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Scramble the Cneifion Arete

By 21st August 2020August 6th, 2022Scrambling, Summer


One of the best days to be had in the mountains of Snowdonia is to scramble the Cneifion Arete.

When I first did it, it was a ‘hidden gem’ – one of Snowdonia’s best kept secrets. Now it is universally well-known and understandably very popular. There is no doubting that it is one of the finest Grade 3 scrambles in Wales. Perched high up above the Idwal Slabs and the Ogwen Valley, the arête has a very ‘alpine’ feel to it.

Booking and Prices

If you’d like to know more about a guided scramble up the Cneifion Arete, then see the main page for more details and prices or see what our clients say about us. You can also have a look at the Calendar for forthcoming “Open” events.

When you are ready, then get in touch to make an enquiry or a booking.

We also run scrambling courses in the Lake District and on the west coast of Scotland.

Scrambling the Cneifion Arete


There are three main options for approaching the Cneifion Arete.

By far the best is to first climb the Sub-Cneifion Rib. This is a rock-climb graded Very Difficult, significantly harder than the Cneifion Arete scramble itself. Obviously you need to be competent climbing at that grade. But you also need to choose your times carefully and have a healthy dose of luck so that you don’t get stuck behind other parties. However, if you can move quickly enough then the Sub-Cneifion Rib followed by the scramble up the Cneifion Arete give a fairly long but brilliant day out.

The next best option, and a pretty quick approach, is to access Cwm Cneifion via the Grade 1 scramble of Senior’s Gully, which runs alongside the edge of Idwal Slabs. This gives a very satisfying quick approach and warm-up.

Finally, there is an indistinct path that weaves its way up from Cwm Idwal to Cwm Cneifion which is technically the easiest way in but which has little merit of its own.

First Pitch of Cneifion Arete Scramble

Overall view of the elegant thin line of the Cneifion Arete above Cam Idwal in Snowdonia

Once you have reached Cwm Cneifion, the Cneifion Arete is unmistakable. It is a fine, elegant, curving fin of rock running up the side of the Y Gribin ridge. Head on up the scree slopes until you are right at the foot of a small buttress forming the foot of the arete.

The first pitch is steeper and harder than anything else on the Cneifion Arete scramble. It is essentially a Difficult (trad grade) rock climb and most parties will treat it as such. This means they will most likely treat it as a pitch of rock climbing, with the leader placing protection as they are belayed from below.

Two climbers tackling the first difficult pitch of the Cneifion Arete
The first difficult pitch of the Cneifion Arete

At the top of this pitch, there are a couple of options for making a comfortable belay stance to bring up the second.

Right after this belay stance, comes the second pitch – an intimidating-looking chimney. This is best climbed by using the holds on the outside rather than getting drawn into its depths, never to return.

Scrambling on the Cneifion Arete, Snowdonia on a mountaineering course

Main Crest of the Cneifion Arete

With the tricky bits out of the way, it’s time to relax (not too much) and enjoy the ride.

The main part of the arete is characterised by a narrow crest, overhanging a great drop to the right. Slightly left, however, are rocky/grassy ledges which give a feeling of more security. In places, these are sadly being worn away into a scrambly path..

The best ‘fun’ (meaning technical difficulty and dramatic exposure) is always to be as close as possible to the actual crest of the ridge, with the airy drop just below you. Scrambling up the crest of the Cneifion Arete is never too difficult and makes its way up in a series of steps. These are easy to protect for those with the knowledge of mountaineering rope-work.


The Cneifion Arete is definitely one of the most sought-after Grade 3 scrambles in Wales. Although short in length, it makes up for this in stature. It is not a route to under-estimate though. Many parties will prefer the security of a rope, especially at the start. Good movement skills and sound rope-work are a must.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Cneifion Arete?

The Cneifion Arete is in Snowdonia. It is located in Cwm Cneifion, high above Cwm Idwal in the Ogwen Valley.


What is the best way to approach the Cneifion Arete?

The ‘best’ way is to first climb the V.Diff rock climb, the Sub-Cneifion Rib. However, this is a graded rock climb harder than the Cneifion Arete itself. Although it is a fantastic combination, it can become a long day if you are caught behind other parties. This option is therefore not for everybody.


How else can I approach the Cneifion Arete?

You can also reach the Cneifion Arete via the Grade 1 scramble of Senior’s Gully near the Idwal Slabs. This makes a really enjoyable approach that acts as a good warm up for most people.


How difficult is the Cneifion Arete?

If you read a scrambling guide-book, it will probably list it as a Grade 3 scramble. If you read a rock-climbing guide-book, it might list it as a Moderate or Difficult rock climb (which is actually quite easy on the scale of rock-climbing grades).

However, you need to be aware that the first pitch (section) of the Cneifion Arete is closer to being a rock climb graded Difficult than to what many people imagine a ‘scramble’ to be.


Do I need equipment to scramble the Cneifion Arete?

Because of the tricky start, most parties will prefer to use a rope and have the knowledge of how to use it. This means they will also have harnesses, helmets, and other technical climbing equipment.

As it is a mountainous route, you should also always have a map and compass and the skills to use them, so as to find your way back down again safely. A mountain navigation course will be useful if you are unsure. You will also need suitable weatherproof clothing for a day in the mountains.