Rhinog Fawr and Moel Ysgyfarnogod

Saturday, 13 September 2014
4052ft/1235m ascent
Trail 100 #47 & # 48

Wendy’s house in the centre of the historic Welsh town of Harlech is amazing! From one set of windows we looked onto the massive grey walls of Edward the First’s castle fortress built to subdue the unruly Welsh, while other windows gaze inland to the Rhinog mountains.Heather

The guidebooks say that the Rhinogs are a wild and remote group of mountains, there are few paths and it is hard to find circular walks through the mix of beautiful deep heather and walls of huge grey rock slabs. We drove towards the mountains down long narrow wall lined lanes with no passing places (fortunately there was no other traffic) until we reached the end of the road at Cwm Bychan. The car park has an honesty box and we paid, but the tariff is quite bizarre asking for £2 per car and an extra £1 per passenger.

We followed the well marked trail to the “Roman Steps” and headed towards the rocky canyon where Bwlch Tyddiad crosses to the next valley.  At the col we left the good stone path and joined narrow tracks that wound upwards to the pretty Llyn Du which sits below the rocky crags of Rhinog Fawr (2362ft/720m).

Llyn Du

From the lake the ground gets rockier and there is a steep scramble up the scree before reaching the summit.  Rhinog Fawr is a proper mountain with a good summit and a fabulous view.  Tremadoc Bay twinkles in the sunshine to the West and to the South the summits of Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr make a dramatic skyline.

Portmerion & Tremadoc BayRhinog Fach and Y Llethr

We descended by retracing our steps, but now the path was busy with other walkers enjoying the sunshine and walking through the heather lined valley.  We ate our picnic lunch sitting on the grass in the car park.

I had planned to drive to a different place to begin our next walk, but we could see the mountain from where we ate lunch, so we looked at the map, chose what looked like a sensible route and set off to climb Moel Ysgyfarnogod (2044ft/623m).

We set off up an easy to follow path that runs at the foot of the crags, we dropped down the other side of the col and then followed a wall as it headed straight towards the top.  There are no paths marked on the map here and this had seemed like a reasonable route avoiding the crags – it wasn’t!  The wall ran through deep banks of heather and progress was very slow as we climbed up eventually reaching the plateau.

The map of this mountain is liberally sprinkled with the words ‘Piles of Stones’, but this does not do the stones justice.  What you actually find on the plateau is a series of deep crevices with neatly arranged walls of 10 foot high slabs of dark grey rock it is a tangled, bewildering, pathless place and we slowly found a way to the summit.

Moel Ysgyfarnogod


The view from the top is actually good, and we could see some paths leading down the other side.  Unfortunately, our route took us back into the pathless morass of rock strewn gullies.  At this point we had spotted in the distance a couple of walkers who were heading back along the ridge – we followed them hoping (correctly) that they would find a route through.

When we caught them we discovered Ursula Martin carrying a full rucksack on her 3,000+ mile One Woman Walks Wales charity fund-raiser.

Eventually we found a path and it led down through the crags to where we’d started earlier in the day.


From the car park at  SH646314.

Rhinog Fawr Route


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