The North ridge of Tryfan, in North Wales is probably the most sought after scramble in the UK. It has been voted by Trail Magazine as Britain's favourite mountain and was climbed regularly by Sir Edmund Hilary in preparation for the first ever summit of Everest.
Tryfan with the A5 and Llyn Ogwen visible.
At 3010ft it is the smallest of the 'big fifteen' mountains in Wales but packs a punch. The natural ruggedness of its crags makes it an exhilarating scramble all the way to the top. I have climbed this mountain many times with friends, alone, in the dark and in the snow and I have never taken the same route twice.
As a general rule I keep the Ogwen cottage (an outdoor persuit centre) just visible on my right as I head up the ridge. This will keep you on a safer ascent and prevent you from straying too far either way where there are dangerous drops and gullies.
The Ogwen Cottage is the building at the end of the lake.
As you head up the ridge, i'ts hard not to stop and enjoy the view eastward. An early start on the mountain will treat you to a nice sunrise coming up over the valley illuminating the mountains in the west and provokes all who witness it to do a silly dance!
Sunrise. Ogwen Cottage still just visible above the ridge.
The fun thing about Tryfan is whilst abiding by the general rules you can mix it up to make it as easy or as hard as you prefer. At every turn there is a decision to be made. Look for a route and follow it. Be prepared to have to come back down. Watch your head when moving up.
About two-thirds of the way up is the first iconic feature of the mountain. All first timers must shuffle their way up the 'cannon stone' and pose with the deathly void below. It's not actually as death defying as it looks but makes for a great photo opportunity.
After the cannon stone the wind begins to pick up and the air gets colder. It's important not to be fooled by the sunshine below when you get out of the car. Always pack some warm clothes as the summits don't play by the rules and often have their own micro-climates.
After about an hour of climbing (excluding time spent dancing) you come to what seems like a dead end in the form of a huge vertical, flat slab in front of you. You have to drop back down to the left of it and follow a narrow trail along the top of a sheer drop to my favourite part of the whole mountain.
Tryfan is shaped like a dinosaurs back and is split at various points by huge gullies that run down either side of the main ridge. It his here that you have to scramble up the 'Nor Nor' gully that heads up towards the first of two peaks.
After awkwardly pulling yourself up into the grassy gully, it's a surreal ascent through a corridor of rock, where a huge boulder lies wedged at the top.
Looking back down Nor Nor gully after scrambling up it.
It's worth a stop here before heading on to the peaks as a panoramic view begins to develop.
As you eventually come up over the north peak the landscape turns into moonscape with the jagged and spiky rocks sticking out like big, grey crystals.
The summit of Tryfan features two, huge vertical stones standing next to each other. Nicknamed Adam and Eve, folklore states that if you jump from one to the other then you gain the 'freedom of the mountain'. I have stood on top of Adam a couple of times now and I can't pull myself to take the leap. The gap is no more than 2ft but it's the exposure that stops me. People have actually fell to their deaths attempting the jump. I once heard a well-spoken school teacher at the summit describe it as a "hazardous venture" and he hits the nail on the head in my opinion.
A seagull about to gain the freedom of Tryfan.
I find it strange that nowhere else on the mountain that I know of, are there any stones that sit perfectly upright. Yet at the very top there are two right next to each other that are of similar size, shape and height.
The views from the top are unrivalled.
L-R Llyn Bochllwyd, Llyn Idwal and Llyn Ogwen.
There are a few gradual escapes from the mountain once heading over the south summit taking you back to the road or you can continue the fun up onto the Glyderau mountain range for some more scrambling.
Tryfan is a special mountain and will always hold a place in my heart but it must be treated with respect. As someone who lives in North Wales and reads the local news, it's hard to see the countless stories of people being seriously hurt and much worse, particularly in the summer and weekends when the mountain can become busy.
Take care out there and thanks for reading...