The third day of my break in North Wales and I was keen to get up into the mountains. The weather forecast predicted cloud high up early on but that it would clear so I had a leisurely breakfast, packed my rucksack and set out late morning. There aren’t many access points to the Carneddau plateau from the north, so I’d decided to repeat a walk I’d done during my holiday the previous July, heading up towards one of the Welsh 3000 footers, Foel Fras via Drum. It’s a fair way up to there (almost 6 “map miles”) and I was going to be starting from only a few feet above sea level so it was going to be a significant ascent too. From the summit of Foel Fras there’s a number of options for the return and I’d decide which I’d take depending on how the day went and how I felt once I got up there.
The start of the walk retraced my steps from the previous day’s amble, along Gwylt Road, but this time I turned off the path up onto the moors just after I’d joined the Terrace Walk.
I passed Garreg Fawr that I’d climbed the previous day. This time I was heading for higher pastures.
Views of the mountains ahead
and, looking back, the sea
carrying along the track, the pylons came into view indicating that I wasn’t far from the Roman road
I reached the fingerpost
this time following the path towards Drum (pronounced ‘Drim’, it means ‘Ridge’ in English) my first objective of the day.
I passed a small herd of ponies – they wouldn’t be the last ones I’d see during the walk
Climbing gradually uphill towards Drum, I was on a broad track, which seems a little out of place given the remote nature of the territory. It was apparently constructed in the 1950’s by the army for a secret project testing a radar system known as the “Blue Joker”. Paul Shorrock has some details and photographs about the project in one of the posts on his excellent blog, which has a good number of posts featuring walks on the Carneddau.
Carrying onwards and upwards, Lynn Anafon in the valley below Llwytmor came into view
and looking back views over the foothills to the sea and Anglesey had opened up
There’s the summit of Drum. It’s also known as Carnedd Penyborth-Goch, but I’ll stick with Drum for this post – it’s a lot easier to type and I’ve a lot more Welsh spellings to try to cope with! The pile of stones is a prehistoric round cairn that has been demolished and hollowed out to form a shelter. It’s welcome for shelter on a windy day (very common up here) but it’s a pity that a prehistoric structure has been seriously compromised.
Time to stop for a while for a bite to eat and to take in the views. There’s Foel Fras, my next objective
Looking north towards the sea
east to the Conwy valley
There’s Tal-y-fan and Foel Lwyd
A couple passed on the track, making their way down the mountain – the first I’d seen since I set out
Setting off to Foel Fras, the military track was no more but there was a clear path which descended about 150 feet before climbing steeply up to the summit. The ground here was potentially wet and boggy and stepping stones had been laid over the worst sections to help keep boots dry and minimise erosion. The ground was relatively dry during my walk, though, following a drier spell of weather.
Looking down towards Lynn Anafon and Llwytmor Bach with Anglesey just about visible in the distance.
I found it a little hard going climbing the path up “the broad bald hill” (the English translation of Foel Fras) and had to take frequent short stops to regain my breath – a sign of getting older combined with, probably, a lack of “fell fitness” – but I eventually made it to the top.
Up to now I’d been walking on grassy slopes, but the summit is a landscape of shattered rock. Walking over to the trip point care is definitely needed to avoid breaking an ankle!
At 942 metres (3090 feet), Foel Fras is the northernmost of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks and from it’s summit I had views over the high Carneddau plateau to several of the others including Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elyn, Foel Grach and Carnedd Gwenllian. It had been a fair climb given that I’d started from only about 50 feet above sea level
I’d really have liked to complete a circular route, heading down over a few more peaks and then down to Abergwyngregyn but although there were several hours of light left, I knew that that would probably have been pushing things a bit beyond my capabilities and, in any case, I hadn’t enough supplies with me and the last thing I would have wanted would be to have a hypo up on this isolated plateau. So, I was going to return the way I’d come up. But I felt I could push myself a little more. The minor peak of Carnedd Gwenllian wasn’t so far away and from there I’d get a closer view of some of the other high mountains, so after a short rest I carried on along the path which descended a little, leaving the rocky summit and continuing over the grassy (and potentially boggy) ground.
Moving swiftly with no need for “blows” – it was easy walking – I made it to the summit of Carnedd Gwenllian in about 20 minutes
It was previously known as Carnedd Uchaf, but a campaign by the Princess Gwenllian Society led to a change of name in 2009 to honour the only daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, after who the nearby Carnedd Llywelyn is named. Although the summit is 3035 high it isn’t always included in the list of Welsh 3000 footers, as it only rises slightly above the plateau. But I’m going to count it!
The extra mile (or thereabout) was worth it for the views over to the nearby mountains across the plateau to the south
After soaking up the views it was time to set off to retrace my steps back to LLanfairfechan. A circular route is usually preferable but a “there and back” allows you to get a different perspective and this one is a case in point as going down provides excellent views down to the sea.
On the way back to Foel Fras I passed another herd of ponies with their foals
I started the descent from Foel Fras. It was easier than the climb up!
Reaching the Bwlch I had the option of varying my route by descending “off piste” down the grassy slopes towards Lynn Anafon. I could then make my way back to LLanfairfechan, but I’d be walking down a valley and would be missing the views down to the sea so I decided to keep following the high track.
Another option I had to vary the route was to take the fork off the military track over to Drosgyl. I seriously considered this but decided against it as it would have added a little extra distance to the route and, after my diversion to Carnedd Gwenllian I was beginning to flag a little.
I carried on taking the now familiar path past Garreg Fawr stopping to chat with a father and daughter out for an evening walk with their dog. They were the 12th and 13th people I’d seen during my walk.
I carried on along the grassy path down off the hills rejoining the minor road and then made my way back to my accommodation. It had been a long day but a good one! Time for a brew then a soak in the bath before making an easy meal and settling down for the evening.
I had another full day in Llanfairfechan to come and the weather forecast looked promising.