Walking Diffwys in the Rhinogs

Monday’s aren’t too bad really, especially when you can spend the day walking up Diffwys in the Rhinog mountains.

We had an uneventful weekend. It was nice and I did manage to get out for a chilly and slightly damp bike ride on Saturday, followed by a surf ski. On Sunday it was time for a lovely frosty trail run in the hills behind Tre Ddol and then a silky smooth Surf Ski paddle around the Bar and into Aberdyfi.

Walking in the Rhinog Hills

I’d been wanting to head off for another walk in the Welsh Hills. Everyone else seemed to have been out over the weekend and there had been lots of posts with pictures of snow from the likes of Cadair Idris and Plynlimon. I fancied something a little different and a little quieter so decided to head to the southern Rhinogs on Monday.

After dropping Morgan off at the bus I made the 50 minute drive to Bontddu and then up a tiny little lane to a parking place marked on the OS map. The drive took me past the snow-covered Cadair Idris that was also shrouded in cloud. From the parking place I could also see that my summits for the day were snow-capped too.

Snowcapped Diffwys in the Rhinog Hills
Snowcapped Diffwys in the Rhinog Hills

It was a sunny day but temperatures were around 0ºC. The ground was frosty in the shade but the sun had made it’s presence felt elsewhere. There were ominous clouds hanging around the mountain tops and winds were light.

Towards the Rhinogs

Once suitably attired I left the car behind and started the steep walk along the rest of the tarmac road. This followed a small gorge with a stream running through it.

Roadside Stream

As the road came to an end at the gate it split into a footpath and a bridleway. I took the bridleway which took me along steep rocky trails and across a little footbridge over a tumbling stream.

From here the path widened to a muddy trail full of squelchy puddles as it followed the perimeter of a conifer plantation. After a while, it climbed steeply along a high dry stone wall towards a cairn where views of the Mawddach Estuary opened out before me.

Mawddach Views
Mawddach Views

Snow-capped Cadair and the Mawddach Estuary

Barmouth could be seen to the West and the imposing snow-capped summits of Cadair Idris loomed menacingly through the clouds to the South.

Snowcapped Cadair
Snowcapped Cadair

At times the sun burst through in rays of brightness.

Sunrays and Cadair IDris
Sunrays and Cadair IDris

Here my route which had been heading in a westerly direction so far turned to the north and continued to climb steeply towards a cairn and a gate through another high dry stone wall. This Drystone wall is an obvious feature that snakes its way across the tops of the southern Rhinog Hills. It would be a constant companion for the rest of the climb.

From this vantage point I could see north to Cardigan Bay and the Lleyn Peninsula beyond. The islands of the end of the Lleyn were clearly visible too. South and into the sun was the Mawddach estuary. In the far distance the whole sweep of Cardigan Bay could be seen with Pembrokeshire forming its southern boundary. I was now into the Rhinog Hills.

Climbing Diffwys

I climbed the style and started following along the northen side of the drystone wall. In the shade of the wall it was quite chilly so after a while I stopped to put on my hat and gloves. As I did so the sun burst through the clouds over the Mawddach Estuary.


I climbed ever higher along the grassy hillside. I was soon up into the snow. There were the occasional flurries as I made my way higher and higher. The going got difficult in places as I tromped through deep snow that was covering boggy grass. The drystone wall was easy to follow and the summit of Diffwys could be seen ahead.

Just before the summit I made my way through a gap in the wall and walked along the top of the steep cliffs on the southern flanks of Diffwys. Although I hadn’t seen another person there were footprints in the snow from the weekend. Eventually I made it to the summit cairn at 750m elevation where I had 360º views.

To the South west, the wall I had followed to get to this point could be clearly seen.

Lunch on Diffwys

I soon left the summit behind and continued on. As I started to descend the grade steepened and soon I was carefully picking my way over icy rocks. I had to keep my wits about me here. As the grade eased and I came out of the shadow of the summit I found myself a nice rock in the sunshine and sat down for lunch. It was of course still cold even in the sun so I put my down jacket whilst stopped. I lunched overlooking a quiet landscape.

I was soon back on my feet and starting the journey down.

Descending from Diffwys

I continued to follow the wall for a while until it turned sharply north and headed off towards Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach. They would have to wait for another day as I was now a long way from the car and wanted to get back before dark. The OS map showed a small path leading down from the ridge here. It weaved its way through steep crags. With the snow covering the ground it was nowhere to be seen. I did manage to work out where it was and started carefully following it down the steep sided hill.

The rocky crags where to my left as I zig-zagged back and forth across the snow so as not to slide. It did get a little too steep at one point. It also looked as though it led to a small cliff. Rather than try to make my way down this slippery slope into the unknown I traversed across the top of it towards a ridge which I could see was grassy rather than snow covered. Here I made my way down a slightly less steep boggy ridge for a while and then back across a boggy hollow to rejoin the ‘path’ at the bottom of the steeper section.

The path now weaved its way through the lower crags. It was tough going. The path was still steep and rocky but every now and then it morphed into a tramway or raised wall-like structure. This never lasted long though and I would soon be back using my hands for balance and support to descend the rocky drops. Eventually, after a very slow 1 mile of descending that took almost an hour I made it to the botom of the crags and things started to level off.

Base of the Crags
Base of the Crags

Through Cwm Mynach

After a short tromp along the boggy path I entered the huge conifer plantation at Cwm Mynach. The going was much easier here even though it now started to rain. Thankfully in amongst the trees the rain was barely noticeable. It only really became apparent in little clearings and when I finally emerged out onto a forest road. By now I was too far in to stop and don waterproofs.

I made my way down the forest road and eventually onto a short section of tarmac. Here I took a footpath up to the right which led back into the trees. The path itself was a tumble of rounded, moss covered rocks that led back up to another forest road. It passed an old derelict building as it did so. It was a dark, wet, sombre place. Back on the forest road I followed it for a while and then once again took a narrow path to the right, into the trees once more. This emerged at Garth-gelli where I took the left hand path through a gate installed by the Ramblers Association. This took me along a difficult, overgrown narrow path through heather, bracken and brambles as it traversed the side of the hill.

Heading Home

This path emerged onto more open hillside where I made my way up and down over the boggy ground. Eventually I joined a more distinct path that led down past a disused mine. By now, the sun was beginning to set as I could once again see the Mawddach estuary.

Mawddach Sunset
Mawddach Sunset

There was now just a grassy descent down to a little track which ended at a gate right where the car was parked. Job Done!

My walk up Diffwys in the Rhinogs had been almost 12 miles in total.

Time to get into the car, dry off a little and head home for a hearty dinner and a beer from my advent calendar. Maybe Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr should be next on my list.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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