Most people who visit one of the mountainous areas of the UK (especially first-timers), with the intention of doing some hill walking, will opt to climb one of the well-known peaks. That’s natural. These tend to be the highest peaks, the ones they have seen images of, and possibly also the ones they will have read about. In Snowdonia this list will include Snowdon, Tryfan, the Glyders and possibly one of the highest peaks in the Carneddau. Certainly all these peaks are well worth climbing.
[Click any image to see an enlargement – all images will benefit from doing this]
But it is sad that the other peaks seldom get a look in: ignored because they are not so high, or on the periphery, or because they involve more effort and thought due to the fact that walks up them don’t always neatly end where they started from. Sometimes it may be because the Ordnance Survey map doesn’t show paths up them, and finally perhaps it’s because these outliers and lower peaks don’t look worth bothering with.
The truth is that these lesser peaks and ridges offer tremendous walking, and effort is rewarded. The views are often better because you look from the periphery towards the centre of the range of peaks, and the best reason of all is that on these ‘lesser’ peaks you get away from the crowds and quite possibly you will have the mountain all to yourself. That is most definitely my experience in Snowdonia and I strongly suspect that a lot of these three paragraphs apply to many other mountain areas across the globe.
Today’s images come from a small clutch of mountains in Snowdonia that collectively are called the Eifionydd Hills (a fact I have just this minute discovered for myself while dipping into Terry Marsh’s excellent ‘The Mountains of Wales’); although to most ordinary people – including me – they are known as the hills of the Hebog and Nantlle ranges.
The Nantlle ridge is not often walked in its entirety because of difficulties reaching the southern end of the ridge.
But a few years ago, before I acquired a digital camera, I walked it in a long 15mile day starting out on the coast at Ynys Cyngar, 2miles west of Porthmadog. [For more information on this place read ‘The Powder House’]. I followed a network of paths inland through some very marshy country until I hit the moorland heading up to Mynydd Craig Goch, the southernmost peak on the ridge. From here a superb roller-coaster of a ridge heads NE crossing 7 summits over 600M in height heading straight into the heart of Snowdonia ending at Rhyd-Ddu where there is an excellent pub serving Leffe beer. The feeling is of walking into a giant amphitheatre of peaks. To my mind there could be no better way to approach the high peaks of Snowdonia. [See the first image at the top of this post for a view of the final three peaks of the Nantlle Ridge]
Rhyd-Ddu is also the starting point for walks on the Hebog range that runs North-Northwest to South-Southeast. A range of four peaks, one of them – Mynydd Mawr – is separated from the other three by the final NE end of the Nantlle ridge. Viewed on a map The Nantlle and Hebog ridges together form the shape of the letter ‘T’.
Mynydd Mawr can be climbed in an afternoon from Rhydd Ddu – a delightful little climb with superb views northwards to the coast, or down the long valley Southeastwards towards Beddgelert.
From its summit there are superb views of the Nantlle ridge. And if you are blessed with a good day as I was, then the view of Nantlle alone is worth the effort. The image below combines the first image in this post with another to provide a more panoramic view of the Nantlle ridge – I won’t repeat the names, most are sadly unpronounceable by me, Welsh is a language I have not yet mastered.
Mynydd Mawr can also be climbed from Betws Garmon and traversed descending initally towards Rhyd Ddu, before cutting off right heading down and past some disused levels to hit the road near Bwlchgilfin. [see the second image in this post taken on the traverse].
From Bwlchgilfin (or from Rhydd-Ddu) the main walk over the Hebog range starts.
Pick up the path that threads its way under the steep slopes of the most northern of the Nantlle hills (Y Garn), and into forest. After exiting the forest a path that can be tricky to follow will lead you eventually onto steep open hillside on the approach to the first of the final three of the Hebog peaks (Moel Lefyn).
From there the way is obvious – an easy 15 minute walk brings you to Moel yr Ogof and a harder steeper descent and ascent will bring you breathlessly to the final summit – Moel Hebog.
As I reached the col before the final haul to Moel Hebog I took two frames. The first looked back to Yr Ogof – a clear fine day.
I turned to look north and a mixture of haze and rather threatening clouds greeted me. In colour this did not look up to much, B&W I think suits it much better. The view (to the best of my knowledge) looks over Craig Wen, then Yr Aran and on to the top of Y Lliwedd, one of the peaks in the Snowdon Horseshoe).
The descent to Beddgelert from Hebog’s summit will take up to two hours but Beddgelert is well equipped with B&Bs and Pubs to solve a serious thirst after another long day on the hills. The entire walk over the Hebog range starting with the traverse of Mynydd Mawr is perfectly possible in a long day for someone who is fit – allow 7-8hrs (2-3hrs for Mynydd Mawr and 5hrs for the main ridge).
These are rewarding days out if the weather is good, in bad weather navigation can be difficult particularly when leaving summits, and these really are peaks to be savoured in good weather if at all possible.
It was while taking a break from combining text and images last night that I discovered by one of those strange coincidences that Paul Shorrock (a man who has done far more fell walking than me in the UK) had just posted his account of a walk across the Hebog Range – but in the opposite direction. My first thought was to delay this post, but then I thought: the more publicity we can give between us to the neglected peaks of Snowdonia the better. Do take a look at Paul’s blog. He is a great writer, you will learn a lot particularly if you are interested in walking in the UK’s mountain areas, and he takes some good pictures too to guide you on your way. The one thing that will annoy him however is that I was blessed with better weather on my trip than he was! Sorry Paul. My luck! C’est la vie, as they say.