Llyn Idwal, the Cribyn and the Devil's Kitchen
Between the wooded valley of Betws y Coed and the slate quarries of Bethesda, before the road makes its descent to Caernarfon and the coast, the motorist hurtling west on the A5 passes through some of the wildest scenery in Wales. Dark peaks of jagged stone rise from an empty sweep of moorland to play hide and seek in the clouds, lonely mountain tarns nestle beneath the ridgeline and streams thread their way down through the boulders to feed the dark waters of Llyn Ogwen. This is the Ogwen Valley, surrounded by 7 of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks and I was here to walk up 2 of them - Glyder Fawr and Y Garn.
Setting out from the carpark at Llyn Ogwen I passed the curious gully through which a path is seen to ascend. You can go up to Llyn Idwal and Y Garn that way, but today I followed the Llyn Idwal path up away from the road. The tarn was soon reached, beneath the Idwal slabs and the dark cirque of cliffs beyond. I followed the path around to the left of the still water before heading straight up the slope opposite a tiny rocky island.
Traces of a path could be seen here and I climbed the slope quickly. It was grassy at first, becoming stonier as height was gained, always steep but not difficult. I followed a wall up this slope until it ended by a steep crag. My route now lay to the right of this up a stony gully towards the skyline.
The gully itself came to an end on a grassy hillside with great views back down the length of the Nant Ffrancon valley to the coast beyond. The path, now clearer, followed the slope around as the isolated rock peak of Tryfan came into view ahead. Here a fainter path climbed the slope to the right, the main one continuing on around the mountainside towards Bwlch Tryfan and the base of Bristly Ridge.
As I headed up the slope I spotted a herd of wild goats above and a bit higher up and I cut across the slope above them for a better view. I'd seen the odd goat wandering around these hills before but never a full herd and here 2 males were having a half hearted looking battle while the rest lazed around on the shelf they occupied high above the Ogwen.
Back to the path and up a last steep rise to where spectacular views across to Tryfan and down to Llyn Bochlwyd appeared once again. Beyond, the path levelled out and crossed a wide plateau like area on the far side of which rose the craggy ridge of Y Gribin. Glyder Fawr beyond was now hidden in grey cloud and the mist clung to one side of the ridge forming ever shifting patterns in the wind.
The ridge itself began with an enjoyable easy scramble up between the rock crest and boulders which were banked up against this - the western side of the ridge. The weather was closing in and a patch of sunlight briefly lit Pen yr Ole Wen across the valley while here, the cold grey cloud rolled down to meet me. On the other side of the crest, crags dropped precipitously to Llyn Bochlwyd.
I followed the line just to the right of the crest until near the top where the easiest way went down slightly to the right before a scramble up cold damp rocks led onto a windblown plateau in a grey mist - a total contrast to the boulders and shallow cliffs of the ridge. This route is easier than the neighboring Bristly Ridge up to Glyder Fach but the last bit does require route finding. Once the way is found it's not too hard.
Now I followed a path roughly south west then west towards Glyder Fawr somewhere in the blank mist ahead. The path climbed slowly over stony ground until rocky tors like those on Dartmoor reared up out of the fog. The path levelled and I paused for a chilly lunch stop on the highest point of the Glyders range.
From the summit of Glyder Fawr the way led down gently at first then more steeply and, as the path curved down to the right, down a very steep, loose slope until I emerged below the cloud to a view of a small tarn - Llyn Cwn, set in a marshy looking plateau. The rain began in earnest as I descended the last part and I decided to leave Y Garn for today and head down the Devil's Kitchen path as a short cut back to the valley. The path coming down from Glyder Fawr crosses another path by the tarn and I turned right here for the Devil's Kitchen, straight on would have taken me back up into the rainsoaked mist that hid Y Garn from view.
I hadn't done this route before and it quite fascinating. The grassy plateau between the Glyders and Y Garn suddenly ends with a view straight down to Llyn Idwal and the Ogwen valley. From this, the top of the cliffs behind Llyn Idwal, the path descends a stony shelf below the sheer cliff face and the deep gully known as the Devil's Kitchen. Once below this, the path goes straight down. Stones have been piled into rough steps to make the going easier as the scree slope is descended until the path curves back to the right at the bottom of the steep section.
Perhaps half way down to Llyn Idwal, there was what appeared to be a school party congregated on the path. A river cut across the path here and it was this they were negotiating one by one as the teacher or instructor shouted directions. The river here could be more or less be described as a waterfall and its crossing would have had a bridge had it been in Switzerland or fixed cables in France. the crossing was only short but looked treacherous - a slip on the wet polished rocks would not be good for the health and I was surprised they weren't using a rope.
Not wishing to queue up for the chance to break my neck I headed down this side of the river and crossed it lower down where it was just some easy stepping stones rejoining the path lower down. They were still up there when I reached Llyn Idwal and stopped to take a photo. The tarn had a certain mystical quality in this light with Pen yr ole wen rising opposite. I passed where I'd set off earlier by the little island and continued back to the car park at Llyn Ogwen. Y Garn would wait for another day.
Pete Buckley May 2008