Classic scrambles don’t come much better than the North Ridge of Tryfan – and Glyder Fach’s Bristly Ridge and Y Gribin make a fine coda, says Alex Roddie.
There are many scrambling opportunities in North Wales, and especially around the Ogwen Valley, but nothing has the cachet as Tryfan. This blade of rock, with a summit at 917m (3,009ft), rises in a sheer stepped ridge from the valley, and it’s this prominent North Ridge that offers one of the finest easy scrambling experiences in Britain. At Grade 1, it’s exposed enough to be exciting, but easy enough to be within the capabilities of most fit and experienced hillwalkers. The logical continuation of the Bochlwyd Horseshoe over Bristly Ridge to Glyder Fach (994m / 3,261ft) and down to Cwm Bochlwyd via Y Gribin also involves plenty of easy Grade 1 scrambling for some hands-on-rock excitement.
It is a route to be savoured – but wait for good weather, as these mountains can feel a lot more intimidating in poor visibility, high winds, or with wet rock.
Bochlwyd Horseshoe: route guide
Start/finish: Milestone Buttress car park beside Llyn Ogwen in Ogwen Valley (GR: SH659602) | Distance: 6.7km/4.2 miles | Ascent: 869m/2,851ft | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Maps: OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet OL17 (Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa), OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 115 (Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa), Harvey 1:40,000 British Mountain Map (Snowdonia North)
1. SH659602: Start at the car park on the A5 south of Llyn Ogwen, just west of Tryfan itself. Take the path heading east towards Milestone Buttress, a prominent low-level crag. It follows a stone wall at first before ascending a rough boulder-filled shelf towards a low notch in the crest of the mountain. Avoid climbing the steeper rocks to your right until you’re up onto the crest.
2. SH666600: The path flattens out and a choice of potential scrambling lines opens up to your right. The angle here is easy, and most of the options stick close to the crest, which is broad at this point. Heavy polish and scratches point out the most travelled routes. Continue upwards.
3. SH665598: Although not everyone finds the Cannon Stone, many of the popular lines pass by this impressive monolith jutting out from the crags. It makes a great photo opportunity! Soon afterwards, scrambling lines converge on a large flat platform beneath a prominent nose of rock where the ridge narrows to a well-defined arête. The best routes stick close to the centre, while slightly easier options veer left (don’t go right – the rock is much steeper).
4. SH664595: Arrive at a false summit, the North Peak. There is a steep downclimb here into a notch between gullies on each side of the mountain, and then further scrambling on clean rock beyond. The appropriate line is obvious as the ridge is narrow.
5. SH664594: After a final climb, arrive at the summit of Tryfan, where the “Freedom of Tryfan” awaits those who make the leap between the summit pillars of Adam and Eve. Continue south, along the easier South Ridge of Tryfan (also Grade 1, but much of the scrambling is avoidable) and over the Far South Peak.
6. SH662589: Arrive at Bwlch Tryfan, a broad col between Tryfan and Glyder Fach. Take a moment to study the topography of Bristly Ridge ahead. There are two main gullies in the middle part of the ridge, used to access the pinnacles above; both are possible, but the left-hand one, Sinister Gully, is easier. Follow a path alongside a stone wall to the foot of the gullies.
7. SH660587: Climb Sinister Gullies – steep and intimidating but on good holds – and then continue over the impressive pinnacles of Bristly Ridge. The scrambling is exposed but never difficult, and route-finding is obvious. Bristly Ridge is shorter than Tryfan’s North Ridge and ends abruptly at the summit plateau of Glyder Fach. Walk towards the summit, but a diversion to the Cantilever Stone (another photo op) is worthwhile.
8. SH657583: From the summit of Glyder Fach, which has exceptional views of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), follow a clear path past the balanced rock needles of Castell y Gwynt towards Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder, and then make a short climb up onto the shoulder of Y Gribin. Don’t continue west towards Glyder Fach. Instead, begin descending the narrow ridge northwards.
9. SH651583: The way down Y Gribin is clear and not too exposed, but also rocky, and there are a few moments requiring scrambling moves. You will soon arrive at a large flat area; from here the descent is steep but easier, with good views across Cwm Bochlwyd to Tryfan.
10. SH653594: At the base of Y Gribin, turn east past the north shore of Llyn Bochlwyd, and then descend steeply on the west bank of the Nant Bochlwyd. Cross the stream and take a gently descending path northeast back to the car park.
Public transport: T10 TrawsCymru bus service from Corwen to Bangor via Betws-y-Coed stops in the Ogwen Valley
Tourist information: hwberyri.co.uk, 01286 870500
Nearest YHA: Idwal Cottage