I’d scrambled up Bristly Ridge a few weeks before and enjoying myself so much, hadn’t taken any photos and on returning couldn’t shut up about it, to friends who climb with me. It was inevitable I’d be scrambling it again soon enough.
With the solstice weekend, came the promise of good weather for Snowdonia. So plans were made for a very similar trip to the one I’d undertaken on my own. Then the weather turned at the last minute to low/thick cloud cover so we delayed our start, and began our ascent of Tryfan at 10:30am on 20th June.
This time the climb was made in changing visibility and occasional rain, that made it more like my first time on the mountain. As we were both happy on the terrain, we eschewed the path at almost every opportunity we had to scramble. My alarm hadn’t gone off, so I’d set off late and had to have breakfast in the layby. The brioche I hastily consumed down at the foot of the mountain made me feel quite queasy going up, but the fun scrambling soon helped me feel fine.
It was the first time I’d completed the North ridge properly, as on previous days I’d always ended up on the East face coming up one of the gullys. This time we stuck to main ridge, following the crowds and had great fun despite some very wet and polished holds.
All too soon we’d made it to the summit, where we grabbed a quick drink/snack and laughed at the ironic cheers from those sat up on top, when a tiny amount of sun broke through the clouds.
After a descent off the Southern ridge of Tryfan, we were soon ascending again beside a stone wall and then off to the side to the start of the scramble up Glyder Fach via Bristly Ridge.
The Route – “Bristly Ridge” ascent of Glyder Fach
Starting the climb of Sinister GullyYou can either approach the start of the scramble which begins in Sinister Gully (cool name, no?) by following the trail up to the side of the wall and then going across 10 metres to the right (as we did) or up an obvious scree slope directly to find the gap, neither are tricky so it comes down to your preference.
The gully is between 1/2 metres wide in most places and has a fair amount of loose rock on the floor, so care is needed as you traverse inside the gully, that you don’t cover those behind you in rocks.
The climbing isn’t too tricky but it requires you to be confident. As we entered the gully, we spotted a group using a rope (likely a course I guess) which we thought was odd but given conditions it was sensible for people not used to the terrain. Most sections benefit greatly from being on one side of the wall you’re climbing, so have a quick think before rushing headlong at the next problem… which admittedly I sometimes do!
This time it being wet certainly made the gully more of a challenge and it showed, with several people slipping quite badly around me. The route was really busy with quite a queue forming, but quite why people insist on being so close to the person in front is beyond me, there were several points when I was worried a few people were going to end up falling into each other and down the gully. Maybe I’m different but I talk to people around me on routes, especially when it’s busy, as it seems courteous to me to warn those around you of problems or for example if you cross loose rock above them.
Upon reaching the top, I was a bit shocked to see splatters of blood on the rocks and then the owner of the blood, a chap who’d slipped on the route and had cut above his eye quite nastily, a further reminder how serious it can be.
The gully is the most technical part of the route though, so once you’ve exited it there’s just a couple more decent pitches and exposure left to challenge you, the rest is really just a lot of fun. It’s a case of sticking as close to the top of the ridge as possible and enjoying yourself. Often a small path is available that sidesteps a problem, but there’s nothing as tricky as before in the gully so stick at it. And on the occasions when you look over a spike to a big drop, needles to say that’s not the way, so check to the side a bit for a decent and easy climb down.
The route sadly has to end but it does so gracefully, coming up on top of Glyder Fach and fading as a line of rocks that point toward to the rocky summit and the Cantilever.
We carried on to sit near the top for another drink, before scrambling over Castell Y Gwynt and then down the Cribin Ridge (listed as a Grade 1 scramble, we took a line off the main ridge which was okay for descent but not much fun) to enjoy views back from where we’d been over over Tryfan and Glyder Fach to our right, and the Carneddau in front.
At the moment, Bristly Ridge when combined with Tryfan’s North Ridge is my favourite route in the UK. Doing it in wet conditions amongst a crowd showed me another side to the route, one that’s more challenging and also worrying, with too many people caught out of their comfort zone. But enough of the serious talk, the gully is great fun and the ridge airy enough at times to make you double check your footing. And the setting whether it was clear as before, or this time with clouds breaking around, is simply stunning. This is not a route to be rushed, get up early and enjoy it!
Always carry my cicerone guide to “Scrambling in Snowdonia” by Steve Ashton which I’d recommend you’d take for any route in the area. I also posted links to details of scrambling on Tryfan/Glyder Fach on my previous day on the route.