High Carneddau from Ogwen Valley

Pen yr Ole Wen

This walk is for those who want to experience the highest mountains in Snowdonia without seeing hoards of walkers and tourists along the way. The High Carneddau range is a favourite of the locals due to its lesser significance to day trippers. The Carneddau are still wild and desolate in comparison to there neighbours the Glyders and Snowdon, but the area and what it has to offer is just as good if not better. This walk starts in the busy Ogwen Valley and heads to the quiet and beautiful Ffynnon Lloer before taking you up an exciting scramble to Pen yr Ole Wen. From Pen yr Ole Wen you take on an awesome high ridge walk to three more of Wales highest mountains including Carnedd Llewelyn, the second highest mountain massif in Britain outside of Scotland. The walk is fairly long and involves a few ascents though most of this is done on the initial climb up to Pen yr Ole Wen. After Pen yr Ole Wen it is mostly a high ridge walk. You could cut the walk shorter by not baggin Yr Elen, the walk across to Yr Elen and back takes about an hour. These are serious mountains especially in bad weather, it has awesome views so you would be mad to do this route on a bad day with no views.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the shores of Llyn Ogwen in the Ogwen Valley situated on the main A5 trunk road between Bethesda and Betws-y-Coed. There is plenty of road side parking and laybys on quieter days. The starting point of the walk is at grid ref SH 668 605 where the track to Glan Dena and Tal y Llyn Ogwen leaves the main road at the eastern end of Llyn Ogwen.
  2. From Llyn Ogwen walk along the northern side of the main road and the track to Glan Dena is two hundred and fifty metres on the left. Cross the over the Afon Denau and head along the track to to the right of Glan Dena.
  3. The road passes Glan Dena then heads behind it towards Tal y LLyn Ogwen farm. On older OS maps the path heads up from behind this farm but seems to start after the farm. A new and well laid path now heads up the hill before the farm and across a stile over a stone wall. This new path then meets up with the original ascent path clearly marked on the OS maps
  4. Ascend the hill now on the obvious path, keeping the fence to your right. After a while you will cross the small stream of Afon Lloer then head up the left side of the stream before coming to a wooden stile over a stone wall. From this stile you can rest and look at the incredible view across to the Glyders and Tryfan.
  5. Cross the stile and follow the path heading along the left hand side of the stream. The path steadily flattens out as it gets near Ffynnon Lloer. If you wish to explore the Ffynnon Lloer and take in the amphitheatre of this incredible glacial cwm then follow the stream.
  6. The objective now is to head up the eastern ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen to its summit. From the point where the Afon Lloer enters Ffynnon Lloer take the rough path that heads on to the cliffs to the south. Follow the scramble as it continues through the rocks eventually gaining the crest of the eastern ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen.
  7. Once on the crest of the ridge take the path ascending in an obviou direction of the higher ground. The path snakes its way towards the summit and then heads up a simpler and more obvious open stroll to the summit.
  8. The summit of Pen yr Ole Wen has a flat plateau to the south and the bump of the actual highest point with a very small stone cairn on top. From the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen there are fantastic panoramic views.
  9. To the south is the neighbouring Glyders and Snowdon beyond. To the west the views open up over the whole of Anglesey to the Irish Sea beyond. To the north, looking over the magnificent Ffynnon Lloer below in Cwm Lloer, you will see the rest of the Carneddau range and the ridge leading off the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen towards Carnedd Fach and Carnedd Dafydd.
  10. From the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen head north west then north along that obvious ridge walk to Carnedd Fach. You will know when you reach Carnedd Fach as it has one of the most impressive ancient stone cairns and shelters you are likely to see. The view back to Pen yr Ole Wen is one of interesting strata in its northern cliff faces.
  11. From Carnedd Fach head along the ridge again and there is a small ascent to reach the summit of Carnedd Dafydd. Carnedd Dafydd is the third highest mountain in Wales. The summit has a small stone cairn.
