Standing tall above Lyn Ogwen looms the craggy silouhette of Tryfan- arguably one of the most iconic shaped peaks in the UK. The shark-like fin rises high from the Ogwen Valley up to 918m above sea level. The saying goes that you can’t reach the summit of Tryfan without the use of hands- a statement not many mountain folk will contest. It’s also claimed that you’ll never take the same route twice. I’ve been on the summit over a dozen times and don’t think I’ve ever taken the same route.
Due to the varied and interesting terrain, as well as the exposure on offer on Tryfan, it’s a firm favourite with keen hill walkers, scramblers and climbers alike. There are numerous routes to the summit for every ability. The most famous and popular route for hiking/scrambling is the North Ridge.
The North ridge of Tryfan is a classic route and is popular thanks to its close proximity to the road and the immediate vertical gain. Classed as a Grade 1 scramble- the easiest grade-, Tryfan is a popular introduction to scrambling for hikers looking for a bit more excitement in the hills. However, the climb shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if conditions aren’t favourable.
Route finding on Tryfan’s North Ridge
To begin with, the route is quite straight forward. Beginning at grid ref SH 663 602 on OS Explorer OL17, go through the gate opposite the lay-by on the A5 and follow the steps up to the Milestone Buttress where you might see climbers on the face. With the Buttress on your right, start the steep ascent along the wall over large boulders.
As you reach the shoulder of the Buttress, head south up one of the gullies. It doesn’t really matter which one you take as they all lead to the same place. If the rock is wet, be careful as it becomes very slippery. At the top of the gully you’ll see a flat area of covered in quartz.
You’ll come across the infamous canon stone located in this area, sticking out of the mountain like a giant splinter. You can see the canon stone protruding from the craggy outline of the mountain from way down in the valley floor. After clambering to the edge of the canon for an obligatory photo, it’s time to carry on climbing.
From the Canon Stone you’ll need to scale the wall ahead to join the North Ridge proper. Again, there are numerous routes that can be taken. If unsure, take your time and stand back to get a better view.
Want another classic Snowdonia route? Try the Snowdon Horseshoe
To the summit
When you join the North Ridge, it’s straight forward scrambling from here on out. There are a couple of gullies to negotiate and the North Tower to climb over. This section can feel a lot more serious than it actually is in bad conditions and a lot of people get stuck on the North Tower. Rather than traverse around the tower, climb up and over. By going around the tower you can very easily get stuck in a gully which you cant get out of.
Adam and Eve
When you eventually top out onto the summit plateau, you’ll immediately see the two monoliths of Adam and Eve standing proud amongst the boulders. It’s said that taking the ‘leap of faith’ between the two rocks will reward you with the freedom of Tryfan. Now, the rocks are only about 4 feet apart but the exposure off the back makes the leap slightly more hair raising that it should be.
After gaining the freedom of Tryfan and enjoying the spectacular views, carefully make your way across the boulder field in a south westerly direction towards the col. From here you’ll see the Heather Terrace. The path skirts the east face down to the valley via Lyn Bochlwyd and down to the valley floor. A short walk along the edge of Ogwen lake will take you back to your car.
Alternatively, to turn the route into a full day you could head up Bristly ridge to the Glyder plateau and the Cantilever stone.
Although Tryfan is only rated as a Grade 1 scramble, there are sections which can feel at the top of the grade. Route finding is key on Tryfan as there is no defined path. Bad conditions can turn any mountain into a dangerous place, and Tryfan is no different. Rain will make the rock slippery, low hanging cloud or fog will add an extra degree of difficulty to navigation, and wind can make the more exposed sections feel even more dangerous.
During the colder months, Tryfan turns into a fantastic winter climb. But it should only attempted by confident mountaineers with the correct equipment and experience.
As always when out in the mountains, ensure you’re well prepared. Map and compass, phone and power pack, warm layers, waterproofs, water and food should always be carried.