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A walk - Llyn Idwal, Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd and Nant Ffrancon

I thought it was about time I started sharing some of the walks that inspire my paintings. So here goes with the first one, undertaken on a sunny day in October. Twelve miles long, it takes in well-trodden and easy paths alongside some straightforward off-piste navigation. However, all this is punctuated by a pretty stiff climb and some scrambling up the side of Pen yr Ole Wen. The total ascent is 3.800 feet. You can download a GPX file of the route here.

Just as the darkness of the night was beginning to lift, I arrived on the shore of Llyn Ogwen and parked up for free in the lay-by about 500 metres east of Idwal Cottage (where the parking is pay and display).

From Idwal Cottage, it was a quick hop up to Llyn Idwal, following the well-made path that starts to the left of the visitor centre.

My main intention this day had been to get some shots of the sunrise catching the tops of Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr, the two mountains that form the backdrop to the lake. Unfortunately, I had completely misread my celestial charts (OK, I didn't actually consult any but maybe I should in future) and quickly realised that the sun was rising in completely the wrong place. and these two peaks were going to remain in shadow.

However, I had consolation of some stunning alternative scenes. Y Garn, Pen yr Ole Wen and the Ogwen Valley are all visible from here and they were bathed in the red glow of dawn.

Then, it was off for a quick circuit of Llyn Idwal, bumping into a handful of early morning dog-walkers and other folk heading off into the Glyderau for something more adventurous.

However, my destiny was elsewhere, so it was back down to Idwal Cottage. My plan was to head up Pen yr Ole Wen, following the path that rises straight up from the bridge beside Idwal Cottage (Pont Pen-y-benglog). I had never been up this way before, mainly because I haven't been able to discern the path with my naked eye from the other side of the valley and because on the map it appears to hug quite close to cliffs, which could be tricky if I couldn't find it on the ground. Plus, to be honest, there are much easier ways up Pen yr Ole Wen and into the Carneddau.

In the event, I found the path was obvious, at least to begin with (and once I'd avoided the 'decoy' path that contours off to the left a short while in). Neither is it as sheer as it looks from ground level. However, about half way up I did encounter a long stretch of unpleasant (unless you like this kind of thing, which some people do) loose and steep scree. Here, the main path seems to disappear and its a question of picking your own way amongst the network of routes that previous walkers have created.

After the scree, its time to clamber over, between and around rocks and boulders. Again, its not too challenging and never exposed, at least on a day like today when visibility was excellent. There was one point where the natural route seemed to invite me to climb up a rock wall, something that appeared doable but not sensible when on my own and on a less-popular path where help may not come for a long time. I soon found a way to skirt around it to the right.

Eventually, the terrain eased and I began to find paths again (its always a relief to see boot prints on the ground when you're not entirely sure you're on the right track). The network eventually consolidated into a single obvious route that contoured right and then climbed upwards to the summit.

Pen yr Ole Wen summit was already fairly busy, so I didn't hang about and headed straight to the next peak, Carnedd Dafydd, struggling to stay on my feet at times as the wind rushed up from the Ogwen Valley and over the ridge that connects the two.

It was pretty much all downhill from here. I dropped off Carnedd Dafydd and headed north west. Again, there was a discernible path through the scree and rocks but I soon managed to lose it and had to pick my way though boulder fields until eventually escaping onto the wide open plateau below. It was then a pleasant stroll across pathless moors and over solid enough bogs in the direction of the always visible Cefn yr Orsedd. I have to say that Foelcraig turned into more of an obstacle than I thought it would be and is best circumnavigated by anyone who's had enough of scree for one day.

On arrival at Cefn yr Orsedd, the view up Nant Ffrancon is probably the best I've encountered.

From here I followed the wall that runs down beside the forest (scaring a couple who hadn't heard me coming), passed into the woods below and dropped onto the main road.

Crossing over, I followed the path that heads into Ogwen Bank Holiday Park, over the bridge and picked up the cycle path that leads back up the eastern side of Nant Ffrancon. To begin with, this skirts the bottom of the spoil heaps of Penrhyn Quarry before hitting open ground and joining with the minor road that continues all the way up the valley and to Idwal Cottage. I'm not usually keen on ending a walk with a long trudge along tarmac roads and I seem to have walked this particular road many times over the years. However, on a day like this the stupendous views made it all worthwhile.

I was tempted to make a detour back up to Llyn Idwal but even from here I could see that the sun was still not going to be in the right place. In any case, I'd long missed the red glow of dawn that I'd been seeking.

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