’s the wind farm!”. I’m not sure what amazing phenomenon he thought it was but he won’t live it down for a while.

From the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn we headed off towards Yr Elen and then down off it’s peak along steep, loose paths following the ridge line to several smaller summits.

On to Yr Elen
On to Yr Elen

Each had grassy paths between them followed by a steep clamber off the summit onto another grassy shoulder. Eventually we lost height and picked our way through the boggy grassland of the valley floor and back to where we started.

A perfect day in the hills. The scramble certainly didn’t disappoint and we bagged a couple of the higher peaks too. It had all been easy going and a nice day out of the office. I’m glad the scramble lived up to expectations having suggested the route over the more well known Tryfan.

6 Responses

  1. Avatar forComment Author Don Smith says:

    Hello Alan, It sounds like you had a great day. I’m hoping you can give me a little help and advice, please. I’m intending to do a scramble to raise money for charity and looking for something not too difficult. From your description Llech Ddu sounds quite straightforward, but did you have any difficulties on route. I see you also did the horseshoe taking in C. LLewelyn. How long did it take you and what time did you set off? I’ve managed Tryfan (with the Adam and Eve leap), Y Gribbin and Stac Pollaidh in recent years but this will be my first ‘solo’ scramble and I don’t want to trouble the Mountain Rescue guys as I’m 74, with a stiff back and arthritic knees. Best wishes.

    • Avatar forComment Author Alan Cole says:

      Hi Don,
      Thanks for the comment / question – before I answer and more for others than you hopefully, the usual disclaimer applies: The mountains, whichever route you take, can be killers so this isn’t a recommendation or a suggestion and safety always comes first. Your capabilities, your experience, the weather and the route you plan to take all have an impact on this and must be taken into consideration.

      So, our day on Llech Ddu was indeed a good one. The scramble itself was really enjoyable. There was nothing too technical and only a couple of short sections with any exposure to speak of. We did however have a lovely dry day for it with very little wind. It might be very different in the wind and rain or of course in winter. If you have done Tryfan then you should have no problems on Llech Ddu. Route finding on the scramble was easy and there were a number of options. The more technical bits generally had easier choices if you wanted to take them so you can pick and choose a little in that respect. It will be a lot quieter than Tryfan though so you may be the only person on it – if you are doing it solo then take that into consideration and make sure someone knows where you are.

      The entire route we took can be seen on the Strava embed within the post, but here’s a direct link: https://www.strava.com/activities/%E2%9B%85morning-hike-2616101999.

      We did indeed take in Carneddau Llewelyn and Yr Elen. The entire circular route was around 10.5 miles and took just short of 5.5 hours at a leisurely pace taking in the scenery and enjoying a sunny day in the hills.

      I might not be 74, but I’m no Spring chicken either and do have various aches and pains as well!

      I’m sure if you pick a decent day you’ll love it. Have fun, stay safe and let us know how you get on.

      Al.

  2. Avatar forComment Author Don Smith says:

    Hello Alan,
    Many thanks for your mail. I’m now convinced to go for it. I feel quite confident about scrambling, but it’s the unknowns like taking a wrong pitch that concern me. Perhaps, I’m being too cautious? My main concern is the long hike to the bottom of the scramble as my knees are not as good as they were (too many years of pivot jumps playing basketball) so I may need a few rest points on the way. Hence asking how long it took you. With a relatively early start in one of the summer months, I should have no problem getting back for a celebratory fizzy drink in the evening. I’ll let you know how I get on and, more importantly, how much I raise for the RNLI. Best wishes. Don

  3. Avatar forComment Author Don Smith says:

    Hello Alan,
    I said I’d give you an update on my plan to do what you’d done in your article, above.
    I set the ball rolling just after our last exchange in mid May. I contacted RNLI with the proposal, which they approved as a fundraising effort and sent out loads of sponsorship forms to anyone I could think of. I didn’t specify a date for the event but said it would be sometime this summer. I eventually picked the week of 8th – 14th July. Unfortunately, as the time went on the weather forecast deteriorated but I’d already booked a campsite so decided to go ahead. The forecast on the day I arrived suggested that Friday 9th would be the best as the weather would worsen over the following days and wouldn’t improve till after I’d left.
    I set off from Gerlan just before 10:00 to give the rock time to dry out a bit, as it was due to rain overnight. Cloud shrouded the top of the horseshoe but I carried on as some sunshine was forecast. However, by the time I got to the first shoulder on Llech Ddu I was already in cloud and it had started raining (not heavily but continually). I decided to carry on. The climb was reasonably straightforward if a little slippy on the rock, but I got to the top. However, I was amazed to see the small boulder field between there and the summit of C. Dafydd. It seemed to take an eternity to get over it. First evidential photo taken for RNLI.
    I headed off around the cwm but the cloud was so dense I could neither see where I was going or get a compass bearing. I decided to make a wide swing to avoid getting too close to the edge. It was obviously too wide and as the cloud cleared to windward I saw the A5 and what I think was Tryfan. I still couldn’t see C. Llewelen so plotted a rough route using Google Maps, which eventually got me there (again over a boulder strewn summit). Second photo taken. Where’s Yr Elen? Maps wasn’t as helpful this time and I went too far to the left meaning I dropped too far into the valley before I eventually saw the peak in the distance. This was definitely the easiest climb of the lot and photo number 3 was taken. Job done and all I needed to do was get back to Gerlan. Fortunately, I was able to keep in contact with my wife by mobile. I’d told her the bogey time for the round trip was 5.5 hrs and I added a further 2.5 hrs (for age and infirmity). It eventually got back after 10.5 hours. If it hadn’t been for the mobile phone, she’d have had the Mountain Rescue out after me! I was truly shattered after the day, but it was well worth it as I raised almost £3,000 plus gift aid for the RNLI
    I’d like to thank you for your previous positive comments as I’m sure the original plan of straight up and down C. Dafydd wouldn’t have seemed as challenging and I doubt I’d have raised as much for the RNLI.
    Best wishes. Don

    • Avatar forComment Author Alan Cole says:

      Well done Don – sounds like a good day in the hills. Is there anywhere online where we can contribute to your fundraising? I’ve since joined the ranks of the ‘old and infirm’ so I think I’d have trouble doing it myself at the moment!!

      Al.

  4. Avatar forComment Author Don Smith says:

    Hello Al,

    Just realised that your email is a ‘do not reply’ so you may not have received it. I’ve repeated it here just in case.

    Having looked at your website, it seems to me you’d be capable of doing almost anything. You appear to have a wide range of pastimes.

    I’ve attached the report I wrote to everyone I’d asked for sponsorship, for your interest. Your offer of support is very kind and I really appreciate it. The best way to do it is via the JustGiving site, which is “Donald Smith is fundraising for RNLI – Royal National Lifeboat Institution (justgiving.com)” or to use the QR code attached.

    This escapade has certainly been one of the most difficult climbs I’ve ever done but I’d like to come back and do it again but to go up Llech Ddu rather than Crib Lem. Surely I could pick a better day for the climb than last time. Maybe you could show me the best way to tackle it?

    Best wishes.
    Don

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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