If we’re counting footfall, it’s possible that Snowdon is the busiest summit in the world. Official estimates have it that over half a million people will walk on and up Wales’ highest mountain each year. But there’s a curious irony there, because if there’s one thing you’re absolutely guaranteed never to see from that 1,085m peak… it’s Snowdon itself. Which is a shame, because it’s stunning. A multi-armed, many-ridged, spiny, sprawling and inexpressibly impressive thing that would look just as mighty whether sitting here or somehow shoehorned into the West Highlands or the foothills of the Alps. And to come to that conclusion you’ve got to see it from the perfect angle. That’s where Moel Siabod comes in.
Pronounced “Moyl Shab-od”, it sits roughly 10km due east of Snowdon. With little in between. This means that the summit views from the former lead directly between the tendril-like arms of the latter: with Crib Goch and Y Lliwedd framing the trio of Llyns that make up the glacial heart of the mountain. There’s no better way to appreciate this magnificent geology than to clamber up to the top of Siabod on a relatively clear day.
If that all seems very challenging and rugged, then it should. Because this is a shapely hill (its name more-or-less translates as such) of impressive height that boasts some deliciously rocky terrain and catches the wind as well as any – the price it pays for being so free standing and lonesome. But it also shouldn’t be off-putting. Because if you’re a regular-enough hillwalker it will only take you half a day to enjoy. And if you’re not, then a 9km walk with 740m of ascent is very likely within your abilities, whether you believe it is or not. And if you’re exploring with a young family then – given sensible planning and plenty of warm layers, food and drink – you’ll likely be amazed what your younger ones can achieve. It’s common enough for sub-four-year-olds to walk up Snowdon itself, after all.
Climbing Siabod is possible from a number of directions, but the best routes start in the small but well-supplied village of Capel Curig – home to a number of pubs, cafes, B&Bs and even the Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre. My advice is to seek out the aptly-named and much-loved Moel Siabod cafe – where it’s possible to pick up local maps and walking advice, as well as the thousands of calories you may need to ingest/replace before and after your walk. From here you’ll cross the Avon Llugwy, make to your way to Pont Cyfyng, through woodland and over bare mountain to the picturesque Llyn y Foel on Siabod’s south side. Then comes an exciting semi-scramble (you can avoid almost all the difficulties and exposure if desired) up to the Daer Ddu ridge to the summit. With any luck you’ll have done it in under 3hrs (an easy descent – but rather dull ascent – can be made north-north-east from the top, directly back to Capel Curig).
With the right conditions you’ll be treated to superb views of the region’s most dramatic peaks, from Snowdon to the Glyderau. A truly excellent reward on such an already fine walk.