Height - 3209ft rising to 3491ft
Time - 6 hrs
Distance - Approx 10 miles
Conditions - a mix of sunshine, high winds, snow, freezing temperatures
Walking with - The BM
Today would take us up high into the Welsh mountains again and with the prospect of bagging 3, possibly 4 of the 3000's we were giddy as kippers on the early morning drive over to, what is fast becoming familiar territory of the Snowdonia National Park. After a quick fuel stop at "Wink's cousin" Jason's Starbucks styled butty van on the A55 we parked on the shores of Llyn Ogwen in the Ogwen Valley to start out on the track up to Glan Dena to begin the initial ascent of Pen Yr Ole Wen. The first part of our challenge today.
The initial climb was sloggish, through boggy patches, our first unremitting section of the day and true to form our legs and lungs hadn't yet realised that we were in fact climbing a mountain today and they put up their usual 15 - 20 mins of rebellion which we both knew wouldn't last long.
The path we were following caused us to cross the small stream of Afon Lloer several times before we came upon the wooden stile at the stone wall which signified the first part of the climb was over and the real tough stuff started from here on in.
At this point I will say that the views behind us of Tryfan and the Glyders was truly outstanding. Its an impressive piece of rock that holds your eye refusing to let your gaze wander elsewhere as it taunts you with its rocky surface and impressive form.
Crossing the stile and continuing up the steepening path and we could see the amphitheater like bowl ahead of us which held the impressive glacial cwm.
The spectacular dark waters surrounded by the ridge that we would tackle later in the day but first, ahead of us, was the rocky ascent to Pen Yr Ole Wen. We knew that there would be a scramble involved in this ascent but we never imagined what a scramble it would turn out to be. An amazing journey through the rock to lead us up to the top was quite intoxicating and an incredible adrenalin rush.
All of a sudden it gathered quite a strength and was blowing us sideways with some force. Wooly hats were brought out as we slogged up the final path to the summit.
The summit is marked with a small cairn and the views were outstanding. Over to Anglesey & the Irish Sea to the West, Snowden and the Glyders beyond and in the other direction more peaks and summits to be tackled on another day. Light was bouncing off the flanks of the surrounding mountains made an attractive and stunning landscape. Ahead of us however was the rest of the Carneddau range and the ridge leading off the summit towards Carnedd Fach and Carnedd Dafydd.
The weather at this point is changing rapidly. The wind is gathering some force and buffeting us along the ridge. The cloud is moving in and the views are ever changing as the cloud billows over, increasing in density and starting to obscure the path ahead.
At the first shelter point on the summit of Carnedd Fach we stopped for a quick cuppa and the usual malt loaf and snacks however with the cloud moving in quickly it was a short stop as we were keen to push on forward to the Carnedds ahead. I saw a flash of forked lightning in the cloud ahead at it really took me by surprise but there was no time to hang around and soon we were off up the ridge again for our next target of the summit of Carnedd Dafydd.
We are being blown left right an centre as the exposed ridge offers little protection from the elements. The cloud still swirling around changes the views every moment before our eyes. Looking down from the ridge we could see some impressive cliff walls which are used by serious climbers and looked very ominous and scary indeed. Not a place I'd like to be today. The exposed ridge was enough excitement in the ever worsening conditions, thank you very much!
We followed the ridge to its lowest point, still navigating our way around boulders and rocks in the relatively flat and sometimes boggy path. Wooly hats and gloves on, hoods up and tied tight against the prevailing weather and the wind continued relentlessly to pound against us as we made our way down the ridge to its lowest point before starting to head along Bwlch Cyfryw-drum before ascending what should have been an easy but steep path to the rocky summit of Carnedd Llewelyn.
The path was hampered by the now deep snow on the ground obscuring any noticeable route and the visibly was now down to a few metres. So we could do nothing but try to head upwards. Were we on a path? Who knows! Were we heading upwards? Well we tried. Was there any indication of the top? We couldn't see diddly squat but onwards we ventured and after a good 30 - 40 mins we came upon the cairn that signified we had reached the summit.
There are many cairns and a large stone shelter on the summit of Carnedd Lleweyln so our plan was to find the shelter and have a quick refreshment stop so we headed out, across the vast and eerie landscape of snow and rocks to see if we could find it. The visibility was so poor and not knowing what was underfoot beneath the snow we settled for a large group of rocks that provided at least some degree of protection from the driving winds.
The view in front of us as we clasped our hot drinks firmly was indeed a strange one. A misty eerie landscape, no other person around and temperatures that were most definitely well below freezing.
The next challenge was - How do we get off this thing? - The earlier thoughts of tagging Yr Elen onto the end of our Carnedd walk was quickly dismissed as we couldn't even see the mountain nor the path that would take us there so we concentrated on finding the path that would take us down off the mountain and back to our start point. The notes we had told us to head South East then East down a very obvious path. The chances of finding such a path in these conditions were slim but having the trusty mini compass with us we soon found the path and were joined by a few others which confirmed we were heading in the right direction.
Almost as soon as we started the descent, even after a few steps, my knee gave way and very quickly I was in considerable pain. I very slowly made my way through the rocks downwards and whereas under normal conditions we'd be skipping down through the rocks my knee was struggling to step through the rocks far less skip or run........very frustrating!!!!! The unfolding views brought a welcome distraction.
It seemed quite quickly that we were out of the cloud and could start to see the route and path ahead of us. The notes had told us that there would be some scrambling on the descent and that giddiness set in again. Down through the rocky, snakey path we were once again provided with some spectacular views of where we'd come from to the sheer drops down to Cwm Eigiau to the left and ahead to the path that followed the flanks of Pen yr Helgi Du which would take us home.
The rocky ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog was soon upon us and it was a welcome relief to my knee. Walking downwards caused great pain however scrambling through rocks downwards caused no pain at all.......strange! The scramble down was again a problem solving exercises and as with all of our walks, we always seem to choose the most challenging route. Down the left hand side of the rocks would have proved an easy and safe route down, however that is not our way and we inadvertently chose the left hand side that would prove a little more difficult but between us we made our way, precariously and carefully through the rocks, backwards, frontwards, using both hands and feet we soon found ourselves down onto a more level footing. Brilliant stuff!
Following the path down to the low point of the col between Carnedd Llewelyn and Pen yr Helgi Du we turned right and started the steep and zig zag descent. This path is rough and was a complete nightmare for my knee but as with all tricky parts it was one step in front of the other. I was offered some support and distraction by with a rendition of "Knees up mother Brown" .....sigh..... and through relentless pain for me (firstly by my knee and secondly by the entertainment on offer!) we finally made it down to the reservoir where the path became more level and took us up to the service road that would ultimately take us back to the main road and the car.
Our achievement today was immense. The weather was with us and against us and again proved how quickly the conditions can change and preparation is key to the full enjoyment of the mountains. 3 major peaks conquered today and it was one of the most enjoyable and exciting walks we have done. Its difficult to explain the intoxicating effect different parts of the mountain bring out but why explain.......those that understand most definitely understand.