There are fourteen 3000-foot mountains in Wales, all in Snowdonia. I used my cross-Wales walk as an excuse to complete the round, more than thirty years after I had started it; no great achievement, when there is a well-known, and regularly surmounted, challenge to complete in 24 hours. Still, here are notes and photographs to tempt more to these wonderful hills.
All the tops occur in three groups that abut each other in the northernmost part of Snowdonia. Working roughly from the south, the Snowdon group comes first, then the Glyders, and finally the Carneddau.
The Snowdon group
Snowdon, or to give the Welsh Yr Wyddfa, is at 3560ft the highest mountain in Wales, or indeed anywhere in Britain south of Perth. It’s worthy of its pre-eminence, as a spectacularly photogenic hill with a variety of exciting routes to the top, though a few dull ones too. The most exacting is the first part of the Snowdon horseshoe, traversing the exposed and scrambly ridge of Crib Goch (3026ft), with Crib y Ddysgl (3493ft) intervening before the summit of Snowdon itself. (The final hill on the circuit, Y Lliwedd, is an excellent climb too, but just below the magic 300ft mark.)
The Snowdon page has photographs from walking the horseshoe with Dave Travers in 1974, and an ascent as the final leg of a sponsored Ben Nevis – Scafell Pike – Snowdon three peaks challenge in 1992.
This is the central group; they rise on the other side of the Llanberis pass to the Snowdon massif, with the Carneddau to their north and east across the gap formed by the Ogwen and Ffrancon valleys. The range of five 3000 footers is named after the two highest hills, Glyder Fawr (3279ft) and Glyder Fach (3262ft); just to the latter’s north is perhaps the most striking of all the Welsh hills, the remarkable Tryfan (3010ft). The more northerly pair, Y Garn (3104ft) and Elidir Fawr (3030ft), are less well-known but highly rewarding too.
I have been on the Glyders just three times, in 1974 (Tryfan and Glyders), 2006 (Elidir Fawr / Y Garn) and 2009 (Tryfan and Glyder Fach) – three of the best days in the hills I have ever had.
The largest group, both in number and area. Carnedd Llewellyn (3490ft) is the centre of the range, with a number of ridges: south-west to Carnedd Dafydd (3425ft) and Pen yr Ole Wen (3211ft), north-west to Yr Elen (3152ft), and north to Foel Grach (3196ft) and Foel-fras (3092ft).
Personally, I would include a seventh 3000-footer, Garnedd Uchaf at 3038ft, so increasing the Welsh total to 15. The question is how one defines a mountain; the archetypal British 3000-foot index, to the Munros of Scotland, has been revised several times as ideas vary on what is a peak and what is merely an outlying top. Garnedd Uchaf has a splendid rocky top and a pivotal position as principal ridges diverge – all plus points – but ascent from the col to the south is minimal – a negative that for many outweighs the positives.
The Carneddau page describes the circuit of Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewellyn, on my 2006 stay in the district. The remainder were covered on the traverse from Carnedd Llewellyn to Foel-fras, two days later, the final stage of my cross-Wales walk.