Two Princes and a Princess (?)


A Carneddau pony at home in the er, Carneddau; Cwm Llafar to be precise
A Carneddau pony at home in the er, Carneddau; Cwm Llafar to be precise

Hello readers

Well I did say a couple of days back that I’d have some more images for you, but this time from a mountain walk through my ‘back garden’. Those of you that follow my blog will know that I live within spitting distance of the Carneddau range of mountains, that rise up out of the Irish Sea to a maximum height of 1,064 m/3,491 ft. I titled the post as I did thus: ‘Two Princes‘ refers to the two mountains that were named after Llewelyn ap Grufudd and his wee brother, Dafydd ap Grufudd respectively. These are namely Carnedd Llewelyn at 1,064 m/3,491 ft and Carnedd Dafydd at 1,044 m/3,425ft; what’s 20 metres between brothers eh? I do love the etymology of Welsh mountains (that basically means how things are named, if you didn’t know).

So what about the ‘Princess(?)‘. Well, it’s possible that this mountain was named after Eleanor de Montfort, who was Princess of Wales and wife of Llewelyn in the latter part of the 11th century. So I refer here to Yr Elen, the spur like mountain with a beautiful profile at 962 m/3,156 ft.

Anyway, now that you have learnt something (because I like to educate my readers in our local history, as I’m nice like that) it’s time to get on with the post. Ahem.

Today I wanted to walk around what’s known as ‘The Carneddau Horseshoe‘ taking in the above mentioned mountains. It is a fairly straight forward mountain walk, but instead of following up the spur of Mynydd Ddu, I would continue up into Cwm Llafar, the edge of which starts at around 380 m/1,246 ft, and ascend the short but sweet, Grib Lem ridge also known as the Llech Ddu spur.

So, because I can’t stand the slog up the road for about two miles from my village before I actually arrive at the sheep poop infested farmland, I decided to drive up to just near a little water-pump station and park in a lay-by next to the sign erected by an angry farmer that states ‘Dim Parcio‘ (No Parking…). Unfortunately, he has no right to lay out signs like this on a public right of way. He also regularly attempts to prevent access through his land by sabotaging gates and stiles. Idiot. I wasn’t going through his farm anyway, as I didn’t want a confrontation or to have to state the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 to his grumpy, I-hate-hill-walkers, face.

So I trotted up the path through the sheep, happy that the sun was blazing down and already attempting to dye my hair and burn my scalp.

The track climbs gradually up over pretty squishy land until you arrive at a stile at 380 metres, where I swivelled around and took the following:

At the edge of Cwm Llafar, looking north west back to my village.
At the edge of Cwm Llafar, looking north west back to my village.

As I wandered up, listening to the sounds of rushing water from the Afon Llafar and the lovely, twittering sounds of the skylark I noticed that the ponies were having luncheon so decided to drop down off the path, making sure I didn’t spook them to take some photographs. These are wild ponies, but are actually owned; we lost a lot in the heavy snows a while ago, so it’s good to see them around still:

'Ow do?
‘Ow do?
5. CRW_1672-4
“There’s just no bloody grass around here”
Like a big fluffy teddy bear. But actually, a bit of an ass.
Like a big fluffy teddy bear. But actually, a bit of an ass.
"Mmmmmm, grass" he seemed to say
“Mmmmmm, grass” he seemed to say

I clambered back up on to the path, and continued up into the cwm, my next stop being a little waterfall I knew of. It wouldn’t be all that impressive today, as our rivers are actually pretty low for once, but this did mean that I could take a shot from a view point I wouldn’t normally be able to. So, check them out:

This is an HDR image; three images taken at different exposures, and merged together. The colours in the water are beautiful.
This is an HDR image; three images taken at different exposures, and merged together. The colours in the water are beautiful.
Normally, I'd never be able to stand here as the water would be rushing over this slab at a high rate of knots. The ridge I will be climbing is directly rear of shot.
Normally, I’d never be able to stand here as the water would be rushing over this slab at a high rate of knots. The ridge I will be climbing is directly rear of shot.

