Pen yr Ole Wen and the Carneddau

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North Wales has some of the best hill-walking in the UK. It's wilder and more dramatic than the Lake District, but on a smaller scale than the Highlands of Scotland, making it a bit more 'user-friendly'. The real head-turners are Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) and Tryfan; the first because it's bigger than anything else in Wales or England and the second because it looks like a real mountain!

Just across the road from Tryfan lies the area known as the Carneddau. It hasn't got the highest peaks in Wales but it isn’t far behind, with Carnedd Llewelyn being the third highest at 1,064 metres (3,490 feet). At first glance it hasn't got the drama of some of the other areas, but a closer look will reveal some of the most striking mountain crags in Wales - and it's big! You could fit the Snowdon group plus Tryfan and the Glyderau into the Carneddau and still have room to spare.

The Carneddau are similar in feel to the Cairngorms. The Carneddau range isn't as high or as exposed as the Cairngorms, but it's big and wild compared with the neighbouring areas. It's the kind of place where you might well need good navigation skills and bad weather or mist would certainly make a walk much more demanding. They are the kind of hills it would take some time to get to know well. So, here's a starter, including the two highest peaks in the group (Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd) plus some easy scrambling for extra interest. The route starts from the Ogwen Valley and takes the East Ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen, which includes the first bit of scrambling. From the summit you follow a sweeping, broad ridge to Carnedd Dafydd and continue along similar ground to Carnedd Llewelyn.

The descent includes more scrambling and there is an option to include another peak on the way back, with yet more scrambling. All the 'hands-on' stuff is easy (Grade 1 or less) and short, without huge drops, so the route would be suitable for fit, agile walkers who enjoy an occasional bit of steep rock. After all that, you get a steady descent to the valley, followed by easy, level walking. This gives great views, including the southern rim of the Carneddau which this walk follows and the northern rim of the Glyderau, including the magnificent Tryfan. Don't forget your camera!

The walk isn't too demanding, but you will know that you have had a good day out when you get down. You will also have a real feel of what the Carneddau are all about and will probably be tempted back again for more.

Wales - North Wales - Gwynedd - Snowdonia


Great Views, Hills or Fells, Lake/Loch
10/6/2015 - Sarah Green

Fantastic walk and we were lucky with the weather except when the cloud was low whilst trying to find the path off the top of Pen Yr Ole Wen towards the Carneddau.

3/28/2012 - andrew simpson

I have done this twice now and enjoyed it both times. Second time was glorious sunshine and even shorts in March but 2 weeks earlier there was snow on the ground and mist with a cold wind. So it was like 2 separate walks. Well enjoyable when clear magnificent views.

5/14/2011 - Ian Dodd

Thanks Paul for an exhilarating walk. Our 44th Walking World walk but first Mountain Challenge. Your write-up persuaded us that we could do it and I can't tell you how pleased we were with ourselves having completed it. For once I didn't mind that there were others on the route, as there were times when we might otherwise have thought 'surely we don't have to go up there?' but there was always someone to follow (even though, or perhaps because, it was the day of the royal wedding). The views were stunning, and between the peaks you're at a fairly steady level, sometimes on rough terrain, but at about 1000m up it feels like the top of the world. The last bit down, although on a road surface, felt very long, on our tired and slightly wobbly legs.