Snowdonia’s Idwal Skyline

It seemed like ages since Deb and I had wandered amongst Snowdonia’s higher peaks so with a free weekend looming, we booked a couple of night’s stay at the National Mountain Centre, Plas y Brenin, emptied the contents of our ‘outdoordrobe’ into the back of the car and piled up the A5 to Eryri. Woohoo!

The forecast for Saturday looked half-decent so we decided on one of our favourite routes: the Idwal Skyline – a grade 1 scramble up Tryfan’s awesome north ridge, down its south then up on to Glyder Fach by the atmospheric Bristly Ridge (also grade 1). From Glyder Fach we’d head across the plateau to Glyder Fawr then drop down to Llyn y Cwn before a final pull up to Y Garn (for one of the finest views in Snowdonia – see main image on home page) and a descent via its shapely NE ridge. Then back to the Brenin bar for lashings of tea and cake (or beer and chips as it transpired).

After a gloomy start, with minimal visibility and some greasy rock low down on Tryfan’s north ridge, things rapidly improved as we reached the famous Cannon stone. Here the mist dispersed, leaving us looking out over a glorious cloud inversion, where we were treated to that most elusive of mountain weather phenomena; the Brocken Spectre (the magnified shadow of the viewer cast by the sun onto clouds below. The head of the shadow is often surrounded by a halo of coloured light; the glory, formed by refraction of the sun’s light through water droplets in the cloud.)

Now under blue skies and sunshine, we attacked the best of the scrambling high on the narrowing crest of the north ridge, before carrying on over the busy summit and down the easier scramble-walk of the south ridge.

Bristly Ridge’s craggy frontage loomed large ahead. The eponymous, pinnacled ridge crest above is usually gained by one of two steep gullies that cleave this frontage, often referred to as Sinister and Dexter Gullies (from the Latin for left and right respectively). We opted for the slightly harder confines of Dexter Gully and heaved our way up on to the crest. Avoiding the occasional flanking path we stuck to the rocky crest as much as possible and had a fantastic time following the tortuous line up grooves and chimneys, over tilted slabs and down and around assorted pinnacles. (Evidently not everyone finds Bristly Ridge as entertaining as we do and we had to stop beyond the prominent notch of Great Pinnacle Gap to talk an anxious couple through its gloomy confines and direct them to the relative safety of the nearby bypass path. Although the ridge runs at Grade 1, it is at the top end of the grade and includes some quite serious situations where the consequences of a slip don’t bear thinking about. Not a route for the inexperienced).

The awesome Bristly Ridge all too soon peters out onto an elevated boulder pavement, leaving just a short stroll to the huge jumble of giant boulders that is the summit of Glyder Fach. After posing for the obligatory photo on nearby rock feature, the Cantilever, we continued over the spiky top of Castell y Gwynt, Castle of the Wind, and onward to the rocky moonscape of Glyder Fawr’s summit plateau.

The descent from Glyder Fawr to Llyn y Cwn, a small lake on a grassy col above the Devil’s Kitchen cliffs, is either tedious and knee-jarring or slithery and swift, depending on both mood and weather. The assorted ‘paths’ zig-zag down seemingly endless gutters of loose scree and the one redeeming feature is that you are not trying to walk up it. Employing a mixture of jogging and sliding, it didn’t take us long to reach the lake, leaving just the steady plod up the long grassy slope to the top of Y Garn. Our arrival here was met with strong gales, making it difficult to stay upright at times. We persisted for a while, enjoying one of our favourite views, as the setting sun illuminated the top of Tryfan and highlighted our day’s route across the two Glyders. A wind assisted descent down the NE ridge got us to Ogwen cottage in time to bag a slice of cake and a cuppa at the tea shack before it closed. Result!

Quite possibly one of the finest views in Snowdonia

This route comes it at around 12km/7.5 miles, with 1300m/4250ft of ascent. Much of the ascent involves Grade 1 scrambling where some prior experience is desirable. Fancy a go at this route or something similar, with or without the scrambling aspect? Keep an eye on the What’s On section or please get in touch for more information.


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