Saturday, 24 September 2016

Tryfan, Glyder Fach & Glyder Fawr via Bristly Ridge

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Route: Milestone Buttress, Tryfan North Ridge, Tryfan, Bwlch Tryfan, Bristly Ridge, 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: 24/09/2016
From: A5 - Milestone Buttress

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

Route length: 5.6 miles (9 km)
Time taken: 05:41
Average speed: 1.75 mph
Ascent: 996m
Descent: 1,011m

Summits: Tryfan (917m), Glyder Fach (994m), Glyder Fawr (1,001m), Castell y Gwynt (972m)

Other points of interest: The Cannon, Bristly Ridge, The Cantilever, Devil's Kitchen, Cwm Idwal

After moving house and being away for three weeks, life is slowly getting back on track as we descend into the unpredictability of autumn and its unique challenges. We spent a great long weekend in Wales in May during which we tackled some of the iconic routes such as the Snowdon Horseshoe and the Nantlle Ridge. One of the mountains we climbed that weekend was Tryfan, an icon of the national park and a hill walkers playground and we were back for another go.

One thing we had opted out of last time was an ascent of Bristly Ridge, mainly because we were wary of the unknown - there is only so much information you can glean from the internet. This time though we had tagged along with some like-minded hikers who knew Tryfan and Bristly inside out, which is extremely useful in this sort of situation - especially with the varying accounts of difficulty you come across.

I've read that this route is second only to the Snowdon Horseshoe in terms of excitement but it has more of North Wales' iconic photo spots including the Cannon on Tryfan and the Cantilever on Glyder Fach. Throw in Glyder Fawr, Devil's Kitchen and Cwm Idwal and you have all the ingredients for a truly memorable day out.

The only sour note of the day was the weather which, despite being fine all week, had (typically) deteriorated just in time for the weekend. Though largely dry, a gusty 50mph wind would make things a little more interesting. The clouds were low and grey and despite assurances, rain was falling as we met up in the layby beneath Tryfan's Milestone Buttress on the A5.
A dour morning in North Wales
Suited and booted, we followed the traditional start up Tryfan by following the stone steps up alongside the drystone wall, however, at the top we crossed the stile to edge our way beneath the imposing Milestone Buttress to find the entrance to Milestone Gully which is located on the south side (right) of the crag.
Milestone Buttress and the path up alongside the drystone wall
Clambering up to the base of Milestone Gully
It had stopped raining by the time we reached the gully
The route up the gully is graded between 1 and 2 but shouldn't pose any problems if you have some experience of scrambling. The trickiest part is located before the gully entrance - the mantelshelf, a 5ft high block with no hand or footholds that require a bit of a leap and haul up with the arms and elbows. If you don't fancy that then it can be bypassed easily enough.
The mantelshelf - as awkward as it looks
Milestone Gully
Milestone Gully was pretty damp and greasy but there are plenty of nice hand and foot holds and before long we all emerged at the top having followed a route up the left-hand side of the gully.
Climbing in Milestone Gully
Onwards and upwards is the general rule for Tryfan and we continued on upwards either avoiding more difficult sections or tackling them head on. A huge tilted rock wall presented an unmissable opportunity for some grade 3 scrambling which I was happy to spectate. As ever, easier routes can be found all around.
The Ogwen valley from the top of Milestone Gully
Looking down to Llyn Ogwen
A challenge too tempting for some
Proper scrambling
The route choice is entirely up to you
Approaching the most interesting part of Tryfan
We eventually reached the famous Cannon Stone, a projecting piece of rock that is just ripe for a dramatic photograph, though we avoided it today given the strong winds which were gusting past. We watched with interest as another group had a go, just as the wind really picked up, leaving one of their party clinging precariously to the rock.
The Cannon Stone
The North Tower
More easy climbing and scrambling will get you across a wider area until you reach the North Tower, an imposing pile of stones that is actually easier to get up than it first appears. Again, we all took our own routes up, emerging at the top unscathed. My route, in particular, took me around towards the left where I found the very top of Nor Nor Gully which, if you don't fancy scrambling the North Tower, can be used as an alternative and easier route.
Some classic Tryfan action
Looking down from the Nose
The North Tower looms
Lovely scrambling on the North Tower
Looking back down the North Tower
The wind was howling across Tryfan's summit - no Adam and Eve today - so we quickly began the long descent to Bwlch Tryfan to shelter against the drystone wall and eye up our next challenge - Bristly Ridge, which was slowly emerging from the swirling clouds.
Adam and Eve on Tryfan
Llyn Bochlwyd and Y Gribin
Bristly Ridge
Bristly Ridge is another classic Snowdonia scramble and provides a direct route between Bwlch Tryfan and Glyder Fach, some 300m above. Getting up onto Bristly Ridge can be achieved by climbing either Main Gully (to the right) or Sinister Gully (to the left when viewed from Bwlch Tryfan). Despite its name, Sinister Gully is the easier of the two and can be easily identified by the large overhanging rock about half way up.
Follow the wall up to the base of the rocks

