This was a joint Adventure Out – North Wales event based at Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel. The main aim, apart from bringing the two groups together, was to explore the mountains to the west of Snowdon and avoid the inevitable half-term crowds on the more popular peaks such as the Glyders, Tryfan and Snowdon itself.
Eight GOC members were staying at the hostel on Friday night, including six who had travelled up from London by public transport. Your humble author and his partner had taken just five hours to get from Euston to the hostel on two trains and two buses.
The hostel provides the usual amenities that one would expect from the YHA, but is somewhat run down, making us wonder if it is destined for a major refurbishment or closure, as has been the fate of so many YHA hostels in recent years.
On the Saturday morning we convened at Rhyd-Ddu (pronounced ‘Rid Thee’). Although this is a tiny village, it is also a station on the narrow-gauge Welsh Highland Railway, running steam trains the 25 miles from Caernarfon to Porthmadog.
For the walk seven of the hostellers were joined by a dog and five other people: three men staying in a hotel in Beddgelert, one man travelling by bike and camping wild in the woods nearby and a local woman who was attending her very first GOC event.
Our objective for the day was Nantlle Ridge, one of the most spectacular in North Wales. The weather was great with the summits free of cloud. We got up to the first peak, Y Garn, without any problems, but the next section involved a rocky scramble, at which Max the dog baulked (yes, baulked, not barked), so that his two masters had to turn round and return with him to Beddgelert. A couple of the human participants also found the scrambling a bit challenging, but with the help of the two Mountain Leaders in the party, eventually came through unscathed.
After ascending the second highest peak, Trum y Ddysgl (709m), we continued to the next, Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd, with its obelisk-like cairn. We found a lunch spot on the sheltered western slope with fantastic views over the Nantlle valley to the Lleyn peninsula and as far south as Cardigan Bay.
The group then divided, with three people heading back to Rhyd-Ddu and the remaining seven continuing to the highest peak, Craig Cwm Silyn (734m). The ascent through a prolonged boulder field proved to be tricky and time-consuming, although not as exposed as the scrambling section earlier. On finally reaching the summit we had a real feeling of remoteness due to the near-absence of other people and the distance from our starting point.
Our return journey involved first climbing back to the top of Trum y Ddysgl, then descending a grassy ridge to a pass at the top of Cwm Pennant, from where we turned east into a forest. Here we missed our way and ended up crossing a pathless area of boggy moorland to get back to our starting point, but this only added to the interest of the walk.
Although the off-piste route had taken us in a more or less direct line to Rhyd-Ddu, we arrived there about an hour and a quarter later than expected and so, instead of going back to the hostel first for rest and recuperation, headed straight for the Cwellyn Arms, where we’d booked a table. The beer was excellent and so was the food, in contrast with the rather uninspiring meal we’d had at the hostel the previous evening.
On the Sunday morning we convened at Beddgelert, where we were joined by about six members of the North Wales group, including Paul, who was leading the walk up Moel Hebog (782m). The easterly wind was considerably stronger than on the previous day and on our approach to the summit its constant buffeting made walking difficult, but we again found a sheltered spot to have lunch.
The whole party continued north westward to the pass of Bwlch Meillionen. From there the main group headed back to Beddgelert, while your humble author and two others continued northwards to two lesser peaks, Moel Ogof and Moel Lefn, then joined up with the route of the day before to return through the forest - finding the correct route this time - via Rhy-Ddu to the hostel.
Six of us were staying at the hostel an extra night and we again ate at the Cwellyn Arms where we were joined by one of the Beddgelert people, also staying an extra night. It was nice to enjoy the somewhat quieter Sunday-evening ambience of the pub, especially as the hostel was now very busy with families taking advantage of the half-term break. Your humble author and two others walked the three miles back to the hostel and were rewarded with the sight of an amazingly clear sky full of stars.
On Monday morning, while most of the remaining people headed straight home, your humble author managed to squeeze in a climb up Mynedd Mawr (698m), the nearest peak to the west of the hostel, returning to Snowdon Ranger just in time to join his partner on the steam train to Caernarfon, from where they got the bus to Bangor and then the train back to London.
Text - Chris Loy
Photos - Dave Archer