The Rhinogydd are one of Wales' least visited ranges which is, in all honesty a crying shame, because they offer one of the wildest most pristine landscapes south of Scotland. Few people realise that these mountains cover an area as large as Sonwdon, the Glyderau and the Carneddau put together, sure they can't match the height and scale of said mountains, but they more than make up for this with their sheer beauty.
There's a choice for you here, do you want to start the route in the north or in the south?
North: you can get to Trawsfynydd (SH 707 356) easily by car via the A470 which runs from Conwy in the north to Dolgellau (SH 729 177) in the south. It's also on a bus route and near a busy road (the A470 again) which is ideal for hitching.
South: you can get to Bontddu (SH 669 187) by turning off the A470 at the roundabout at Llanelltyd (SH 715 193) near Dolgellau, and following the A496 about 5km west to the starting point.
This also highlights the only problem, and it is a small problem, with the route. How do you get back to the car at the start of the walk? Its over 26km away at the other side of the range. There are three viable options:
1. Ask someone kind to drop you off at the start and pick you up at the finish,
2. Catch the bus, there is route that runs through Trawsfynydd to Dolgellau where a connection can be caught to Bontddu, just make sure you have a timetable handy so you know what’s going on,
3. Hitch, not for everyone, and it can take a long time, but if your lucky it will take you from A to B with relatively little hassle.
This varies depending on where you start, in the north or south, personally I recommend starting in the south, as you can enjoy a rather nice scramble up the southern side of Rhinog Fawr.
Bontddu to Y Llethr: The route follows Afon Cwm-llechen north until Llechfraith, then after a short stretch on a small unclassified road (no more than 200m) it turns in a roughly northerly direction along the south-eastern slope of Diffwys (750m). It then climbs the ridge (there's some nice scrambling here) to a point that is 688m above sea level. From here it turns south to the summit of Diffwys. From Diffwys it then doublebacks on itself a short while, before crossing over the wall that runs from summit to summit, and follows Crib-y-rhiw ridge and onto the summit of Y Llethr(756m).
Y Llethr to Rhinog Fach: From Y Llethr the route skirts around the top of the summit and requires a quick jump over the wall to the north and then a steep descent to Llyn Hywel. From Llyn Hywel there is a short climb to the summit of Rhinog Fach (712m).
Rhinog Fach to Rhinog Fawr: From Rhinog Fach the route double backs on itself back down to Llyn Hywel before heading in a northerly direction along Cwm Hosan and into Bwlch Drws Ardydwy. From here the route turns east along the valley before turning north and onto the summit of Rhinog Fawr (720m). There is scrambling to grade 1 along this last stretch of the leg, which can be hugely enjoyable in the right conditions, however if visibility is poor then route finding can be difficult. An alternative route to the summit can be made by taking a path down and through the forest plantation in the east, and the climbing up to Llyn Du to attack the summit.
Rhinog Fawr to Foel Penolau: First of all the route descends Rhinog Fawr, past Llyn Du and into Bwlch Tyddiad, and then runs roughly north past Llyn Morwynion, following the skyline of the Rhinogydd along various plateaux’s and across numerous steep and rocky gullies. It’s a hugely enjoyable leg of the walk and there are many ideal spots for a wild camp. The route then climbs onto Craig Ddrwg (which means bad rock in Welsh) and after a short walk north reaches Moel Ysgyfarnod (623m). From here the rocky summit of Foel Penolau (614m) can be seen, and after a short walk and scramble it can be reached in relatively quickly.
Foel Penolau to Moelfryn/Trawsfynydd: From here it's downhill all the way (well almost), as the route descends into Cwm Moch and then to Moelfryn where the route ends. If you can get picked up here then all the better, but if you can't then Trawsfynydd is only a 3km walk away, and a shortcut can be made over a footbridge across Llyn Trawsfynydd. Conveniently there is a campsite at Cae Adda (SH 690 355), on the shores of Llyn Trawsfynydd if needed.
No special gear needed for this walk, only the usual waterproofs and a good pear of boots. If your going to camp then you’ll obviously need a tent too.
In winter an ice axe and a pair of crampons may also come in handy.
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