#91 – Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach

Hills of the Moelwynion

The Moelwyn hills (the Moelwynion in Welsh) stand almost literally in the shadow of the Snowdon Range.  Contained by the settlements of Betws y Coed, Capel Curig, Beddgelert, Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog, these are quieter hills than the Snowdon Hills.  They don’t have the highest peaks or the sharpest ridges, which means that they don’t have the biggest crowds.  All the more reason for a visit.

Setting off near Croesor, heading for Moelwyn Mawr (left) and Moelwyn Bach

We had made a recent visit to the hills of the Moelwynion three weeks earlier (post #88 – Moel Siabod) and have also visited Cnicht (post #48) several times, but somehow we had managed to avoid the peaks that give the range their name – Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach.  So, time to put that right.

Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach with Craigysgafn centre

Gaining height towards Moelwyn Mawr

Gaining even more height!

The most popular approach to Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach is from the east by the small town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.  There is drama aplenty here, following the remains of old slate quarries and long dead industries.  To the west there is a more attractive, less-frequented ascent from the small village of Croesor – attractive and less-frequented seemed to fit the bill nicely.

“Woof! – hey come and look at this! It’s even steeper up here”

The final slopes to the summit became quite steep ….

…. in fact, very steep

We tackled Moelwyn Mawr first, by the West Ridge.  Moelwyn means ‘White Bare Hill’ and Mawr means ‘Big’, and before long the hill was indeed starting to look big.  After a steady height gain to the remains of a small quarry, the hillside suddenly became steeper.  Border Collie ‘Mist’ was having a great time in permanent ‘4 wheel drive’, and Chris decided to follow that lead by using her walking poles.

Looking across to Craigysgafn (left) and Moelwyn Bach

The final gentle approach to the summit of Moelwyn Mawr

The slope was one of those grassy slopes that are not difficult in themselves, but where a slip could result in a long, undignified (and possibly painful) slide through grass, heather and mud.  For those hoping for ‘derring-do’ and excitement, there wasn’t any!  The dog, the ‘Boss’ and ‘Mrs Boss’ all arrived on the summit, more or less together.

‘Mist’, the ‘Boss’ and ‘Mrs Boss’ at the summit

‘Mist’ goes over to say hello

The summit photo included a rare appearance by the author, courtesy of a couple of passing walkers – ‘Mist’ was too busy to pose, having spotted another dog just beyond the top, and what’s more it was another Border Collie.  A Welsh speaking Border Collie, in fact – at least her owner spoke in Welsh when addressing the dog, and the dog obviously understood.  These Border Collies are clever, you know!

The start of the descent to the col below Moelwyn Bach …

…. but first the lower summit of Craigysgafn has to be crossed

Craigysgafn – a rocky summit amongst all the surrounding grassy hills

The final descent from Craigysgafn

Then it was time to go – the initial descent led us to the rocky top of Craigysgafn.  Beyond there, another steep grassy descent took us to the col below Moelwyn Bach (the ‘Small White Bare Hill’)

The col below Moelwyn Bach, with the final ascent of the day ahead

What goes down usually has to go up again

This was the last ascent of the day, a case of ‘what goes down has to go up!’  The climb was much more gradual than it appeared to be from below, and before long we were on the top.  From there, another ‘West Ridge’ took us down towards our start point, with great views down to Tremadog Bay.  Another great day out, and a couple more hills added to the ‘tick list’.

Heading down the West Ridge of Moelwyn Bach, with Tremadog Bay in the distance

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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18 Responses to #91 – Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach

  1. johndburns says:

    Anothoer great blog on what looks like a great day. Well done!


    • Thanks for that John, and also for the recent mention on your podcast. I’d never thought of doing an ‘audio blog’ but it works! Mind you, I think your voice is more interesting than mine, so if I ever post a podcast I should probably get you to read it 😀


  2. great photo’s Ive never seen it without cloud 🙂


    • Hahaha …. thanks for that Neil.

      Chris and I are turning into ‘fair weather’ walkers, and I find myself watching the weather forecast for the good days, often dashing off on a few hours notice 🙂


  3. nittylizzyrozzy says:

    that’s an excellent view you got as your reward near the finish


  4. LensScaper says:

    The Snowdonia outliers are neglected by too many people. This is great walking country and the Moelwyns provide such an instantly recognizable silhouette from the Porthmadog area. Thoroughly enjoyed this post and the images – I must have first walked this with my dad about 50years ago. And we walked Cnicht on another day on the same holiday.


  5. I did that exact walk but the other way round – I didn’t fancy descending Craig Ysgafn. I’ve also done them from Tanygrisiau (Ffestiniog) and have to say I prefer that side.


    • Chris didn’t exactly enjoy the descent of Craigysgafn, but we took our time over it. The west side seems much less visited than Blaenau Ffestiniog, but both sides have their merits.


  6. smackedpentax says:

    I think I may have been up there once many years ago…we holiday at Criccieth at a cottage occasionally and drive past Capel Curig. I stopped with a friend once and ‘did’ a walk around there – looks familiar. I remember it being a hard slog – but enjoyable. I love North Wales…stunningly beautiful.


  7. Some stunning views, well worth the hike and post.


  8. Yasmine says:

    I once plotted a walking holiday South to North through Snowdonia. We hardly saw a soul until we reached Llanberis. I really don’t get why 90% of visitors head straight for Snowden. Most of the National Park seems completely empty of humans. On the plus side, at least it means you can get a guaranteed walk in without the crowds!


  9. I suppose with Snowdon ‘size IS important’ 😉


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