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Welsh Munro Tour

A four-day cycle tour of Snowdonia, Wales – exploring the theatrical valleys, coastline, and Furth Munro peaks, on and off the bike…

 

Munro (n.)

A mountain, in Scotland, with a height over 3000ft (914.4m). The list of 282 Munros is published by the Scottish Mountaineering Club.

Furth Munro (n.)

A mountain, on the British Isles ‘furth’ (outside of) Scotland, with a height of over 3000ft (914.4m). There are 34 in total: 15 in Wales, 6 in England, and 13 in Ireland.

 

The 15 Welsh Furth Munros are all clustered in the north-west corner of the Snowdonia National Park, and are split into three distinct areas, separated by the road passes that run through the valleys:

The Carneddau to the east (7)
The Glyders in the centre (5)
“Yr Wyddfa” Snowdon to the west (3)

It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th Century that the Welsh began to gentrify their largely impassable pack horse trail network through Snowdonia, to improve access for all. This was largely encouraged by rising demands from the slate and copper mining industries, and the need to link London with Ireland (via Holyhead). Fantastic roads, like the current A5 which tracks the valleys through the Ogwen Valley to Bangor and Holyhead, the Llanberris Pass, and later the railway network were the result…

These improved communications not only boosted industry,

but increased the numbers of outdoor enthusiasts: naturalists, hikers, and climbers (from c. 1850). Consequently, a parallel demand for accommodation arose: Llanberris, Beddgelert, Snowdon Ranger on Lake Cwellyn, Pen-y-Pass, and Idwal/Ogwen Cottages, amongst several others, established themselves as outdoor hotspots. Although route options are limited by the mountainous terrain, these roads and centres are ideal for serving cycle tourists that want to explore Snowdonia and access the 15 Welsh Munros today. Travelling by bike, especially after climbing the high peaks, also helps appreciate these impressive lines of communication even more.

As usual, we gave ourselves just over 3 days – an opportunistic long weekend – to explore by bike and climb a couple of the Munro peaks on foot, making sure not to forget the coastal areas of Snowdonia. A day’s circular ride south could take us to Harlech for some stunning riding and views back to the mountains. Plus we knew of the fantastic Llew Glas cafe & delicatessen in the town to reward that morning’s climbing efforts…

 

Day 1
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Gwern Gof Isaf campsite – Tryfan – Beddgelert – Hafod y Llan National Trust campsite

After poring over some maps in the early planning stages, Harry and I struck upon some stern advice from our old-school Munro guide:

“Remember if you are going on high ground, a lone walker is extremely vulnerable. A party of four should be a minimum; if you are unfortunate enough to have an accident, one can stay with with an injured person and two can go for help”

and so thought it best to invite some fellow touring companions along with us*. We were happy that Jordan, Iancu and Craig were keen – making a touring squad of 5 – ideal for group riding, and meant we could be safe in the knowledge that 2 of us could now get injured before Messers Mulholland would so much as blink…

For this Snowdonia cycle tour, the five of us jumped on trains from London with our touring bikes to Bangor on the northern coast – our gateway to the National Park and the Welsh Furth Munro region. From there, we would do a circular tour for three days, travelling around by bike – equipped with our usual cycle touring gear: food, cookware and shelter (two tents and two bivvy bags). The only difference would be the additional essential kit: a comfortable backpack for carrying gear on the mountains, trail shoes for keeping us nimble and protected off the bike, and a smaller scale map 1:25000 to help navigate down to footpath detail. This cycle tour was about being in the mountains; making our journey up as we felt fit. The perfect tour in our eyes, and the beauty of cycle touring unsupported…

 

Day 2
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Hafod y Llan National Trust campsite – Harlech – Snowdon Ranger YHA

Over the 3 days, we climbed Tryfan (917m) and “Yr Wyddfa” Snowdon (1085m), cooked and camped under the stars for two nights – on the shore of Lake Ogwen at the foot of Tryfan, and then between Lake Gwynant and Lake Dinas just north of Beddgelert – before ending up on the shores of Lake Cwellyn at the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel. The warm weather made for a fantastic last night as we cooked on the beach under a perfectly clear sky for the annual Perseid meteor shower; the riot of shooting stars mirrored on the still waters as we finished our selection of Snowdonia Cheeses and Ales…

 

Day 3
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Snowdon Ranger YHA – Snowdon – Bangor – London

On the last morning, we set off at first light up the Snowdon Ranger path to the summit of Snowdon in order to beat the inevitable crowds later in the morning; especially given the first trains up from Llanberris to the visitor centre cafe that opened at 10.00am. Thankfully, the five of us had the summit to ourselves for 15 minutes, taking in the 360° views, and watching the dots make their way up the Pyg Track or over the more precarious Crib Goch ridge-line.

Speeding downhill to the coastline at Caernarfon in a rush to get back to Bangor for the return train home brought on a feeling of deflation; it was a shame to be leaving the mountains. However, leaving only meant one thing – beginning to plan and prepare for the next Pannier tour… 

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