Snowdon South Ridge and Moel Cynghorion

Mountain Biking up Snowdon

I hadn’t intended to do Snowdon at all today. I was on my way to Bethania to complete a circuit of Moel Meirch and Cnicht, but decided that I’d rather follow a decent path in this low lying mist. I also hoped that the forecast was right, and that I’d be out of the cloud in 4-500m. So, I got dropped off in Rhyd-Ddu with my custom Moelwynion map just enough to cover the Rhyd-Ddu path to the summit. I was confident I wouldn’t need much cartographical help descending the Llanberis path.

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So i set off in mist along the Rhyd-Ddu path. There were occasional glimpses of blue sky, or of a distant unidentifiable hillside, but nothing too exciting. I was still hopeful of an inversion though, and it did feel close to freezing. When i arrived at the final stile of the quarry track, i got a view up the cwm below Yr Aran and saw it was white. So, again, the day’s walk was changed, and my favourite ascent would be taken.

I always forget how far Bwlch Cwm Llan is from here, and then i forget that this is one of the longest ascents of Snowdon. In its favour, you do get to look down into multiple valleys and onto different views. This was a bonus, as nearly at the Bwlch, i could see that this was going to be a well formed temperature inversion. Well, it was in some directions but not others. The Nantlle Ridge and neighbouring Hebog were islands in the cloud. Nant Gwynant had barely any cloud, so my last minute route change had proved to be the best move.

The South Ridge has paths, and a few ‘scrambly’ sections. There’s nothing any able walker can’t get past, but you might need to use your hands on some parts. There are steps too on some parts, which might otherwise be scree. One path ends in a sloping rock face, which you can avoid to the left, but you eventually have to tackle.

It isn’t long before the final real slog takes you to the unnamed minor top at the south western end of Bwlch Main. It’s that minor, that you’ll probably not stop here, instead making for the narrow ridge of Bwlch Main (main is welsh for thin or slim). The photos looking back on the ridge make it look more than it is, and you don’t realise that there’s much exposure at the time. There is one section where you’ve got a drop either side and no handrails; see the photograph in the gallery if you’re worried (or crawl over it on your hands and knees if you’ve got a real problem with heights). Bwlch Main is a decent ridge walk, and as such makes this the best walk up the mountain in my opinion (Crib Goch and Lliwedd are more scrambles) as I quite like ridge walking.

The summit looked close and an impressive pyramid today. As the last few times have been in mist, i got a better sense of perspective this time. The ridge is over before you can blink, and you’ve reached the standing stone that marks the joining of the Watkin Path. I hadn’t realised how close this was to the summit, it has felt like a long slog in the mist the last three times.

There were more people on the top than the last time, but in this weather I expected lots of company. A dozen or so people made the summit feel like a normal mountain. I’ve had more company on the Carneddau’s main peaks this summer than up here today. Some were clearly making this as a Christmas trip as they had Santa hats on and had some beer (Leffe Blonde too, i nearly offered him a fiver for the bottle, till he opened it and most of the contents frothed out!) and i had my coffee that tasted of washing up liquid. Well i think it did as the liquids come in all sort of gourmet ‘flavours’ these days and i was wondering if it was spoiling or enhancing the coffee and flask flavour.

I sat on top for a fair while, not timing it. But I had to be aware of the short hours of daylight, and i think i set off down sometime between one and two. I could normally check my GPS for this, but it had been temperamental today and decided it wasn’t detecting any satellites for me; probably ‘till after Christmas like any good jobsworth. Options for descent were Llanberis path (yech) or Ranger path and Moel Cynghorion.

You might well have guessed at the descent route taken (well, it is in the route title), and the Ranger follows a reasonably shallow slope for a while before dropping down an exceptionally steep slope via zig zags. It is still a normal path too, not steps, and isn’t badly eroded. It is a little loose in places, and it will probably be rebuilt in the next ten years or so to incorporate those horrible steps (but maybe necessary?)

Normally on the descent here, you can gaze down into the waters of Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas, but today it was obscured by the low cloud. As usual for any walk, by this point i had ran out of water. I’d decided that the coffee was undrinkable, and i wad hot and thirsty. So it was a pleasant surprise when i walked back into the cloud and the temperature dropped to close to freezing. It was like opening the deep freeze door on one of those hot August days when nothing else works.

The path to Moel Cynghorion isn’t obvious, and you could miss it if you’re not looking out for it. Once the zigzags are passed and the slopes are again grassy, you will find a small path to the right that looks like it’s one of those side paths to a view. You pass what looks like a tiny quarry cutting, 4 m high and then the path is reasonably easy to follow. It’s sometimes only footholds, but they’re always where you expect. After an initial slog, you arrive at a stile, and what you hope is the summit, but that’s a bit further along. I’ve not enthused about this summit before, but it’s a fine viewpoint, and a decent way to descend from the highest hill.

From the summit, you pass some pools, and then follow the fence as a handrail all the way to Bwlch Maesgwm. The ridge is easy and grassy, with a faint path, but keep the fence, then the wall in view and you’ll arrive at the Bwlch. Cross the wall by the stile/gate to the right and follow the easy track all the way down to Llanberis. The only bit of navigation you’ll need is if you want to turn off the track – but you can follow the most obvious route and end up in the centre of Llanberis (going past the Youth Hostel) which will suit the majority. However there are numerous stiles to your right that cross over towards the Llanberis path across boggy land, or the track at SH575587 which you can follow down to the start of the Llanberis Path, or my sister’s house for a cup of coffee, but that’s probably only relevant to me.

If you choose to do this walk, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best walks on this mountain. The routes up and down are relatively quiet for the mountain, but can still be busy. Moel Cynghorion is often ignored, so is your best chance of a quiet lunch. If you do this walk faster than me, or with more daylight hours at your disposal, then it would be a crime not to finish the walk off by crossing the Moel Eilio ridge if your legs still have the energy. Want even more? Try starting off with Yr Aran too, and complete one of the longest and hardest Snowdon range traverses.

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