Tryfan – The Best Routes and Scrambles
Tryfan, despite not being the highest mountain in Wales, often holds the title of being the most iconic. It tops out at only a measly 917 metres in height, making it the shortest of the 14 Peaks, barely even making the grade. To add insult to injury, surveyors recently tried to prove it was even shorter and kick it out of the 14 peaks club, but fortunately they found it was actually a good few metres higher, so it got to stay. Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) is also a much more popular destination, and that’s a good thing as Tryfan is a seriously tougher proposition. If you’ve got a sensitive nose, then beware as the feral goats absolutely stink and you’ll surely smell them before you see them. Just a friendly warning, before you mistakenly drop hints on personal hygiene to your walking buddies.
So How Hard is Climbing Tryfan?
All the routes mentioned below are Grade 1 scrambles, and are technically tougher than all the walking routes up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). Extra care will be needed in any wind or rain, when you’ll be better off finding an alternative. Tryfan is best enjoyed in sunny and dry conditions! In winter conditions, It’s an even tougher outing, which require some serious winter mountaineering (not walking) skills.
Navigation on Tryfan is an odd one as you’re more often than not route finding over rocky terrain and boulders, in the hope that the path continues at the end of the scramble. This makes it all the more exhilarating, but it does make any outing more demanding. The risk isn’t just getting lost, but actually getting stuck on terrain where you just no longer move in any direction. The risk of becoming cragfast is real, and you need to keep alert if the going seems incredibly tough or dangerous and to stop and take stock of the situation. While the scrambling routes mentioned are Grade I scrambles, it is oh so easy to find yourself on slightly tougher ground and before you know it, you’re in a stupidly dangerous situation. I once tried to find an easier line on the South Ridge, and ended up somewhere on the West Face in a position where I had to throw my pack down around 10 metres , or what we ascertained was far enough to break limbs, but with a good chance of surviving if we fell and an even better one of making it down the vertical chimney in one piece. We made it down safely, and suffice to say you won’t find that route in this article.
You’ll also need to check out the Weather Forecast: Met Office Snowdonia Mountain Weather
Getting Here, Parking and Public Transport.
There is an infrequent T10 TrawsCymru Bus Service bus service between Bethesda and Capel Curig, helpfully it doesn’t run on Sundays or Bank Holidays. Thankfully, the electric Bws Ogwen (warning – Facebook link) has been running since 2022 between Bethesda and Ogwen and hopefully they will continue to do so in 2023. They ran 12 mini-buses midweek (not Wednesdays) and 15 on the weekend and can carry 9 at a time. Parking for Tryfan can be absolutely horrific during bank holidays and fine weekends, so you’ll need to arrive early. There is paid for parking at Ogwen Cottage, £6.00 a day or 4 hours: £3.00, card payments only and there are EV charging points available. There’s also a great deal of free parking in the laybys along the A5 and towards Glan Denau, but this is insufficient at busy times. Plenty will try and park on the A5 itself, but don’t do it as this is a trunk road and you’ll be rightly ticketed.
Pubs, Cafes and other Facilities Near Tryfan.
There are toilets at the visitor centre at Ogwen Cottage as well as a food counter that serves snacks and drinks. All local facilities, including a Tesco Extra can be found in Bethesda, along with cafes and a few pubs. In the opposite direction, there are pubs and a café in Capel Curig, and further on in Betws-y-coed.
Whichever route you choose to take, you’ll need a head for heights and mountain experience. A few trips up the Miners’ doesn’t count, Tryfan is in a different league! You’ll find a rundown of these routes below with the full route guide free of charge on our partner site – Mud and Routes. Remember that only a summary of the walk is provided below – you’ll need to click through to read the full walk guide. Note that there are a multitude of tougher scrambles up Tryfan, well beyond the scope of this article.
Note that times quoted are for the ascent route only! Owing to the nature of scrambling, allow about the same time for descent. Times quoted are particularly conservative, and include time to enjoy the route, but obviously the actual time to be taken will depend both on the individual and the conditions prevalent on that day.
Map Showing Best Walks and Scrambles up Tryfan
Click on the individual lines on the map below to see the labels. Each colour is also noted in the article.
