Rekindling a Friendship – Heart of Snowdonia 24 Peaks Circuit

Camped on Pen Lithrig y Wrach

Camped on Pen Lithrig y Wrach

I spent much of my 20’s and 30’s in Snowdonia, having gone to Bangor University in the mid 1980’s and living in North Wales for 15 years after graduating. In that time I must have walked, scrambled, rock climbed and ice climbed routes many times over, forwards, backwards and in all weathers. And in all truth it’s fair to say that by the new Millenium I had grown tired of the area.

Going back last weekend to backpack the arduous ‘Heart of Snowdonia 24 peaks circuit’ after 10 years away has rekindled the friendship I have with this special place. It is without doubt my favourite mountain area in the UK. And the circuit ?……it’s a beast.

The ‘Heart of Snowdonia 24 peaks circuit’ takes in 24 peaks in the Snowdon, Moelwyn, Carnedd and Glyder ranges, in a 50+ mile circuit which will tear the last ounce of reserve out of your thighs, and leave you weeping for the lung capacity you squandered in your youth.

Add in climbing the North Ridge of Tryfan and Bristley Ridge in Glyder Fach, with a full backpack….and you may even suffer the odd wobbly moment.

Heart of Snowdonia 24 Peaks Circuit - Route Overview

Heart of Snowdonia 24 Peaks Circuit – Route Overview

I picked the circuit to test out my mountain legs and see how training has been going for the TGO Challenge this year. My chosen route this years TGO is high level with plenty of ascent, and the first few days will almost mirror the sort of daily ascent on this circuit.

And on the evidence of this three days…I’m in trouble.  A chest infection I’ve had for the past few weeks seems to have left me very short of breath, with a tight chest and almost no petrol in the tank.

I got around….but only just. And it involved rather too much swearing at my legs, the climbs, and my lungs.

But for those of masochistic tendencies this walk is pure heaven. As a three day backpack it will test your fitness to the limit, but the views will still leave you aching for more.

Total Distance : 86 km (53.5 miles)

Total Ascent : 6753m (22154 ft)

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Day 1 : Llanberis to below Cnicht

  • 26.8 km (17 miles) / Ascent 2386m (7827 ft)
  • 8 Peaks : Moel Eillio, Foel Gron, Foel Goch, Moel Cynghorion, Crib y Ddysgl, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), Cribau Tregalan, Yr Aran

Low points :

  • That first long slog up Moel Eillio from Llanberis in thick mist. I thought the sun would never come out.
  • The huge crowd of day walkers on top of Snowdon, forming a 50m orderly queue to have their photo taken at the trig point.

High Points :

  • Descending from Snowdon and looking up in dismay at the stiff climb back up Yr Aran ….then finding myself  on top moments later.
  • Getting to the cafe at Bethania just as it was shutting and downing two cans of shandy.
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Looking across to Moel Cynghorion from Foel Goch

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Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) from Crib y Ddysgl

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Y Lliwedd from the top of Snowdon

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Looking back to Snowdon from Yr Aran

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First nights camp below Cnicht, with a view of Snowdon range

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View from the tent, first night

Day 2 : below Cnicht to Pen Llithrig y Wrach

  • 28 km (17.4 miles) / Ascent 1890m (6200 ft)
  • 5 Peaks : Cnicht, Moel Druman, Allt-Fawr, Carnedd Moel Siabod, Pen Llithrig y Wrach

Low points :

  • The ridiculously long time it took to ascend Moel Siabod from Blaenau Dolwyddelan through deep bracken and grass tussocks. By the time I reached the top I was all but ready to pack it in.
  • The even longer time it took to ascend Pen Llithrig y Wrach

High Points :

  • Downing a bottle of Purple Moose beer at Capel Curig
  • Deciding to camp on top of Pen Llithrig y Wrach and catch the last of the evening sun……glorious.
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View from the tent in the morning. Looking down to Llyn Dinas.

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First task of the morning…Cnicht

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Looking to the coast from the top of Cnicht

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Bliss. The only level part of the circuit following an old track bed.

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Snowdon from the top of Carnedd Moel Siabod

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Llyn Cowlyd and Pen Llithrig y Wrach

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Second nights camp on Pen Llithrig y Wrach

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Second nights camp

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Sunset over the Glyders from Pen Llithrig y Wrach

Day 3 : Pen Llithrig y Wrach to Llanberis

  • 31.1 km (19.4 miles) / Ascent 2477m (8127 ft)
  • 11 Peaks : Pen yr Helgi Du, Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd, Pen yr Ole Wen, Tryfan, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr, Y Garn, Foel-goch, Carnedd y Filiast, Elidir Fawr

Low points :

  • Taking a tumble on Carnedd Dafydd and almost breaking my arm.
  • The ‘Brown Trouser’ moment climbing Sinister Gulley up Bristley Ridge on Glyder Fach. I’ve climbed Tryfan North Ridge and Bristley Ridge on Glyder Fach so many times before, but perhaps never with a full backpack. Exiting the top of the gulley felt like a bit of a do or die moment. With a large pack on I couldn’t do the usual bridging move out of the chute at the top. Queue a moment of ‘Elvis Leg’.

High Points :

  • Realising that my metabolism is still able to convert a peperami stick into useful energy when desperately needed
  • Reaching the top of that last peak, Elidir Fawr. There was no energy left, nothing in reserve. I was spent and all I wanted to do was head downhill.
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Cloud over the sea in the morning. Looking north to the coast.