Sinister Gully (centre) with Main Gully to the right
Tryfan over Bwlch Tryfan 
The small wall at the foot of Sinister Gully
We followed the drystone wall up the scree to the foot of Sinister Gully, the entrance being next to a very small, broken piece of wall. Once again, aside from a few stretches and careful foot placements, the scramble up Sinister Gully is fairly straightforward and no more difficult than some sections on Tryfan. Though steep, there are plenty of good handholds for reassurance and the climbing does not last long once you are past the overhanging rock.
Sinister Gully
In Sinister Gully
Looking down Sinister Gully
Emerging at the top
Once on Bristly Ridge itself, any number of routes climb up and around more shattered rock until you reach the pinnacles, the rocky spires give the ridge its name. As ever, these are all best to be tackled head on, including a downclimb into the Great Pinnacle Gap, a notch between the two largest of the pinnacles along the ridge. Again, there are plenty of hand and footholds to aid you as you make your way down.
Bristly Ridge
I was expecting Bristly Ridge to be narrow and exposed in places and, while it is exciting, it's fairly broad along much of its length with a few exposed sections as you clamber around the Pinnacles. Before long a gentle rise leads to the summit plateau of Glyder Fach where we were greeted by the full force of the wind.
Bristly Ridge
Bristly Ridge
Looking down into the Great Pinnacle Gap
Llyn Bochlwyd
Bristly Ridge
The top of Bristly Ridge and Tryfan
After quickly posing on the Cantilever Stone (with some difficulty!) we rounded the pile of rocks that forms the summit and made our way down towards Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder. I made the short detour up and over Castell y Gwynt - a curious eruption of spiky, upright rocks - which required some more mild scrambling, adding a further Welsh 3,000 to the completed list.
A fine example of where Bristly Ridge gets its name
The summit of Glyder Fach
Fighting the wind on the Cantilever
Castell y Gwynt
Looking down from Castell y Gwynt
Castell y Gwynt from Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder
With the wind trying to forcefully guide us into Cwm Cneifion, we climbed up on to the summit of Glyder Fawr and took shelter among the rocks that form the summit. The plan was to head to the Devil's Kitchen and descend down to Cwm Idwal which meant a quick slide down the scree on Glyder Fawr's north side. Despite the weather, the clouds were just skirting the top of the mountain and we were still treated to some fine views, particularly of Y Garn and Pen yr Ole Wen.
Heading for Glyder Fawr
The summit area of Glyder Fawr
Looking back to Tryfan and Glyder Fach
Y Garn
Looking over the top of the Devil's Kitchen to Cwm Idwal
The slopes of Glyder Fawr
The Devil's Kitchen is a deep cleft in the wall of crag above Cwm Idwal. The Welsh name for Devil’s Kitchen is Twll Du, meaning ‘black hole’, which is a fairly apt description. The name Devil’s Kitchen comes about because of the plume of water that is often seen rising from the crack resembling a chimney. It’s said when water (or steam)can be seen rising from the chimney, the Devil was cooking. Despite the wind, Lucifer appeared to be out for the day.
The path down through the Devil's Kitchen
Devil's Kitchen
As we descended into Cwm Idwal, heavy rain arrived - often the default setting for the weather in North Wales. The rest of the walk along the shores of Llyn Idwal was completed in full waterproofs and increasingly soggy gear though a wet walk back along the A5 was spared thanks to a waiting car at Ogwen Cottage.
Rain pouring in over Cwm Idwal
In summary, this walk (or scramble) is a real highlight in Snowdonia. If you are after sustained scrambling then you'll probably have to travel to Scotland to find anything better than Tryfan and Bristly Ridge. This was my second crack at Tryfan and I was pleased to complete some of the more technical routes such as Milestone Gully and the North Tower - both of which are much more approachable than they first appear.

It was a first time on Bristly Ridge for me but again, I had built it up in my mind to be something much more challenging than it really easy. If you are happy clambering up gullies and over rocks then Bristly Ridge will pose you no problems. I, personally, didn't find it very exposed nor was it technically very difficult though that's not to say it's a walk in the park. Care and attention are the keys to successfully climbing Bristly Ridge though having people around who knew it was a huge confidence boost. I'd be happy to tackle it alone from now on.