Spikey, ragged and a bit wild, I was determined that on our most recent trip to Snowdonia in North Wales I was going to get my friends up onto the Glyders: Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. Having blabbered on and on about how great they are, I couldn’t face another trip to Snowdonia without climbing them.
We’d all gone over to Snowdonia for my birthday and my plans were essentially to go and climb some mountains. A snowfall a couple of days before we arrived threw a small spanner in the works as not everyone had winter gear or skills but thankfully warmer weather (coupled with rain) washed enough away that we could still do the walk – phew!
I’m not sure about you but I do love a linear walk. It’s just down right satisfying to think how much distance you’ve covered from one place to another (especially when it takes you at least five minutes to drive the route on good road…). I’d decided the best route and the kindest on the knees was to tackle these peaks by starting at Idwal Cottage and walk up through Cwm Idwal, over the two summits and take the gentle decent down to Capel Curig.
We had enough cars to do a successful shuttle run and soon enough all 11 of us were hiking up towards Llyn Idwal for the start of our climb.
Llyn Idwal proved to be a highly pleasant surprise when we reached it – it’s not an area of Snowdonia I’ve been to before and in the bright sunshine it looked foreign – alpine almost.
Looking to my left as I walked toward the lake, Tryfan stood tall and jagged against the sky. It would be our near constant companion on this walk, staying firmly on our left hand side – I was looking forward to seeing it from all angles. Having never been to Llyn Idwal I had – obviously – never done Devil’s Kitchen and I felt a little nervous by it. I’d have liked to have known what we were getting into before heading up with friends. The climb is one that requires two hands in some parts and very strong glutes – it’s a nice route though and one I enjoyed (although next time I might put Flo in her harness). If you’re not keen on too much exposure, this may not be the route for you – unless you just don’t look down…
Although it starts steadily enough (you can see the path going diagonally up from left to right in the above photo) it does get steep pretty quickly and I’d always opt to go up it rather than down.
Reaching a ladder in the wall we climbed over and before too long sat at the col between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr. For some reason I hadn’t quite clocked the route properly on the map. This part of the walk I’d done before when I’d walked from Nant Peris to Capel Curig and knew what a leg burner this next part was to get up to the summit. So, stopping for a bite to eat seemed like a really good plan at this point – energy levels needed to be right up there.
The snow was a blessing in disguise I think for although it was kind of terrifying that we’d slip and there would be little to stop us from sliding all the way to the bottom, it equally gave us much better purchase on the slope by using others’ steps. It is on slopes like these that make you question why you’re doing this – why have you chosen to come and climb this mountain because oh-my-life the burn… That is before you get to the top and realise – oh, this is why!
It was satisfying to reach the summit of Glyder Fawr. Although there’s not a defining point (such as a trig) to say you’re at the summit, the huge jagged and teeth-like pieces of rock all around you (plus the cairns) guide you up, over and onwards towards the next summit, Glyder Fach.
Note: there are some very steep drops (you saw the above pictures) and although you shouldn’t go anywhere near them by sticking to the path, the weather can cloud in quickly so make sure to carry a map, compass and know where you are.
Flo was golden this whole time and took mountain life in her stride. She didn’t stray that far from me, especially after she got her paw caught between two rocks and needed a little bit of rescuing. The rocky surface is definitely something to keep an eye out with if you’re walking with dogs.
Heading along the cliff tops and towards Castell-y-Gwynt, the imposing castle of rock that stands in between Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach, we made our way steadily around the base of it. While on a good day you can have a great adventure rock hoping over it, it’s one I wanted to avoid with a big group of people, snow and a dog… Of course, Martha, mountain goat that she is, set out to climb it straight away. The below photo doesn’t quite give an idea of the scale of it but notice in my feature image you can see the Snowdon Horseshoe in the background!
The snow was thick on the ground here and we’d often fall through up to our knees or higher, making the crossing of Glyder Fach much harder than its larger neighbour. Finally reaching one of my favourite ever mountain features, the cantilever stone, we stopped for another break as everyone took turns to climb onto this huge slab of rock.
Pictures done and energy levels topped up we set out again, hoping from rock to rock until we started the descent. By now Tryfan was looming closely to the left – I just love how you get to see it from every angle on this walk! Dragging my gaze away from it I had to concentrate on where to place my feet – with snow hiding holes in the rock, the last bit of descent from Glyder Fach was slightly technical. Once down though, it was rolling hilltops all the way back to Capel Curig.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this bit is easy. Yes, the technical ground is behind you and you’re descending more than climbing but it’s long. After the strenuous first part of the walk, you feel the burn. This is the part where those who’ve carried poles are winning. They will 100% help take the strain off hips, knees and feet over the next few miles.
Tip: As well as walking poles, where (or carry) gaiters. Part of this next stretch can be boggy – even in summer – and gaiters will make your life much more pleasant.
I’ll just re-iterate the need to carry and map here. While it is a reasonably straight forward walk there are stretches where you can go off course so be wary! The landscape was at complete odds to what we’d walked over earlier that day. Sharp and unforgiving terrain had given way to grassy, boggy paths before turning into scrubby moorland with heather covering every inch of the hill.
As we made the final descent into Capel Curig, everybody was celebrating. The walk had been testing – but oh so beautiful – but now it was definetly time for a beer!
Here’s a screen shot of my Strava
This is not a route guide. Please properly plan your route, taking a map and compass if you try and do this walk yourself.