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There's a secret place in Snowdonia. A place where wild horses roam underneath towering spurs and lofty peaks. A place where a sublime ridge scramble takes you to within touching distance of Wales' third and fourth (not second and third as I erroneously announce on the video - sorry Crib Y Ddysgl) highest peaks. A place where a pleasant mountain pasture gives way to intimidating cliffs of black rock. A place where you can hike and scramble in total isolation, where only the sound of running water, wind and birdlife interupts your enraptured thoughts.


If you follow the Afon Llafar out of Bethesda for an hour you will find this magical place. At first, you will be surrounded by verdant high grasslands by a charming stream. After some time, the dramatic end of the valley starts to make itself known. Ysgolion Duon - The Black Ladders - are formidable cliffs that mark the termination of the valley. To the right, a solitary rocky spur reaches out to the pastures below.


This is the Llech Ddu Spur, the most exciting way onto the high Carneddau. In the first instance it looks just as impassable as cliffs around it, as a triangular buttress of sheer, vertical rock suggests only those with ropes may apply. However, to the right snakes an indistinct path that cuts back on itself, up a grassy terrace to an outcrop capped with quartzite. From here it's classic scrambling ground on a ridge that rises and narrows, before topping out on Carnedd Dafydd. The arete is terrific. It's never too exposed but a head for heights is nonetheless required. It's remeniscent of Hall's Fell on Blencathra, with perhaps a couple of notches of added spice.


The reward for summiting? Easy access to the other high tops: Pen Yr Ole Wen and an unmissable view of the Glyderau (complete with the simple majestic lines that make up Tryfan), Carnedd Llewellyn and a telling view back to the spur and Yr Elen and a surprisingly adventurous descent down it's northeast ridge. So, what are you waiting for? Next time you are in Snowdonia, avoid the crowds, shun the big hitters and head for the Llech Ddu Spur. You will not regret it.

The Llech Ddu Spur

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