Tryfan: An Introduction To The Mountains

Words and photos: Elliott Waring / See Outside

Stepping gingerly out of the car in a layby on the A5, the looming presence of Tryfan cast a terrifying shadow over the Ogwen Valley. The sharp, craggy silhouette reached high into the heavy looking clouds. Rain was imminent. 

My first experience of Tryfan was a wet and windy day in mid November, but it was almost better for it? The challenging weather conditions made it feel like even more of an adventure; even more of an achievement, when we reached the summit. 

Since then I have climbed Tryfan over a dozen times in varying conditions, and it’s still as enjoyable as it was on that soggy winter day on which I became addicted to the mountains. Tryfan was the first ‘proper’ mountain I ever climbed and is still one of my favourites to this day. I’d walked up Snowdon via the Pyg track a few times but I’d become bored of trail walking and began searching for something slightly more hair raising, more of a challenge, something hands on. Tryfan was the answer. 

The North Ridge is the most famous route, and is widely considered as the pinnacle of Grade 1 scrambling. The route, on the whole, is relatively straightforward and hugely popular during the summer months. But in bad conditions, finding your way safely to the top can become a challenge. Route picking is by far the biggest challenge on the mountain: there are infinite routes to the summit and it is said that you will never take the same route twice. 

A well trodden path leads from the lay-by opposite Llyn Ogwen through the heather terrace, winding through varied terrain at a fairly steep gradient right from the off. As you climb higher, the valley below begins to open up as far as the eye can see, people appear as nothing more than ants scattering around on the ground beneath you. The exposure on some sections is enough to get the heart pumping, if the gradient hasn’t already. 

The first milestone you will encounter will be the famous Canon stone - a single protruding rock which can be seen from the ground below when driving through the valley. The Canon is a perfect spot to have a quick rest, take on some food and water, and of course take some photos. 

After the Canon, the route becomes slightly less obvious and you will soon encounter the first of two false summits. The word Tryfan is derived from the Welsh word meaning “three rocks”, referring to the three peaks at the summit. Depending on the route you take to the summit there are some tight chimneys with high end grade one manoeuvres to take on. In the wet it’s important to take your time and plan your route carefully as it’s very easy to get stuck in a sticky situation. Good judgement comes with experience, and experience comes from making mistakes.
The summit itself is dominated by two rocks stood side by side: Adam and Eve. It is said, to be freed from Tryfan one must jump from one to the other. I remember my Grandad showing me a picture of him making the leap when I was a young boy and dreaming of one day making that same leap. 

The descent from Tryfan via the South side is the best option - a short section of downward scrambling leads to a shale bank which eventually joins the path which heads to Devil’s Kitchen. If however, you want to carry on, a short descent to the beginning of Britstly Ridge - another Grade one scramble - up to Glyder Fawr is an excellent addition. The Bochlwyd Horseshoe as it is know encompasses all the Glyders and is probably one of the best mountain days you can have in Snowdonia.