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A walk - Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Moel Eilio and Cwm Eigiau

This walk in the eastern Carneddau was my last in Snowdonia before the March 2020 lockdown. It would be 7 months before I was able to get back there.


As ever, it was an early start. I rolled out of bed at 4 am, giving me 45 minutes to drink copious amounts of coffee, an hour to drive to my starting point and 15 minutes to get kitted up and into position for some dawn photography. At least today there wouldn't any walking in the dark to get to my location; that would have meant an even earlier alarm call.


Today's sunrise target was Tryfan, one of the national park's best known mountains. The most familiar and iconic view is the one you get as you approach it from the east on the A5 road. So that's where I pitched myself; in the long layby immediately east of Llyn Ogwen. This is one of my regular car parks; it's free, rarely full and is an ideal starting point for walks into the both the Glyderau and Carneddau ranges.

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I only just made it in time (fortunately for me, there aren't many speed traps on the A5 at 6 am) and it wasn't long before the sun broke the horizon behind me and bathed Tryfan in a deep rusty hue. The spectacle was over in moments; I'd barely left the car and had already acheved my main professional goal for the day.

My subsequent painting of "Tryfan Dawn", viewed from the side of the A5

And a photo looking the other way, towards Pen yr Helgi Du.


To be honest, I could have gone home at this point. The forecast was for bright sunshine and it was therefore unlikely that the light would be conducive to any more paintable scenes. I always tell myself that I'll go walking until sunset creates some more drama but at this time year that either means a very long walk or a shorter walk followed by a few hours of hanging about. A lack of stamina and patience, respectively, mean that I rarely do either. I save those kind of adventures for the shorter days of winter.


So, I packed up the camera into my rucksack and headed east, intending to walk over high ground as far as the eastern fringe of the national park and then returning via the stunning glacial valley of Cwm Eigiau.


You can download a GPX file of the route I took here route here) The total length of the walk is 17 miles and it involves 3,700 ft of ascent. There are some short but stiff climbs and as with most of my walks (I like to explore lesser known places!) there are significant sections that have no discernable paths to follow.


To begin with I walked along the A5. There was barely any traffic at this time of the morning. However, I've walked along here at busier times and it can be a little unnerving. The traffic moves fast.


It would have been a lot safer to follow the track that runs parallel to the road on its southern side but I'd be coming back that way I have a particular foible that means I try to avoid covering the same ground twice on a walk if I can possibly help it.


In any case, it wasn't long before I left the road and headed up a lane towards the farm at Tal-y-braich-uchaf.

Looking back to Tryfan from Tal-y-braich-uchaf

Once past the buildings, the lane comes to an end and I made my way down to the little stone footbridge (Pont y bedol). Eventually that is. I hadn't been paying attention to my map and had to wander about a little before finding it. Not the best start to the day.

Pont y Bedol


It was then a question of heading towards the base of Pen Llithrig y Wrach ("slippery peak of the witch"), the conical-shaped and fairly innocuous-looking mountain that lay directly ahead. There is a bridle path marked on the map but either it vanishes soon after the bridge, or I lost it (more likely). In any case, the terrain wasn't so bad and it was easier to head in a straight line across the valley floor.

Straight ahead to Pen Llithrig y Wrach


I soon reached the canal that runs around the south west corner of Pen Llithrig y Wrach. Now, I've climbed Pen Llithrig y Wrach from this point before but have never managed to find a decent path until I'm about half way up, even though I know it's there from descending this way on other occasions. I didn't bother searching for it this time and just went straight up the slope ahead of me. Once again, I met the path about half way up.

Ogwen Valley and the Glyderau from the summit of Pen Llithrig y Wrach


There are some great views from the top. To the north east I could see Moel Eilio, the furthest point on today's walk and where I planned to have lunch. It looked a long way and I was already peckish.


To the west, I could see much of northern Snowdonia including the Ogwen valley and the Carneddau mountains. And immediately behind me was a 1,000 drop down to Llyn Cowlyd reservoir.