Exploring the rugged peaks of the Moelwynion, the magically-secluded Eifionydd, the magnificent ridgelines of Snowdon, the bristling moonscapes of the Glyderau, and the broad sleeping giants of the Carneddau, this is an incredible journey across the finest mountain ranges in Wales.
Snowdonia’s equivalent to Lakeland’s Bob Graham, the Paddy Buckley Round is an epic traverse of the great peaks of northern Snowdonia. A classic and immensely challenging outing for elite runners, the route is also increasingly popular as a long-distance trek.
This itinerary is for experienced, mountain-going hikers. Of the three Big Rounds — which include Scottish Highland epic the Charlie Ramsay Round, as well as Lakeland’s Bob Graham — the Paddy Buckley is thought by many to be the most challenging. The original runner’s route takes in 62 tough miles (100 km) of rocky, heathery, boggy terrain; it’s the roughest underfoot of all three rounds. You also conquer more summits than on the others: 47, to be precise.
In this Collection, I have opted to split the Round into six quality mountain days where you can expect to be on the hill for several hours, covering between around 11 to 16 miles (18 to 26 km) a day. Each stage generally tackles a different mountain range and has its own unique flavour and challenges.
As this is a hikers’ version of the Round, the end of each stage takes you to one of Snowdonia’s villages for comfort and accommodation (apart from stage 5, which ends at the Ogwen Cottage youth hostel). With this in mind, the overall distance covered is 84 miles (135 km) with a whopping 24,650 feet (7,500 m) of elevation gain.
However, the good news for hikers is that, unlike Scotland’s remote Charlie Ramsay Round, amenities are easily sought along the way and there are many permutations as to how to split the route up. The villages of Capel Curig, Beddgelert, Rhyd-Ddu and Llanberis, as well as the former mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, are all geared up for the many visitors that flock to Snowdonia every year. You should still book your accommodation well in advance, particularly at the end of stages 3 and 5 in Rhyd-Ddu and the Ogwen Valley, which have fewer options.
There is no specified starting point or direction in which to do the Round. In this Collection, I have chosen Capel Curig as the start point, as it is easiest to access. By heading clockwise and taking on the smaller peaks first, you can gain your hill-legs so that by the time you hit the heights of Snowdon and the Carneddau you are well into your stride. This approach also saves the highlights, such as the magnificent traverse of the Glyderau, for the latter stages.
However, if you’re a fan of exciting scrambles, it would make sense to do the Round anti-clockwise and incorporate Tryfan North Ridge and Bristly Ridge on Glyder Fach. This also means you ascend the Mynydd Drws-y-Coed ridge rather than descend it.
It is incredible to think that the crème-de-la-crème of mountain running complete the Round in less than 24 hours. In fact, the record currently stands at an unbelievable 16 hours and 38 minutes and was set by Matthew Roberts on the 30th August 2020. The women’s record of 18 hours and 33 minutes is held by the indomitable Jasmin Parris, who also holds the record time of the Charlie Ramsay.
Don’t let the fact these superhumans can get around in such times fool you. This is a challenging hike in its own right and you’ll undoubtedly be battling North Wales’ fickle weather. Sturdy waterproofs are the order of the day, as well as spare warm layers for those lonely, cold mountain summits.
In the hills, you must carry provisions with you as civilisation may be several hours away. A head torch and a spare, a first aid kit and additional navigational aids for when batteries die are all essential. The what3words app is a good tool in case you need to give mountain rescue your location in an emergency. With this in mind, the months from May to September are optimum for taking on the challenge, when daylight hours are long and warmer temperatures prevail.
You can reach Snowdonia easily by car. If travelling to Capel Curig from the east, the A5 is probably the best option, whereas the A55 coast road is better for Llandudno, Bangor and even Llanberis. Wales is a beautiful country of hills and mountains, but this does make driving up through the country slower than you might imagine. The M5 and M6 are your friends.
If accessing Snowdonia by rail, Llandudno Junction and Bangor both have mainline stations, however direct trains from major UK cities are relatively rare, so it is often a longer journey than you would expect. Once in the national park, the Snowdon Sherpa bus service is a marvellous way to get from one village to the next and links to the rail services at Llandudno and Bangor. See gwynedd.llyw.cymru/en/Residents/Parking-roads-and-travel/Travel-passes/Snowdon-Sherpa.aspx for more information.
For the Bob Graham Round hiking Collection, see here: komoot.com/collection/1045880
For Charlie Ramsay Round hiking Collection, see here: komoot.com/collection/1079759
Moel Siabod is the major peak on this first stage of the Round, and you make a beeline for it straight from the off. After you have scaled its heights, you head south to the lesser-trodden land of the Moelwynion.
The terrain is rugged, often pathless and navigation challenging as you make your way from lonely summit to lonely summit, …
The big hitters of the Moelwynion await on this second stage of the Paddy Buckley Round. Moelwyn Mawr is a fine mountain that hides its charms from those who flock to Snowdonia’s honeypot regions, whilst Cnicht has earned the title of ‘the Welsh Matterhorn’, due to its striking pyramidal profile when seen from Croesor.
At just less than 16 miles …
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Whilst Snowdon and the Glyderau holler ‘look at me! Come climb me!’ to anyone who strays within their grasp, the mountains of the Eifionydd remain much more secretive, despite their undoubted charm. Whisper it, but Moel Hebog is a superb mountain, the head of its own little family. Keep those hushed tones as, in the Nantlle Ridge, you also have …
This stage is a biggie. For the main course, you climb Wales’ highest mountain by its quieter southern ridge before meeting the masses on the summit. For both the starter and desert are some fantastic hills in their own right, proud members of the wider Snowdon family.
It’s a challenging route, with 15 miles (24 km) of ground to cover …
This is a mountain day full of wonder. The traverse of the Glyderau is one of the premier hikes in Britain. Starting with the slate-mining heritage of Dinorwig, you are soon up amongst the individualistic Glyders. Glyder Fach and the sensational Tryfan are the highlights, two magnificent fortresses.
At 13 miles (21 km) and with over 5,000 feet (1,500 m) …
In contrast to the sharp profiles of the Glyderau, the final stage of the Paddy Buckley Round takes you onto the rounded, high Carneddau. Often cited as ‘the Welsh Cairngorms,’ their less obvious appeal makes them quieter than the Snowdon and Glyderau ranges. Nevertheless, the Carneddau make for absolutely spectacular hillwalking with astonishing views of the Glyders and beyond.
Hiking Collection by Alex Foxfield