A Travellerspoint blog

Y Garn from the Ogwen

A little visited part of the Glyders

sunny 21 °C

The waters of Llyn Idwal sparkled in a sun that shone warmly from a hazy blue sky. Summer had reached the Ogwen Valley in North Wales' Snowdonia National Park and the jagged line of peaks overlooking Llyn Ogwen had emerged from their customary garb of cold grey mist.

Having ascended from the car park by the youth hostel, I turned right by some large boulders just before Llyn Idwal and crosseda small wooden bridge. Across the shimmering water rose the grey cliffs of Glyder Fawr and Y Garn with the dark cleft of the Devil's Kitchen in the craggy wall joining the 2 peaks. I'd gotten wet last time I'd been up there but I wouldn't today - not unless I fell in a river on the way up anyway!

Following the obvious trail I reached the wall a short distance uphill andturned sharp right off the main path - straight on goes directly up Y Garn - my return route. I now followed a route that is little used and little known by the bulk of the visitors to the area.

After passing through a sheepfoldbehind the wall, the way crossed the rough hillside for a short distance before climbing steeply up to the left still beside the wall. At one point there's a vertical rock step about 10 feet high but you can bypass this to the left. On again steeply up after pausing for a rest above the step, the road visible way below across the valley. The steep slope soon ended andI turned right over a small stile. Here a much easier path led off up the side of a wide valley crossing grass and scree alternately with craggy slopes rising to the left. The valley was deserted save for a few wandering sheep and the path led presently to a stream - which I avoided falling into - and steeply once more up the slopes of Foel Goch opposite.

There now followed a short but steep climb over loose stones which had been visible from the path lower down but I was soon back on a pleasanter slope of grass and bilberry over which the path led steadily up to where the ground fell away to the right to reveal the lower stretch of the Ogwen Valley and the road some 2000 feet below. With spectacular views of the crags falling into Cwm Coch almost directly below, I followed the wide ridge of sheep cropped turf around to reach the summit of Foel Goch.

This is a breathtaking spot, the wide grassy summit area only at the last moment revealing the almost sheer drop off to the valley floor, the first remotely level ground for over 2000 feet. I sat down on the warm short grass by the small cairn, legs hanging over the edge and drank some water after the warm climb in the sun. Between my boots I absently watched the antics on the A5 separated from me by half a mile of fresh air. Cars and motorbikes careered silently along the thin grey strip, performing reckless looking overtaking manoeuvres with the occasional sound of a blaring horn drifting up to mark each near death experience below.

Another walker - the first I'd seen since Cwm Idwal - joined me on the summit and voiced amazement at the view down this side of Foel Goch. The grassy sheep walk revealed nothing of the cliff edge nearby with views from the Glyders and Snowdon to Anglesey and the sea in the other direction. Equally from the Lower Ogwen Valley the peak appears as an impregnable rock pyramid - the easy slopes being invisible from below.

The walk to Y Garn was simply a case of following the line of the fence down to the col and joining the path - now more pronounced - up to the summit. The climb was steep but easy and I reached the stony top of Y Garn sooner than expected passing a false summit which is the top of the ridge coming up from Cwm Idwal - this would be my descent route.

I enjoyed lunch undisturbed on the summit of Y Garn with views of the crags of Glyder Fawr and Tryfan. Below Glyder Fawr on the wide ridge was the tarn of Llyn y Cwn that I'd walked past in the rain on my last visit to Ogwen while directly below was an interesting view of Llyn Clyd directly below Y Garn, Llyn Idwal and Llyn Ogwen in the valley. They all appeared close together from this vantage point but in fact are at widely differing heights down the mountain. On the far side of the ridge was Snowdon and far below, the valley of Llanberis where Llyn Peris could be seen between the trees.

The descent from here is easier than it looks. Back down a short way to the flat false summit and a short walk to the northern rim revealed not a sheer drop but a steep stony ridge sloping down towards the Ogwen Valley. Some guides describe this as a scramble but you rarely need to use your hands and the way is not loose or slippy.

I was surprised at having Y Garn to myself on such a glorious warm spring day but here was a hiker coming up the ridge not far down.

"Is it far to go?" he enquired
"About 10 minutes" I replied. "You're nearly there." He looked puzzled at this.
"Where's the restaurant and the train station from here then?"

