Pen-y-Pass, Snowdonia

Distance: 6 miles                               Time: 8 hours                               Type: Round trip

The Glyders massif, which sits between the Llanberis Pass and the Ogwen Valley, contains five of the tallest peaks in Wales above 3000ft: Tryfan (915m), Glyder Fach (994m), Glyder Fawr (1000m), Y Garn (947m) and Elidir Fawr (923m). This entry describes a full-day walk which tackles perhaps the most distinctive peak in Snowdonia - Tryfan - and the ridge walk linking Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. This hike takes in some of the best views in Northern Wales and one of its most exciting and challenging walks.

The Glyder massif can be climbed from either the Llanberis Pass to the south, which offers longer, more gentle slopes, or the Ogwen Valley to the north, which offers more dramatic and rocky crags and ridges left behind by glacial erosion. The routes starting from Llyn Ogwen are, therefore, arguably more interesting. I was camping at Gwern Gof Uchaf at the base of Tryfan, less than a mile from Llyn Ogwen. The campsite is perfectly situated for walking and, at £5 a night, the cheapest way to stay in the mountains.

 

Tryfan is a sharply-angled 'fin' which stands like a gateway to the Ogwen Valley as you approach from the east on the A5. There are various trails that lead to its summit of varying difficulty. From Gwern Gof Uchaf there are three routes: along the floor of Cym Tryfan and then looping back up by way of Bwlch Tryfan and the South Peak (the easiest); along 'Heather Terrace', a visible ridge line on the western side of Tryfan, and then also summiting via the South Peak (more challenging and involving some scrambling); or directly along the North Ridge (the most difficult, involving some difficult navigation and scrambling). I hiked via the latter route.

Pen-y-Pass, Snowdonia

From Gwern Gof Uchaf you start to climb the hill behind the campsite to the right of Tryfan Bach, a sort of mini-mini version of Tryfan itself. Once you have gained most of the ridge the path veers to the west and heads along the base of Tryfan. At a certain point you can depart along the Heather Terrace, although the path is not clearly marked and can be missed easily. I headed on a small distance further and then turned off at a cairn to start climbing the North Ridge.

 

The route becomes more and more rocky as you climb steeply and the actual path is easily lost as numerous alternatives are possible. The views over the valley improve as you gain height and you enjoy some freestyle scrambling, choosing either easier or more challenging routes depending on your mood. Whether you manage to stick to the path or make your own way, eventually you reach the summit - two large rocks standing on their short side. The summit was fairly cloudy when I arrived and some light rain began to fall, a reminder that Tryfan is best tackled in dry weather as rain makes the rocky terrain slippery and dangerous. From the summit I started descending to the south, past the South Peak to a level gap in the ridge line, Bwlch Tryfan.

 

Gylder Fach is directly ahead now, although the summit itself is not visible. From Bwlch Tryfan you can either head to Gylder Fach by continuing straight ahead along Bristly Ridge, a steep and challenging scramble, or - as I did - by taking the easier option left along the Miner's Track, which gently climbs to the Gylder ridge, and then back along the ridge line to the summit. From the top - a gentle slope marked by clusters of large, sharp rocks - you have great views back to Tryfan. You can easily make out others standing on top of the summit rocks, their silhouettes punctuating the dramatic skyline.

From Gylder Fach the path to the west drops and then rises again toward Gylder Fawr, the higher of the two. Shortly before the summit you edge along a steep drop into Cwm Cneifion, providing amazing views down toward Llyn Idwal (see the top photo). From Gylder Fawr there are also great views south to the Snowdon massif.

To descend from here there are three options. You can return to the Ogwen Valley either by doubling back on yourself and taking the steep ridge Y Gribin and past Llyn Bochlwyd; you can descend steeply along 'Cwm Seniors' Ridge' into Cwm Cneifon and Llyn Idwal; or you can keep walking a little further along the ridge and then descend by Twll Du, the famous 'Devil's Kitchen' path which winds through a rocky gap in the mountain.

 

I descended via Y Gribin. The views from here are outstanding as you can look simultaneously down to Llyn Idwal and across to Tryfan. It's very steep and quite hard-going on the knees, but the panorama makes it worthwhile. At the bottom of the ridge I turned right to Llyn Bochlywd and from there followed the path along the river and then diagnoally across to the car park by Llyn Ogwen. From the car park, it's just a kilometre's walk along the road back to Gwern Gof Uchaf.