Sunday, 13 May 2012

The challenge of Tryfan.

The view after the first few hundred feet of Tryfan
Todays plan was to park next to LLyn Ogwen, go up Tryfan, across the Glyders, down through Devils Kitchen and back to the car park.  It works out about 5 ½ miles on the map, but that would be 5 ½ very difficult miles for two, not very fit, older types.
Now I was a little worried about Tryfan because of all those contour lines on the map.  It’s steep!  I was a little achy from yesterday’s walk up Snowdon, and I thought there was a good chance the North ridge was going to be too much for me.  I was sort of planning to walk along the Heather Terrace Path and make my way to the summit from the South.   Peter couldn’t see the point of walking around the outside and wanted to tackle the ridge.  We agreed to make a start, see how difficult it was, and decide from there.  Maybe we’d split up again.
The scramble ahead
We started upwards, and it soon became obvious that this was a scramble.  A long persistent upward climb over rocks, ledges and boulders.  I could do this.  Slowly perhaps, but it was fun, and not too difficult.   I watched the other walkers as they overtook us, some with dogs and some with ropes.   Hmmmmm?   I’m no climber, so I thought it best to ask.  We were told that the ascent to the summit is a scramble all the way, but there was one section where I would have to climb.  But it wasn’t a difficult climb, it was a steep slope, with loads of hand holds, and not very high.  “Yeh. You’ll be able to do it, it’s easy.” We were told.  Decision made then.  Peter and I carried on up the North Ridge.  
Getting higher and the views are stunning  That's Yr Ole Wen and Pen Yr Ole Wen over there
We were both tired from yesterday and I am definitely not as agile and nimble over the rocks as Peter and the others on the mountain, but I was enjoying it.  We did have frequent rest stops.  Peter kept looking out for the easiest way up, I followed.  Slowly but surely we kept going up and up and up.
But it got harder the higher we climbed, and we began to realise that perhaps this hadn’t been such a good idea after all.  The ledges were getting more and more difficult to get over.   But I’m no quitter, and it would be daft to turn back considering how far we’d come.
We were overtaken by loads of other people.  The most memorable were 5 men from Northern Ireland.  They were distinctive because the last of their group, (older, overweight, sweating and exhausted looking), was obviously finding the climb as tiring as I was.  That made me feel better as we followed behind.
And higher. 
We were very close to the summit, maybe a couple of hundred feet away when we reached “the climb”.  I looked up, and thought “No way!”  Peter and I looked around to see how everyone else was getting on.  There were loads of people going up it, but the NI lads had disappeared around the side.  We followed them, around the side and over a small but difficult ridge, that once I’d got over, I knew I couldn’t go back on.
"No way!"
We moved around the next rock, and Oh we were in trouble.  Ahead of us, there were a series of nearly vertical ledges and climbs to get up around 30ft.   None of them really difficult or really high individually, but they followed on one after another, almost like a ladder.  Below them was a drop of several hundred feet.  As I said, I don’t do climbing.  I don’t have the strength and flexibility that climbers have.  I watched the NI group go up and saw that the last guy managed it.  “If he can do it, so can I”, I thought.
I knew I had to focus on the area in front of me, concentrating on the each stage, balancing on each ledge and not thinking about anything but the next handhold.  Don’t look up, don’t look down.  Peter led, telling me where to put my hands and feet, leaning over to pull me up and encourage me all the way.   Anyone listening would have heard a constant mumbling prayer of “please be easier on the way down, please be easier on the way down …..”
View from the top
I did it!  And I then got over the next couple of obstacles to reach Adam and Eve at the summit.   I was quite proud of myself at that moment, as for me, that was one of the scariest things I have ever done.  I’d managed to control my panic and not freak out.
So we'd finally made it to the summit.  It was covered in rocks,  freezing cold and blowing a gale. In fact, the wind was so strong it nearly blew me off my feet.  No-one was climbing on top of Adam and Eve that day!  It did seem a bit of a mean reward after all that hard work. 
We stayed just long enough to take few photos.  The views were stunning, but the wind was stopping us from enjoying them.  A little disappointed, we started on our way down. 
And it's a long way down
And yes, it was much easier, scrambling over rocks and boulders, until we reached gentler grassy slopes.  Very tired, we were heading straight back to the car having decided to leave   The Glyders and Devils Kitchen for another day.
Llyn Idwal and Llyn Bochlwyd from the west slope of Tryfan - we're going down.
Looking back on the much easier route down.  (Phew!)
With hindsight and all things considered, the final comment has to be………“That was Bl.….y Stupid!”     We had majorly underestimated the challenge of Tryfan.  Most walker/climbers could rise to it, but I was well out of my depth (or height perhaps).  The story could so easily have ended with us having to call out the MRT...... or even worse. 

Lessons learnt: –  Be more cautious in the future
                               Research the route properly before starting
                               Quitting isn’t always a bad thing.  It could even be considered wise.

Having said all that, what an amazing day.  Completely exhausting, several "brown trouser" moments, exhilarating views, and an massive sense of achievement. 

But I'm not doing it again.


  1. Respect for even trying it. I"m not great at exposure/heights and doubt I will ever go up Tryfan's North Face.
    You should feel proud.

  2. Brilliant effort - well done for getting up there. I'm sure you'll find it easier next time!!! ;-)

  3. Thanks guys. At least I'm not frightened of heights. And if Wales was a little closer and I learnt to scramble and climb, and they discovered a pill that made you forget how scared you were last time........ I still wouldn't do it again! ;-D

  4. Great trip report Tracey and the blogs looking great too :-)

  5. I fancy having a crack at that now :) I dont mind a scare and heights so much these days but i must admit the thought of it sounds a bit squeaky bum time... might have to rope a mate in to do it with me. A Grade 1 scramble is pretty damned good goin T, you have every right to feel proud of yourself. Great to see the pics too .... :)

    Dave aka AJoff WF ;)

  6. Loved the write-up, Tracey! And what a challenge - don't underestimate what you achieved, even if you do feel apprehensive about doing anything like that again.

    I remember when my Mum, Dad and Brother (then about 15) told me they had done Striding Edge. For them it was a big deal, and it took plenty of courage and not a little time for them to do it. Never again for M & D, but I do know it's an experience they treasure and have never forgotten!

  7. Brilliant. Great photo's of a great place :-)

  8. Tracey, I take my hat off to you. The first time I looked up at Tryfan from the road I said to myself: "There is absolutely no walking route up the front of that" and so didn't consider it. I shall look at my guidebook again, but that doesn't mean I'm going to have a go.

    1. Thanks Alen. But I have to say, the memory plays tricks on you, and now I can only remember the good bits, not the bad. The views and the experience were exhilarating and I almost want to do it again. I would recommend it, as long as you are fit and able and maybe have an experienced guide.