The term Snowdonia today tends to refer to the area of North Wales covered by the Snowdonia National Park. Formed in 1951 Snowdonia was the third National Park to be created in Britain and the first in Wales. Prior to 1951 Snowdonia tended to refer to the mountainous area of Gwynedd with the main Snowdon massif at its centre. It should be pointed out that Snowdonia is the English name for the region. In Welsh it is known as 'Eryri'. Some people claim that the name is derived from eryr meaning 'eagle' but it probably means 'Highlands'.
The mountains of Snowdonia proper include five main ranges, these are the Carneddau, Glyderau, Snowdon, Eifionydd and Moelwynion. The first three are the most northern and include all the Welsh mountains over 3,000ft. The highest of all is Snowdon, a magnificent mountain with a great variety of approaches and ridges that includes both fairly easy routes, such as the 'tourist path' from Llanberis, as well as the notorious narrow ridge of Crib Goch. Thanks to its height, variety of paths, and mountain railway Snowdon is also by far the most popular mountain in Wales.
The northernmost range is the Carneddau and includes 7 of the 15 highest mountains in Wales. Described by John Gilham as 'the Cairngorms of Wales, albeit on a smaller scale', the Carneddau is the most expansive range in Snowdonia covering an area of 85 square miles. Between the Carneddau and the Snowdon massif are the Glyderau named after the two highest mountains in the range, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach with their spectacularly rocky northern cwms and ridges. The Glyderau is also the home to Tryfan, arguably the most distinctively shaped mountain in the whole of Wales.
The Moelwynion lie to the east and south east of the Snowdon range and stretch from Moel Siabod in the north near Capel Curig to Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach above the Vale of Ffestiniog in the south. In between is a lovely upland area of small lakes and numerous unpretentious hills. More dramatic is the shapely Cnicht which provides a fine climb from Croesor. To the south and south west of Snowdon lies the hills sometimes known as the Eiffionydd. The highest is the bulky Moel Hebog which stands high above Beddgelert and features a great view of the Nantgwynant valley. Also to be found in the Eiffionydd is the celebrated Nantlle Ridge - definitely high on my to do list.
The Snowdonia National Park also encompasses a number of other hill ranges including the Rhinogydd, Arenigs, Arans and the area around Cadair Idris. Just to the east of the boundary of the National Park there are also the Berwyns. Apart from one hugely enjoyable walk in the Northern Rhinogydd I've not visited any of these areas so cannot really make much comment. As I near completion of both the Wainwrights and English Nuttalls and Hewitts my thoughts are already turning to my next challenge and the Welsh Hewitts and Nuttalls feature prominently in my plans. With this in mind I expect my knowledge of the mountains of Snowdonia to increase in the years ahead. I can't wait.