All the Routes up Tryfan

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All the Routes up Tryfan

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Tryfan is one of the most iconic mountains in the UK, certainly in Wales. It just looks like a mountain from every direction, without a single easy approach available! At 917m high, it’s just one of the main 15 Peaks, and when recently re-measured it was feared it would lose that status. Thankfully, they discovered it was slightly higher than first thought. The summit of Tryfan is dominated by the twin obelisks of Adam and Eve, with the perilous leap from one to the other granting the ‘freedom of Tryfan’ .

Why is it called Tryfan It’s basically Tri Faen – which is Welsh for three rocks or stones, a reference to the three rocky summits that are clear from some angles.

How Dangerous is Climbing Tryfan?

Considering that there are no walks on this mountain – it should be treated with the utmost respect. As far as dangerous goes, it Tryfan has claimed the lives of many climbers and walkers over the years. We did a quick back of an envelope calculation* over the last 30 years, and here are the call out and fatality statistics:

  • Number of deaths in last 30 years is 17. Of these 7 have occurred since 2015.
  • 56 mountain deaths in total were reported by Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team in the same period
  • 30% of all deaths in the Glyderau and Carneddau were on Tryfan. Certainly seems disproportionate, but Tryfan is one of the most popular destinations in the area.
  • The deadliest year was 2015 when 3 people died on Tryfan.
  • Number of call outs to Tryfan in the last 30 years = 516
  • Most call outs were in 2017 with 33 call outs – but 2009 and 2012 also saw 32 call outs.
  • Call outs increased in 2008 from 14 the previous year to 32 call outs – a trend that appears to have stuck over the last 10 years. Are mobile phones responsible? From 1988 – 2008 (21 years) there were 265 Call outs, 12.6 call outs a year and a death on average every 2 years. In the 9 years since then there’s been 253 call outs (up to 2017) – 28 a year and a death every 18 months. Over that same 9 year period, the first 6 years from 2009 – 2014 didn’t see a single fatality.

If that’s scared you, then good! If you’re not approaching this mountain with a healthy dose of caution, then you’re best keep clear from it. However, that shouldn’t put off the competent walkers and scramblers contemplating the climb.

Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team are responsible for rescues on the mountain and risk life and limb to rescue people from this and nearby mountains. Don’t become another of their statistics, so here are a few tips before you set off.

Simple tips for safely ascending Tryfan

  • Avoid when wet and windy, and when visibility is poor.
  • It’s a totally different proposition in winter conditions, a full on winter mountaineering trip.
  • Do not hesitate to back track, as once you’ve got yourself crag fast, that’s it!
  • Remember that veering off the route can easily find the scrambler in terrain that’s beyond their capability, easily.
  • Ensure you’re properly kitted out – but you’re on Mud and Routes, so you should already know that, right?
  • If in doubt about your skill and abilities, join a paid group. Some of these rope up, but it’s questionable that if you need to be roped up on this scramble, if you shouldn’t be doing something easier first!
  • Don’t think that carrying a rope will help unless you’re a climber and you know what to do with it.
  • The North Face is a sustained scramble, you’ll definitely feel it in your arms the next day –  so make sure you’re fit enough for it. The other routes up aren’t as hard on the arms!
  • Be Polite! It’s surprising how many people will ignore the fact you’ve been waiting for someone ahead of you to negotiate a step and just push in. Don’t be that person and use some common sense! It is a busy mountain, unfortunately.

What pubs are good for Tryfan? There’s nothing, so you’ll either need to go to Capel Curig and one of Bryn Tyrch, Tyn-y-Coed or Cobdens, or Bethesda and one of the many pubs there with the Douglas Arms having most character.

Recommended Tryfan Maps:  OS Explorer OL17 Snowdon & Conwy ValleySnowdonia BMC (British Mountain Map) Snowdonia North XT25Landranger 115 Snowdon & Caernarfon

Tryfan Weather Forecast: Met Office Snowdonia Mountain Weather

There are only three distinct approaches to Tryfan, all of them worth doing, and with no other options for the non-rope carrying hill walker. All these routes are scrambles requiring a level of skill beyond just being fit, and a definite head for heights. Some sections are exposed!

