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Castle of the Winds – A day-hike in Snowdonia

Last month me and my wife decided to take a week off and from the bustling city of London head north-east to explore the wonderful land of Snowdonia, Wales. Since the area was completely unknown for us we came to the conclusion that buying a book about the various hiking options in the area would be beneficial, so we purchased Day Walks in Snowdonia by Tom Hutton, that contains 20 circular routes. While browsing the book on the way to Llandudno we marked a couple trails that sounded interesting. One of these routes was the Glyder Fawr from the South.

 

Glyder Fawr

Glyder Fawr is the highest peak in the Glyderau (Glyders). It’s elevation is 1,001m. The name Glyder derives from the Welsh word “Gludair”, meaning heap of stones. We didn’t know this when we chose the route, but I can assure you now that its name reflects reality. The ridge is extremely rocky and as we learned the northern slopes are home to some of Wales’s finest rock climbs. On the other hand this route is approaching the top from the southern flanks, which has some large grassy slopes, that makes the walk much easier.

 

Start (Pen-y-Pass)

We started our walk at Pen-y-Pass right next to the Pen y Gwyrd Hotel. Pen-y-Pass is a famous mountain pass as the most popular routes up to Snowdon can be started from there too. We had an amazing weather that day (May 7), that made it possible to take many photos of the spectacular view. As you can see from the photos on the left there is new path that leads up to the Youth Hostel where the popular routes to Snowdon start.

The Gate & The Garden

When we reached the Youth Hostel there were a lot of hikers just preparing for the hike up to Snowdon. Therefore it was pretty much obvious where to continue the walk if one wants to climb up there. On the other hand it wasn’t trivial which way to go if we wanted to head up to the Glyder peaks.

Fortunately we remembered that according to the book we should find a gate left to the hostel and burst through the graden there, so we can gain access to the hillside. After finding the gate it became clear what the book meant.

The Lake (Llyn Cwmffynnon)

To be honest the path after the garden before you reach the south ridge is very vague in places. Sometimes you see it but most of the time you just have to feel it. Fortunately, it is easy to see which way to go as Glyder Fawr is right in front of you. The hard part is that the grassy slopes are extremely uncomfortable for your ankles to walk no matter how great boots you have or try to look where to step. It’s very easy to sag into the muddy, grassy ground in each step.

But the view’s totally worth it. If you look to the left you can see the heights of Carreg Walch and other lower peaks on the Pyg track. On your right you can see the beautiful lake of Llyn Cwmffynnon. While we were walking there we could see a tent put up right next to the lake. It seemed just like the perfect place to rest on a multi-day hike in Glyderau.

Approaching Glyder Fawr

As we left the lake and kept straight ahead some steeper grounds led us back onto the crest of the ridge. This was the first time we encountered the red paint on the rocks that showed us the way up to the top. As we moved upwards the terrain gradually became rockier, that is much easier to walk in my opinion than the grassy fields.

There are some really nice outcrops to stop by as your climbing and it’s also worth to stop and turn around from time to time to take a look at a breathtaking view.

Glyder Fawr

Sometimes the path emerges into easier grounds but as you get more closer to the top you start understanding why this place has the word Glyder in its name. Eventually we reached the top and I have to be honest it was like the first time I’ve seen such a rocky, flaky place. It wasn’t red but it almost felt like I’m on Mars with the amount of rocks up there. The view is spectacular from the top.

We stopped by having some lunch here and then headed east to Glyder Fach.

Castell y Gwyntt (Castle of the Winds)

It is a well-cairned path that we walked here. The path is signalled by large heaps of rocks that is easy to follow. After some sheep encounters, we spotted the Castle of Winds. It is absolutely breathtaking. It felt like we’re Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings and just walked into Mordor 🙂 It is a mass of jumbled boulders transforming into pinnacled turrets in front of your eyes. Simply amazing. If you can endure the wind, it’s worth stopping here and taking some great photos of the area.

Glyder Fach

From Castell y Gwyntt we followed a path, that should have been clear according to the book. This wasn’t the situation though unfortunately and we had to do some back and forth while searching for the correct route. Eventually we reached the top of Glyder Fach and right after that we found the cantilever stone we were looking for since the beginning of the journey. It’s worth climbing up to the stone and look around. It’s also a nice spot for taking photos.

The descent

This wasn’t obvious although the book tells us pretty much step by step which way to go, where to turn right or left. However, we couldn’t always find the faint path and the extremely rocky terrain didn’t make it easy either. This is the point I decided that the next time we climb such a rocky mountain I’m going to bring some trekking poles with me since my knees started aching terribly after a while.

Anyway after the steep boulder-covered slope finally we reached the junction with the Miner’s track, where it became much easier to walk as the grounds changed into grassy fields. It wasn’t easy to find the way here either but since it was pretty much obvious to head south.

After some time there came an obvious stony track downwards. This is where we found some wonderful waterfalls on the way. After crossing the stream we reached the stone that we had to follow to get back to the Pen-y-Pass. It was challenging not get extremely muddy here, as the grounds are very wet. We crossed a small bridge where it was worth to stop and take a look at the Glyders again. With the setting sun it was an amazing view.

Right after crossing the fence and turning right we got back to Pen-y-pass quickly, where we ended our journey.

Closing thoughts

Climbing the Glyders was absolutely worth it. Neither of us has been to such a rocky mountain before and the naturally elevating feeling of reaching the summit combined with the amazing views of the boulders, turrets of the Castle of the Winds, spiced up with the spectacular view of the valley made our day.

I really recommend this track to anyone who visits Snowdonia. Most of the people climb only Snowdon as it’s the highest peak. Unfortunately, this means that there are a lot of people one has to share the path with. On the other hand, since it’s fewer people who climb the Glyders, therefore one can enjoy the solitude much more there and immerse into the fantastic views of Wales.

And who knows, looking at Castell y Gwynt, you might find yourself imagining that you’re on a quest like Frodo and Sam were. Totally worth it. 🙂

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