After nearly falling in the river behind me after misplacing my feet (no, I didn’t lose them)I thought it best to get on. But immediately after thinking that I thought ‘What’s the rush, you’ve got all day‘. Very true. I made my way to the head of the cwm anyway, and readied myself for the awful, steep slog up into Cwm Glas Mawr, but not before being confronted with the HUGE wall of the spur, rearing up in front of me, blocking out the sun:

Impressive sun-blocking capabilities, my friend.
Impressive sun-blocking capabilities, my friend.

My route follows up to the left of the black water fall, and is awfully steep. At this point I looked behind me and to my horror, there was another hill walker! She must not catch me up! I like to be alone in the mountains, simply because of the solitude it gives me and the awesome sense of space. I did give her a friendly wave though; she was clutching a map in her left hand so I figured she perhaps wasn’t local. Lucky I knew where I was going then!
I started to clamber up the slope and it wasn’t long before rivulets of sweat started to sting my eyes and I really started to stink! The last time I climbed up into this cwm, the cloud was right down and you could see nada, nowt, nothing. Which was a shame, as I am beyond impressed and awed by the sight that awaits me at the edge of Cwm Glas Mawr; it’s like stepping into the set of Lord of the Rings, as Frodo and Sam enter Emyn Muir and onward to Mordor. It is an incredible sight and has me gaping:

Like, WOW!
Like, WOW! Shame there’s nothing to give it some scale – it’s a HUGE amphitheatre.

I turned around and shot a few for another panorama, back down into Cwm Llafar:

11. CRW_1736-Edit-34
This is slightly over-exposed in places, mainly on the hills in the background.

After this I trended left up onto the ridge proper. The scrambling is pretty easy really, with a few places to test your nerve at height, but nothing too death-defying. I arrived at the flat slab of rock that I call the ‘Christmas Tree‘ because of its shape, and decided to hang around here for a bit to take some self-shots of yours truly and a few more for panoramas:

Pretending to be an angel on Christmas Tree slab; actually, there is a considerable drop behind me...
Pretending to be an angel on Christmas Tree slab; actually, there is a considerable drop behind me…
A panorama over Cwm Llafar with Yr Elen and Llewelyn right of shot.
A panorama over Cwm Llafar with Yr Elen and Llewelyn right of shot.
Carnedd Llewelyn and Ysgolion Duon or Black Ladders.
Carnedd Llewelyn and Ysgolion Duon or Black Ladders.
My village; I can actually see my house in this shot.
My village; I can actually see my house in this shot.
A magnified shot of Ysgolion Duon; it occurred to me that it may have got its name because it is always in shadow.
A magnified shot of Ysgolion Duon; it occurred to me that it may have got its name because it is always in shadow. These are huge cliffs with many climbs on them. I’ll eventually be walking along the tops of them…

Unfortunately, the scramble eventually opens out onto the broad northern shoulder of Carnedd Dafydd. I was aiming for a patch of snow, that I would then contour around with a view to heading west to the summit and it’s fantastic views:

Don't be silly, of course I didn't walk over this. Pretty sure I would have fallen to my death if I had.
Don’t be silly, of course I didn’t walk over this. Pretty sure I would have fallen to my death if I had.
A shot looking west to Wales' highest mountain, Snowdon
A shot looking west to Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdon
The ever stunning Tryfan, across the Ogwen Valley.
The ever stunning Tryfan, across the Ogwen Valley.

I carried on from Dafydd, as it was crawling with gigantic-rucksacks-the-size-of-small-children-wielding, children, no doubt doing their Duke of Edinburgh assessments. It was pretty darn cold up here, so I dropped down into a hollow out of the chill wind and donned a wind-proof jacket. I made my way over to the ridge, to get as close to it as possible without having to meet my maker, whomever that was; I make no apologies for being a science wielding atheist. Anyhoo, I shot the following along the top of the ridge, before it drops down into Bwlch Cyfrwy Drum:

Over the desperately clinging on snow to the top of Black Ladders.
Over the desperately clinging on snow to the top of Black Ladders. People provide some scale here, at least.
I zoomed right back into the ridge I ascended, to get a shot of Christmas Tree slab, that I'd shot myself on earlier. Haha, shot myself on, I made a funny.
I zoomed right back into the ridge I ascended, to get a shot of Christmas Tree slab, that I’d shot myself on earlier. Haha, shot myself on, I made a funny.

I casually sauntered along the ridge top, seeking out a nice central spot so that I could shoot the following panorama. I like balance in my images, so wanted to ensure I had the river running down the centre of the cwm in the middle of the shot when I stitch the pictures together:

Carnedd Dafydd left, with the spur I climbed dropping down into the cwm below. Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewelyn, right.
Carnedd Dafydd left, with the spur I climbed dropping down into the cwm below. Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewelyn, right.

I dropped down into Bwlch Cyfrwy Drum where I could eventually get a shot of Pen yr Helgi Du looking down into Cwm Llugwy and Ffynnon Llugwy:

Looking east to Ffynnon Llugwy, Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithwirg yr Wrach, rear.
Looking east to Ffynnon Llugwy, Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithwirg yr Wrach, rear. The heights of Craig yr Ysfa are left of shot.
Looking at Bwlch eryl Farchog, where unfortunately, somebody fell to his death recently. It's a pretty perilous descent down to the ridge with a big drop down into Cwm Eigiau.
Looking at Bwlch Eryl Farchog, where unfortunately, somebody fell to his death recently. It’s a pretty perilous descent down to the ridge with a big drop down into Cwm Eigiau. Southern Clwydians, centre left distance.

I had one more slog of the day really after this point up onto Carnedd Llewelyn at 1,064 metres. I didn’t want to hang around, so I took a quick shot back along the ridge to Carnedd Dafydd:

Looking west from Carnedd Llewelyn, with the Glyderau left and Snowdon centre-left, distant.
Looking west from Carnedd Llewelyn, with the Glyderau left and Snowdon centre-left, distant. The prominent peak on the right is Elidir Fawr and Atlantic Slabs of Carnedd y Filiast, far right

I took another bunch of portrait shots for a panorama, looking north from Llewelyn, towards the rest of the Carneddau range:

Looking north to my next mountain, Yr Elen, left and the other Carneddau mountains, less rugged than the rest.
Looking north to my next mountain, Yr Elen, left and the other Carneddau mountains, less rugged than the rest.

When leaving the top of Llewelyn I always make a mental note of the direction I’m heading and what prominent rocks there are; I have a photographic memory and can even remember particular rocks. The reason for this is because when on this mountain in thick cloud, it is very difficult to navigate off, especially for the inexperienced mountain walker; wasn’t so long ago that I was involved in a rescue in horrible conditions at 2 am, shouting futilely into the strong winds and freezing rain for the missing man. He turned up safe and well, just pride injured and very cold. He was twenty metres from the shelter he was looking for…it could have been worse, as he was quite ill equipped and could have easily died in these conditions. I guess it’s lucky that mountain rescue will always be around…never under-estimate the mountains folks, even on sunny days always pack for the conditions to change at the drop of a hat. Believe me, they can and often do.

I grabbed a quick zoomed shot down into the Conwy valley and made my way towards Yr Elen:

Conwy through the haze.
Conwy through the haze.

As I started the steep descent down into the nameless bwlch between Llewelyn and Yr Elen, I marveled at the mountain’s wonderful profile and the view down into Cwm Caseg:

Yr Elen is graceful from any angle.
Yr Elen is graceful from any angle.

I mosied on down and back up the other side. It was here that I’d planned to stop for lunch, as I knew it’d be deserted, being the outlier of a mountain that it is. The wind had really started to pick up and high cloud had obscured the sun, so it was pretty cold now and the light became pretty flat; not the best for photography. I found a spot on the leeward side of the mountain and poured myself a coffee and just sat, listening to the joyous silence and just admired the view over and into Cwm Caseg:

My favourite lunch spots are in the mountains, rain or shine. Ffynnon Caseg peaks out at the right.
My favourite lunch spots are in the mountains, rain or shine. Ffynnon Caseg peaks out at the right.

