Nestling in the Cambrian Mountains, not far from Aberystwyth, is the Nant yr Arian MTB centre. This is the toughest of...
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The Nantlle Ridge Traverse from Rhyd Ddu to Llanllyfni
The Nantlle Ridge is just one of your classic ridge walks.
No other word for it.
The route starts at the Rhyd Ddu Snowdon Path car park, or if you prefer, the Rhyd Ddu WHR 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 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 comparable 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.
This is where the group ramblers started to home in. Seemed like 30 of them (more like 4 or 5 really!) advancing, catching up. Now i remembered why i never used to start later than 9 am (preferably 8), you could have the hills to yourself and avoid the crowds. About half way up the slog, when I was on one of my many rests, they finally passed me, with one only saying hello. What is the etiquette here? Should the leader say hello? Should they all do so? A nod and a smile? I prefer the easy option of avoiding them altogether, sorry to any group ramblers out there. I’m sure you’re very nice people, but there should be a rule about this to make us feel more comfortable about greeting. Still, they were soon forgotten as the ridge was attained.
The path veers right to the summit of Y Garn (with virtually no climbing left), 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 (what i did). Ahead of you lies Mynydd Drws Y Coed, see the pic to the right, and this is a scramble over a mainly bouldery ridge as opposed to solid rock. You’ll need to read the path, and try and pick the route, as it isn’t always clear, but it’s not overly difficult. If you find it getting awkward, you’ve gone the wrong way. I find that the best line is to keep a little to the left of the crest where there is no path (but you can’t go right without defying physics anyway!). Oh, and there are a couple of exposed steps, but nothing pant-wettingly so, just make sure you have decent boots (especially in the wet) and that you can place your feet with confidence. I’d have found it much more diffcult when my knee was giving me serious hassle.
The summit of Drws Y Coed is nothing special, especially when the entire rambling association of a small county is perched atop it, munching sandwiches rather loudly. But ridges are about walking on, not stopping. There’s plenty of opportunity to stop on the uphill bits. Said hello to the group as i walked past, nobody replied. Still, I continued smugly , as I may be rather slow but still faster than going it as a crowd!
There is a fair drop to the next col, just avoid the path that contours left around the hill and down to the Beddgelert Forest, this is an ideal emergency descent. For the main ridge, you must ignore this path and keep to your right on the highest ground and to the flat, grassy summit of Trum y Ddysgl. There is only the magnificent view to keep you on the summit, but i plodded on to Mynydd Tal-y-Mignedd next with it’s huge obelisk. The adjoining ridge has a ‘nick’ across it – for lack of a better word. This section, where the grassy ridge just stops, is however, easily passed by dropping down along the path and back up.. I stopped here, along with the rather surprising, wasp population. There was just one more slog to go, then it was all downhill.
Descending from here you follow a steep and badly eroded footpath to Bwlch Dros-bern, with Craig Cwm Silyn dominating the view in front of you. The rambler group descended into Cwm Pennant from here, I’m curious as to where as there is no route obvious on the map (See here – Nantlle Ridge – Cwm Dwyfor Return for all the answers!). It’s always cloudy here, it seems, with the rock always looking dark and unwelcoming. Still, keep to the path and don’t wander to your right (as I did) and you should soon find yourself on the rocky plateau above. This is not somewhere you want to run out of water as I just did.
The walker is given three options here. Most people turn back, returning to Rhyd Ddu or Beddgelert. You may continue across the plateau, over Garnedd Goch and Mynydd Graig Goch and descend to Nebo at the far end. This is the complete ridge, and the one for peak baggers. However, i followed a footpath that clung to the clifftops above Cwm Silyn, affording excellent views. This in my opinion makes a more appropriate ending to the walk, being airy and less moorland than the alternative.
The path is faint, but easily followed in clear weather, mist might cause some problems. If you use the clifftop as a handrail then you should be OK, if you find yourself on moorland, you’ve veered too far left. If you find yourself falling, then too far to your right. It descends gradually, following a grassy ridge, and you should be aiming for the wall and gate where the grassy ridge levels off. Follow this wall, and you come to a locked pair of gates which you must climb even though there is a sign at the start of the wall directing walkers in this direction, or follow the wall right and there should be a way through at some point as there’s a public footpath.
The track will now take you gently down to Llanllyfni, or you can alternatively descend to Talysarn or better still, Penygroes. Beware, there are NO facilities in Llanllyfni in the afternoon. There is a pub, but it was closed, not too good when you’ve ran out of water a couple of hours ago! Next time, I’ll descend to Penygroes, which is a better endpoint as it has a couple of large convenience stores. Wherever you descend, you’ll have spent your day along arguably one of the best walks in Snowdonia, and if you get up early enough, will probably have it to yourself, at least for the latter half!Rhyd Ddu