Monday, 23 May 2016

Tryfan, Glyder Fach & Glyder Fawr

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Route: Milestone Buttress, Tryfan North Ridge, Tryfan, Bwlch Tryfan, Cwm Tryfan, The Miners' Track, Y Gwyliwr, Glyder Fach, Castell y Gwynt, Bwlc y Ddwy-Glyder, Glyder Fawr, Llyn y Cwm, Devil's Kitchen, Cwm Idwal, Idwal Cottage, Milestone Buttress

Date: 23/05/2016
From: A5 - Milestone Buttress

Parking: Laybys on A5
Start Point: Milestone Buttress
Region: Snowdonia

Route length: 7.2 miles (11.5 km)
Time taken: 04:18
Average speed: 1.7 mph
Ascent: 1,102m
Descent: 1,089m

Summits: Tryfan (917m), Glyder Fach (994m), Glyder Fawr (1,001m)

Other points of interest: The Cannon, The Cantilever, Castell y Gwynt, Devil's Kitchen, Cwm Idwal

Tryfan is perhaps one of the most iconic mountains in the country, its serrated outline is instantly recognisable and simply draws your attention towards its summit, conjuring up thoughts on how to get up there. Well, it's not as hard as it may first appear, as we found out one fine Welsh day in May. Add a trip over to high peaks of Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr and you have the makings of a classic day out in the mountains.
Welcome to the Glyderau
We parked up at the foot of the imposing Milestone Buttress, a popular haunt for climbers, home to a number of longer mountaineering routes if you are that way inclined. We would be heading the way most walkers tend to begin with, following the drystone wall from the car park before scaling a fairly obvious path that heads in an easterly direction, towards the north ridge.

Milestone Buttress - the path heads up the green slope to the left
Looking up the path alongside Milestone Buttress
We were following a route described in '20 Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia', who's principal direction was 'up'. As described in our extract of the book, we followed the path until we reached a heather covered shoulder, an obvious landmark among a sea of rock. We were aiming to reach the crest of the ridge, the most direct and easy to follow line towards the summit.
Pen yer Ole Wen and Llyn Ogwen

Here, a scree-strewn path starts to climb up and around a seemingly impenetrable wall of rock (no doubt experienced scramblers will enjoy finding their own way up) and before long, reaches a relatively flat area with a large cairn - an area seemingly known as Piccadilly Circus as it can get very busy. No such problems today.
Head up the line of boulders and scree
Looking down the scree path
The first serious rocky obstacle to tackle
The east end of the Ogwen Valley
Still following something resembling a path
The cairn at Piccadilly Circus
From here, paths and routes begin to become less apparent but polished rock shows the easiest lines. Once again, sticking to the apex of the north ridge offers the best route finding. It is easy to stray east or west onto more difficult ground, this is often the mistake made by those who become crag-fast. We clambered up and around rocks looking our for our next landmark - Tryfan's famous Cannon.
More rocks on the route up
Looking ahead towards one of Tryfan's many buttresses - The Cannon stands a short distance up the mountain
The Cannon
The Cannon is a finger of rock, pointing at an angle of almost exactly 45 degrees, high up above the Ogwen valley. It sits on a plateau of quartz rock, an obvious sign you are in the correct location as The Cannon can be easily missed. It's another popular spot for photos and we did not hesitate to take advantage of our solitude - I quickly scampered up towards the end. It's a little bit nerve-wracking stood at the sharp end, hence my sitting pose and slightly concerned expression, while getting down requires the finely tuned art of bum shuffling off, that is unless you have the balance and nerve of a mountain goat.
Tentatively climbing onto The Cannon
About as far as I was comfortable standing
Sitting is much better......
Another rock walls bars the way, though this one is more inviting and a sustained scramble is required to reach another reasonably flat plateau. This section was by far my favourite as the rock is nice and grippy and hand and foot holds are abundant. Not to mention the scenery, which really is magnificent.
Follow the ridge upwards - the choice of route is yours
Some great scrambling
A huge view of the Ogwen Valley
After reaching the plateau, a huge pyramid of piled rocks bars the way - this is the North Tower. I'm told that the best, and perhaps more straightforward route, is to simply set off up the rocks, keeping slightly left of centre. Alternatively, a path leads around the base of the tower to the left and onto the Eastern Traverse that sits high up on the mountain side and this is the way we chose to follow, not being that confident in our ability to find a safe line.
Looking down the North Ridge
The North Tower
The Eastern Traverse
Looking down to the valley
Central Buttress - the summit. We climbed the gully to the right of the centre
A number of gullys run up from this traverse back to the main ridge line and we were fortuitously recommended we head up the final gully below the summit, despite the apparent path that continued on. We were informed that this path would lead to onto trickier ground. We scrambled up the gully, requiring a few awkward stretches, which led us back up onto the main ridge where we completed the final few moves to get us to the summit.
The gully leads up to the ridge
The gully frames Gallt yr Ogof
Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal with Y Garn beyond
Panorama from the base of Central Buttress
Y Garn
Looking back to the North Buttress
Looking south from the summit
Tryfan's summit, quiet today being a Monday, is home to Adam and Eve, two huge angular blocks positioned side by side, visible from the valley below as you may have seen from a previous post of mine. Jumping between them is a popular past-time, one that I opted out of on this occasion. The name Tryfan means 'three peaks', probably a reference to the serrated outline on the mountain but could also refer to a third, lost monolith from the summit.
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve once again
Glyder Fach
We pressed on, dropping down towards Bwlch Tryfan, the col that separates Tryfan from the higher ridge of Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. A number of routes will get you up the these giants, the best of which is Bristly Ridge, another sustained scramble with a few testing sections. The worst of the three is the steep slog up the scree beside Bristly Ridge, not one to be recommended. We chose the third route - a longer and shallower ascent across the top of Cwm Tryfan before it doubles back towards Glyder Fach's summit.
Bristly Ridge
Llyn Bochlwyd
Clouds pass over Bristly Ridge
Bristly Ridge - Main Gully is in the centre
The path up towards The Miners' Track
Cwm Tryfan
Tryfan
Looking east just before we reached the clouds
As we climbed the clouds came in, turning our search for the summit into a bit of a grope around in the cloud. Still, we found the famous Cantilever Stone, a huge slab of rock that, from a certain angle, appears to be precariously balanced and in real danger of tipping over. The summit stands a few hundred metres from the Cantilever, itself being a huge pile of massive boulders, stacked up at all imaginable angles. After clambering to the top we continued west towards the spiky Castell y Gwynt, another impressive tumble of boulders that marks the beginning of the end of Glyder Fach.