Tryfan North Ridge (purple) – The toughest and classic Tryfan Route
The direct route via the North Ridge from Llyn Ogwen is one of the classic UK mountain routes. Forget strong legs, you’ll be using your arms a bit more on this than your usual hill walk as you scramble up around 600m of ascent over around 2km distance. Allow a good 4 hours for the ascent, unless you’re a particularly strong climber. Often, the trip is extended into the Bochlwyd Horseshoe to include descending Tryfan South Ridge, a climb up Bristly Ridge and a decent of Y Gribin which is a classic mountain day comparable to the Snowdon Horseshoe.
This route is recommended only for experienced hill walkers and mountaineers. The best route can be difficult to discern and it is all too easy to find yourself on harder technical terrain.
Tryfan North Ridge takes a direct route from the A5, heading initially towards a style on the skyline. The route sets off steeply, as a loose path through heather before becoming rockier and steeper. It is usually quite popular, and ascending is often a matter of following the pack. Beware though that not everyone knows where they’re going. Those with the worst sense of direction tend to be the pied pipers of the mountain world! Who would you follow? The person confidently striding onward, or the one who stops at each obstacle?
Make sure you keep an eye out for the Cannon, around half way up, for a classic photo opportunity. You may well miss it as there are so many variations on the route. Of course, eventually, the route tops off, and the summit area is surprisingly large when you consider how pointy Tryfan looks from the start. There are some sheer drops to the eastern end of the summit with spectacular views down into Cwm Tryfan, and equally spectacular views towards the Glyderau and Carneddau in the other.
Those who like that sort of thing can jump from the twin monoliths, Sion a Sian / Adam and Eve, to win the “freedom of Tryfan” for what that’s worth. If you can get a good video, and on trend song, then it’s probably worth a good few thousand likes on Insta and TikTok.
Either way, it’s a magical place to spend a long lunch. Though if you are completing the Bochlwyd Horseshoe, you’ll need to get moving as you’ve still got most of your day ahead of you. Otherwise, you can descend via the South Ridge back to Llyn Ogwen or perhaps take the Miner’s Path up over the Glyderau if you’ve had enough scrambling for one day.
Tryfan South Ridge (red and blue)- The Other way up
This is the least difficult option, and is barely a grade 1 scramble bit should not be taken lightly. It can be attained either via Cwm Tryfan (red) or Cwm Bochlwyd (blue) as shown on the map, both routes converging at Bwlch Tryfan before following a bouldery track to the summit. Both approaches will take around 3 hours with the Ogwen route being slightly easier underfoot and probably slightly quicker,. They both involve around 600m of ascent with the Ogwen route being slightly shorter at 3.1km as opposed to the 3.8km of the Cwm Tryfan route.
Half way up, near the Far South Peak, you’ll join the Heather Terrace path to the top. The route also becomes rockier, with some sections very exposed with drops down to Cwm Tryfan. So despite being regarded as the easiest route, you’ll still need a head for heights on this final section.
The path is also surprisingly easy to lose on descent. As there’s an abundance of sketchy paths, between bouldery sections it makes all too tempting to go looking for a better line that you probably won’t find.
Tryfan Heather Terrace (green)- The route for the connoisseur
Arguably, the Heather Terrace is just another route to get to the South Ridge, but it really is something special as it follows a narrow ledge along Tryfan’s East Face. It’s not technically difficult, but is mountainous terrain a world away from the manicured paths on Yr Wyddfa and Cwm Idwal. Like all routes on Tryfan, the navigation isn’t easy and the path can too easily be lost in places.
The route either starts from Llyn Ogwen as for the North Ridge, but is easier to reach from the campsite at Gwern Gof Uchaf or parking at Glan Dena at the Capel Curig end of Llyn Ogwen.
Soon heads steeply uphill (you can also continue to the North Ridge) before joining the actual Heather Terrace path.
This is a traverse, with very little apparent climbing, so you can enjoy the extensive views. Of course, to your right the views are basically vertically towards the summit!
The Heather Terrace ends too soon, as it joins the South Ridge about half way between Bwlch Tryfan and the summit at the “Far South Peak”.
Whatever route you choose, keep safe…
Live Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon Conditions
Recommended Walking Guides: A Pocket Guide to Snowdon: A Guide to the Routes of Ascent, The Ascent of Snowdon: The Six Classic Routes Up Snowdon, Snowdon – The Story of a Welsh Mountain: Biography of a Mountain
Walking Books – Snowdonia Ridges of Snowdonia: The Best Ridge Walking, Mountain Walks: The Finest Mountain Walks in Snowdonia, Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia , Day Walks in Snowdonia, Mountain Walking in Snowdonia
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