One of the best routes in Snowdonia, as I may have previously mentioned on many an occasion, is the Nantlle Ridge. The main problem is that it does tend to be done as a linear route and returning to the start can be problematic. Of course, you could follow the short Nantlle Ridge route if you don’t want to do the lot, but you’ll miss out on a great deal. The Cwm Dwyfor return is also an option, but involves an inelegant dog leg and the disused tramway through Cwm Dwyfor can be boggy.
This is an alternative route that continues along the main hills as far as Craig Cwm Silyn, though we included Garnedd Goch as well, before descending into the rough and Rhinogesque Cwm Braich-y-ddinas and down into the idyllic Cwm Pennant.
Distance, Ascent and Time 19KM, 1400m, 7 hrs
Difficulties Steep, loose ascents. Sections of Grade 1 scrambling. Navigation over pathless sections.
Start / End Rhyd Ddu
Facilities Pub with excellent ales in Rhyd Ddu.
Public Transport Sherpa Buses and WHR to Rhyd Ddu.
The route starts off, like most of these routes, in Rhyd Ddu – this time at the corner of the B4418 half a kilometre from Rhyd Ddu on the Nantlle / Penygroes road. Follow the good trail through the gate to the right (the path to the left is the Lon Gwyrfai) and along a fence before starting to climb gently to your right.
This gentle climbing soon becomes a steep and relentless 400m slog, with little respite until you reach around 600m on Y Garn. Take it steadily, and you should be up in around an hour or so, but make time for the excellend views down towards Llyn y Gader, Dywarchen and Yr Wyddfa.
When you do reach the ridge, Y Garn is an essential summit to visit, as you’ve deserved the breather and it’s just a damn fine spot to stop! In fact, each and every summit along this ridge is distinct, characterful and an essential pit stop on the way. It also ensures that you’re fully ready for the scramble over Drws y Coed.
You follow the wall initially from Y Garn, with the path skirting the rim of Clogwyn Marchnad. It skirts exceptionally close in places, with some delicious exposure on the way. Most of it is avoidable, but you’d be missing out by doing so!
After an initially bouldery section, you get to the proper rocky crest, which can be tackled across to the left or head on. Either way, it’s all good fun. It’s not difficult, and neither is it exposed along this section. Of course, like all scrambles you may well find a much more exposed route depending on the line you take! This section is far too short, and you’ll be tempted to go back to repeat it as the summit is grassy and disappointing after the exhilaration of the scramble.
You’re down again, before climbing Trum y Ddysgl by keeping as close to the ridge rather than following the more obvious path that contours around. Yet another grassy summit, but one with a fine view back to survey the ridge you’ve just traversed.
Continue along the ridge, turning right at the far end to descend down a grassy slope that looks straightforward at first glance. Half way across, you notice the notch along the col and start to wonder if it’s as easy as it first looks. Thankfully, it’s easy to cross, but that only becomes apparent when you get there. Once across, a short pull and you’re on the fourth summit – Mynydd Tal Y Mignedd – easily identified by the huge obelisk on the summit, even from a distance.
After this summit, it’s yet another descent. This time down a steep shoulder, eroded in places, to Bwlch Dros Bern, and then you’ve a final ascent up Craig Cwm Silyn. You can approach this directly, and get a bit of a scramble for your efforts, or tackle it to the right of the main ridge for a slightly easier option. Either way, the path becomes easy to lose towards the summit as it vanishes into the loose scree.
Craig Cwm Silyn is the high point of the Nantlle Ridge at a measly 734m, but does at least provide a proper summit shelter, views and the perfect lunch stop. The summit in itself is only the highest point of a long plateau, so in mist you may well need to take a bearing in order to get to Garnedd Goch at the far end. This is barely a summit, but has a trig point and is a fine viewpoint in itself. Considering there’s barely any ascent involved, it’s worth the detour. You could take a route along the top of Craig Cwm Silyn in order to maximise the views.
On reaching Garnedd Goch, you need to return along the wall to the corner and find a faint path right down the wide ridge to hit the faint path , which you may or may not find. The going is rough, and the section from the summit to the cwm isn’t easy. The photo below shows the summit, and you need to contour around to the right of the rocks seen below the summit. You’ll need some nav skills in order to find your way down safely, and even then it’ll be arduous.
The ridge is barely discernible, but keep right and descending into Cwm Braich-y-ddinas as soon as it is practical to do so is the best tactic as the going is rough and heathery. The map shows a track in the valley, which is what we aimed for and somehow managed to find. There’s also a small ruin here and not much else.
However, don’t expect much from this track. It’s barely traceable along the valley and is boggy in places.
Below is as good as the track gets. But you’re not doing this route to be on the beaten track!
The final descent zig zags slightly, and can be easily lost if you take too direct a route to the road, with a better route descending further down the road – as per the path noted on the 1:25k map. However, we got over a gate to the road, so it wasn’t all that bad.
You’ve now a lengthy, but pleasant return to Rhyd Ddu along a minor road in Cwm Pennant followed by a low pass and the Beddgelert forest. The initial section on road is a relief, after the rough going from the ridge, which is only for a 1km or so until you reach a small car park. Take a path uphill to the right, up into Cwm Trwsgl, and up through the quarry ruins to Bwlch y Ddwy Elor.
This is a climb of around 300m that’ll test your endurance after all the ups and downs of the main ridge, but is thankfully a good path all the way, with little navigational problems as you follow the valley to the bwlch.
The path then descends into Beddgelert Forest, where you turn right when you reach the forestry trails and then almost immediately left. Follow this, across a concrete bridge where you can take a footpath paralell to the stream or the tracj in the same direction which both lead to the bridleway to Rhyd Ddu ar SH557 513.
This final section is straightforward, though boggy in places in the forest and involves crossing a couple of small streams before the path descends back to rejoin the path you started off on earlier on in the day. Now proceed to the Cwellyn Arms for some well earned refreshments!