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Next stop, Carnedd Llywelyn from Pen yr Helgi Du

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Carnedd Dafydd from Carnedd Llywelyn

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Leaving the rocky summit of Carnedd Dafydd and heading to Pen yr Ole Wen

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Looking across Llyn Idwal to Y Garn, from the top of Tryfan

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Heading from Glyder Fach to Glyder Fawr

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Descending the scree slopes off Glyder Fawr, down to the top of the Devils Kitchen

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Looking back to Tryfan and Glyder Fach from the top of Y Garn

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Tryfan North Ridge from the top of Y Garn

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The last few peaks. Foel Goch, Carnedd y Filiast and Elidir Fawr

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The last ascent up Elidir Fawr

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A bit battered and bruised

25 thoughts on “Rekindling a Friendship – Heart of Snowdonia 24 Peaks Circuit

  1. Quite an outing but the weather looks good and the photos are excellent. I love climbing Snowdon via Moel Eillio, Foel Gron, Foel Goch & Moel Cynghorion because its so quiet until you get to the Snowdon Ranger path. Pen yr Helgi Du is a bugger of a climb up the front.

    • Thanks Paul. Yes the route up Snowdon via Moel Eillio is a favourite too, so much quieter, you’ll be lucky to see anybody. And that first section was in thick mist, the sort that soaks you. On the basis of this outing though I may need to use a few FWAs on the TGO. Normally my fitness is pretty good, but this infection has knocked it for six just at the wrong time.

  2. Once you go over 6500ft of uphill in a day it starts to hurt. A fantastic route you did. But some very hard miles along it. It’s not long till the Challenge. If its any comfort I am ill with a infection and desperate for fitness as well – as my route has a lot of summits as well. I am sure we will make it across, but it will test us no doubt! It is a challenge after all.

    • Thanks Martin. I can normally rely on my fitness, but this felt laboured. It did give me some valuable insight into what food to take on the TGO though. When you’re exhausted, and you need energy, it pays to have something that your palate can eat easily. Some food you just can’t stomach when you’re tired.

      By the way, on a positive note I borrowed a GG Gorilla (new version) to try out for this trip. Extremely comfortable, and I was pleasantly surprised how the back panel only sits against your shoulders and lower back, even though it looks like it would be quite body hugging. Very stable, perfect size for what I take. Very impressed. One very minor gripe; I’d prefer bigger hip belt pockets and slightly deeper side pockets. But they wouldn’t be deal breakers. Great pack.

    • I guess I don’t like to admit I may not be as fit as I once was. I remember driving down to the Ogwen Valley after work one summers evening, and decided to pop up Tryfan. I reached the top in under and hour, and carried on over the rest of the Glyders. Did the entire horseshoe and back down in time for a pub meal in Capel Curig. Decades of corporate life takes the edge off your fitness.

    • p.s. I think you now have the same camera as me. Sony RX-100. Wonderful little camera which they seemed to have squeezed the sensor from a full blown SLR into. I’ve fitted mine with a Kiwi filter ring so I can attach filters to the lens. Didn’t use any this trip, but will take a couple on the TGO.

  3. Thanks for the views from Y Garn. Thats where i had to back off on my trip a few weeks ago. I definitely would not have done Bristley with a full pack thats for sure. You must be feeling fit after than “Little” walk. All the best for the Challenge btw.

    • I definitely wont be doing it again with a full pack either. Sinister Gulley is an easy scramble when you’re moving light, but with a large pack it’s in a different league.

    • BTW Alan, I left a question on one of old blog posts from 2012 about the Karrimor X Lite air mat. I’ve been using a Multimat Superlite Air for a few years but it’s sprung a leak. Been looking at the Karrimor X Lite as it appears identical, almost as if it’s been made by the same factory in China. How did your Karrimor mat hold out in the end, did it survive a few years use ?

      • Hi John, I have replied on my blog page but to save you popping over. The mat is still going strong. Never had any trouble with it unlike my 2 Thermarest Neo air. It will be getting used again this weekend.

  4. Looked wonderful, but I almost feel exhausted now after just reading it 😀
    I remember doing Cnicht aged 10, on a school trip to Wales. Carried nothing but a water bottle – which I had to refill a couple of
    times from streams and I was ill all night – and I’m pretty sure I was wearing a dress…

    • I must have been lucky with the water. I drank so much over the three days I had no choice but to fill up from anything that was flowing. The taste of pure mountain water can’t be beaten though.

      As for the dress, well there’s nothing wrong in looking presentable out on the hill, though you wont be seeing me in a shirt and tie on the TGO. After three days I looked like a fancy dress vagabond.

  5. Wowza John, That’s one heck of a route, a great write up, and superb photos. One of my first ever wild camps whilst still at school was in horrendous cold rain and wind near Cnicht. It was that evening when I decided that eating chicken curry with a large dollop of sheep shit in it was better than not eating at all.

    Well done, cracker. I suspect you’ll storm across Scotland next month.

    • I guess it’s one of those taste combinations that just works when you’re starving. I normally spend my days cramming trail mix down me to top up energy reserves, but for some reason this weekend I just couldn’t stomach it. What hit the spot was peperami….I ate five in one go at the foot of Tryfan. They had enough favour without additional sheep excrement.

    • Definately do Jane it Jane. If I do it again I’d take four days over it and climb one range each day. Doing it in 3 days with a full pack was pushing it. The route was originally set up as a fell running challenge, you’d gave to be bonkers.

    • Cheers Alan. I have an Exped Synmat UL which I use for weekend trips when a punture wouldn’t be a tragedy. For longer trips I tend to back up a light air matt with a thin foam pad. Then if the matt springs a leak I can still get by.

      • £20 for the Karrimor is a bargain. Cannot remember what I paid. I need to check out my post but it would have been something similar I guess. I use a 3mm pad too on most occasions.

    • Thanks Matt, it was a stunning few days. Been meaning to do the circuit for a while and I’d forgotten what a superb area Snowdonia is. A good test for Scotland.

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