GUIDE TO THE AFON LLUGWY
(Plas y Brenin to Pont Cyfyng)
NAME OF RIVER: Llugwy.
WHERE IS IT?: It is beside the A5 in North Wales, flowing off the Glyders past Capel Curig to meet the Conwy at Betws y Coed.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: This section begins where the river flows out of Llynnau Mymbyr, the small lakes beside the A4 outside Capel Curig. Note that you are actually on the River Nantygwyryd at this point; but what you are paddling is a different story to the Nantygwyryd above the lake! Put in on the small rapid below the footbridge there, behind the Plas y Brenin outdoor centre. Take out is described below, you need to leave cars waiting in the layby beside Pont Cyfyng falls.
APPROX LENGTH: 1.5 miles
TIME NEEDED: An hour.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown, but I believe that you are expected to put money in an 'honesty box' whilst getting out above Pont Cyfyng.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This can be paddled in quite low water conditions, and is often paddleable when all else is too dry. In spate water levels Cobden's Falls, viewable from a footbridge beside the A5, are completely covered with no rock visible...Grade 5. If there is enough water to paddle over the centre 'slab', then you have enough water and Cobden's Falls is Grade 4.
GRADING: 2 (4) at low/ medium levels. Cobden's Falls is Grade 5 at very high levels. Pont Cyfyng is Grade 5 with a bit of 6 thrown in, but don't panic, it's easy to portage unless the river is way high.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS:Pont Cyfyng would rate as major in most people's reckoning...
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Put in at the small rapids below the footbridge and practice your break-ins/ -outs. A little way downstream the Llugwy proper joins on river left. In high water you can start on this harder upper section. A long Grade 2 rapid takes you under a bridge; this is great territory for beginners to whitewater and I did my such trip here! The river then becomes progressively trickier and group leaders will have to decide when enough is enough for their crowd...a grade 3 drop leads shortly to Cobden's Falls, an enjoyable Grade 4 fall at most water levels. Another easy stretch follows, but be WIDE AWAKE as you must get out on river right way before a stone bridge which is above the lead-in to Pont Cyfyng, a series of waterfalls with a horrendous final drop.
Look out for an honesty box here as the landowner wants you to pay to walk 50 metres across his land to the bridge...cross the bridge and find your car.
Peter Steel, Deva Canoe Club... (December 2002) 'The honesty box has now gone and you have to pay at the cafe in the layby opposite to where the access to the lower section begins. It is now a pound for non WCA members so put some money in your dry box.'
Philip Edwards...(January 2003) 'Paddle this river fairly frequently, in fact only last weekend (Christmas 02). The 'Honesty' Box is still on the gate BUT it is now 1 payable in the cafe across the road (Pont Cyfyng) if you are a member of the WCA and show your card in the cafe it's free. Please respect the portage it's a long walk if they withdraw it!'
Another alternative is to continue down the Llugwy.
Pont Cyfyng is quite paddleable in low water (Grade 5), excluding the dubious looking third fall. It makes a reasonable time-filler if there is no water anywhere else, even when the Llugwy is unpaddleable.
James Tarver adds'Just a quick note to say that all the paddlers in Bangor Uni canoe club, consider the last fall on Pont Cyfyng, unrunnable and practically suicidal. There is a siphon which sucks water through a rock, at the bottom of it somewhere. No-one's exactly sure though, (which is half the problem) but boats and people have been sucked in, stuck very severely, and only released sometime later.'
Andrew Fell agrees: 'Pont Cyfyng is a killer. A couple of years ago my brother's best friend was paddling it, at moderate to high water. He did the first drop and broke out in the eddy (River left, just below the bridge) he then proceeded to do the second drop again perfectly and broke out in the eddy on River right. He then went on to do the third drop, which was incredibly holding. Police divers recovered his body a couple of hours later. His boat was not recovered. Both my brother and myself would be extremely grateful if you could warn people not to paddle the third drop.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, with updates from James Tarver, Peter Steel, Philip Edwards and Andrew Fell.