Carneddau Excursion (Cwm Eigiau loop)

A glorious circular route in the Carneddau, from the remote parking near Llyn Eigiau (SH732663).
A Snowdonia walk for the more adventurous, taking in less walked peaks and an enjoyable ridge.

Summary:
Approximately 9 miles and 2800 ft of ascent.
Section 1 – mainly stoned tracks to Cwm Eigiau quarry.
Section 2 – craig ascent & ridge-walk – mixed rock & grass, some exposure.
Section 3 – descent – unmarked pathless heather & grass.
Allow 6+ hours for an enjoyable day.

The attached map shows our approximate route; given the nature of the terrain you may wish to modify this to suit your own needs. There are several rocky traverses that would become quite challenging in wintry conditions and the potential drops are significant; please be well equipped for the conditions and be confident in your own skills.

Approach:
Take the B5106 alongside the Afon Conwy to Tal-y-bont. In the village turn west up the single track lane to Llyn Eigiau. Note: During snowy spells the lane may become a challenge, even for well shod 4x4s. Park in the car park at the end of the road, SH 732 663.

Walk:
Leave the car and walk down the access track to Llyn Eigiau. The break in the dam wall that caused the 1925 disaster, resulting in the loss of 16 lives, can be noted on the right of this track.

Craig Eigiau towers up behind the broken dam wall of Llyn Eigiau.
Craig Eigiau towers up behind the broken dam wall of Llyn Eigiau.

Continue onward until meeting the main dam wall, at which point turn left over a bridge and then right to follow the lower path along the left side of the wetland. After a short while follow the main path as it crosses the valley floor to the right and bridges the Afon Eigiau.

Crossing Afon Eigiau and the marshy area that would have been flooded when the dam was built.
Crossing Afon Eigiau and the marshy area that would have been flooded when the dam was built.

The track now climbs steadily upwards in to Cwm Eigiau, passing by a small lone dwelling. It is well worth pausing to look back at the view of the valley, as well as keeping an eye open for the Carneddau ponies that live here.

Looking back along Cwm Eigiau from the upper quarry track.
Looking back along Cwm Eigiau from the upper quarry track.

In due course you will come to the old quarry at the end of this track. At this point, we now need to swing right and proceed northerly up the rough grass slope, heading for the waterfalls that feed the Afon Eigiau and located on the north-eastern edge of the craig.

The old quarry workings at the head of Cwm Eigiau with Craig yr Ysfa beyond.
The old quarry workings at the head of Cwm Eigiau with Craig yr Ysfa beyond.

Skirt the left-hand side of this small cascade and head uphill amongst grass & boulders to reach a small plateau. We paused here for a few snacks before moving on again. From here the going is both rough and steep heading up to the higher plateau of Penywaun-wen, beneath the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn. After a careful clamber up to this point, we found it to be a good place to pause for some lunch. The views around are stunning, Carnedd Llewelyn immediately to the NW, Cwm Eigiau down to the east, Tryfan & Glyderau to the SW – you may even spot Snowdon beyond.

The shimmering blue waters of Ffynnon Llugwy.
The shimmering blue waters of Ffynnon Llugwy.

Now continue south-easterly along the ridge to Bwlch Eryl Farchog and then up to Pen yr Helgi Du. This section does include a short stretch, that some consider to be a scramble; if wearing a backpack, as we were, you’ll definitely want to be ‘hands on’. Furthermore in windy / icy / snowy conditions even more care should be taken – its not desperately narrow but the drops are big. Once at the Pen yr Helgi Du end, you can enjoy the view back of what you’ve just crossed.

Looking back across Bwlch Eryl Farchog on approach to Pen yr Helgi Du.
Looking back across Bwlch Eryl Farchog on approach to Pen yr Helgi Du.

