While the Black Mountains fall into the Brecon Beacon National Park, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole...
The classic ridge walk – while exhilarating it’s certainly not in the same technical level as Crib Goch or Tryfan and nowhere near as exposed.
Distance: 19 Kms
Ascent: 1300 metres
Time: 8 hours
Start and Finish: Rhyd Ddu
Facilities: VERY decent pub and tearoom in the village, WC at car park.
Hazards: Some exposed sections.
Sherpa Buses and WHR to Rhyd Ddu.
Parking: Snowdon Car Park.
Parking Post Code for Sat Nav: LL54 6TN
Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton,This is the go-to guide for anyone wanting to scramble in Snowdonia.
Nantlle Ridge Circuit From Rhyd Ddu – Cwm Dwyfor Return
The Nantlle Ridge scramble from Rhyd Ddu is undoubtedly one of the classic ridge walking routes in Snowdonia. It’s often asked; how difficult and exposed is the Nantlle Ridge? As far as scrambles go, the Nantlle Ridge isn’t as technical as the other more famous scrambles and should be OK for an experienced hill walker.
While many will walk the Nantlle Ridge with two cars, get a taxi or even complete the ‘double’, the more elegant and pleasing option is to return via Cwm Pennant on this Circular Nantlle Ridge walk. This route descends via Cwm Dwyfor, but it is also possible to descend Cwm Braich y Dinas or Cwm Cipwrth, though the route isn’t clear on the map.
This route does not include the outlying peak of Mynydd Graig Goch, but does dog-leg out to the summit of Garnedd Goch. You could skip this section out if you wanted, or even extend it to Myndd Graig Goch for an even longer excursion. It’s better to walk the Nantlle Ridge as a Linear Walk if you want to bag the final summits.
The Nantlle Ridge starts at the Snowdon Path car park, or if you prefer, the Rhyd Ddu Welsh Highland Railway Station. You can see the Nantlle Ridge clearly to the west, so you cross the road and follow the path that takes you in this direction. It is straightforward enough, with arrows and “Private” signs along the way to aid in your navigation. You soon come to a gate where the path forks uphill to your right, and it certainly goes uphill, to the summit of Y Garn.
This part of the Nantlle Ridge is a slog. No two ways about that, there’s no glamour involved here. You will be looking at your feet for the hour or so it takes, dragging yourself up the muddy, eroded track. God only help you if it’s raining. It’s comprable to the South ridge on Pen yr Ole Wen, or the Nant Peris ascent of Elidir Fawr, with the only positive being that it’s much shorter. That said, it’s time to just put your head down and get on with it. After all, the climb is only about 450m to the summit, and you know once there you have the rocky playground of Drws Y Coed to play on.
Once the Nantlle Ridge proper is attained the path veers right to the summit of Y Garn, where there is shelter for lunch, or you can go right towards the wall on the flat part of the ridge and bypass the true summit and get onto the juicy bits straight away. However, the summit of Y Garn is worth getting to for the view of the ridge ahead, and of Mynydd Mawr across the valley. So you follow the wall now, along a green path, to the start of the scrambling. There’sa few moves that you need to do, but you can drop down to avoid them. Often i was climbing and my companions or other walkers who were behind me, would appear from my left, having found some devilishly easy route. As soon as it starts, the ridge is over, and there is very little satisfying scrambling left today. What is left though, is a thoroughly satisfying ridge walk
From Drws y Coed, we followed a grassy ridge, staying on the crest as much as possible, up to the top of Trum y Ddysgl, before dropping back down across a broken grassy ridge to Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd and a deserved break.
The descent to Bwlch Dros-bern is not pleasant, being eroded and steep. The final summit will make up for that, being a rough scramble in places and a rough walk in others. My companions chose to follow the path straight to the base of the crags, and then took a line upwards that is rather mossy and steep. The less adventurous can carry on right before a not too obvious path leads left and up. The path that continues to contour the hill is the more obvious path, but this ascent becomes indistinct, steep and heathery. Once on this first path, the route finding is clear in most parts, with some interesting gullies on your left to peer down. The path does disappear across some of the boulder fields, but care should find you to the summit of Craig Cwm Silyn.
Purists might wish to continue to Garnedd Goch, which half out party did or even to the “always was a mountain anyway” Mynydd Graig Goch. There are two summits on Craig Cwm Silyn, the second of which appears on the ground to be more important (it has a square stone tower), but the actual summit is the first one. Views here extend back over the ridge and across Cwm Pennant to the Hebog range.
The worst part of today’s walk is the next bit. You descend back to Bwlch Dros-bern, the way you came. It isn’t particularly easy going, the rocks often being loose. While we crossed the little raise in the bwlch and descended beyond it, it would appear best to descend to the valley below as soon as it it safe to do so as there is a very faint path that i could see coming from this direction. You basically need to make a line for the shoulder that stretches down from Tal-y-mignedd, and this would be quite tricky in mist. After the initial descent though, you should find yourself contouring around before a final steep grassy descent to the top of the incline in Cwm Dwyfor.
The views back towards the ridge are strange. Craig Cwm Silyn appears to consist of a ridge of pinnacles from this angle, looking quite formidable. Tal-y-mignedd just shows you it’s green cliffs. Ahead, across the valley, lies another cliff. While it looks high, it’s just the lower end of Moel Llefn. Cwm Pennant in between just looks welcoming. You now follow the incline to a river. Beware, as the incline appears to cross the river, but has a gap in it. It could be jumped across, but it appears suddenly and it would be easy to imagine someone walking idly into the gap if they’re yapping incessantly away. Instead drop to the left of the incline, and across the river (a good place to re-supply on water), before continuing on along the old tramway. The track is exceptionally good in places, while in others it is barely apparent through the reeds and quite boggy. It is fortunately flat and easy, and takes you with little hassle to the footpath at SH 545 499.
This point is obvious, as the track contours around and above a small wooded valley. However, as we were busy talking, we forgot this quicker route and continued around the valley to SH 546 493 which turned out to be the better option as the short cut is tussocky bog with chest high grass. This turning off point is obvious as there is an old mine building and numerous slate collumns. Instead of passing along the track through a gate, you turn right along a vague track that leads steeply uphill. This levels out, and you can see the remains of the old slate quarries and an incline to the left. Follow this incline, and on the second level, before the incline is broken, you veer right.
This path becomes very obvious and leads to Bwlch-y-Ddwy-elor. Keep to the left of the barbed wire fence at the top, and along the clear path that’s faced with slate chippings. This takes you into the cool of the forest and you should now be desending. When you do come to another forestry track, continue straight across. The main bit of navigation is when you find yourself at a point where there are tracks branching off left and right, an offset one ahead and a footpath along a stream directly ahead. Follow the footpath, and this line should find you out of the forest and onto open hillside.
Nothing left for it now, but to continue along this, and after a couple of kilometres you will arrive back at the start of the climb up Y Garn. Back track from here to the car park, or if you want a pint, follow the first road the path hits and the Cwellyn Arms is barely five minutes down the road.Hillwalking Rhyd Ddu