The north face of Tryfan in the Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia, is a favourite scramble for walkers and climbers. Part of the Glyderau group, it is a famously fin-shaped mountain of rock and boulders, declared the 15th
highest mountain in Wales at 917.5m. Its name translates as “Three Rocks”, referencing the 3 rocky humps seen on the summit.
At BCH Camping
we enjoy hearing about our customers’ walks, and many of those who have climbed the north ridge of Tryfan tell us that it is their favourite scramble. You can’t reach Tryfan’s summit without using your hands (that being the definition of a scramble) and whilst there are many routes to the top, ranging from low grade scrambles to challenging rock climbs, the most popular is the North Ridge.
Using basic scrambling techniques, it may not be the walk for everyone depending on ability, so we’ve mapped out one of the ascent routes to give our customers of all abilities some insight and decide for themselves whether it would be for them.
Scrambling the north face of Tryfan, Snowdonia; the climb detail
Starting out from Llyn Ogwen in the Ogwen Valley, these are the details of the walk:
Length: 2.5 miles/just over 4km
Location: Grid reference SH 663 602
Parking: A5 between Bethesda and Betws-y-Coed, lay-bys and road side parking
Time: 4 hours
Scramble: Grade 1. This grading is defined by the British Mountaineering Council as “an exposed walking route. Most tend to be relatively straightforward with many difficulties avoidable, and some of the most popular days out in the British mountains are ‘easy’ Grade 1 scrambles”.
Given that this is a grade 1 rating and that there is relatively low exposure compared to other ridges, Tryfan is a good place for new or less experienced scramblers to either cut their teeth or test their skills. That doesn’t mean it should be underestimated, and confident navigation is essential as paths are few and far between.
Take the path from the main road towards the Milestone Buttress. At the foot of the Milestone Buttress you should ignore the wooden stile to the right and instead take the left path which is a steeper ascent with the Milestone Buttress now on your right.
After just over a hundred metres, start to head south up a gully where you will find many different available routes which all lead to the same place, as long as you continue in a southerly direction. You will eventually reach a large flat area with a large mound of rough stones. Here, if you look west you will see an almost entirely white, flat open ledge and the Canon Stone which is a large splinter of rock that sticks out of the mountain at a 45° angle.
After taking in the view, or perhaps wandering over to the Canon Stone to take a closer look, from the flat area with the mound of rough stones climb over the huge stone wall that blocks your way onto the ridge. There are many routes over the wall, so it may be worth observing how others tackle it first. Once you are over the wall you are on the North Ridge and the scrambling begins.
Whilst the scrambling on Tryfan is rarely technically challenging, bad weather can leave the rock treacherously slippery. In particular, the scaly pinnacle of the North Tower that marks the final summit push can be extremely challenging in poor conditions. Circumnavigating the Tower can be a mistake, however, as it may lead you to the eastern “climbers” traverse and into more difficult ground such as North Gully. Instead, confront the North Tower and be rewarded with stunning views of Ogwen Valley.
After a mix of scrambling difficulty that allows you to choose easier or harder routes, you will reach the summit, and the huge monoliths, Adam and Eve. Both are approximately 3m high and separated by a gap of 1.2m. A famous mountain challenge, to celebrate reaching the summit, is to take the “Leap of Faith” by jumping the 1.2m gap between the two to be awarded the Freedom of Tryfan. The exposure and huge drops either side of the narrow summit area makes this a very risky challenge and shouldn’t be underestimated!
Begin your descent by heading south west for 200m to the pass between the summit and the Far South Peak, where you will see the Heather Terrance path skirting the eastern side of the mountain. Continue south to Bwlch Tryfan, the pass between Tryfan and Glyder Fach.
Ignore the stone wall and stile at Bwlch Tryfan, and instead turn right and descend in a north westerly direction to Cwm Bochlwyd. You then head towards the far north eastern corner of Llyn Bochlwyd but on the way, just before the path crosses the Nant Bochlwyd, turn right and descend a path that heads towards and over Bochlwyd Buttress.
You will eventually reach the A5 road again, and the beautiful shores of Llyn Ogwen.
As with many scrambles, the right conditions will make this a more enjoyable experience. Rain makes the rock slippery, low cloud will exacerbate navigation problems and wind will make walking and scrambling tricky at times. On a finer day, the options to explore and push your skills to the limit are available in abundance. The question remains, however; would you
Adam and Eve it?
supply all the clothing
equipment necessary to prepare you for a fantastic scramble in one of our magnificent national parks. If we can be of any help, or you would like to share your own experiences of scrambling the north face of Tryfan, get in touch