Unfortunately, things were going to take a turn for the worst here for me. Firstly, I was really angry at myself for letting my sandwich wrapper blow out of my lunch box down the mountainside (I hate seeing litter in the mountains) and secondly, as I started to pack my rucksack, I twisted and felt my back twinge and I cried out in pain. This was a major bummer, even more so as I frantically tried to find my painkillers. I’d foolishly forgotten to pack them. Shit. My back was very close to spasm, and if this happened, I would be unable to walk, and would likely need rescuing by my own rescue team; tres embarrassing. I made really careful, small movements to minimise the risk. Problem was, I now had to descend down the very steep northern nose of Yr Elen, which is pretty treacherous and a slip would mean disaster for my back.

I took it very steadily, making sure I maximised the grip from my walking boots, which isn’t always possible anyway on loose descents like this one. After a nervous couple of hundred metres, I made it onto friendlier ground and consciously tried to stop my body bouncing as I made my way across to Foel Ganol. Blimey the wind was blowing now! I still wanted more photos though, despite the pain in my back; I could still walk, so what the hell. I set the tripod up and mounted the camera, ensuring I weighted the tripod with my rucksack:

A HDR image looking directly at Bwlch Moch. I love the triangular shape and the sharp edges of this wonderful little cwm.
An HDR image looking directly at Bwlch Moch. I love the triangular shape and the sharp edges of this wonderful little cwm. The peak at the top of the triangle is Foel Mierch, 800 m.
Another HDR, with me in it this time; it was hard to stay very still in the wind!
Another HDR, with me in it this time; it was hard to stay very still in the wind!
A zoomed shot of Cwm Moch
A zoomed HDR shot of Cwm Moch
A shot back up towards Yr Elen
A shot back up towards Foel Ganol and Yr Elen

It was from here I had to make a decision where to descend across the rough bowl of the cwm’s bottom in order to cross the river, to reach the path out of the cwm. Usually, it’s very difficult to find a crossing point as it’s often too full, but I had knowledge of a couple of places, so I made my way west through the scratchy marsh grasses, cursing every time my legs were getting shredded; price you pay for wearing shorts when hill walking!
Before I descended too far however, I wanted to take a shot of Carnedd Dafydd so that I could annotate it, showing you my route of ascent onto the mountain. The climb starts at 500 metres, and ascends nearly 550 vertical metres to the summit:

My route onto Carnedd Dafydd, 1,044 metres.
My route onto Carnedd Dafydd, 1,044 metres.

I made my way across the river, and shot another panorama, looking back into the cwm; it’s clearer this time as the sun was not directly over-head:

From atop a rock in the Afon Llafar
From atop a rock in the Afon Llafar

My day in the mountains was coming to an end now. I’m always a little sad when leaving the mountains, as they bring me such joy. But they can also bring pain, and today it was in the form of my back attempting to give up the ghost. Mountain walking is very hard work and it really beats up your body, but the rewards are great, usually!

For my pain, I was given one more thing to smile about. As I was approaching a rock post, I saw a bird flitting about and it decided to land right in front of me. Because I had very little time to get the shot before it flew off, I shot the following; like I said, not much time, so not the sharpest shot in the world. It is zoomed and cropped quite considerably:

This lovely little Whetear decided to stand still long enough for me to squeeze shot off.
This lovely little Whetear decided to stand still long enough for me to squeeze a shot off.

And that folks, is that.

Thanks for reading and looking.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Two Princes and a Princess (?)

  1. Hi, brilliant story and photos. I visited Wales only once a few years ago (I live in London), and apart from the fact that I’m useless trying to pronounce the names of things/places I loved the scenery and vibe there. Only stayed in Cardiff but ventured out a little to the countryside for some walks and visits to castles etc. I’d like to explore more one day as I love nature and walking 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

      I’ve lived in Wales since 2008, originally from York, so it took me a while to learn, read and then speak the lingo! I’d hate to move away, as I’m very lucky to live where I live….shame about the economy.

      Would like to see more of London 🙂

      Elton

      1. Hi Elton, you’re welcome 🙂
        Now that’s a place I’ve never been: York. Maybe one day and also the Lake District is on my list.
        That photo which shows the village where you live looks so amazing. My dream house would be by the sea with breathtaking countryside scenery all around.
        London is what one makes of it… but perhaps that applies to everywhere we go, right? 🙂

        Natalia

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