I somehow sensed that this had been coming. The guy actually thought he was on Snowdon. Not only was he on the wrong mountain - he was in completely the wrong range!

"Come to think of it, the car park did look different..."

He had a laugh at his mistake and I said this was a better summit on a day like this, the world and all his dogs would be on Snowdon today. He preceded me down the ridge to inform his companions the they wouldn't be getting the train down after all.

Stories like this one are amusing - with many of the people wandering Snowdonia and the Lakeland Fells with no more idea where they are than the average sheep has, but if they had to call the rescue team for any reason they would be searching completely the wrong area.

I follwed the path back down past the wild looking Cwm containing Llyn Clyd - the part below here perhaps steeper than the ridge - and followed the path back down to the gate where I'd turned off to head to Foel Goch. From here it was just an easy walk back through Cwm Idwal to Llyn Ogwen though I half expected to be approached and asked the way back to Wasdale Head or some such place many miles away!

Pete Buckley July 2008


Posted by PeteB 18:57 Archived in Wales Tagged foot Comments (0)

Glyder Fawr from the Ogwen

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


Posted by PeteB 05:27 Archived in Wales Tagged foot Comments (0)

Glyder Fach from the Ogwen

An easier route to Glyder Fach visiting Bwlch Tryfan


The north westerly wind drove the cloud shadows swiftly across the Ogwen Valley rapidly changing the landscape from a harsh winter grey to softer autumn golds as the sun shone momentarily in blue space before retreating behind iron grey clouds.

The route I was taking today was from the exposed shore of Llyn Ogwen directly up to Llyn Bochlwyd before crossing Bwlch Tryfan - the gap separating Tryfan from Glyder Fach. Instead of the scrambling route up Bristly Ridge I would gain the summit of Glyder Fach by firstly following the path across its north east face and then heading back up the east ridge, an altogether easier route than Bristly Ridge.

I left the car park near the mid point of Llyn Ogwen and headed up the stone steps of the path behind it. After the initially steep but short slope, the path began heading over towards the sharp rocky peak of Tryfan. I left the main path and crossed a boggy area before climbing another steep slope of tussock and boulders to the south. The path faded in and out a bit here and it was a case of scrambling and sliding one's way up towards Llyn Bochlwyd which isn't too far above.

The main aim was to avoid following the gully and its stream too closely and the route was easier now I'd climbed up to the left a bit. You can avoid these shennanigans by setting off from the main car park at the western end of Llyn Ogwen and following the main path past Llyn Idwal - I could see people on it on the far side of the gully below. That path is clear all the way but you have to pay for parking whereas it was free where I'd stopped!

Soon though I joined the wide highway of the main path as it skirted past Llyn Bochlwyd, a fine mountain tarn nestled beneath the crags of the Glyderau. The rocky face of Glyder Fach towered ahead to the clouds seemingly inacessible to walkers from here.

The path now led up into increasingly rough terrain, following a narrow stony valley upwards between Glyder Fach and Tryfan. After passing some huge boulders which had at some point crashed down from the crags above, the ground opened up ahead to reveal the col of Bwlch Tryfan not far on. I was soon up to it and crossing the stile over the wall which follows the ridge. The far side of the wall was sheltered from the cold wind which was gusting in from the north west.

Leaving Bwlch Tryfan, I followed the track firstly through heather and boulders, then out across the more open scree slopes below Glyder Fach. The route here was interesting being an easy route through the craggy Glyderau Range, continuing as it does down to Capel Curig opr the Pen y Gwryd Hotel on the far side. From this secure path over an unstable looking mountainside was a view which summed up the best of Snowdonia. Below my vantage point the slope plunged into the heathery depths of Cwm Tryfan while the peak of Tryfan rose like a jagged three pronged tower on its far side, shreds of mist occasionally hiding its top. Across the Ogwen Valley, the mountains of the Carneddau rose into a grey ceiling - no view from that side today. The Glyderau often escapes the low cloud though, having slightly higher peaks both to the north and the south.

Where the path forked I took the right branch which took me steeply up the slope to emerge on the ridge above not far from the tarn of Llyn Caseg Fraith. Now, with views right across Wales I began the walk up the wide ridge to the west. Dark clouds and heavy showers which would be of snow up here drifted across the sun dappled landscape of mountains, valleys and shining lakes but all seemed to miss Glyder Fach. Once as I drew level with the top of Tryfan, that peak vanished into the grey as did the bouldery slopes above but they soon re emerged and I miraculously stayed dry!

