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A Walk up Tryfan and the Glyders Range

In May 2007, my friend Paul and I decided to take a walk and/or scramble up the Tryfan mountain (approx 3011feet or 918 metres) and then over the rest of the Glyder Range with Glyder Fach (3261feet or 994metres) and Glyder Fawr (3284feet or 1001metres) and to then drop down into Cwm idwal and back to the car park at Idwal Cottage.

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It was a calm and sunny day in North Wales and the Met Office mountain forecast was favourable for hill walking and for photography, so with rucksack and all our photography gear and the most important item of all, a flask of hot tea.  Yes, we had all the essential kit for going up into the mountains before anyone comments; map compass, first aid kit, and suitable clothing and footwear. Due to an incident many years previously, Paul had a terrible fear of heights and he thought that by facing his deamons, he could eventually conquor his fears and be cured.   So a scramble up Tryfan and the Glyders was for theraputic reasons but also my camera had been cooped up all week and needed some exercise. Having a digital camera, I am not confined to a mere 36 images before having to change film, I just keep taking them until the memory card is full.  Here in this storyboard, my first attempt at creating a story on PCW/CWC, I am just selecting those that will illustrate the best points during the walk. The first image is of the Youth Hostel at Idwal Cottage and near the car park where we had parked the car.  Also nearby was a small snack bar and the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue hut, behind which the footpath of irregularly shaped and sized rocky slabs lead the walker up into the Cwm Idwal closed valley.  Soon after starting up this path we come to a wrought iron gate that marks the entrance into the Glyders Range of the Snowdonia National Park. Shortly thereafter, we crossed a small stone slab bridge with wooden handrails, crossing over the outfall of Llyn Idwal in the form of a lovely water cascade over the crags and stones on its bed. The path continues into the Cwm, but as it veers to the right, an unmade, but well trodden path over the grassy pasture is taken which wends it way towards the lower slopes of Tryfan, gradually getting steeper.  Looking up towards the top of the slope didn't seem to be too high and there was another long but narrower water cascade which as we reached the top of the slope, was seen to be the outfall of a small lake called Llyn Bochlwyd, but known to most climbers and hill-walkers as Lake Australia owing to its shape which loosly resembles the sub-continent of the same name. It was then that we also realised that this lake, though fairly flat terrain rose sharply up to a saddle betwen Tryfan and the Glyders, called Bwlch Tryfan, via a scree slope through which we picked our way, dripping sweat and eventually reached a dry stone wall streching the gap of the saddle between the two mountain slopes.  A stile gave access to the other side of the wall.  We had a short respite to excerise the flask and after a quick cuppa, set off to the left the end of the stone wall and started to follow an intermittent path, scrambling between and over boulders and slabs until near the top I came to a precarious section where the perceived path plunged at least a thousand feet to the Floor of Cwm Tryfan below. I could get around it, but Paul refused point blank.  'Come on we're almost there. You'll be OK'  'No.  You go ahead, I'll wait for you.'  No sooner had I reached the top and was taking in the breath-taking views across the Glyders range, down the Nant Ffrancon valley and across the Carneddau ranges to the north, beyond which Anglesey could be seen beyond the blue ribbon of the Menai Straits. Suddenly, Paul was beside me, he'd found another 'safer' way around the drop.  There were a small group of other walkers at the sumit before us, one of whom was the mountaineering guide for the group. On the top of Tryfan (the name is derived from the Welsh for three and crags, refering to the three peaks at Tryfan's summit) on the main central peak are two monoliths called Adam and Eve and a tradition almost a rite of passage is to climb onto one and leap the gap of about four or five feet onto the other.  What the photo does not show the onlooker is that these monoliths are literally only a matter of a few feet from another sheer drop down onto the rocks below, and this is where those brave or mad enough have to think twice before committing themselves.  The mountain guide graciously demonstated how easy it was.  Owing to a very strong sense of self-preservation that I have, I resisted the urge to have a go! Another cuppa and a quick bite to eat and dozens of photos later, we were making our way back down to the Bwlch Tryfan  with the intention of returning to the cars as we had achieved our initial goal of topping Tryfan.  The group that we'd met on the top were descending before us.  We parted our ways at the stile and Paul said tht he didn't want the day to end as quickly as it would if we went to the car now. Ok so we decided that we'd visit the Glyders again for the second time that month. The scree slope is a common access point to ascend the Glyders and at the top is found the Bristley Ridge.  A strange landscape of large slivers of shattered rock almost like overly large broken wafers, sticking up and lying flat over the surface of this broken plateau.  You don't walk so much as stepping from slab to slab, being very careful not to tread between the slabs otherwise the possibility of a fracture was very real.  I have seen images of the glyders covered in thick snow and although very appealing to a photographer, safety must rule the urge to go there.   Nearby is a well known feature of the Glyders and another 'must' for those who venture up here, the Cantilever Rock.  A pound for every time someone was photographed on it would make me a very wealthy man. It was a relativly short walk from there to the summit of Glyder Fach (3261feet or 994metres).  It was merely a few more feet higher than the plateau we were on. That anticlimax over, I was keen to see the next feature of this range called quite appropriately Castell-y-Gwynt (Castle of the Wind) betwen the two peaks of the Glyders, it was blasted by the winds as they picked up speed as they blew over the Snowdonia massif.  This feature was made almost entirely of vertically protruding slivers of rock and it reminded me of the first Superman's Fortress of Solitude scene when there are slivers of ice erupting everywhere.  I waited a while as another climber shinned his way up to the highest sliver.  The urge passed me by to follow suite; I was content just to photograph it. Onwards and upwards to conquor the summit of Glyder Fawr, but it was even more disappointing that Fach as the ground gently rose up to a pimple, before falling down as a scree slope. We didn't dwell too much on yet another peak conquored, but eyed up the scree slope descent , which turned out to be the most difficult part of the whole walk, as the ground was loose shingle, boulders and was like descending on marbles and trying to remain vertical.  I confess to unexpectedly finding myself in the sitting position more often than I would have liked, but when we reached the bottom of the slope, we were rewarded with the small jewel that is Llyn Cwn (lake of dogs), that on a warm day as it was was a great temptation to Paul to remove his footware and go for a paddle in the ice cold waters.  I regained my breath and finished off the last of my tea and sandwiches. After a break of some twenty minutes or so, we headed along the well-beaten path to descend the rough staircase of slabs that descended down into Cwm Idwal, past the Devil's Kitchen.   The Devil's Kitchen is a large cleft between two vertical rock faces at the head of this closed valley and when the wind blows up the valley and through the cleft, the wind is compressed and forms a whispey cloud that looks like steam or smoke rising from the Devil's cooking, hence the name.  So we  tread quietly as we pass and down to the valley floor, taking in the glorious view across the Llyn Idwal lake and at the Nant Ffrancon valley with bethesda beyond and Anglesey with Pen-yr Ole-Wen mountain opposite the valley.   It was almost a level walk to the far-end of the lake where we trod down the slabs of the rugged footpath, passing the point where we branched off to ascend Tryfan earlier and down to the car park and home.


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