|The mountains of northern Snowdonia are littered with innumerable spindly ridges and shrouded gullies, which offer the scrambler an almost infinite number opportunities in the pursuit of their sport. The trouble is, they know it, and on any given weekend scramblers will queue rank and file for the chance to ascend the area’s classic routes.|
So what to do if you don’t want to be surrounded by hordes of the great unwashed? This might seem obvious, but go somewhere else. Somewhere no one else thinks of, somewhere away from the area’s most famed and popular peaks, somewhere hidden. Somewhere like Moel Siabod, a much under rated peak, close enough to share in all the drama of the area’s other mountains, yet far enough away to fall outside the conscience of the casual visitor. The Daear Ddu Ridge (Black Earth Ridge), on Moel Siabod’s eastern side, has all the makings of a classic route but comes with none of the baggage, no crowds, no noise, no litter, no queuing behind fat blokes struggling on the crux. The result: an easy ridge scramble which is an ideal introduction for beginners, but still holds enough interest for the experienced connoisseur too.
Getting ThereIt would be impractical to describe every possible means of reaching the start of this route, so I will limit myself to only describe the most common, which coincidentally, is also the most practical. When coming from the west, take the A5 road out of Betws-y-Coed (SH 794 565), past the Swallow Falls Hotel (SH 765 576), and park in the car park at Pont Cyfyng (SH 734 571). The car park is on the north side of the main road on the grounds of a small café and shop.
Route DescriptionCross the road and walk a short distance west to a junction and the bridge over the Afon Llugwy (SH 734 571). Cross the bridge and walk uphill to the start of an asphalt track which is marked by a ‘rights of way’ sign (SH 734 570). Follow the track for around two hundred metres to a hairpin bend (SH 732 568), here you will be redirected onto a smaller path, which diverts you around a farm complex (SH 731 567), to a gate and a stile next to a derelict house. Cross the stile and continue up the track in a south-westerly direction; after around a kilometre you will come to a fork (SH 724 562). Take the left hand fork (the smaller of the two), and follow it around the rocky flank of Moel Siabod’s North East Ridge to Llyn y Foel (SH 714 547), which sits under the mountain’s southern face. Along the way you will pass two small ponds and a number of ruins associated with the slate mining industry that used to be of such importance to the area. On reaching Llyn y Foel, skirt around its northern shore and follow the path to the base of the ridge.
From here the navigation gets much simpler, so stow away your map and compass in your sack and get ready for some scrambling. The very best scrambling is found close to the crest of the ridge so try not to deviate to far from it, as elsewhere the scrambling is much more broken in nature. Most of the scrambling is lower end grade 1, and easy enough not to cause any difficulty, however if you search for it, sections may be pushed up to grade 2. After some 250 metres of scrambling you will reach the top of the ridge, only a short distance from Moel Siabod’s summit (SH 705 546). Stop here to enjoy some lunch and to take in some unusual views of Snowdonia’s highest mountains.
The best descent is along the mountain’s broad North East Ridge, which effectively forms the backbone of the mountain. The path will take you back to the fork that you passed earlier, and the track back down to Pont Cyfyng.
During the summer you will need all the equipment you would normally use on a Grade 1 scramble i.e. a good pair of boots and full waterproofs. A rope and helmet may be required for the inexperienced or for those without a head for heights.
If you’re lucky enough to climb this route in winter conditions then an ice axe, crampons, and a helmet are all essential. You also might want to take along a rope and a small winter rack.
GuidebooksSnowdonia (Official National Park Guide) by Merfyn Williams
The Mountains of England and Wales: Volume 1 Wales (Cicerone Guide) by John and Anne Nuttall
Hillwalking in Wales Vol 1 (Cicerone Guide) by Peter Hermon
Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 (Cicerone Guide) by Peter Hermon
Hillwalking in Snowdonia (Cicerone Guide) by Steve Ashton
Ridges of Snowdonia (Cicerone Guide) by Steve Ashton
Scrambles in Snowdonia (Cicerone Guide) by Steve Ashton
Government Bodies and Official Organisations
Hiking, Climbing and Mountaineering Organisations and Companies
Maps and Guidebooks
Wildlife and Conservation