Scrambling up the North Ridge of Tryfan

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If you wanted to inspire an 11-year-old lad about the mountains which one would you choose?

Mickey and Corin on Tryfan

For me it had to be Tryfan

My friend Mickey’s eleven year old son has been asking him to take him up a mountain. He is not the kind of lad who would be satisfied with a stroll up a mountain side, there needs to be some kind of challenge. So when Mickey asked me to take them on his first mountain adventure I thought of the North Ridge of Tryfan – not that I have done it myself. I have been up Tryfan a couple of times and jumped Adam and Eve, but I had not yet done the north ridge which has been in my to-do book. So taking them up the North Ridge of Tryfan would kill two birds with one stone – not literally I hoped!

We arrived at the lay-by below the mountain just before ten in the morning. The weather forecasts had been a real mixture so it was difficult to know what it would be like when we set off, we arrived prepared for anything (within reason!). It was in fact quite clear and dry when we arrived in the valleys but all the mountain tops were clouded up, it did not look as though we were in for any good views from the top.

Climbing the North Ridge

The path from the lay-by beside Llyn Ogwen is pretty easy to follow to start with. The well paved steps follow a dry stone wall up a steep slope towards Milestone Buttress where it bears left. From here there are many possibilities that might provide a route to the top. Sometimes an obvious path appears which is fairly easy to follow, others are no more than smooth indentations in the rock where previous boots have trod. It is often a case of trying to find the most reasonable looking route upwards. More than once we came to a dead end and had to retrace our steps and find another way up. Fortunately there were quite a few other people on the mountain and we helped each other, people ahead of us giving helpful advice like “don’t come this way” or “we went round that way”.

On the mountain side complete strangers become people bonded to you, in a common goal we trust each others advice which is given with the best intention based on our varied experience. That is one of the things I find most amazing about the outdoor world, mostly people are so willing to help each other in the common goal that they have. A camaraderie develops for a brief period of time, sharing advice and even ‘Jelly Babies’!

The North Ridge is a grade 1 scramble that varies a lot in difficulty along it’s route. Sometimes it is a steep gravely path and at others it is a bit of basic mountain climbing. On the day that we chose the rocks were quite wet and slippery which gave the climb an added dimension of challenge, fortunately there was often good hand holds which I trusted in a lot more than my footing.

About two thirds of the way up there is the famous cannon stone, a jagged chunk of rock sticking up into the air. Despite it’s slippery nature on our day several of us took it in turn to bum shuffle our way up to the pinnacle of the cannon for a posy photo – including Mickey’s lad.

By the time we reached the cannon we were immersed in the cloud that stayed with us to the top of Tryfan.

Reaching the top

There are great views from the top of the mountain, as indeed there are from many of Snowdonia’s mountains. Clear skies are not guaranteed though, you often have to take your chance when you pick a day to walk in Snowdonia. Being at the top of Tryfan in cloud was not disappointing though, it has its own atmosphere on the top. A ghostly world of bare grey rocks disappearing into misty nothingness, with the iconic pillars of Adam and Eve standing proudly against the grey-white skyline, determined not to be overcome by the clouds smothering attempts.

There were many other people at the top, sitting in dark ethereal huddles eating their lunch like us, some were the folk who had accompanied us up to the top. I saw one figure standing on top of one of the two monoliths that crown this mountain, sooner him than me on a day like this I thought, but later Mickey’s lad Corin climbed up there as well (brave lad). He did not try the leap from one stone to the other, a wise choice on a day like today when the rock was wet.

We did not stay to savour our achievement on the top of Tryfan for too long. After eating our lunch we were soon on our way. It was chilly sitting in our damp foggy world, and it did not take long for the cold to work its way into our bodies as we cooled down from the warmth of our exertions climbing the steep slope.

Walking down

The first part of our descent was as tricky as our ascent had been. Often bum sliding our way down rocks we did our best to stick to the path down the other side, heading for the saddle called Bwlch Tryfan which is just the other side of Far South Peak. Here we turned west to follow a more steady path that led down towards Llyn Bochlwyd, a smallish body of water that nestles in the shelter of Tryfan and Glydder Fach.

It was not too long before we were out of the cloud revealing a great view down the Ogwen river valley, Nant Ffrancon. This gentler second half of our adventure was perfect, giving us time to savour the surrounding beauty of North Wales and relax into our downward journey. We had contemplated doing the Glydders as well as Tryfan, but we decided that we would probably run out of daylight so we chose this route instead. Later when we arrived back at the car we all agreed that this had been the right decision, and that we would come back next year in the summer to do the Glydders with Tryfan.

Llan Bochlwyd was dark and almost menacing when we arrived at its shore. Its threatening appearance was undermined though by the sky’s light reflecting off of its dark mirror surface. At the far side of the water there were several tents, some folk were obviously wild camping. It looked pretty damp and not very inspiring to my mind. There did not seem to be much happening around the tents, I guess in this weather there was not much else to do but sit inside your tent, unless of course they were out on the mountains.

Back to the car

The path slowly levelled out as we got nearer to Idwal Cottage. Crossing the water flowing from Llyn Idwal as it thundered its way over large boulders rushing to get to Afon Ogwen we came to the car park by the visitors centre. There is a cafe and toilets here which are very welcome facilities after a good walk.

Happy with our days adventure we made our way back to the car along the A5. It did not take long it was less than a mile and walking next to Llyn Ogwen infused a gentle peacefulness into our bodies.

As we took of our kit and put it into the boot of the car I asked Corin “how was it then?”

“Awesome”.

llyn Ogwen


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I just love walking, have done since my first precarious steps in nappies. Being outdoors is definitely better than in, whatever the weather.