My Cynefin: Glyders I

November 1, 2013

Much as I love the Pyg track my favourite range in Snowdonia is the Glyders.   Tryfan is the most elegant of Welsh Mountains and the traverse of its North Ridge one of the many glories of North Wales.   My ashes will (assuming kinder obey) will be scattered from it as it has a particular place in my affections.  However on this second day, full of confidence I foolishly decided to lay the ghost of a walk that I have done twice, and which had twice gone badly wrong.

The walk in question rises past Llyn Idwal to the sharp ascent of the Devils Kitchen.  From there one traverses Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach before descending to the Miners Track (a continuation of that from Yr Wyddfa which goes into Bethesda).  The there is a scenic walk into the sunset (well that was the plan) over Bwylch Tryfan and past Llyn Bochlwyd before returning to the starting point at Idwal Cottage.  

There are better walks on the Glyders, Tryfan and the Bristly Ridge for example but this is a good one.  I've included my track to the right which more or less follows the official path.  Now I have made two attempts at this route in the past and in both cases almost came to grief.

  1. The first was a planned trip under snow for which I was properly equipped.  Crampons and Ice Axe were both a sensible precaution and badly needed on the day.  However I got to the top of the Glyders on one of those days with sun, snow and blue skies.  All went well until descending Glyder Fach I realised a massive cornice of overhanging snow would prevent me taking the miners path.  By now the day was closing in and I need up battling on to a softer descent to the Ogwen Valley, but that involved being waist deep in soft snow for lengths of time.  I finally made it to the lights of a farm house exhausted but thankfully alive.  
  2. Some years later returning home from a visit to my parents in Moelfre we stopped off at Llyn Ogwen and I agreed with wife and sister that I could take a brief stroll up to Llyn Idwal.  When I got there it just seemed a good idea to pop up the Devil's kitchen. Then I thought I might as well get up to Glyder Fawr.  Having got that far well its not far to the Miners Track.  Net result as the sun went down I made Bwlch Tryfan and realised I was in trouble.  I was only wearing a pullover, I had no torch and no one knew where I had gone.  I made it over the stepping stones of Llyn Bochlwyd while there was still enough light to just about see where I was going.  Then a nightmare hour as I picked by way down three hundred meters by touch alone.  By then my sister had decided the mountain rescue should be called but luckily I met them as they walked to the phone box and I was saved embarrassment.

So I decided to break the run for All Saints Day.  I should have realised the error of my ways as I did not get started until midday.  A far too interesting conversation in Bangor University had delayed me (more on that next week).  However I thought it will take five hours I should just make it. I tore up the Devil's kitchen without stopping, passing the point where on my honeymoon I realised that my wife's view of hill walking did not include a vertical scramble in freezing conditions.  Glyder Fawn followed and I was rewarded with some of the most wonderful light.  The Glyders have the best views of any range in Snowdonia.  The cloud was forming over the Snowdon massive and I stopped to take several photographs.

The walk across the top is normally a delight of hopping from one large stone to another.  However after days of rain the rocks were seeking to gain a new reputation as a skating rink so I had to go slowly, then a few navigation errors resulted in climbing up and down some boulders before I finally emerged with a view down to the Miner's Path.  No cornice this time, but the sun was setting behind cloud and I realised I was in trouble.  The opening photo shows what I could see.   

Now I did have a torch, but I was not sure of the battery life so I went for as long as possible without it.  However I did not pass Llyn Bochlwyd until after all light had gone.  Head torch on I then followed a path, before loosing it and had to case sideways checking with the sat nav before I found it again.  That sequence was repeated many times while navigating the near vertical descent.   I fell twice, cutting my lower leg badly at one point before I finally walked into the car park and a much needed drink.  Ok this time I was properly equipped, I had the means to survive overnight but it will be a long time before I risk that route again, it is obviously fated.

The final three photographs illustrate the dark, the remainder in the set why it was all worth it.

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