I’ve hiked most of south and mid Wales over the last few years, but the jewel in Wales’ crown, North Wales’s Snowdonia, had been rudely unexplored. So I thought, what better way to get to know it than by walking its 15 highest mountains in one go?
I broke off a family holiday on the Llyn Peninsula specifically for this adventure. The distant mountains had been too much to ignore (sorry again mum).
The Welsh 3000s, a round of Wales’s 15 mountains over 3000 feet, is usually taken on as a 24 hour challenge. I chose to walk the route in a more leisurely two days.
Starting at Pen y Pass, at the foot of Snowdon, my first peak was ‘the knife edge’ of Crib Goch. It lives up to the name, it’s some thrill ride: hands on scrambling and tightrope walking.
After completing the two other peaks of the Snowdon massif it was down back into the Llanberis Pass to then – rather unfairly – climb sharply again to make my way into the Glyders. The long trudge up Elidir Fawr – the mountain that houses a power station within its bowels – took me back up to 3000ft where I stood alone, looking back on Snowdon where the crowds would be thronging.
After riding along the edge of Y Garn I reached the Glyderau or ‘the Glyders’: Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. It’s a strange plateau of cracked pavement slabs, with jagged, protruding shapes – like Castell y Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) and the famous Cantilever Slab.
Distracted by these features I lost the path and ended up beginning a descent down Bristly Ridge, a notoriously tough scramble. Sense told me to retreat and I soon found the simple slope that would lead me down to the saddle connecting the Glyders with Tryfan. I was too tired to take on the legendary scramble of this mountain by this point and I decided to pitch up.
Llyn Bochlwyd proved a decent enough spot. I cooked my noodles on its edge and looked onto the arrow head of Tryfan, plotting my morning assault on it.
Tryfan proved a tough task with muscles that hadn’t yet woken up but I somehow got to the summit where I dangled my legs off the two pillars known as Adam and Eve and ate my breakfast. And yes, I tried the legendary jump between them to earn the ‘Freedom of Tryfan’.
Next, it was down into the Ogwen Valley and up Pen yr Olwen into the Carneddau. This is a wild range, keeping itself to itself, separated from the rest of Snowdonia. The tops have gentle green slopes on one side and sharp, black craggy drops on the other. In one direction you can see the North Wales coast and Anglesey, in the other, just about every peak of Snowdonia, and beyond to mid Wales.
This second day was far easier than the first, with the peaks of the Carneddau taking little effort to ‘bag’, By mid afternoon I’d touched the summit of my last top at Foel Fras and whistled as I went down to the sea to jump on my train home from Llanfairfechan.
You can read my full account of this journey, along with all the logistical info needed to take it on, in the June 2015 issue of The Great Outdoors – download it here.