Foel Penolau

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 52.89364°N / 3.99097°W
Additional Information County: Gwynedd
Activities Activities: Hiking, Trad Climbing, Bouldering, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 2014 ft / 614 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Sitting astride the spine of the Harlech Dome like some Tolkienian fortress, Foel Penolau (614m) is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the northern Rhinogydd. Depending on what you want to believe, its name either means Bare Last Summit or Bare Hill of the Bottoms; both seem appropriate, there’s a great aura of terminality about this place. Despite being 9 metres shorter than its close neighbour Moel Ysgyfarnod, it’s a far more attractive proposition, being on the whole a much rockier and more formidable beast; its flat slabby summit being completely encircled by cliffs and broken stone. To reach the summit therefore, one must pull their hands out of their pockets and tackle them via the weakness of their choice, a task most mountaineers will undertake with gusto.

Despite being a relatively well known summit, rock climbing did not arrive at Foel Penolau until 1997; since then a handful of good quality routes have been recorded on its southern side. This is wilderness climbing at its very best and if you want to climb here you will need to make the not inconsiderable effort to drag your gear many miles to experience it. Those that do will find excellent, steep and quick drying rock, which boasts some of the best views in Snowdonia. There’s little for the novice here though, with the easiest route coming in at a respectable Very Severe 4b. Get the most out of your visit by combining your trip with stops off at the crags of Moel Ysgyfarnod or Craig y Gwynt.

Rock Climbing

Foel PenolauFoel Penolau
(Photo by Nanuls)
Foel PenolauFoel Penolau
(Photo by Nanuls)
Traeth MawrTraeth Mawr
(Photo by Nanuls)

The south face of Foel Penolau is a fantastic south facing crag, with some great routes on perfect, quick drying Rhinog grit - without a doubt one of the best crags in the area.

Unless otherwise stated, routes are listed from left to right, and are graded and rated with the aid of the Climbers Club Guide to Meirionnydd, so for full descriptions, please refer to this source. The Climbers’ Club have also produced a free pdf, which provides details of first ascents recorded after 2001: download it here. Technical grades are generally only given to climbs graded adjectivally as Hard Severe (HS) or above.

Please be aware that the Rhinog Range is a trad climbing venue and bolting is strictly prohibited. Routes are rated using the British Adjectival Grading System. A conversion table of international climbing grades by SP member Corax is available HERE!

Foel Penolau (Photo by Nanuls)

Route Symbols:

NO STARS A so-so route, neither good nor bad. Not unpleasant unless otherwise stated.
1 STAR A good route which is definitely worth a climb.
2 STARS A very good route, one of the best on the crag and well worthy of attention.
3 STARS An excellent route, one of the best in the area, and probably in Britain too.

Used to indicate that there are currently no restrictions, either seasonal, temporary or permanent, affecting a route.


Used to indicate that there are restrictions, either seasonal, temporary or permanent, affecting a route. See the Red Tape and Access Section for more details.

South Face

The first two routes embark from a broad platform at the left-had end of the main crag.

Routes on the South Face of Foel Penolau
No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Quality Restrictions
1. Purrfection 7m 1 E1 5a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
2. Small Wonder 9m 1 VS 4b NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
4. On Secret Sand 15m 1 E3 6a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
5. Silence is Goldern 15m 1 E5 6a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
6. All This and Heaven Too 15m 1 E3 5c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
7. Politician's Wall 15m 1 E4 6b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
8. Misunderstood 15m 1 E1 5b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
9. Do the Monkey 13m 1 E2 5c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
10. Stranger's Solace 13m 1 E1 5a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
11. Subterranean Leg Injector 15m 1 E2 5b NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
12. In Whose Footsteps? 12m 1 HVS 4c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
13. Greywacke Race 10m 1 E3 6a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS

North-west Face

There are five recorded routes on the smaller north west face of Foel Penolau. Halfway along the crag is a recess with a jagged arête at its back. Dehydration begins a metre left of the arête and finishes on top of it.

Foel PenolauFoel Penolau
(Photo by Nanuls)
Foel PenolauFoel Penolau
(Photo by Nanuls)
(Photo by Nanuls)

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Quality Restrictions
14. Dehydration 8m 1 E3 6a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
15. Dry Throat of Fear 8m 1 E3 6a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
16. The Last Nut on Earth 10m 1 E3/4 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
17. Don't Poop on my Parade 10m 1 HVS 5b NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
18. A Fut Above the Rest 10m 1 E2 6a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS

Mountain Conditions

This section displays the mountain conditions for Snowdonia, of which Foel Penolau is a part. Click on the widget for maps and further information.

This Snowdonia weather forecast is generated by the Met Office Weather Widget

When to Climb and Essential Gear

Foel Penolau can be climbed at anytime of the year, however, in poor conditions the mountain's rock routes are best avoided, particularly if the weather's been wet. March to September offer the most reliable conditions. Of course this all depends on ones ability as a mountaineer/climber, and what might be comfortable for some may seem daunting for others.

If your lucky enough to climb the mountains in winter conditions then an ice axe and crampons are essential.