Finally I approached the rough top of Glyder Fach - on this route only the last bit is excessively rough but there was the balanced slab of rock known as The Cantilever and the pile of car and bus sized boulders marking the highest point. The views were better to the north from the edge of the crags - Snowdon was invisible the other way as a rainstorm or blizzard appeared to be in progress.

After lunch sheltering below the summit rocks, I returned down the ridge the way I had come up but carried a little further along it to Llyn Caseg Fraith where there are good views of Tryfan across the waters of the tarn. There were no reflections today though due to the wind. I now returned back towards Glyder Fach but kept close to the edge of the steep ground to the north, soon picking up a path which would take me back towards Bwlch Tryfan across the mountainside I'd ascended earlier.

Soon I descended to a short rocky section where it was necessary to scramble down though it's not hard at all. After here I soon found myself near where I'd branched off up the slope earlier. Here a path descended the slopes of scree and heather into the wild valley of Cwm Tryfan dominated by the alpine looking Tryfan and Glyder Fach. Once down I followed a wide path which led steadily down to where the Tryfan campsite could be seen ahead. From here a deviation to the left below the crag of Tryfan Bach cut out some of the road walking back to where I had left the car.

Pete Buckley November 2008

Essentials >>> Up 730m >>> Down 730m >>> How Far? 9.7km

For more walks in Snowdonia please see the table of contents below.

Posted by PeteB 12:53 Archived in Wales Tagged foot Comments (0)

The Far Side of Snowdon

The route from Rhyd Ddu

sunny 17 °C

For just over 110 years the little train has chugged its way through sunlight and storm, from its home in the old slate mining town of Llanberis, to the end of the line just beneath the stony peak called Yr Wyddfa – better known as Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.

Most ascents of the peak originate therefore from Llanberis with the assistance of steam power.Some of the railway passengers at least walk down or part way down the mountain though many never leave the café. If inappropriate or downright ridiculous attire amuses you then the summit area can be good for a laugh on a busy weekend – or not.

The walking route up here from Llanberis is the easiest – if not the most interesting, being long – over 10 miles for the return trip. The other most popular routes are from Pen Y Pass, the Pyg and Miners’ Tracks which converge at Glaslyn beneath the summit are almost as crowded as the Llanberis side in summer. Braver souls climbing from Pen Y Pass will venture across the exposed arête of Crib Goch (not recommended in icy or windy conditions) to reach the summit by an altogether more exciting route. The path I’ve chosen here however is neither the easiest nor the hardest, but perhaps the most varied way up.

The village of Rhyd Ddu just north of Beddgelert is as an idyllic spot as one could wish for. Here the high peaks of Snowdon and Moel Hebog are tempered by the soft valley greens and swathes of coniferous forest. The place has neither the rugged harshness of Ogwen nor the pastoral tameness of Betws Y Coed but seems to combine the best North Wales has to offer.

Arriving here on a clear and sunny morning in April, the only sound in the air was that of the birds and I was pleased to count just 7 cars on the car park including my own. In the light of the fact that the previous day at Pen Y Pass, the car park full sign had already seen some use, this was boding well as a crowd avoidance technique. Passing the station of the Welsh Highland Railway which goes to Caernarfon from here, I crossed the line and followed the marked trail past a curious stone ruin on the left. In front Snowdon rose 3000 feet above, its outline oddly unfamiliar from here.

After maybe half an hour the track forks by a large rock on the left and where Yr Aran appears directly ahead. We take the left fork through a gate signposted to Snowdon. The way here is obvious and meanders gradually uphill in the direction of our objective, the views behind expanding with every bit of height gained. The end of the Nantlle ridge appears across the valley while the prominent peak to its left is Moel Hebog. On its other side, Mynydd Mawr falls steeply to the blue waters of Llyn Cwellyn. Crossing a stile and climbing more steeply brings the sea into view sparkling beyond the encircling hills.

Pausing at a rest rock by some ruined stone buildings I realised that I hadn’t seen one person since starting the walk and as I drank my water, hardly a sound broke the silence of this tranquil spot.

