Bristly Ridge is one of the best known scrambles in Wales. It’s only grade one but has some great exposure and positions and is an adventure all the way. The scrambling starts at Bwlch Tryfan, the saddle between Tryfan and Glyder Fach, and it’s often done in conjunction with the Tryfan north and south ridge traverse. I’m not fit enough for that at the moment, perhaps later in the year.
This was a perfect day for it, bright, not too windy, not too warm, and not too busy. Navigation to Bwlch Tryfan is fairly easy and the paths are good except for the steep, loose, slog from llyn Idwal to Llyn Bochlwyd.
The mountain scenery around Ogwen and Idwal is, in my opinion, second to none. Sharp peaks, acres of rock, deep blue lakes, and a distant view to Anglesey. With very easy access from the car it has to be one of the best places in Britain for mountain adventures.
As soon as you leave the shores of Idwal to climb above the climbing crag of the Gribin Facet you leave any crowds behind. The views of the lake and of Y Garn and then down the valley to Anglesey get better and better. Then you reach the quiet lake of Llyn Bochlwyd in its spectacular cwm with a great view of the west face of Tryfan.
Upwards easily to Bwlch Tryfan between the rocky arms of Tryfan and Bristly Ridge and a welcome break with a sandwich and to watch the line that people were taking to start the scrambling. I hadn’t brought a guide book with me so I was relying on the route being very well marked by the passage of countless feet and hands.
The trodden route seems to lead most naturally to a very obvious cleft in the rock, which seems to provide a good route up. Reading the guidebook when I returned, I’m not convinced it was the right way but it’s the way I took and it was, indeed, well worn and polished. The scrambling was good, up the narrow gully between steep rock walls. The moves were good and satisfying but not hard until a section is reached that is very loose underfoot. This led to an awkward chimney that gave a tricky couple of moves.
Eventually you leave the gully to see great views of the Ogwen Valley. At this point I was definitely back on the proper line – there was nowhere else to go. The scrambling continues over towers and blocks with some tricky moves and exposed positions. It’s never that hard but sometimes it’s comforting to have someone to follow because it isn’t clear that the route you’re taking won’t lead you into trouble. At one point I had a nasty couple of moves downwards to get down off a block which I could have avoided on the right.
Finally I arrived on the wide summit plateau. Moonscape would be a good description. Huge shards of rock stick out at all angles, creating fantastic rock sculptures all over. The most famous of these is Castell y Gwynt, the Castle of the Winds. There’s plenty of easy scrambling still to be done if you want it, traversing over these jagged outcrops. The views are panoramic and, light and haze permitting, you get a particularly good view of the Snowdon Horseshoe.
A good way down is to scramble down the Gribin Ridge back towards Llyn Bochlwyd but I’ve done this several times and it’s hard work. The easier way (longer but more straightforward walking) is to continue over Glyder Fawr summit and down to the Devil’s Kitchen. This was mostly fine but about half way down from Glyder Fawr summit the path seems to drop away vertically. When you look over the edge you see that it’s still there but much steeper on an almost-bare scree slope. I was on my backside several times during this most unpleasant loose section so I had a nice sandwich break at the tiny tarn in the cwm between Glyder Fawr and Y Garn, before the descent into Devil’s Kitchen.
This next section is very steep but the path has been laid with blocks so it’s good going. The rock scenery is fantastic. You have the choice either left or right around Llyn Idwal. I chose right, so I could look at the climbers and go and lay hands on the perfect rock of the Idwal Slabs.
Not far now back to the car.
- Distance: About 5.5 miles
- Ascent: About 800 metres
- Time: About six hours
- View the route on Plotaroute.com