|Statistics and Files|
|Start: Llyn Ogwen||Distance: 5.2 miles (8.4 km)||Climbing: 1,023 meters|
|Grid Ref: SH 66810 60529||Time: 6-7 hours||Rating: Technical|
|GPX Route File||Google Earth File||The Welsh 3,000's|
|Start: Llyn Ogwen||Distance: 5.2 miles (8.4 km)|
|Grid Ref: SH 66810 60529||Time: 6-7 hours|
|Climbing: 1,023 meters||Rating: Technical|
|GPX Route File||Google Earth File|
This was my second walk on Tryfan, the first one some years earlier had been to Bwlch Tryfan and then along the Heather Terrace and missing out the top crest. This time I was aiming for as many high points as possible so the summit points of Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr were all plotted into this 5.2 mile spectacular which would see me complete the second and most technical stage of my eighteen day Wales Coast to Coast walk.
Note: I have allowed six to seven hours for a walk of just over five miles as this is no ordinary walk. Much of the ascending is done using hands as well as feet with scrambles necessary on both Tryfan and Glyder Fach. That is if you follow the course I took through gullies and around rock faces to reach each of their summits. There are more straightforward routes to take to reach the same objective and which will avoid scrambling but on this occasion I wanted to do the most extreme route while keeping to scrambling course which were within my capabilities. After the scrambling on Tryfan and Glyder Fach the ascent of Glyder Fawr was a more straightforward affair.
The Walk: I was so excited when I awoke at my accommodation in Betws-Y-Coed and opened the curtains to see a full blue sky with not a cloud in sight. BBC Breakfast promised me the weather was set fair for the whole day so providing perfect conditions for my assault on Tryfan and the Glyders. I had been on Tryfan before, on a super short walk about 10 years earlier when I followed the Heather Terrace Path on the east side of the mountain rather than follow my pals over the top crest. This time I had no such thoughts, it was a climb to the top followed by climbs to the top Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr, mountains new to me.
After parking up in the generous lay-by on the south side of Llyn Ogwen I walked east on the roadside to the east side of Tryfan near to Glan Dena. It was just after 9.00am when I left the roadside and followed the footpath leading south. As I approached the north east flank of Tryfan I looked up to the white crescent of the moon in the sky, it being in view half way up the mountain just above the clear line of the Heather Terrace. It was an evocative sight to start my day and I pressed on to Tryfan Bach by skirting around the east side of Creigiau'r Dena which forms the northern part of the mountain. Twenty minutes after my start I reached Tryfan Bach, only half a kilometer in the walk but reassuringly 300 meters further up Tryfan than from where I started.
At 9.45am it was already quite hot and warming up by the minute as the sun rose high in the Springtime sky. I do not know how I did it, but after crossing a stile I followed a path up from Tryfan Bach which was not my intended one, my choice meandering a course south of where I should have been. Rather than backtrack to my intended path I chose to forge on and work my own way up Tryfan. I had been told there were 'hundreds of ways up' by walkers in Betws-Y-Coed the night before. Make that one more. First target was to reach the Heather Terrace which I did just as two walkers passed along it going from north to south. I continued straight up and across Heather Terrace. At regular intervals I took short breaks to relax from my haul up to the heights of Tryfan. In doing so I had time to enjoy the emerging views including the one back to Llyn Ogwen shown in the photograph above right.
After crossing over the Heather Terrace Path the climbing became steeper but never difficult. I took time after each short burst up the mountain to determine my next course and then took steps accordingly. Sometimes steps were accompanied by use of hands and arms but the first short scrambles were easy affairs. Then after about ten or so clambers upwards and at about 620m elevation I came to a gully which determined my next course clearly. Some rocks strewn in the gully were clear dislodges and falls from higher up Tryfan, probably during storms. The mountain was silent in the calm now though and the gully no threat for an ascent. I made my way into the heart of the gully and climbed.
I thoroughly enjoyed my scramble up the gully. I really did enjoy myself making the height as quickly as I could. It was hard work and I was breathing very quickly as I managed my way up the narrow access of my chosen environment but it was a spellbinding experience. On the occasions I stopped and looked downwards I revelled in the sight of the ground from which I had just came. Then at the top of the gully I could look over to the west side of Tryfan for the first time on the walk with a view to the western tip of Llyn Ogwen, to Afon Ogwen valley and to the valley road out of Snowdonia leading to Bethesda and the north Wales coast and Anglesey at Bangor.
