We gazed down the valley. I always find Snowdonia stunning, but today it was at its brilliant best. Fresh snow flecked the sides of the valley, tempting us to explore. The bus had dropped us off at the end of a farm lane and one by one we disgorged, looking forward to the hike to come. Y Garn [ɪ ɡɑːn], Foel-Goch [vəʊl ɡɒx], Mynedd Perfedd [ʹmɪnɪθ ʹpəːvɛθ] (literally perfect mountain, it isn’t), and Elidir Fawr [ɛʹlɪdə vɑː] are all in this section, and we aimed to get as many done as we could. The peaks form a horseshoe at the top of the Glyderau [ʹglɪdəˌɹaʊ] range, and boast amazing views of Snowdonia, including the beautifully rugged Tryfan (also a peak in this range, and arguably the only mountain you must tick off in Snowdonia).
The farm track led to the rustic looking Ogwen Cottage. These simplistic buildings are scattered all over Snowdonia, and meld in with the landscape perfectly. Skirting round the house was a path, twisting and climbing up the side of the valley towards the first peak. It was flanked on either side by two waterfalls, tumbling down the hillside. The path would follow these falls up the hill, offering a gentle bubbling soundtrack as we headed up. Most of the path was a simple climb, but the gradient was fairly steep so we took one or two pauses on the way. Some sections got a bit rocky, and the smaller amongst you may need to occasionally haul yourselves up with your arms, but none of this section is hugely arduous. The views down the valley from here are stunning, a pallet of deep green, tan, and orange, a kin to the Scottish Glenns, only on a smaller scale.
The snow had fallen the night before, and tops of the peaks had had a decent coating, an inch or so deep. It had yet to freeze over, so was still light and fluffy to the touch. An impromptu snowball fight kicked off amongst some members of the group, whilst the rest of us gazed over a white wonderland. As the snow was not so deep, grass and rocks still burst through, flecking the white carpet with grey. At this point we were still just over a mile away from our first peak – Y Garn so we pressed on along the path, running parallel to the stream. The snowball fight continued behind me as we walked. We followed the path until we reached a small lake, and then branched off to begin the final ascent up to Y Garn. It was cold up here, definitely pack a good pair of gloves if you plan to walk in Snowdonia in winter. It was also quiet, we had left the babble of the stream behind us, so we were only left with the soft ‘flumph’ as boot pressed into snow. Laughter suddenly broke the air, one of my fellow walkers had attempted to bite down on a jelly bean, only to find that the cold had made it rock hard. A suggestion of individual jelly bean fleeces ‘to ensure that they stay warm’ was made. We carried on, up the snowy hill to the summit.
In the opening excerpt, I mentioned that the Glyderau beats the Snowdon Horseshoe in terms of drama and beauty. Their striking formation is possibly best seen from the top of Y Garn. From here at 947 m (3107 ft), you are right in centre. To the South, there are the two Glyders (Fach and Fawr). Arcing round to the east you find Tryfan, its spiky summit fracturing the horizon. Adam and Eve (the two rocks on the summit of Tryfan walkers jump across to make themselves immortal on the mountains) are clearly visible from Y Garn, two rocky fingers pointing boldly into the sky. To the north there is the rest of the range. Foel Goch squats on the horizon, and the arrow shaped summit of Mynedd Perfedd points across to Bangor. From up here, you can also see right across to South Stack on Anglesey.
Finally, to the north west there is Elidir Fawr, the electric mountain. An astonishing feat of engineering, Elidir Fawr’s secret is hidden deep beneath its rocky exterior. Water, held near the summit in Marchlyn Mawr resevoir, is sent through turbines in the mountain and, deposited at its foot in Llyn Peris lake. This creates a a huge surge of electricity. The power station at Elider Fawr is one of the fastest at producing energy in the world, and has a key role in the National Grid at times when a large amount of energy is required over a short space of time (for example at half time in a World Cup final).
After Y Garn, we pushed on to the next hill. There is not a path as such, however if you follow the fence that starts after the small descent from Y Garn, you will find yourself at Foel Goch. At 831 m (2726 ft), Foel Goch is the smallest peak in the Glyderau range. Despite this, it still offers great views over to Tryfan, and the Carnedd Range to the east. As it is roughly a mile further north than Y Garn, it also provides a better view across to the east coast of Anglesey.
We called it a day on Foel Goch, and cut down into the valley between Y Garn and Elidir Fawr. However, the Northern Glyderau is a great place to go walking. Stunning in both winter and summer, and offering fantastic views across the whole of Snowdonia, these peaks are definitely worth ticking off.