Diffwys from Foel Penolau (Photo by Nanuls)

Getting There

Foel Penolau is located in the northern half of the Rhinogydd and is one of the range’s least visited summits. It can be approached from its east via the A470(T), which runs from Dolgellau to Conwy and Colwyn Bay, or the west, via the smaller A496, which runs along the coast from Llanulltyd near Dolgellau and around to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the north. If approaching from the east you will need to leave the A470(T) at the minor junction at Cefn-gallt-y-cwm (SH 710 345) and travel in a westward direction along the southern shores of Llyn Trawsfynydd. A second junction will be reached after around 1.5km (SH 696 347), take the right fork here and continue along the western shore of the lake. Park near Moelfryn-uchaf (SH 684 358) and follow the nearest right of way into the range. Soon the paths will run out and you will have to find your own way. An arguably better approach is from the west, which takes slightly longer to get to. Leave the A470(T) at Maentwrog (SH 665 407) and follow the A496 westwards along the river towards Harlech. After about 10km you’ll reach the junction with the B4573 (SH 606 349). It’s an unusual junction, because rather than turning off onto the B4573 you carry straight on (the turn off is actually for the A470(T)). Continue along the B4573 past the row of houses at Glan-y-Wern until you reach a small stone bridge over a stream. There is a junction at this bridge signposting Eisingrug (SH 615 345); turn off here and follow the minor road to Eisingrug. At Eisingrug take the second minor road on the right (it’s hard to spot, joining the road your on between a field boundary and a stone building), and follow it to its terminus. Here you will find a small grassy parking area and the start of the Miners Track (SH 628 342). There is a payment of £2 to be made for using the car park, which is placed in a box attached to the landowner’s gate. Payments made for parking are donated to the Wales Air Ambulance Service.

Red Tape and Access

No red tape here!

For climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) runs a Regional Access Database, which holds mountain/crag specific information on matters of conservation and access, including issues such as nesting restrictions, nature designations and preferred parking.

Regional Access Database

If you are in any doubt about any particular access arrangement, or need to report an incident, you should contact your local BMC Access Representative or the BMC Access Officers for Wales: Elfyn Jones.

Foel PenolauThe summit
(Photo by Nanuls)
(Photo by Nanuls)
Foel PenolauFoel Penolau
(Photo by Nanuls)

Camping and Accommodation

There’s an almost unlimited supply of accommodation within the Snowdonia National Park so it would be inappropriate to list it all here. For budget accommodation it’s worth checking out some of the following sites:

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Gwynedd

For more local options, there are a number of campsites that surround the range; Cae Adda (SH 690 355), which is near Llyn Trawsfynydd or Bryn Bwbach (SH 620 368) on the opposite side of the range.


Open Space Web-Map builder Code
Navigation Maps

OS 1:25k Explorer Series OL 18 Harlech, Porthmadog & Bala/Y Bala

OS 1:50k Landranger Series 124 Porthmadog & Dolgellau

Harvey Map Services 1:25k Snowdonia South Rhinogs/Rhinogydd

Road Maps

OS Road Map 9 Wales/Cymru & West Midlands


Snowdonia (Official National Park Guide) Snowdonia (Official National Park Guide) by Merfyn Williams with contributions from Ian Mercer and Jeremy Moore

A handy book full of useful information and interesting facts about the National Park.
The Mountains of England and Wales: Vol 1 Wales The Mountains of England and Wales: Vol 1 Wales by John and Ann Nuttall

A classic book covering the Welsh ‘Nuttalls’, which obviously include the Rhinogydd.
Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 by Peter Hermon

The second of two guidebooks describing walking routes up every 2000-footer in Wales – covers the Moelwynion to the Tarrenydd.
Hillwalking in Snowdonia Hillwalking in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton

A guidebook to nearly 70 hillwalking routes throughout Snowdonia, including the Rhinogydd.
Climbers Club Guide Wales: Meirionnydd Climbers Club Guide Wales: Meirionnydd by Martin Crocker, John Sumner, Terry Taylor, Elfyn Jones, with contributions from Mike Rosser, Mike Lewis and Dave Wrennall

The definitive climbing guide to the area. Contains detailed descriptions and excellent diagrams of all known rock routes in the Rhinogydd. An essential purchase if you plan to do a lot of climbing in Mid Wales.

External Links

Foel PenolauFoel Penolau (Photo by Nanuls)
Diffwys (Photo by Nanuls)

Government Bodies and Official Organisations

Snowdonia National Park Authority

Council for National Parks

Association of National Park Authorities

Natural Resources Wales


Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Snowdonia Society

The National Trust

Hiking, Climbing and Mountaineering Organisations and Companies

British Mountaineering Council

The Climbers’ Club


Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre

Hightreck Snowdonia


Mountain Weather Wales

Weather from the Met Office

BBC Weather

Tourist Information

Visit Wales

North Wales Tourism Partnership

Local Information from

Local Information from Snowdonia Wales Net

North Wales Index


Welsh Public Transport Information

UK Train Timetable


Youth Hostel Association in Wales

Pete's Eats

Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey

Harvey Map Services

Cicerone Guidebooks

Climbers’ Club Guidebooks


North Wales Bouldering

Cordee Travel and Adventure Sports Bookshop

Wildlife and Conservation

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

Natur Gwynedd

North Wales Wildlife Trust

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds