Cold Fell is the northernmost of the North Pennine hills, as well as the northernmost in Cumbria. This short...
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Tryfan North Ridge Scramble and Descending via Llynnoedd Bochlwyd and Idwal
The Tryfan North Ridge Scramble is a challenging route of contrasts. Start off by climbing to the Summit of Tryfan and the twin obelisks of Adam and Eve, along Tryfan North Ridge – the longest sustained grade 1 scramble in the area (with a down scramble to boot). Finish this one off by ending the day in a more sedate manner by stopping off at the Glyderau’s two main lakes of Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal. Those after a challenge can continue over Bristly Ridge and complete the Bochlwyd Horseshoe.
Allow plenty of time for the scramble up Tryfan North Ridge and ignore the time given below as you’re looking at a good four hours, if not more, dependent on how confident you are on rock and the prevailing conditions.
The Tryfan North Ridge Scramble and Descending by the Two Lakes Route
If there’s one peak that’s as ‘must do’ as Snowdon, then it can only be Tryfan. While you’re approaching on the A5 from ‘England way’ then it absolutely dominates the view. Not so much to start with from Bethesda as you can only see the sheer cliffs of Glyder Fawr initially. However, once you reach Ogwen you can hardly keep your eyes off it.
There are a number of routes up, with a few South Ridge options here and here. However, everyone will agree that Tryfan North Ridge really is the must-do route. This is a sustained scramble for over 600m, with very few decent rest stops on the way. What there is in abundance is routes. The Tryfan North Ridge route proper doesn’t really exist, despite what you hear and read elsewhere. There are so many different approaches and lines to make a proper route description almost impossible, so we’ll try and give you a taste of what to expect! There’s no ‘easy’ route up, and it’s a challenging route even in fair weather. Seriously consider your options in mist, where prior knowledge is essential.
It starts from almost anywhere below the mountain on the A5, depending on where you arrive more than anything. We set off from the car park at SH659 601 (the middle one) which gives you an interesting approach over boulders initially, before skirting off below the Milestone Buttress. The heading is obvious and easy, directly uphill towards the stile.
Once across, you realise that there was a much easier path along the wall from the far layby (or near one I suppose, depending on your perspective), and this continues straight up on a rather obvious line.
It soon starts to diverge, and we took what was clearly the more scrambly route as opposed to the path, which was much longer and time-consuming. However, it was soon the case that it was less path and more scrambles. Just be careful at the junction with the Heather Terrace Path.
What you’ve now got ahead is a superb and prolonged scramble, and where it isn’t then it’s mainly boulders and heather. There’s nothing easy about it! You’ll probably find a few dead ends and have to retreat to find a line that’s more in line with your ability. We did this a number of times today, with the ‘path’ ending in a sheer wall where the way ahead wasn’t obvious. When you do find one that’s just about doable, there’s inevitably a much better option that just comes into view as you commit to the trickiest move.
While following others may seem like a good way to navigate up this mountain, beware! There were plenty going for the tougher lines, and you could tell that some were blindly following as if there were only one route up Tryfan.
Our route took a total diversion, avoiding a ludicrously busy scramble near the Tryfan summit that was overrun with ropes and guided groups. So the decision was to follow the path that diverted away to the left, which a few others decided was a good idea. After a short while, it appeared that a few others had followed but had little idea where they were headed. One couple turned back, never to be seen again, while a party had decided we were the ones to follow and what was a quiet route now seemed to be the main route to the summit.
As is usually the case, diversions on these sort of hills tend to find more problems than they avoid, and in this case we ended up somewhat below the summit and ascending a steep but OK gully to the main ridge. This was steep and there was little elegance involved as I decided that keeping three contact points on the rock at all times was good, but that other parts of the anatomy could also be utilised in order to maximise contact. So more akin to a slug in places than a spider, I made the top of the gully, having utilised my arse and my stomach as much as my usual scrambling appendages. After that the final few metres to the Tryfan summit was just an easy clamber over boulders.
As is usual on such mountains, a sunny Saturday lunchtime brings no solitude as the relatively flat summit area is usually full with just about everybody who’s going to climb this mountain today. It’s a bit like Snowdon in that respect, very busy with a good mix of different people. The main difference is the proportion, with the few ill equipped who venture up looking woefully out of place as opposed to being the norm on Snowdon. Another is the number of packs with ropes, though I suspect many bring them up to sit on.
With crowds come spectacle, and in this instance it was the Adam and Eve, will they or won’t they type. Plenty stood on top, mainly to take pictures, but a few cocksure individuals were soon slightly less sure of their cocks (poultry, of course) after actually getting up onto one of the monoliths. One guy did it, with ease, while I’m sure someone else managed it as a few people clapped while I was much happier and busier destroying a hefty ham sandwich.
After what was a decent lunch break, the descent down the South Ridge is hardly what you’d call all downhill from here, though I suppose it technically is I think you know what I mean. Further boulder hopping, arse scrambling and even more less elegant moves ensue on the relatively short section to Bwlch Tryfan. If you’re a walker, you’re now in more familiar territory as Tryfan truly is a climber’s mountain. You can now get the map out properly and actually follow a path, whereas a map is rather limited on Tryfan itself.
The view towards Llyn Bochlwyd, with Gribin, Glyder Fawr and Y Garn behind make it a memorable descent. That’s the beauty of the Glyderau on this side; they’re so compact that you get a sense of being in the mountains you get in very few other areas locally bar Cwm Glas. Llyn Bochlwyd is worth stopping at, perhaps at the outflow stream that bubbles off over and under myriad boulders. You can decide at this point if you want to descend directly to the A5, along the path to Ogwen Cottage or continue onwards to end the journey in Cwm Idwal. That was the intention, but a badly sprained ankle on the descent of Tryfan meant it was directly to Ogwen today.
However, it’s better to continue along the path past Llyn Bochlwyd and towards the base of Y Gribin on an occasionally faint path, which soon descends steeply towards Llyn Idwal. It follows a wall on the final section, before meeting the really obvious path on the shore of the lake. You just need to turn right on this to return to Ogwen, or you can add a circuit of the lake if you want to get some distance under your belt.Conwy Ogwen Tryfan