Off-peak: climbing Snowdonia’s smaller, quieter summits | Travel

It’s straightforward to get carried away with movie star – solely to be upset once you finally make the encounter.

That was my expertise of Snowdon – an A-list mountain. Standing at 1,085 metres, it’s the very best level in Wales and yearly attracts hordes of individuals who wish to stand on prime of it. Such is its pull that there’s a restaurant on the summit, a prepare (courtesy of the Victorians) to take you up it, and a complete community of paths main from the overflowing automotive parks at its base.


I keep in mind standing one summer season on Snowdon, virtually shoulder to shoulder with different walkers, queuing to achieve the summit. The place was so noisy with selfie-takers there was no area to benefit from the precise issues that drew me there – the peace, the tranquillity, and the great thing about being within the mountains. So I decided to cease being a peak snob and begin testing the peaks that nobody talks about.

Taking out an Ordnance Survey map, I scoured the nationwide park and, throughout the valley to the south-east, noticed a small hill known as Yr Arddu. At simply 389 metres it was by no means going to draw the hard-core mountaineers, however rising above the little-driven highway within the Nantmor valley, it wouldn’t appeal to the crowds both.

Sheep are a everlasting presence when mountaineering in Snowdonia. Photograph: Alamy

Feeling adventurous, I left the visitors headed to Pen-y-Pass automotive park to choose up a tiny B highway. Unlike the path to Snowdon this one had extra sheep on it than vehicles – in truth it had solely sheep on it. I pulled up at a small clearing – with area sufficient for a handful of vehicles – and walked alongside the river to a stile.

Looking up I might see my goal above me, tall, however not overwhelming. I headed up previous curious ewes – not used to seeing hikers – and adopted a steep however pretty faint path by way of a copse of bushes, consuming within the scent of the musty forest ground and listening to the sound of water effervescent and sputtering to my proper.

As I climbed, the trail marked on the map appeared to peter out. Unperturbed, I embraced the thrill of a stroll the place I’d be boot-beating a brand new path, reasonably than following within the footsteps of many.

Phoebe Smith looks up at Cnicht from Yr Arddu.

The writer seems to be up at Cnicht from Yr Arddu

Formerly the spoils of a volcano, the tufts of igneous rock protruded from the grass, peppering the flanks with pewter sprinkles. I realised I’d have to begin utilizing my arms if I needed to achieve the highest.

I’ve all the time cherished scrambling, the purpose on a mountain between easy strolling and precise climbing. To do the best stage – as this one was – you want no particular gear, no ropes or harnesses, only a stage head. But it doesn’t cease it being thrilling: feeling the stone beneath your arms, having to pick the route forward, checking the rocks for a agency maintain earlier than committing, overlaying steep floor shortly. As I moved steadily upwards I felt like a correct explorer. A correct explorer at simply over 300 metres.

When the rocks started to skinny, and tussocks of grass turned the fixed as soon as extra, I started to make out the summit forward. To the left was the pocket of water known as Llyn yr Arddu – the right place for a wild camp for one more journey – forward was the taller, shapely, peak of Cnicht – AKA the Welsh Matterhorn.

The Snowdon range, from Yr Arddu.

The Snowdon vary, as seen from Yr Arddu. Photograph: Alamy

I took the previous few steps to the cracked rocks and pile of stones that mark this pint-size peak’s summit and stopped to look over to Snowdon. Though it was late within the day I might nonetheless make out the dots of Gore-Tex descending again to the busy automotive park. Yet right here I used to be with mountains round me in three instructions, the ocean on the opposite, fairly alone.

I smiled. Let the crowds jostle to see their movie star mountain, as a result of climbing one in every of Snowdon’s supporting solid had proved that you simply don’t have to summit the very best mountain within the nation to really feel such as you’re on prime of the world.
• Phoebe Smith is the writer of Britain’s Best Small Hills (Bradt, £14.99). To order a duplicate for £12.74, together with UK p&p, go to or name 0330 333 6846

Five extra pint-size peaks

Bow Hill, South Downs: 206m

This South Downs summit is adorned by Bronze Age barrows referred to as the Devil’s Humps, which legend has it home the stays of Viking leaders who have been vanquished by Chichester locals. It’s additionally home to among the oldest yew bushes within the UK – that are mentioned to be haunted by the Viking troopers.

Dumgoyne, Stirling: 427m

Ramblers approach Dumgoyne.

Photograph: Alamy

Visible from Glasgow simply over 22km away, this volcanic plug might make for thirsty work, however with Glengoyne distillery on its decrease flanks, you’ll be able to reward your efforts with a well-deserved dram afterwards.

Castle Crag, Lake District: 290m

The views down Borrowdale valley from the highest of this Lakeland lump are spectacular. But extra so is the exploration wanted to hunt out the cave that hides in its decrease flanks, which within the 1930s was home to a person known as Millican Dalton – a self-styled professor of journey.

Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, Inverness-shire: 699m

Meallfuarvonie or Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, Loch Ness

Photograph: Alamy

At Loch Ness, to see a extra dependable dinosaur-looking fin look as much as this peak that rises above it. Coated in heather and rock it’s an honest stroll and, better of all, from its prime you’ll be able to Nessie-spot away from the crowds.

Moel Tryfan, close to Snowdonia: 427m

Reaching the summit of the miniature mountain received’t take lengthy (about 20 minutes with 127 metres of ascent) however in historic phrases its legacy is gigantic. It was right here that Charles Darwin got here to check glaciology in 1842, noting that it stood above the purpose the place two ice sheets met 30,000 years in the past, pushing collectively ocean particles and mountain spoil to type it.

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