Tryfan North Ridge

Height Gained – 600 metres,  Distance – 2 km, Time –3-4 hours.

The scramble up the North Face of Tryfan is a classic grade 1 scramble. Every single one of those metres ascended are gained by scrambling upwards, with no easy option. It’s hands on rock all the way to the summit. Try and find the Cannon on the way up, a horizontal stone that’s a well known photo opportunity on the North Ridge.

Tryfan South Ridge

Height Gained – 600 metres,  Distance – 3.2 km, Time –2.5 hours.

This route up Tryfan is more of a clamber than a scramble, but the most obvious line is never easy to follow! You can make it harder than it needs to be, but there’s a path for most of the way if you manage to actually find it. If you don’t, it becomes more hands on, but shouldn’t be more than an easy scramble. If it starts to feel like a climb, look for an easier line! Finally, just before the summit is a ‘bad step’ that has some exposure – so be warned!

Tryfan’s South Ridge is variously approached from Cwm Tryfan or via Cwm Bochlwyd and Cwm Idwal. It’s also used as the usual descent route after ascending the North Ridge.

Tryfan’s Heather Terrace

Height Gained – 600 metres,  Distance – 2.5km, Time –2.5 hours.

The Heather Terrace is the best route up Tryfan for those who think that the North Ridge is too exposed. It’s a fine balance of scrambling and walking along a good ledge on Tryfan’s east face. It joins the South Ridge for the final leg to the summit.

Tryfan’s Plan B – the Tryfan Circuit.

Height Gained – 490 metres,  Distance – 7.6 km, Time –3.5 hours.

This route is perfect to keep in the back pocket in the event that the weather is against you, or if winter conditions are too much. Be warned though that this is far from an easy route – as you still have around 500m of ascent on rough mountain trails. As a bonus, you get to walk along Llyn Ogwen and Llyn Bochwlyd, with an optional diversion to Llyn Idwal highly recommended.

Other Grade 1, 2 and 3 Scrambles on Tryfan

What of the more adventurous scramblers? Well there’s even more options for those wanting a Grade 2 or 3 scramble. Here’s a summary of the best grade 2 and 3 named scrambles up Tryfan according to Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton, published by Cicerone. We recommend you pick up a copy of Scrambles in Snowdonia for full details of these routes, and a rope! We’ve listed them by East or West Face, the scrambling grade. We’ve included scrambles that are borderline grade 1 /2 as grade 2 below. It’s very easy to find yourself on treacherous ground if you lose your line on these scrambles, so these are for experienced scramblers who are comfortable with routes of these difficulty.

Tryfan East Face Scrambles

Grade 1 Scrambles: Little and North Gullies

Grade 2 Scrambles: Bastow Buttress Variant, Nor’ Nor’ Gully, Nor’ Nor’ Groove (borderline grade 1/2), North Buttress Variant,

Grade 3 Scrambles: Nor’ Nor’ Buttress Variant (Severe), Pinnacle Rib Variant, South Gully, South Buttress

Tryfan West Face Scrambles

Grade 2 Scrambles: Milestone Gully Approach (borderline grade 1/2), Notch Arete, Y Gully

Grade 3 Scrambles: Milestone Buttress Approach, Milestone Continuation, Wrinkled Tower (Severe), West Face Route, V Buttress, V Arete

*Note on our Statistical Analysis: We calculated these using the statistics provided by OVMRT on their website – link – and had to wade through all the call outs in order to figure out which ones were fatal or not. We may well have missed a number where this wasn’t made clear. We checked the locations to include only Tryfan and this is the approximate count from the data to hand. Note that there were 35 or so with locations provided as lat/lon – and we didn’t include these as we were too lazy to convert them. None of those were fatal call outs. We’d love to have been able to compare each mountain accurately, but this would require a lot of manual data work in order to do so. Many call outs are also non-mountain searches, which would also need to be filtered out so we could gain a proper comparison of each mountain. Then we can add the other MRT data to this!

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