Resuming my upwards journey, the path became rougher and steeper and after a short while divided in two to pass a huge cairn before climbing the hillside above to cross a stone wall at a newish looking iron gate. Beyond the gate, both the roughness and gradient eased a little as the route made its way slowly around to the right to end up on a broad ridge known as Llechog. Here the ground to the left dropped away in spectacular fashion revealing the summit across a rocky cwm, disappointingly still at least 1000 feet above.

Following this wide ridge, the slope eased again and I re crossed the same wall higher up by another new gate before it was time for a break again. Further ahead the ridge climbed steeply again to Bwlch Main so here was a good place to pause before tackling the last part of the climb. I was encouraged to see that I was now level with Moel Hebog – past 2500 feet – and could now see over the top of Yr Aran. These things are always good progress markers when you can at last see over a peak that’s been above you all morning!

The path to Bwlch Main became incessantly steep and climbed beside a fence straight up the ridge at first and then in wide zig zags before its final ledge like traverse across the steep slopes leading to Snowdon’s South Ridge. Reaching the ridge opened up the view to the East side of the range over Y Lliwedd to Moel Siabod, its familiar shape marking the end of the high summits in that direction. Snowdon itself was now much nearer but before the final ascent I turned right and walked up to the top of the Bwlch Main ridge which looked interesting. The path from that side skirts the top but climbing up a few feet revealed a crest of grass and rock a couple of feet wide seemingly suspended in the sky. There was not a sound and far below the Watkin path could be seen winding up from the valley near Beddgelert while across the void the sharp peak of Y Lliwedd rose up to just below my position.

Returning along the path I began the last section. The ridge, narrow in one or two places though always safe and without difficulty, rose steadily towards Snowdon’s pyramid like summit now only 15 or 20 minutes away. The sound of voices increased as I neared the summit and reached the inevitable throng who had gathered here. I’d seen just one person so far today and he’d been just below the top. He’d told me that the summit station was being completely rebuilt and would open again in 2008 but in the meantime the trains would only run as far as Clogwyn. The thousand or so feet of ascent from there was seemingly enough to deter the flip-flops and pushchairs brigade so the top was hardly crowded. I just hoped they made a good job of the new station – after all the old one never really blended in did it! The new station building has since been completed and it does look better than the old one.

The summit though is a fine spot – no wide boggy field this. The trig point stands on rocks overlooking the 1500 foot drop to the mountain tarn of Glaslyn and the view, when there is one, never fails to impress. There were however just a few too many people so I continued on the main path following the railway down the far side and at the col set off up neighbouring Crib y Ddysgl.

The second highest mountain in Wales, the 3495 foot Crib y Ddysgl is probably as hard to pronounce as the Crib Goch ridge is to climb and it is normally only climbed by survivors of Crib Goch continuing their way around to Snowdon. That and antisocial walkers in search of peace and quiet for lunch!

Back again to the tranquillity of the hills then and some spectacular views down to the Llanberis Pass Road over 3000 feet down. Even the seagulls took their time in spotting a solitary figure perched on Crib y Ddysgl eating salami sandwiches.

My journey down returned to the col before crossing the railway and heading towards distant Moel Eilio picking up a path descending in a roughly north westerly direction. The descent began easily, becoming more knee jarring as it became steeper and rougher lower down. Following the crest of the ridge would provide better views down the cliffs of Clogwyn du'r Arddu towards Llanberis but time was getting on now.

Passing the small lake of Llyn ffynnon y Gwas I joined a fairly level path across grass leading back towards the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel. The last part was down wide zigzags and led past the railway station where I checked in vain if a train was due to avoid the 2 miles on the road back to Rhyd Ddu. In the summer you’d probably get a train here at this time. A timetable is displayed on the platform revealing that I was a bit late midweek in April. Equally I’m sure a bus would have been along had I the patience to wait but there are far worse places than this to do a road section. Just over half an hour brought me back to my start point where there were still only 7 cars including my own and the only sounds were the birds and a distant river.

Pete Buckley April 2007 also a Tale From the Hills

Essentials >>> Up 1015m >>> Down 1015m >>> How Far? 16.1km

Here are some photos of this route or for more walks in Snowdonia please see the table of contents below.

Posted by PeteB 07:53 Archived in Wales Tagged foot Comments (0)

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