Having negotiated the rocks to Pen yr Helgi Du summit, there is a more relaxing & grassy descent to a ladder style at the top of Bwlch y Tri Marchog, before climbing the grassy bank of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (Peak of the slippery Witch), what a name! More interesting views open up from here, especially looking north over Llyn Eigiau, past where you parked, to the N. Wales coast and its offshore windfarm.

Looking north from Pen Llithrig y Wrach over Llyn Eigiau to the North Wales coastline.
Looking north from Pen Llithrig y Wrach over Llyn Eigiau to the North Wales coastline.

It’s now time to descend. We headed NE at first, before heading towards the disused quarry workings. There are no paths here, it is rather damp walking across boggy heather. At the old quarry (care needed), pick up the path that will quickly lead you back to the original outgoing path. Now simply retrace your earlier steps, back to the car parking. See below for a few further photos and for the route map.

You may also enjoy my earlier blog post “Carneddau Ponies” with pictures of the ponies that live on this highland region of Wales.

Altitude:

CwmEigiau-walkprofile
CwmEigiau-walkprofile

Map:

Gallery:

A November stroll on Snowdon

A changeable day in November, with a beautiful clear start; just the sort of day to photograph some of the different moods of beautiful Snowdonia. And so it was last week when Tamsin & I had an early start to head for Rhyd Ddu before dawn. Here’s a photo heavy post, telling the tale of our walk and including the GPS track / route details, so that you might enjoy this fine piece of country for yourself; (please note that in wintery conditions this route becomes a much more significant challenge, requiring more knowledge & equipment):

The blue light of early morn

We parked up in the frosty & empty car park at Rhyd Ddu just as the tinges of blue light were lifting the dawn sky. A few quick checks plus one photo later and we were on our way, hiking up the track towards the old quarry on Yr Aran slopes. The aim was to be at the quarry as the sun rose above the mountain horizon. As always it was worth taking the time to stand & stare, the view looking back westwards was beautiful with a coloured dawn sky, mountain panorama and mist in the valley:

Looking west before sunrise – from the left, Nantle Ridge, Mynydd Mawr, Moel Eilio.

It is these views that help make early morning walks such a pleasure, along with crisp air, morning wildlife and the fact that you’ll probably have the mountainside to yourself! It’s definitely the time for catching decent photography light. I’m currently on a long-term mission to capture the many changing faces of North & Mid Wales landscapes, not just the perfect blue sky days. And so we carried on, heading uphill for the quarries.

Forward to Yr Aran and the sunrise

As we reached the quarry, the timing was great and we were rewarded with striking views all around. Looking back through the ruins, we could see Beddgelert Forest & Nantle Ridge beyond. Whilst ahead there were stunning sunrise colours, as the sun burst out from behind the flank of Yr Aran.

Back to Beddgelert Forest and Nantle Ridge from the quarry ruins
Sunrise across the quarries and slopes of Yr Aran

Now it was time to swing north and climb more steeply up the ridge, Allt Maenderyn, towards the arΓͺte of Bwlch Main (my favourite point on Snowdon). Looking uphill showed that the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) was, as so often, shrouded in moody cloud. Pleasing, from my photography perspective, it would allow for some moody shots looking down from the cloud base, I just hoped that more general cloud would hold off for another hour or so. In the meantime it was great to enjoy the morning view across to Y Lliwedd.

Warm sunlight floods into the quarries of Cwm Llan and Y Lliwedd

Approaching the cloud base & with the temperature becoming notably fresher, I paused to put on my coat and to take advantage of a gloriously clear view across Bwlchysaethau to Crib Goch, which was bathed in warm sunshine.

Crib Goch looming beyond Bwlchysaethau, illuminated by morning sunshine.

