Escape the Snowdon Crowds on Cnicht, The Welsh Matterhorn

While Snowdon’s size draws the crowds, nearby Cnicht lies in relative obscurity, despite its beautiful landscape. This ‘Welsh Matterhorn’ offers archaeology, wild swimming and scrambling that can all be enjoyed within a day’s hike, without having to share with others.

Venturing with City Mountaineering, we made it to the start point, the Nantmor Mountain Centre. Dashes of reds, oranges and yellows dotted the mountains, with only waterfalls and boulders breaking up the scenery. Using the Cwm Gelli Iago as a handrail, we gradually made our way towards the mountain.

Cnicht is essentially a large ridge, located in the middle of a boggy plateau of sorts. The ground squelches under your feet, and I found myself hopping across rocks and grassy mounds to avoid my boots sinking in the mud. All this is very hard work though, as the scenery is constantly trying to catch your attention.

The remains of settlements are scattered throughout the area, with two settlements located on the route southeast towards Cnicht. As we ventured closer towards the base of the mountain, the remains of a disused quarry came into view.

We took a brief rest by a lake, where it is possible to go wild swimming in the summer. With autumn chills in the air though, I took a rain check and explored the surrounding area. Hut circles, a cave, a burnt mound – the landscape holds so many clues of human activity here over the centuries. I would advise anyone to take a good look at the ‘cultural features’ of a map before going for a hike – it adds so much more to the experience of the day!

There is a helpful signpost for Cnicht, but it can be a little tricky to spot amongst the rocks and remains:

The route up Cnicht is fairly straightforward, but closer towards the top there is some Grade 1 scrambling. The mountain might not be the biggest in the neighborhood, but it packs a punch with the stunning panoramic views of the ocean, countryside and nearby villages.

The route from the summit of Cnicht towards the end point passes by several more lakes, or llyns as they’re known as in Welsh. Again in the prime of summer these are ideal spots for a quick dip. Call me a wimp, but I prefered to admire the lakes from the comfort of my dry, cosy coat. The route also passes through the disused Llyn Iagi slate mine, which overlooks the lake and features a waterfall in the background. The entire picture looks as if it came straight from an oil painting.

Towards the end of the route, the waterfalls and boggy patches can turn the place into one giant slip ‘n’ slide. After knee-sliding down the descent several times, I was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one, as others had slid the whole way down to the bottom on their bums.

All good walks finish in either a cafe or a pub, and the nearby Cafe Gwynant did not disappoint. Housed inside an old church or chapel, the selection of cakes and coffee draws customers from miles around the countryside. A latte, a banana and peanut butter cake slice, and a chance to warm the toes by the nearby log-burner – like I said, the ideal end to a good day’s hike.

 

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