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Snowdonia (part 1): The Nantlle Ridge

Often described as a classic ridge walk, The Nantlle Ridge has a fairly strenous climb, some great views (especially across to Snowdon), some exciting scrabling (Grade 1 apparantly), and a ridge with some dramatic sheer drops.

The Nantlle Ridge, well at least the part including the peaks of Y Garn, Drws-y-Coed and Trum y Ddysgl, has been my nemisis. The walk isn’t too difficult (I think it is classed as “Moderate”), but the last two attempts I have made I have been forced back by the weather.

The Nantlle Ridge

Date 29th May 2009
Length 6.0 miles
Time Taken 4 hours
Average Speed 1.6 mph
Max Height 2257 ft
Min Height 598 ft
Height Gain 2237 ft

View the map on OS Explore
Download GPS data exported
from Viewranger

This part of the Nantlle Ridge is accessible from Rhyd-Ddu, off the A4085 (just North of Beddgelert). The route map and guide are available from go4awalk.com, or is available to download as a guided walk direct to your phone with Viewranger. I also stumbled across a free walk description on the Walking Britain website.

The first time I attempted this climb was in August 2008. It was a rainy week of camping on the Lleyn Pennisular, and in my infinite wisdom, I decided to undertake my first mountain climb by attempting the Nantlle Ridge. By the time I had got to the first peak of Y Garn, I could barely see my hand in front of my face. Fortunately a friendly fellow walker on his way down from Drws-y-Coed, recommended that as a novice it would not be sensible to attempt to go further, so I abandoned the climb and headed back to the pub in Rhyd-Ddu. With hindsight, after seeing some of the drops and the scrabling, this was a very sensible decision!

The second attempt at The Nantlle Ridge was in December 2008. It was a surprisingly nice day for December – sunny, clear skys, and not too cold once you got started. I was with a group of friends – we made it to Y Garn with no problems, but as we started the scrable up to Drws-y-Coed, the moss on the rocks higher up became icy and slippy. This was causing problems to both the dog and a friend with no grip on her walking boots, so we decided to turn back rather than having any mishaps – with hindsight we had actually reached the final boulder with an easier path to follow behind, but better to be safe than sorry.

So on a hot May afternoon, Alex and I decided to tackle the ridge from the other side. Rather than taking the direct steep ascent upto Y Garn, we continued to follow the path from Rhyd Ddu into Beddgelert Forest.

I have to admit that I am not very fond of Beddgelert Forest, a Forestry Commission forest mainly planted with conifers and broadleaves – my experience of it has been either trudging along wide and dull roads, or, after a decent from Moel Lefn, following a footpath that was more swamp than path (and associated biting insects).

The forest path climbs slowly but steadily – but once through the forest, you begin the ascent to Trum y Ddysgl in anger. The final quarter of a mile is a killer walking up an extremely steep grass slope – but once on the ridge, the views are amazing, especially across the ridge to Drws-y-Coed. After a well earned rest, we followed the ridge – trying not to think about the jaw dropping cliff to our left – to Drws-y-Coed and then scrambled down to Y Garn. After enjoying the spectacular 360 degree views, especially across to Snowdon, we dropped steeply down to Rhyd-Ddu and a well earning pint (or two) in the pub!

I am really glad to have finally managed to beat (at least this part) of the Natille Ridge. My inability to successfully complete the walk was really starting to knock my confidence in my, and my dog’s ability, to climb mountains. She incidentally absolutely loved the walk – she is like a mountain goat leaping from stone to stone, and was completely unphased by the sheer drops!

Throughout the walk, Alex (who is joining me on Offa’s Dyke for MS next year) and I discussed how this walk is only half of what is expected in just one day of the forteen day Offa’s Dyke walk. To quote Alex, we are going to have to “man up”!

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