  12. Leave the summit of Carnedd Dafydd and head in an easterly direction down and on to the narrow Cefn Ysgolion Duon ridge. From the Cefn Ysgolion Duon ridge there is a magnificent view down the Cwm Pen-Llafar valley with the Afon Llafar snaking its way along the flat bottom of the wide open valley towards Bethesda. Looking down from the Cefn Ysgolion Duon you will see its huge cliff walls that are renowned for there serious climbing routes, often referred to as some of the best in Britain.
  13. Follow the ridge to its lowest point. From here it now starts to head along the Bwlch Cyfryw-drum and then ascends on an easy but steep path to the wide rocky summit of Carnedd Llewelyn where you will find many stone cairns and a large stone shelter.
  14. The summit of Carnedd Llewelyn is the second highest mountain summit in Wales yet it has only a fraction of human visitors in a year compared with most of its nearest counterparts. The mountains name is translated as Llwelyns Cairn. Llwelyn being of Llwelyn ap Gruffordd and Dafydd ap Gruffordd who were once princes of Wales. The neighbouring mountain you have just been to of Carnedd Dafydd being named after his brother Dafydd. The slight change in the forename being of course that the English version is slightly different and unfortunately the one most often used in modern days.
  15. As I said above you can cut the walk short by ignoring this paragraph and not bothering to bag Yr Elen. However if you wish to see Yr Elen then I highly recommend you do so as it is a great view from its summit and you will miss out on a view of the lovely sheltered cwm of Cwm Caseg.
  16. To get to Yr Elen isn't as easy as it may seem on a map as there is quite a drop which of course you have to go up and down twice as it is a linear walk there and back. Only head out to Yr Elen if you have the energy for the climb back up to Carnedd Llewelyn. One tip is to leave your heavy bag behind on of Carnedd Llewelyns many summit cairns and pick it up on your return.
  17. So to reach Yr Elen, from the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn head north west along the plateau to its north western and descend the path heading west down to the col between the two mountains. The path will turn into a steep zig zag of loose chippings towards the bottom.
  18. From the col you get a great view down in to the sheltered Cwm Caseg and its beautiful lake the Ffynnon Caseg. The sheltered valley of Cwm Caseg is often home to hundreds of breeding sea birds that struggle to find sheltered spots along the increasingly populated North Wales coast. From the col follow the obvious path up the other side to the airy summit of Yr Elen.
  19. To get back to Carnedd Llewelyn simply follow the exact same route back down to the col then up the steep ascent of the zig zags and on to its lofty summit plateau again. Head back to the main cairn at the actual summit point of Carnedd Llewelyn.
  20. From the summit head south east then east down a very obvious path. The path will eventually reach the rocky ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog. From here the views open over the Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir to the right and deep down into Cwm Eigiau on the left. Always keep an eye out on the grassy slopes below in the Carneddau for the famous Carneddau wild ponies, they live semi wild now and are descendants from horses and ponies left behind by the miners in Cwm Eigiau.
  21. Tackle the short scramble down Bwlch Eryl Farchog which is tricky towards the end and you will eventually flatten out at the low point of the col between Carnedd Llewelyn and Pen yr Helgi Du. From here turn right and descend the paththat zig zags down to the Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir. The path is rough at first but gets easier at the reservoir.
  22. Head to the far end of the reservoir and pick up the service road. Follow the service road down the valley for two kilometres to reach the main road. Turn right along the main road and after a two kilometre stroll along the pavement you will find your self back at Llyn Ogwen and the start of the walk.
  23. You can finish off the day by visiting Capel Curig a few miles down the road where you can shop, eat and drink at the Pinnacle Cafe & Outdoor Shop, Joe Browns or one of the friendly local hotels.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL17 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 115 Map Click to buy Harvey Snowdonia Mountain Map Click to buy Pathfinder Snowdonia Walk Guides

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.