Walk 2115 - printer friendly version
Yr Elen, Carnedd Llewellyn & Carnedd Dafydd Walk
Author - Peter Smyly
Length - 9.5 miles / 15.4 km
Ascent - 3400 feet / 1030 metres
Grade - hard
Start - OS grid reference SH631664
Lat 53.177042 + Long -4.0498299
Postcode LL57 3TG (approx. location only)
This Snowdonia (Eryri) walk features three of the Welsh mountains that rise to over three thousand feet above sea level in a roughly circular route - Yr Elen (3,156 feet), Carnedd Llewellyn (3.491 feet) and Carnedd Dafydd (3.425 feet). In the early stages of this walk you need good navigational and map reading skills.
Although Idwal Cottage offers a more direct approach to the Carneddau, by starting at the Welsh town of Bethesda to the west, a round trip is more easily achieved. This walk could be done in either a clockwise or an anti-clockwise direction. Having done the route in each direction, my own preference is for a clockwise approach. The main reason is that you are spared the long, steep haul up to Carnedd Dafydd's summit plateau from Foel Meirch which can seem an interminably long slog, although its only about eight hundred feet, which is not a huge amount in the context of the overall height gain of this walk.
There is no car park in Bethesda, but the best option is to leave the car by one of the roadsides to the east of the village. The walk-in follows pathless terrain across a grassy valley, following the course of the Afon Caseg (river) with the objective of climbing Yr Elen first via Cwm Caseg, home to the tarn of, fittingly enough, Ffynnon Caseg. Typically of the Carneddau, it is necessary to walk across long grassy stretches to reach more interesting terrain later on. The less interesting phase is well worth it once the climb up Yr Elen starts gaining altitude in earnest and the jagged ridge leading to the summit is reached. The route heads up Yr Elen with the oblong shaped Ffynnon Caseg below to the left. Yr Elen is an "outlier" if doing a long traverse of the Carneddau end-to-end, but it fits in neatly as part of a circular route such as this.
The summit is a mixture of grass and rocks with the highest point not being immediately obvious as there is no trig point or cairn; rather unusual, given that this is one of the highest peaks in Wales. The ridge of Mynydd Du, leading up to Carnedd Dafydd, can be seen across Cwm Llafar to the south west from the summit area. An obvious path now descends down into a dip, passing near the edge of Cwm Caseg to the left before rising steeply again up a rocky slope to lead to the similarly rocky Carnedd Llewellyn summit plateau. A wind shelter appears near the summit of this, the fourth highest mountain in Wales, and it offers some respite in the event of adverse weather conditions.
The Glyderau appear to the left on the descent down to the next dip, Bwlch Cyfryw-drum, before the gradient climbs more gradually along the Cefn Ysgolion Duon ridge to Carnedd Dafydd, the third and final summit, and the third highest mountain in Wales after Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain. In common with Carnedd Llewellyn, there is a wind shelter and a large cairn. This is a good spot to stop for a break before tackling the steep rocky descent. The minor top of Foel Meirch is passed on the way down before passing along the Mynydd Du ridge. There is one section where there are boulders to clamber over before Mynydd Du. The easiest way of regaining the start is to join the path following the Afon Llafar. This leads out to a lane which can be followed back into Bethesda.
Editor's Note - when preparing this walk for publication I assumed a start in Gerlan (where there is some limited parking). The maps and GPX file have been constructed on this basis. From the start point walk southwest to the road junction at grid ref. SH633662. Turn left here and continue along the lane and track out into open country and the valley of the Afon Caseg. This avoids some wet ground. On the return leg descend the Mynydd Du ridge and pick up the path going northwest roughly parallel to the Afon Lafar. This path leads back to a lane which is followed back to the start.