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Snowdonia: climb every mountain (it’s not all about ‘Yr Wyddfa’)

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 24 August 2018
Related property: Henllys
Snowdonia: climb every mountain (it’s not all about ‘Yr Wyddfa’)

Holidaymakers at Henllys have a plethora of treats in store. A round (or three) of golf on the site’s own 18-hole Championship-standard course; exploring the magical island of Anglesey; and enjoying the wonderful views back across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia. Many, indeed, are moved to explore that glorious national park, and maybe even to ascend its most famous peak.

But Snowdonia is not just about Snowdon. Wales’s highest mountain is one of many, each of which promises its own challenges, and pleasures. Here is our pick of 10 climbs, with hopefully something to suit everyone from the occasional rambler to the seasoned adrenaline-junkie.

1: Crib Goch

Which could be Welsh for “doing Snowdon the hard way” – it is, on one level, but one route to the top of the national park’s highest and most famous peak. But Crib Goch deserves a mention in its own right: it’s a classic scramble, a high-octane ‘stickleback’ ridge with appropriately terrifying steep drops to either side, and fabulous views. Crib Goch’s technical difficulty is Grade 1, the lowest rating on a ‘scrambling scale’ that goes up to 3, according to the British Mountaineering Council – which adds, with admirable understatement: “An unplanned descent... is generally a serious undertaking.” Best not fall off, then.

The ridge of Crib Goch

2 and 3: Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach

The highest point in the Glyderau range (Snowdonia as a whole is made up of a number of small mountain ranges; hill clusters if you prefer), Glyder Fawr has only recently entered the elite club of 3,000-feet-high mountains; not sure how it added the crucial extra few feet. The climb up Glyder Fawr is a quiet route following a sketchy but steady path – not a high score in terms of excitement, but the views towards Snowdon are what make this one worth it.

The Glyder Fawr walk/climb is often combined with a trek up neighbouring Glyder Fach via Miner’s Track. Some sections are hard to follow – more so on the descent – but shouldn’t present too much difficulty to the seasoned hill-goer. Views of Tryfan and Bristly Ridge, as well as across to Snowdon, are highlights of the route. It’s worth a short dog-leg to Llyn y Caseg Fraith for views over to Tryfan: a great photo opportunity if the light is right.

Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach

4: Y Garn

Y Garn is another of the Glyderaus to feature in the list of Snowdonia’s top 10 highest mountains. It’s a fine figure of a mountain, usually climbed along with one of the neighbouring summits. That said, ascending Y Garn from Idwal Cottage and descending via Twll Du (Devil’s Kitchen) and Cwm Idwal is still a satisfying mountain walk.

Y Garn: a mountain that makes a statement

5: Elidir Fawr

Scarred by a history as a slate quarry site, Elidir Fawr dominates the views from the start of the Llanberis Path up Snowdon. It’s also the only mountain on the list that’s a battery – Elidir Fawr forms part of a pump storage scheme, with a power-station deep inside the mountain. You thinking Bond-villain, sinister cat-stroking, would-be evil overlord-style lair? You’re not alone.

Elidir Fawr. Note the man-made structures at bottom right

6: Tryfan

While Snowdon is the most popular mountain in the eponymous national park, Tryfan is favoured among hill-walkers. The mountain’s North Ridge is one of the most popular scrambles in Snowdonia, but the climb can also be tackled by the less difficult South Ridge, or the Heather Terrace.

Many who climb Snowdon wouldn’t describe themselves as hill-walkers, but rather people who happen to have walked up a mountain. Tryfan, on the other hand, presents a serious challenge, and you need to be sure of yourself, your climbing ability and your endurance before you take it on.

The mighty and forbidding Tryfan

7: Aran Fawddwy

The first in our list that’s both not in the popular walking area of the Llanberis Pass – Ogwen – and not one of the traditional 14 peaks over 3,000 feet high. Aran Fawddwy lies to the south of Llanuwchllyn on Llyn Tegid, and the route to the summit from Cwm Cywarch is one of Snowdonia’s great walks, away from the crowds and reaching almost 3,000 feet. The scenery is superb.

Aran Fawddwy: the scenic route

8: Y Lliwedd

Y Lliwedd may be a lofty 2,946 feet tall, but it still looks tiny when viewed from the summit of Snowdon. Which might make it sound something of a makeweight – a bit ‘meh’ in today’s parlance. But the ascent is still a worthwhile trip in itself when time is short, or as a more challenging route to the summit of you-know-what.

Y Lliwedd, viewed from Snowdon

9: Cadair Idris

More or less the same size as Snowdon, the same shape, and made of the same stuff, Cadair Idris ('Idris's seat') and Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon’s Welsh monicker) could almost be brothers. Twin brothers, even. Estranged twin brothers, though: Cadair Idris lies to the south of the national park, about 46 miles away from its more famous sibling. But perhaps the distance brings its own benefits; with a choice of ascent routes to suit most tastes and abilities Caider Idris is the most popular mountain in South Snowdonia and (after you-know-what) the second most popular in the whole park, with the two geological and spiritual twins kind-of ‘bookending’ Snowdonia’s other attractions.

Cadair Idris: a seat for a giant

10: Moel Siabod

At 2,861 feet Carnedd Moel Siabod, to give it its full handle, is Snowdonia’s 10th-tallest mountain. Being a ‘standalone’ mountain right next to Snowdon, unsurprisingly the views are quite something. Combine that with a relatively consistent terrain and gradient, and Moel Siabod makes a good choice for a half day’s walk to limber up the legs – perhaps before the more strenuous ascent of one of the others listed here!

Moel Siabod: solitary splendour

Getting there from Henllys

Climbers attempting Crib Goch, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach, or Y Lliwedd start and end at the Pen y Pass youth hostel, 20 miles from Henllys near the south-eastern end of the A4086. Crib Goch is three miles, and takes about 3½ hours; Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach can be done separately, but combined cover just over four miles, and take about 5½ hours. These follow circular routes. The trip to and from Y Lliwedd means retracing one’s steps, and is about 11 miles there and back: a five-hour ramble-and-climb.

The Y Garn trek starts and ends at YHA Idwal Cottage on the A5 17 miles from Henllys, covers a little over four miles and takes 4½ hours.

The walk to Elidir Fawr starts and ends at Nant Peris, about 18 miles from Henllys, north-west of the Pen y Pass youth hostel, takes about five hours and covers just shy of seven miles.

There are several routes up Tryfan, but the easiest is the South Ridge starting and finishing at Llyn Ogwen, about 18 miles from Henllys on the A5, between Bethesda and Betws-y-Coed: a six-hour, eight-mile walk-and-climb.

The Aran Fawddwy climb starts and ends in Cwm Cywarch, about 66 miles from Henllys to the south-east of the Snowdonia National Park on the A470, covers 7 ½ miles and takes six hours.

There are four routes up Caider Idris but the Llanfihangel Path, starting and ending at Llanfihangel y Pennant, 71 miles from Henllys on the A470 to the south of the park, is the easiest as well as the longest: 10 miles and seven to eight hours.

The Moel Siabod excursion starts and ends at Plas y Brenin, 25 miles from Henllys along the A5 and A4086, covers three miles and takes three hours.

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Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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