As we crossed Bwlch Main the views down towards Cwm Llan & Nant Gwynant beyond, were just as dramatic as I had hoped. The morning sunshine was sandwiched with building cloud above, valley shadow & mist below. Leaving the Canon SLR in the rucksack, I decided this would be a good spot to utilise the significant reach of my little Nikon. When I bought the B700 last year, its main target use was for video projects with Tamsin. I hoped that it would also act as an inexpensive & lightweight backup / catchall on walks. Whilst it clearly can’t produce SLR standard shots, it does hold its own well & fulfils my chosen role for it. Here are 2 shots out of the cloud with it – the 2nd shot is framed within the first one, at the mist line on the valley floor:

Changeable November conditions; looking southerly from Bwlch Main arete (Snowdon) with Y Lliwedd to the left, mist over Llyn Gwynant and dramatic skies above.
Morning mist over from Llyn Gwynant shrouds the start of the Watkin path up Snowdon.

Now continuing across this exposed ridge to Snowdon’s summit, visibility dropped & hints of winter appeared; perhaps we’ll be back up here with the crampons in a few months πŸ˜‰

In to the mists on the exposed ridge of Bwlch Main.
Signs of Winter

Finally we reached the summit and met a small handful of cheerful folk who were also enjoying the morning (the first folk we’d seen all morning). Here’s a picture of Tamsin by the summit trig point.

Tamsin & the Yr Wyddfa summit trig point

To descend, we retraced our tracks across Bwlch Main and then, keeping right where the path splits, we followed the Rhyd Ddu path back down to the car. With steadily increasing cloud & flatter light, the best of the photography was done but we did pause to enjoy our bacon butties & picnic πŸ˜€

Below, you will find the details of our route, a link to the GPS track and a gallery of all the pictures above, to make it easier to view them:

GPS Route details:

If you prefer track-logs, it’s available here.

Gallery of images:

Harvest Moon Sunsets

Do you ever have one of those days or projects where you start off aiming to do one thing but end up with something quite different? Well this is a tale of one such occurrence. An example, if you will, of why flexibility is good and how beneficial, accepting that as one door closes another one may well open, can be.

Harvest Moons are defined as the closest full moon to the autumn equinox. For the northern hemisphere this usually falls as the September full moon but in 2017 the Harvest Moon falls later, becoming full at 7-40pm BST on the evening of 5th October. Over the years I’ve taken plenty of full moon pictures, like the one below:

Full Moon

For this Harvest moon I wanted to photograph something a little different, with more character than detail. This is the sort of shot that requires both planning & luck. A look at the weather forecasts suggested that evening cloud was a likely risk on the hills but it should be fairly broken along the coastline to our north-west. Time to use some of the great tools like Photographer’s Ephemeris & Google Earth to plan the shot. Calculations showed that the moon should just be rising above a silhouetted Cadair Idris as it went full, as viewed from the harbour wall at Barmouth. At that distance the effect of the 500mm lens should both emphasise the moon size & compress the landscape to help give a decent impactful composition. If luck was with us, a few burst shots should provide all that was necessary for a dramatic HDR image. Without luck, we’d just see a mass of dark cloud! At any rate it is always enjoyable to watch as the lights of Barmouth sparkle across the harbour at twilight.

Barmouth’s colourful twinkling

We packed up a few different bits of kit so that we could take advantage of various eventualities and set off for Barmouth, timing our arrival to give us just enough time to enjoy fish & chips overlooking the sea before sunset. We were treated to a fabulous sunset with almost clear skies out to sea & rich colours developing after the sun dipped below a watery horizon. I had setup the little Nikon in timelapse mode when we first arrived on the harbour wall, here’s a quick animated gif made from some of the shots …

Sunset animation from Barmouth harbour

The header image for this article is my favourite capture of the evening, taken at 500mm on a DSLR, the last moments of the sun floating above the sea can be made quite impactful.

Anyone who has visited Barmouth will know that the tide runs in to the harbour at quite a speed. With the incoming tide at full pace there was also plenty of opportunity to take a slightly wider view of the sunset with choppy waters to the fore.

Tidal Rush

As the evening wore on life & entertainment carried on around us but the clouds seemed resolute about obscuring our view of Cadair Idris. Still there was plenty to amuse us, with Tamsin sketching the waves and me rather more distracted by the various forms of transport ..