Rocks atop Glyder Fach
The Cantilever

Atop The Cantilever
Contemplating the rest of the day
Approaching the summit
The summit boulders
The summit
Castell y Gwynt emerges from the mist

Castell y Gwynt
Down into Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder we went, the clouds momentarily revealing a glimpse of the view across towards the Snowdon horseshoe. It's an easy climb back up onto Glyder Fawr, which begins as an unimpressive rocky plateau but, one by one, spiky rock towers began to emerge from the mists. We eventually reached the tallest of these towers, that which forms the summit and took a moment to briefly shelter from a cool breeze that had been brought in with the clouds.
Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder
A brief glimpse of Llyn Cwmffynnon
Rocky eruptions on Glyder Fawr
Looking along Glyder Fawr
The clouds begin to break
Clouds rise over Glyder Fawr
The summit of Glyder Fawr
Fortunately for us, the clouds slowly began to break up as we left the summit, enough to reveal the serrated outline of Crib Goch and the lonely Snowdon Mountain Railway engine making its slow and deliberate crawl up the mountainside. The Coastguard helicopter was also out and about - a busy day up in the Welsh mountains.
The Snowdon Horseshoe
Crib Goch
The Coastguard S92
The Snowdon Mountain Railway at Cwm Hetiau
Y Garn
As we started to descend, the clouds broke up completely - blues skies would be the accompaniment for our trip through the Devil's Kitchen, a narrow path the breaches the immense crags of Cwm Idwal. The Welsh name for Devil’s Kitchen is Twll Du, meaning ‘black hole’. Twll Du is known as the Devil’s Kitchen because of the plume of steam that is often seen rising from the crack resembling a chimney. It’s said when steam can be seen rising from the chimney, the Devil was cooking.
Above Devil's Kitchen
Llyn y Cwm and Y Garn
Y Garn
Heading down to Devil's Kitchen
The huge crags of Clogwyn y Geifr
Devil's Kitchen
Pen yr Ole Wen and Llyn Idwal

Devil's Kitchen
Cwm Idwal as sparking as we clambered down the rocks below Clogwyn y Geifr, bearing right on the to sunlit path on the eastern shore - the Idwal Slabs were basking in the afternoon light. The path rounds the top of the lake to falls slowly to Idwal Cottage, a popular Youth Hostel in the heart of the Ogwen valley. A walk of a mile or so along the A5 returns to the Milestone Buttress car park, concluding a superb day in the mountains.
The Idwal Slabs
Llyn Idwal
Cwm Idwal
Tryfan
Idwal Slabs
The outfall from Llyn Idwal
Pen yr Ole Wen and Idwal Cottage
Llyn Ogwen
Llyn Ogwen
Tryfan is as epic to climb as it is to look at and the fact it can be as easier or as difficult as you please is one of its numerous appeals. Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr are impressive mountains in their own right bit are perhaps overshadowed slightly by the smaller Tryfan. If you're feeling adventurous, an ascent of Bristly Ridge and a descent of Y Gribin will see you complete the Bochlwyd Horseshoe, one of Wales' best full days.