The Bochlwyd Horseshoe
By Dave Chick
on January 23, 2019 No ratings yet.
The Bochlwyd Horseshoe
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One of the premier routes in North Wales, the Bochlwyd Horseshoe is a must on any hikers list – an epic days outing above the cymoedd of the Glyderau. One of the best Scrambling routes in Snowdonia.
Route Start Location: Milestone Buttress layby, A5
|6.59 km||817 m||7 - 8 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Scrambling, Scrambling Grade 1
Summits and Places on this Route
Visitor centre at Ogwen with cafe and toilets.
This route has a significant amount of scrambling and, route finding on Tryfan can be challenging. A head for heights will be required and scrambling experience is highly recommended. Straying off the crest of Tryfan can lead to difficult ground on both the east and west faces. Tryfan needs to be treated with respect – it is the site of numerous MRT callouts each year.
Parking : Approx LL57 3LZ
Laybys line both sides of the A5; you should be able to find a space on all but the very busiest days
Infrequent Sherpa buses from Bangor and Betws y Coed.
The Bochlwyd Horseshoe
The Bochlwyd Horseshoe is one of the definitive routes in North Wales, perhaps only bested by the Snowdon Horseshoe. It is one of the most adventurous outings you can have without having to resort to ropes or harnesses and, it takes in a number of the most photographed locations in Snowdonia along the way. We’re hesitant to call this a walk as you will spend half your time using your hands as you scramble the classic North Ridge on Tryfan (Grade 1), Bristly Ridge on Glyder Fach (Grade 1 – 2) and Y Gribin on descent (Grade 1).
Scrambling the Bochlwyd Horseshoe is more varied than the Snowdon Horseshoe (whose true highlight is Crib Goch). In addition to some exposed aretes, you will also encounter narrow gullies that offer several options to increase or decrease the difficulty of the scrambling, making it suitable for novice and experienced scramblers alike. Typically, if a section looks too hard, there will likely be an easier line elsewhere.
While the overall route clocks in at little over 8km, it will feel significantly longer and tougher than it appears on paper, but don’t let that put you off. If you have a decent level of fitness and a head for heights, you’ll love this epic days outing.
The Bochlwyd Horseshoe Scramble Route Description
1 – Depending on where you manage to park, head towards Tryfan and the layby below Milestone Buttress, a prominent crag at the base of Tryfan. Pass through a metal gate in the wall next to the road (SH 66358 60283) and climb the steps to reach a stone wall. Follow the wall until the path moves left to climb a large boulder field and grassy terraces.
2 – Once above the Milestone Buttress turn south (right) to climb one of the many broad, boulder-filled gullies. They all lead to generally the same location on the main north ridge. Keep on a southerly heading until you reach a large area of quartz a short distance away from the famed Cannon (SH 66517 59789) – the first of a number of famed photo spots on this route.
3 – The rocks behind the Cannon can be tackled head-on (which is a higher grade of scrambling) or bypassed by finding some easier routes around to the left. Once above the Cannon, there is a respite from scrambling as the ridge broadens and climbs to the Nose, a huge rock pyramid that, upon first inspection, may appear impassable. This is not the case. As with most scrambles the most straightforward line is to climb the Nose directly. Keep an eye out for the polished sections of rock which define the most used lines. The Nose leads to the top of Nor Nor Buttress.
4 – Once up the Nose, drop down slightly into The Notch, with gullies falling away either side. Maintain a southerly heading, climbing the ridge until you will reach the North Tower, a tall spire barring the way. A direct route up and over the tower is possible though the scrambling grade is high with a tricky move behind a large flake. Easier routes can be found around the right of the North Tower.
5 – Once above the tower you will be atop the North Buttress with a view across the Tryfan’s summit. Descent again into another depression. A gully directly ahead leads up onto the boulders that lead to Tryfan’s summit. A pair of large stones marks the top; Adam and Eve. To leap the 1.2m gap between them is to gain the ‘Freedom of Tryfan’ though it is not for the faint-hearted.
6 – Continue south, descending Tryfan’s South Ridge. This is mostly a steep walk though some scrambling will likely be encountered. There is no specific path to follow until you reach Bwlch Tryfan. The descent will allow you to eye up your next objective – Bristly Ridge.
7 – From Bwlch Tryfan, follow the wall as it climbs up towards the lower crags of Bristly Ridge. The climb is steep, up rocks and loose scree. There are two gullies which climb up to Bristly Ridge; Sinister (meaning left rather than overly dangerous) and Dexter. Sinister is described here and the left-most of the two gulleys.
8 – To reach Sinister gully, head left over a short wall (which appears to hold back rockfall) to reach the base of the gully. Sinister gully can be identified by an overhanging rock part way up. The scramble up the gully is steep but highly enjoyable thanks to an abundance of hand and footholds. Eventually, you will emerge onto easier ground above.
9 – Bristly ridge continues as a wider, rocky shoulder which narrows as it reaches the pinnacles. These are the spires of rock which give the ridge its name. Maintain a line along the crest of the ridge, scrambling over the obstacles as you encounter them until you have to downclimb into a gap. This is the Great Pinnacle Gap with Great Pinnacle towering ahead of you. Once down into the gap, make your way around the right of the Great Pinnacle where you will see a gully climbing back to the ridge.
10 – Some final scrambling awaits as you reach the final pinnacle. You will find yourself on a terrace with tall walls all around. You can ascend a gap between the pinnacle and the main wall of the ridge or tackle the wall directly. Once over the final obstacle, the rewards of Glyder Fach await.
11 – You should pick up the main walkers path shortly after emerging from Bristly Ridge. Bear right as the path leads to the summit, passing the famous Cantilever on the way – another one of the classic photo ops on this walk (SH 65761 58383). Attaining Glyder Fach’s summit requires some additional scrambling.
12 – Once over the summit, you will be heading for the interesting Castell y Gwynt, a strange, spiky outcrop on the western end of Glyder Fach’s main summit ridge. It’s an optional extra (though it is sometimes considered one of the Welsh 3000s). The path passes around to the left, descending into Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder. Bear right (SH 65231 58159) to keep to the path which hugs the rim of the cwm below to reach the top of Y Gribin.
13 – While Y Gribin descends all the way to Llyn Bochlwyd, only the upper third is a true scramble with all the characteristics of Tryfan’s north ridge. The crest offers the best scrambling though any difficulties can be avoided by picking up a path to the west. Around halfway you will reach a large, flat area of grass – the Football Field (SH 65024 58639). Bear right across the field to find a noticeable path which descends to Nant Bochlwyd.
14 – The path will reach the stream, following the left-hand side as it tumbles down a rocky canyon below Llyn Bochlwyd. At the foot of the canyon, bear right to cross the stream (SH 65518 59676), following a fainter path below Bochlwyd Buttress. This path crosses open ground which is sometimes boggy but leads directly back to the A5 below Tryfan (SH 65895 60162).
For more walks up Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach, visit our All the Walking Routes up Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach article.