The Carneddau are a wide expanse of high mountain and moorland to the north of Snowdonia National Park. Often climbed from Ogwen, as they are conveniently placed opposite the Glyderau, they have a multitude of approach options.
Carnedd Llywelyn and Carnedd Dafydd
These are the highest mountains in wales after Snowdon, with Carned Llywelyn only 21m lower than Snowdon at 1064m high and 1m lower than Carnedd Ugain. Most would class it as the second highest mountain in Wales, as Carnedd Ugain is a subsidiary summit of Snowdon rather than a mountain in its own right, but it all depends on your definition of mountain! We’re not going into that here. For every walk to thee summits we recommend you read our Mud and Route article; All the walks up Carnedd Llywelyn and Carnedd Dafydd.
The best walk up to the Carneddau is the High Carneddau from Ogwen, though we’d recommend adding on a dog-leg to bag Yr Elen while you’re at it. Better still would be to extend the walk over the outliers of Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du for an epic walk with plenty of climbing to test out those calf muscles. The choice for scramblers would have to be the Crib Lem Scramble up Carnedd Dafydd.
The Outlying Carneddau
Pen yr Oleu Wen, Yr Elen, Foel Grach, Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du are all found on the main ridges up to Llywelyn and Dafydd. They’re usually walked as part of a circuit involving the big two, though Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du together provide a reasonably tough circuit without including Carnedd Llywelyn. Yr Elen also has some interesting approaches, with the NE Ridge Scramble being our pick, if only for the walk in via the grand Cwm Caseg.
Foel Fras and it’s foothills. Further north, the Carneddau branch out into numerous blunt and grassy ridges which culminate in Garnedd Uchaf (Carnedd Gwenllian) and Foel Fras. These are still interesting hills, with the blunt Aryg ridge sporting the twin peaks of Bera Bach and Bera Mawr – which are tors of vertical splintered rock that look like a slightly weathered Castell y Gwynt. Walking to them is straightforward enough, but you’ll need some thought and scrambling to reach their true summits.
The ridge culminates in the rather unremarkable Moel Wnion to the north, but some minor summits of Gyrn and Moel Faban provide a satisfying descent into Bethesda. The Ridge to the north of Foel Fras is much more satisfying as it takes you over the minor summit of Drum, which is a fine viewpoint, and then onwards over the mini ridge of Yr Orsedd and Foel Ganol which can be walked as an easy hill walk from Abergwyngregyn.
This is the northernmost mountain in wales at 610m in height, and is separated from the main Carneddau by the col of Bwlch y Ddeufaen which is breached by a roman road. This provides good walking, with the summit climbable in a long walk from Aber, or a very short walk from Bwlch y Ddeufaen that makes this one of the easier mountains to climb as far as ascent goes. The path is rough and wet in places, so it’s still a challenging walk. It can also be climbed from the north, from Sychnant Pass and has a good track that circles most of the mountain, and a reasonably easy grassy walk on the pathless section, that makes a circular walk on Tal y Fan straightforward to plan. Often climbed on it’s own, as part of a rough circuit of the NE Carneddau or better still as part of a full traverse of the Carneddau from Conwy to Capel Curig (or equally good in reverse – getting the harder walking out of the way first).
The outlying summit of Creigiau Gleision has more in common with the Rhinogydd than the Carneddau, heather clad and rough. It’s separated from the main Carneddau by Llyn Cowlyd – the deepest lake in Snowdonia – and is more often climbed on its own rather than as part of any wider traverse. Our favourite ascent is from Capel Curig via Llyn Crafnant and Llyn Cowlyd – a tough 20km walk that shouldn’t be underestimated.