There are seventeen Top 500 Summits in North Wales. Sixteen of these lie within the boundary of the Snowdonia National Park with one mountain lying east of the National Park boundary, Cadair Berwyn. The mountains are;
1 Snowdon 3,560ft 2 Carnedd Llewelyn 3,490ft
3 Glyder Fawr 3,279ft 4 Y Garn 3,107ft
5 Elidir Fawr 3,029ft 6 Tryfan 3,002ft
7 Aran Fawddwy 2,970ft 8 Y Lliwedd 2,946ft
9 Cadair Idris 2,929ft 10 Moel Siabod 2,861ft
11 Arenig Fawr 2,801ft 12 Cadair Berwyn 2,723ft
13 Pen Llithrig y Wrach 2,622ft 14 Moel Hebog 2,566ft
15 Glasgwm 2,557ft 16 Moelwyn Mawr 2,527ft
17 Y Llethr 2,480ft
Betwys Coed is the traditional stop off for these mountains and is most convenient but I like some of the towns and villages closer to the coast such as Conwy, Deganwy and even across to Anglesey.
Snowdon is an exceptional mountain. Its summit is the most visited in Britain and Ireland with around 500,000 people each year reaching it. Despite this it retains all the aspects of a great mountain and it is easy to lose the crowds by venturing off the main tourist routes.
The most popular routes are the Miners Track and the Pyg Track which lead to the summit from Pen-y-Pass. The advantages of these routes are the high starting point, 1,100ft, and the relatively short distance to the summit. However, the car park at Pen-y-pass is often full, particularly at weekends in the summer (despite the £10 daily charge) so the routes from Llanberis or the Snowdon Ranger Path are becoming increasingly attractive alternatives.
On a recent trip to Snowdon the car park at Pen-y-Pass was full so we drove down to Llanberis then took the park and ride bus back up to Pen-y-Pass. This enabled us to traverse the mountain by climbing it via the Miners Track then following the substantial path, which runs next to the railway line, down to Llanberis where the cars were parked
One of the greatest mountain walks in Britain (arguably the best outside Scotland) is the ‘Snowdon Horseshoe’ which gives a fine circuit from Pen-y-Pass. The walk also traverses Y Lliwedd, the second Top 500 Summit in the Snowdon grouping. The walk should only be undertaken by experienced walkers as the route crosses Crib-goch, the sharpest ridge in Britain outside Scotland. Even experienced walkers should avoid the ridge in winter.
The route starts at Pen-y-Pass and follows the Pyg Track initially before climbing to the top of Crib-goch. The walk then traverses the knife edge ridge of Crib-goch and continues to Garnedd Ugain before turning south to the summit of Snowdon. From the summit of Snowdon the walk descends steeply south east for over 1,000 feet before ascending Y Lliwedd. After traversing over Y Lliwedd, it is possible to descend north east to the Miners Track and thus back to Pen-y-Pass
Mighty Tryfan was recently voted Britain’s best mountain and it is one of my favourites. It is a magnificent rock peak close to the road and gives some great scrambling to reach the summit and the well known rock pillars, ‘Adam and Eve’.
All the popular routes up these mountains start at the park places at Ogwen or Llyn Ogwen. Tryfan and the Glyders are usually completed together. Y Garn and Elidir Fawr can be added to the walk or climbed separately. I suggest starting from the car park next to Llyn Ogwen. From there a path starts the ascent of Tyfan in an easterly direction passing under Milestone Buttress to a ladder stile in the wall. Follow the path round to the north ridge of Tryfan and scramble to the summit from there
From the summit of Tryfan it is possible to descend in a south westerly direction via Bristly Ridge to the Glyders and a major mountain range. From here the route ascends the Bristly Ridge to Glyder Fach, lower than Glyder Fawr and not a Top 500 summit. Walk just south of west to continue to Glyder Fawr.
From Glyder Fawr descend north west to Llyn y Cwn. There is then a choice of ascending north west to Y Garn and eventually to Elidir Fawr. Alternatively it is possible to descend north on a path to Ogwen leaving Y Garn and Elidir Fawr for another day.
The sixth Top 500 Summit over 3,000ft in Wales is Carnedd Llewelyn which lies to the north of the A5, the main road through North Wales running from Shrewsbury to Bangor.
The best walk over these mountains starts at Ogwen Cottage and makes a steep ascent north, gaining height quickly, to Pen yr Ole Wen (3,200ft). From there the walk proceeds more gently north east over Carnedd Dafydd to Carnedd Llewelyn, the second highest mountain in Wales after Snowdon at 3,490ft.
From Carnedd Llewelyn the route descends south east then goes over Pen yr Helgi Du to Pen Llithrig y Wrach. Descend south and then south west to the A5 and walk just over three miles back to the car, unless you were able to leave a second car below Pen Llithrig y Wrach.
Cadair Idris is probably the best known mountain in North Wales after Snowdon. It is isolated, lying south of the main peaks of Snowdonia and near Dolgellau. It is close to the sea with a rugged beauty and grandeur that is hard to beat.
The route from the National Trust car park near Minffordd is a classic circular route that can be completed in 4 to 5 hours. The route heads into Cwm Cau then ascends to the ridge east of Craig Cau. The skyline ridge is followed over Craig Cau, Cadair Idris to Mynydd Moel before you head south back towards the car park.
Y Llethr is the highest point on the rough and wild Rhinog ridge which lies between Cadair Idris and the main peaks of Snowdonia. Y Llethr is probably not the most interesting summit on the Rhinogs and I would recommend a walk starting at Graigddu-isaf, close to the A470, which traverses Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach as well. This walk gives a sense of the remote and rough nature of the Rhinog ridge
The final walk that I have picked out in North Wales is Cadair Berwyn. Lying east of the main Snowdonia peaks, Cadair Berwyn contrasts dramatically with them. The peaks of Snowdonia are generally rough, rocky peaks overlooking the coast. Tryfan is probably the roughest of them all. However, Cadair Berwyn is a gentle, rolling hill, a great place to tramp over on a summer evening.
It is best to start from Tan-y-Pistyll, from where the magnificent Pistyll Rhaeadr can be viewed. This is the highest waterfall in Wales. After reaching the top of the Falls, a grassy path leads to the summit ridge at Moel Sych. The wide ridge is then followed to Cadair Berwyn.