When I reached the top of the gully I assumed I was somewhere near the top of the mountain. I was wrong. I had simply reached the northern ridge of Tryfan but I still had 200 meters to go before I reached the summit. And between me and the summit were 200 meters of thrilling mountain ridge walking and scrambling, much more challenging and exciting than Striding Edge and Sharp Edge, the popular Lake District icons. These ridges were wide, scattered and offering plenty of courses to take. As I began my course from the gully on a south heading along the ridge I noticed the drops to the west were steep and vertiginous Not something I bother about any more; I look forward not back and for me that does the trick.
A further 100 meters of ascent along the top ridge done and I came to a point, often frustrating, where I had to drop 15 meters or so to continue my climb. As I looked down from my lofty perch I noticed a group of other walkers below me. Three young men were forging on their way while another chap in the company of a lady was helping her with reassurances as she scrambled her way around a rock. After getting down to their level I passed the couple and caught up with the three lads who I followed on a meander through gaps in rock and across faces of others to make the final push to the top. Soon after the snakes and ladders course up the final 50 meter ascent I reached a small plateau and saw what I was looking for. Two rocks standing on top of the mountain were one of my priority objectives for the day and they were right in front of me.
From Wikipedia: The summit of Tryfan is famous for the twin monoliths of Adam and Eve, a pair of rocks some three meters high and separated by 1.2 meters The rocks are visible from the Ogwen valley, from where they resemble two human figures. It is traditional for those climbing Tryfan to tackle the spectacular and risky "step" between the two rocks; in doing so one is said to gain the "Freedom of Tryfan". The exposure on one side is quite great and those without a head for heights are advised not to attempt the step. Adam is not easily scaled being high and smooth. There is a foothold on Eve which allows the climber to scramble to the top. And I had to make that leap of faith to gain the 'Freedom of Tryfan'. I did it without hesitation, not wanting to give myself any time to talk myself out of it; immediately asking one of the three lads I followed up the final stage of the ascent to take photographs of my jump. I will be eternally grateful he caught my leap in mid air - a moment I will never forget.
After my gymnastics on Adam and Eve I took a short break to take a drink and a bite to eat with the three chaps enjoying their day on Tryfan before moving on to complete my crossing of the mountain via the Far South Peak. Nothing is easy on Tryfan, it is a narrow rocky mountain with pinnacles, outcrops, gullies and majestic rock obelisks everywhere. Thus my walk from the summit was first a short steep descent to the north face of the Far South Peak before managing a course over the peak and then by descending by a mix of walking and carefully scrambling down to Bwlch Tryfan.
At Bwlch Tryfan I paused to chat with a couple of mature gentlemen who were done with climbing for the day. They were not looking for the mountain tops as objectives being satisfied with their achievement on reaching the top of the pass at Bwlch Tryfan and enjoying the views. For me it was now time for another climb, this time to the summit of Glyder Fach. I looked at the way in which I should go. One of the men told me he had seen walkers ascent by a path beside a scree slope to the left of the rock pinnacles slightly higher up the mountain on the skyline. I decided that was too unexciting for me and so, as I had done with Tryfan, I plotted a course straight up. Again I did this by first taking an overall view of an approximate course and then by working out short sections, one at a time. And like I did on Tryfan the first course through areas of rock and instead of heather, over course grassed ground found me arriving at the bottom of a convenient gully which invited me to follow its course up.
The climb through the gully was straightforward apart from one bad step which was very similar to Wainwright's bad step he chose to circumnavigate on his walk on Crinkle Crags in the Lake District. I negotiated my personal Glyder Fach bad step by way of a full arm length hold on a rock beside the step and accompanied by a foot hold on the same rock I made one single heave to clamber onto and over the obstacle. On reaching the top of the gully I looked up to a prominent rock outcrop and saw a climber making his way around it by the west facing side. I chose to follow his course. At the top of the outcrop it was necessary to scale down from it before facing a more intimidating outcrop, this one more sheer than the preceding one but again by following my new found leader I took a safe path up the face.
As I continued on the exciting climb up Glyder Fach, one I found to be every bit as exciting as my climb up Tryfan, I met another climber. This one was in the company of the leading climber I was following. On meeting up with him he said his friend was the "fearless crag climber" he invariably followed on such expeditions on mountains. Despite the challenge we both agreed the younger leader had the right idea on how to climb a mountain such as Glyder Fach and that we were both doing it 'the right way'. We surely were. The views to the west from our exposed mountainside spots were breathtaking - being so close to the edge of a mountain provides excellent views not just into the distance but straight down too, views not to be had on wide tracks which block such vertical vantage points. How lucky we were to enjoy such views as the weather continued to make the day perfect for looking out into the beauty of Snowdonia.
