Pen-y-Pass, Snowdonia

Distance: 9.6 miles                               Time: 8 hours                           Type: There and back

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 the latter two as well as the lesser peak of Foel-goch (831m). This hike takes in some great views as well as both steep rocky climbs and gentle undulating ridges.

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.

 

From the Ogwen Cottage (where there is a pay and display car park), Y Garn can be hiked by three routes: along the east side of Llyn Idwal, the steep Twll Du Path to Llyn y Cwn and the broad ridge to the summit; by the Northeast Ridge of Y Garn which approaches the summit more directly (and more steeply); and by a vague path through Cwm Cymion. I chose to summit via the Northeast Ridge and later descend back by the Twll Du Path, although the order could be reversed.

Pen-y-Pass, Snowdonia

From the Ogwen Cottage and visitor centre, I took the path over the stile and through a small rock-framed canyon, which then climbs onto the broad grassy hill in front of Llyn Idwal. The path turns away from the lake to the right and begins to climb the ridge: as the route becomes steeper the views continue to improve, and you eventually reach the secluded Cwm Clyd (above). The views back into the Ogwen valley from here are fantastic (see top photo).

 

After this point, unfortunately, I entered cloud cover and visibility was very poor. The path becomes steeper as it continues up the ridge, often scree-covered. Eventually you gain the ridge line, from where it is another short ascent to Y Garn's summit. I cannot speak for the view at the top as I could barely see 20 metres in front of me.

 

To reach Elidir Fawr from here involves following the ridge north to Foel-goch and then east. The terrain undulates and some further climbing is involved, although the real hard work is done at this point. If it is clear, you at times look down into the Ogwen Valley and at times across the gentle valleys to the Llanberis Pass. Even in poor weather it is fairly easy to find the path as it follows a fence for the main part and you just stick to the high ground. After the path veers east you pass the Marchlyn Mawr Resevoir before the ascent to the top of Elidir Fawr, which presumably has great views to the south and east. To return to Y Garn, follow the same route back.

For the descent I continued east from Y Garn along the ridge and down to Llyn y Cwn. The views from here and the surrounding fields are excellent - as I approached the lake from the summit the clouds lifted and Llyn Idwal - my favourite spot in the UK - sprung into view. From Llyn y Cyn, I took the steep and rocky Twll Du path (or 'Devil's Kitchen'). This really is one of the most dramatic walks in Snowdonia, if not the whole of the UK. The path follows an avalanche strip down the side of Cwm Idwal and you must carefully navigate some rocky terrain. The perspectives down to the lake and Pen Yr Ole Wen beyond are sublime. At the lake you can either return to the cottage by the west or east side of the water. Both make for a great finish to a fantastic day's hike.