A little visited part of the Glyders
15.10.2009 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