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Hiking Tryfan – Perhaps Wales’ Most Beautiful Mountain?

by Mandy
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The journey to ascend Tryfan is an exhilarating and challenging adventure. There were moments where I felt in my absolute element, with my adrenaline rushing, and then there were moments of panic, sweaty hands and wanting to bail out of the whole thing and just head back. And the crazy thing is, I loved every minute of it!

Tryfan stands at 917.5 meters, earning it the title of being the 15th tallest peak in Snowdonia. Its iconic and unmistakable pointed shape, coupled with its rugged crags makes it one of the most recognisable mountains in the region. The name translates to “three stones” and there is no such thing as an easy climb up Tryfan – in fact the National Trust summarises it perfectly:

Tryfan is to be admired and respected as it marks the line between hiking and mountaineering

So on a somewhat grey and gloomy day in Snowdonia we decided this sounded like something we want to tackle for ourselves.

Starting our ascent up the South Ridge of Tryfan

We started near Ogwen Cottage and parked up at the nearby Visitor Centre. There’s a reasonable sized car park here, which was £5 for the day I believe. Alternatively there is free parking at the lay-bys alongside Lake Ogwen (but we learnt this after our Tryfan climb).

From the Visitor Centre, the journey started with a well-defined path, which took us past a small waterfall, over a bridge and via small trickling streams. We followed the steps and a well worn path up towards the mountains, gawping at the scenery surrounding us.

Between me and Oli, we have completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent, plus the UK Three Peaks of Ben Nevis, Scarfell Pike and Snowdon, and even with the latter just being a short drive up the road, we had never encountered scenery like this. Fiercely rugged and harsh, we were awestruck at the surrounding mountains which loomed over us, and Tryfan’s imposing peak dominating the landscape the whole way along.

We continued our way through rolling hills and picturesque valleys, leaving Lake Ogwen lower and lower behind us. This initial park of the trek offered a relatively gentle incline, which was quite enjoyable – “I could get used to this I thought”. As we gained elevation, the terrain became rockier, and although not unforgiving, required some sure footing and careful navigation. We passed many streams and a small waterfall on this first part of the ascent, covering rocky ground and some slippery rocks as we made our way across the water.


From this point onwards, as if we weren’t awestruck by the surrounding natural beauty around us, the scenery just got better and better.

We went into the hike pretty naively. We’d planned to walk along the lower ridges of Tryfan, but were enjoying our ascent and the thrill of adventure so much we decided to continue to climb higher and do the full hike. So having done little research, we were completely astounded to come across Llyn Bochlwyd some 550m up. A truly stunning part of the hike, and we could quickly see why Tryfan was such a special and popular hike.

The rugged and mountainous views were made all the more stunning and dramatic by the low level cloud that started to roll in and drape itself elegantly over the top of the mountains. I could have stayed there all day. But the summit of Tryfan was beckoning us, and aware that some bad weather was rolling in, we wanted to get ahead. 

We climbed higher, following a well defined path until we reached a boulder field rising up to the ridge above us. As we manoeuvred our way to the top, we could hear the trickling and bubbling of a stream below us. The boulder field is in a gully between the ridge towards Tryfan (to your left) and Bristly Ridge (to your right). It meant the area was completely soundproofed. We were protected from the wind which had started to pick up by this point, and all we could hear was the water below us.

At the top we reached a wall with a ladder style to get over it and were hit instantly by the strong winds which had built up during our protected ascent. We stayed alongside the wall and made our way towards the peak of Tryfan which was well within our sights now, even in the mist of the low cloud cover. Despite getting ourselves completely battered by the wind and some misty rain, we were still treated to some breath taking views over the valleys beneath us, with the mountains and Llyn Bochlwyd behind us.

Reaching the wall marked the start of the summit push, and from here the real challenge began.

Large boulders and scree became more prevalent and the rain had made the terrain slippery, meaning we had to be careful to pick our way through the rocky landscape. The wind was well and truly howling and there were times when we had to stop dead in our tracks because the wind was so strong.

What little we did know about Tryfan, we knew there were no easy routes, with plenty of steep sections, and we knew it would be a scramble to the top, requiring all four limbs to get us there. But as we made it to the base of Tryfan, the combination of wind and poor visibility made it incredibly difficult to map out our route higher. We must have been no more than 100m away from the summit when we decided to call it quits and felt that the conditions were too risky to go on any further.

But now what? We didn’t want to turn back and descend the way we’d come. That felt like going backwards, and even more deflating having not been able to reach the summit. Completing a circuit hike at least felt like some sense of achievement. We were somewhere near the summit, but no longer on an official path to descend Tryfan. We attempted to climb higher in the hope that we could find a path down east or west. If we went too far, we were greeted by sheer drops down to the valley. Eventually we found an opening with a boulder and scree slope over on the east side, and we could see all the way down to a stream at the bottom, which would lead us back to the A5.

The descent felt harder than the ascent and we basically tobogganed ourselves down the slope on our bums. Similar to the way up, we could hear the sounds of a stream bubbling below us. We turned around and looked back up at where we’d come from, feeling gutted that we’d had to bail out and weren’t able to reach the summit. But relishing that we’d been treated to such breath-taking vistas every step of the way and the gloomy weather made the mountain and valleys look even more dramatic and wild. Tryfan offered a unique combination of distinctive beauty, challenging terrain, stunning views, and despite not making it to the summit, still a sense of achievement.

Tryfan really surprised me by how much of a soft spot I felt for it, and not making it to the top left a challenge that needed to be completed another time and an excuse to come back to do it and admire the scenery all over again.

Until next time, Tryfan.

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