Mixed transport

As 7-40pm approached, I could tantalisingly see the glow of the rising moon but the clouds just would not break. Then at 7-42pm the clouds partially broke for just a few moments. The view was fabulous by eye but very fleeting & not ideal for the photographs I wished for. Still, always take the shot, that’s my motto. Here are two processings of it, one in partial monochrome, one with colour ..

Beyond Pared y Cefn Hir, above the looming shadows of Cadair Idris, the Harvest Moon breaks through scudding clouds.
Beyond Pared y Cefn Hir, above the looming shadows of Cadair Idris, the Harvest Moon breaks through scudding clouds. (colour version)

As the evening night progressed the cloud never cleared but we waited for the moon to rise high, above the cloud – enough to give moody silver reflections on the estuary.

Dark moon over sea

So a great evening out, some lovely photography even if not what I had planned for. That’s great, because there will always be another full moon, another harvest, so the challenge lives on. Anyway it was time for more mundane things – like doing our weekly shop before the supermarket closed at 11pm. Let me leave you with that sunset again; until next time dear readers …

Time to timelapse – capturing an animated sunset
Sublime fire above the deep blue

Tamsin the autumn fairy

One of the great pleasures of working with your enthusiastic & artistic daughter are the impromptu moments of photographic opportunity. Tamsin is an excellent model with a natural ease acting in front of camera – more than that though, her creativity tends to inspire the photographer. Only the other day we were setting to on routine maintenance of our weather station equipment. As ever a vine needed trimming back from the main rain gauge; before long Tamsin was plaiting the offcuts in to a fairy crown or wreath. The early autumn leaf tinges in crimson were complemented by the red fleece that she was wearing, so down the ladder I climbed & went to fetch a camera.

If you’d like to read the full article and pick up some tips on the photography & processing, then why not head across to the main article on my photography blog.

Photographic anatomy of a flower

I’ve often felt that the textbook pencil diagrams of a flower’s anatomy are a little lacking in the beauty of a flower. So, when one of our lily flowers had a petal damaged by the wind, I decided to take a macro photograph & label it up for education. As always πŸ™‚ the project ended up going a little further …

Firstly let’s define the different parts labelled in the featured image above (a larger version of the diagram may be viewed or downloaded from the gallery at the bottom of this article) :

    Stamen – The stamen is the male part of the flower. It consists of the Anther & the Filament. The Anther is the pollen bearing part of the flower. Pollen particles develop from microspores within the anther & are then dispersed from the surface of the anther. The Filament supports the anther in whatever position that flower has evolved to require.
    Pistil / Carpel – Is the female part of the flower. A flower may have varied number of Carpels consisting of an ovary joined to one or several Style & Stigma. The Stigma is the area which receives pollen, it is often uppermost & of a folded or branched nature that is sticky on the surface. The Style is the supporting structure that joins the Stigma & Ovary, it is through this tissue that a pollen tube will grow when the flower is fertilised. The Ovary contains the ovules that will be fertilised by pollen, from which union the plant’s seed will ultimately form
    Calyx – is the combined modified leaf structures known as Sepals & Petals. Petals – are formed from modified leaves and surround the reproductive organs mentioned above. They are often used not just for protection but also to advertise the flower to potential pollinators. As such they are frequently decorative & brightly coloured. The Sepals (not shown) are normally plainer, often green. They protect the flower as it forms & often help support the petals when in full bloom.
    Stem – the supportive structure that physically holds the complete flower structure, whilst also containing the structures required to supply nutrient & water to those structures. (Perhaps something to cover another day)

Notes:
1. The flower pictured has lost one of its anthers in the blustery weather, as well as one petal folding over to expose the ovary.
2. You are free to download & use the labelled photograph for educational purposes as long as the credit to me is kept in place.

Please refer to the gallery below for more detailed macrophotography & micrographs of these structures: