Two Rhinogs

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The Rhinogs are in the quieter, southern half of Snowdonia, ignored by summit-baggers because of their lowly height, barely breaking 700m. But don't be fooled. These are tough, inaccessible, mostly pathless, challenging and hence virtually empty. In four recent visits I've met no more than a dozen people in total on the hills. It's easy to see where you're heading in this range, but not how to get there - much of the terrain is a wonderful moonscape of huge slabs and steps, where back-tracking and zigzagging is needed to get from one patch to the next. So pick the best weather you can for this area because navigating this stuff in the fog would be very tricky. Sections of the ascents and descents are strenuous and require good navigation skills. Please read all the waymark instructions before attempting this walk.

The 'Two Rhinogs' walk is a real monster, with more than 1,100m of ascent – over 1,400m if you (unwisely?) follow my circuit. It's not a Lake District-style climb-ridge-in-the-sky-descend; it's a Grand Old Duke of York, no nonsense, up-down-up-down two mountains day out where you'll have to make choices and pick your own way over rubble and scree fields, heather and peaty bogs, where animal and human paths mysteriously vanish and reappear. And when I step on something the size of a double-decker bus, I expect it to be immobile (unless of course it is a double-decker bus, in which case I wonder why it doesn't move much at all); the Rhinogs' boulders can move underfoot very disconcertingly and on these steep slopes there's a real risk.

The biggest challenge in planning this was to find a sensible one-day circular route over both Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr. Even my trusty outdoor magazines only show one Rhinog at a time and official footpaths are scarce. So be warned, the circuit I walked is not one I'd recommend to strangers. This Walkingworld route is therefore an end-to-end walk with start and end points easily accessible by taxi, or if two cars are available. Start point is the car park at the head of Llyn Cwm Bychan (SH 645 315) and end point is Cwm Nantcol (SH 641 269). They are only about nine miles apart but allow 45 minutes to drive between the two; local cabs from Llanbedr or Harlech might be a time-saving better bet.

On a good day, from the tops you'll see everything Snowdonia and the Cambrian Mountains have to offer: Snowdon, Carnedds, Glyders, Cadair Idris, Berwyns, Arans, Arenigs, Rhobells, peninsulas and coastlines, islands, estuaries, forests, beaches... and very few people. If you are very lucky, you might see wild mountain goats.

Wales - North Wales - Gwynedd - Snowdonia


Birds, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Lake/Loch, Moor, Mountains, River, Sea, Toilets, Wildlife