The final section of climbing up to the summit plateau of Glyder Fach was every bit as exciting as the early part through the gully and across the first outcrops. Sadly it was soon over as a few more heaves, hauls and pulls up the last bit of ascent saw us reach the top. Hands were now redundant of holding rock, back to their usual activity of assisting balance as we walked in a normal manner across the top of the mountain. Sometimes we chose to cross over rock formations which required careful balance, some with vertical and shapely pinnacles like those created as backdrops to sci-fi planet landscapes.
On one of the rock outcrops on the mountain summit an icon stood. It was the Cantilever Stone, Glyder Fach's answer to Tryfan's Adam and Eve. The Cantilever Stone, a large rock which from the correct angle appears to be precariously balanced is a popular place for photographs and so I had to oblige and do the requisite pose for the camera. Another notable feature near to the Cantilever Stone and just west of the summit of Glyder Fach is Castell y Gwynt, 'Castle of the Wind' and another of the beguiling spiky rocky outcrop which are randomly strewn across Glyder Fach. My new found friend who led the way over the final climb to the top of Glyder Fach clambered his way up and over the castles fortifications while his colleague and I walked a sedate path around the monumental feature.
We then walked a leisurely kilometer over generally flat ground linking Glyder Fach to Glyder Fawr by way of Blwch y Ddwy Glyder. As we walked we noted snow clinging to the edge of the north facing slope. Only a few weeks earlier we had experienced heavy snowfalls in the UK and the snow was widespread on the mountains which would have made the course I had taken impossible. I thought how lucky I was that the snow was now practically gone from the mountains of Snowdonia. The walk to Glyder Fawr from Glyder Fach was so easy that I took my time and took full advantage of the views. Again I was drawn to look out to the west and across the west most mountains of Snowdonia to the shimmering blue of the Irish Sea. My two companions stopped to take photographs of the surroundings and of each other after accomplishing their goal. I thanked them for their company over the last hour and walked on waving them goodbye. I continued to the summit of Glyder Fawr.
As I walked the final steps to the summit of Glyder Fawr I looked out to the south west and to Mount Snowdon. I could clearly see the route up and over Crib Goch which I was going to cross for the first time during my next walk on the next day. The view of Crib Goch, the intermediate pinnacles of Garnedd Ugain and the summit of Mount Snowdon shimmering in the early afternoon sunshine excited me for the challenge ahead but for now I enjoyed some more the surreal and almost out of world landscape that exists of Glyder Fawr. It is a remarkable mountain top, ever so fascinating.
At the summit on Glyder Fawr I noted I had started out on the walk over five hours earlier and in that time I had covered just less than three and a half miles of ground. I had never being going slow and only stopping a while at Adam and Eve, the Cantilever Stone and the summits of the three mountains. It had been tough progress. Hard going but very satisfying. Taking my leave of the mountain top of Glyder Fawr I headed down the clear path meandering south and south-east to Pen-y-Pass. The first part of the descent, for about 350 meters of drop, was quite testing, with short scrambling drops over overhangs to get over. I was in my element though, getting down as quickly as I could and passing a few groups of walkers on the way down. The shimmering dark blue waters of Llyn Cwmffynnon provided an enticing draw and I passed close to the mountain lake on my final stages of the climb. Soon later I was down safely at Pen-y-Pass. My day of superlative scrambling across Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr was done. I shall never forget it.
A precautionary tale : "I was waiting to be picked up from Pen-y-Pass for a good hour or so, frantically trying to contact Lil and tell her I was waiting. We had planned to meet at Pen-y-Pass so where was she? It transpired she had waited at the car parking area near the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel at the junction of the A498 and A4086. I had not made myself clear on which car park to wait at when she had dropped me off earlier in the day. I thought I had".
Endnote from my after the walk Facebook post: "Today was the most exciting seven miles of walking I have ever done - if you can call it walking because the first six miles were nothing like what I would usually claim to be walking. From the start I was immediately climbing steeply and scrambling up gullies and rakes to the ridge of Tryfan. It was a breathtaking experience and the adrenaline rush never relented on the climb to the too. Once there I emerged to see the twin pinnacles of Adam and Eve facing me. I was compelled to make the leap which I did without hesitation. After the thrill of the leap across I scrambled down to the Heather Terrace before making a stupendous ascent of Glyder Fach which was just as exciting as the climb of Tryfan. Again I found a steep gully to ascend and during the ascent I found myself using both hands to haul myself up and over rocks. At the top of the gully I found myself looking over the edge of the mountain to space and forged a path to the top, luckily in the company of other daring climbers. From Glyder Fach the walk to Glyder Fawr was a relief which was just as well so I could enjoy the eerie landscape of jutting rock pillars. Truly amazing. My final descent to Pen y Pass was an enjoyable self determined route to the pass. That was fun in itself. A remarkable day."