Glyders

This Glyders – Snowdonia post has been a while in the making but only because I have been catching up and sharing posts of other photo trips from August and September which had been the most productive time for a while.  If you missed those you can catch up at Colourful Conwy Mountain – Snowdonia and Spectacular Surprise View – Peak District

The Glyders

For those who don’t know the Glyders the name derives from the highest peaks in the Glyderau mountain range,  Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach.  According to Sir Ifor Williams, the word Glyder derives from the Welsh word “Cludair”, meaning a heap of stones and you will see why as we complete the traverse.

The Glyderau stretch from Mynydd Llandegai to Capel Curig, and include five of Wales’ fourteen or fifteen summits over 3000 feet; these include Tryfan, considered one of the finest mountains in Wales and one of the few mountains on the British mainland requiring scrambling to reach the summit. The eastern half of the range in particular, including Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach, and Tryfan, is very popular with walkers and climbers.

On the day I was joined by my son Andrew and almost 11-year-old grandson Aaron and whilst it was not Aaron’s first walk we had been on it was certainly the most challenging.  

Our original intention was to walk up Snowdon even though Andrew and myself had completed it before but with all the issues of parking and at the time there was a 45-minute wait to actually get to the summit cairn we made the decision to try an alternative walk which included some of the Glyder which I had wanted to visit for some time.  Again to avoid the crowds I found a route starting in Capel Curig and finishing at Pen y Pass and then catching the Snowdon Sherpa back to the start.  Most people would reach the main Glyder summits from Cwm Idwal to avoid the long walk in but not us – we did it the hard way.

gnarly Glyders
Our Route from Capel Curig to Pen y Pass
Andrew and Aaron at the start with the Snowdon Horseshoe in the background

That’s the route and Andrew and Aaron are ready to start the 9.5 hour hike covering about 10 miles.  Yes I know that is a long time to cover 10 miles but across that terrain rising from 199m to 1001m and then straight back down on no clearly defined path, photo opportunity stops and breaks I think we managed it very well especially Aaron with a rucksack on his back which was almost as big as himself.

So from the car park in Capel Curig, we set off following a well-made track hoping to follow the route shown above.  Well within 200 metres it wasn’t very clear which track we should be taking but eventually, Andrew managed to sort out what he thought was the right way.  It was a scramble of about 500m after joining the path but the views to the North West suddenly opened up, revealing the high Carneddau.

The path then climbed between rock outcrops to the minor top of Cefn y Capel (460m) which offers great views of Moel Siabod across Llynnau Mymbyr to the South; the Snowdon Horseshoe to the South West and the Carneddau to the North.  We continued along the clear undulating path over a few minor tops amidst ground that was boggy after which the path steepened appreciably as it climbed towards the summit of Gallt yr Ogof (763m) – the easternmost summit on main the Glyder ridge – from where you get impressive views of the Glyderau, with Tryfan and Y Foel Goch being most prominent.

Y Foel Goch

Tryfan from Y Foel Goch Summit

Continuing along the ridge path we reached Y Foel Goch (805m) with our first closer view of the face of Tryfan.  After all, that climbing up 606m on sometimes very difficult terrain, it was time for a sandwich break and you would have great difficulty in finding a better view to enjoy.

The path is initially fairly clear as it descends from the summit of Y Foel Goch but disappears for a while across a boggy plateau before reaching the shoreline of Llyn y Caseg Fraith.  The view of Tryfan across the lake, the lower half truncated by the ridge, is delightful, and that of Bristly Ridge on the left equally absorbing.

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Bristly Ridge and Tryfan across Llyn y Caseg Fraith

Glyder Fach

Following the path which continues ahead in a Westerly direction, we start the climb towards Glyder Fach and the underfoot conditions change from easy walking across a predominantly grass path to a steeper gradient picking our route across sizeable rocks en route to the summit of Glyder Fach.  As the path starts to climb, there were impressive views to the right along the Nant Ffrancon valley.  The area around the summit contains some spectacular rock formations that mean it is generally possible to find shelter from the wind although we were fortunate with very little wind if any. The most spectacular rock formation, however – The Cantilever Stone – offers no shelter from the elements.

Glyder Fach Rock Formations

If you can’t beat them then join them ….

From the summit of Glyder Fach (994m), it is only a short walk west to the spectacular Castell y Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) rock formation seen here in the mid background with the summit of Snowdon in the upper left below the clouds.  In the centre background, you can see the path leading up to Glyder Fach the highest point on our walk.  Castell y Gwynt is so called because in strong winds blowing from the right direction, the hollows between the stones sing like organ pipes. 

Glyders
Castell y Gwynt from Glyder Fach

From this viewpoint, you cant see how difficult it is to determine the best way to get around Castell y Gwynt which you have to negotiate to be able to continue on.  Needless to say, I think we ended up taking the most difficult way by scrambling up and through the rock formation which produced some potential ankle breaking moments but eventually we all reached the other side safely and in one piece. 

Glyder Fawr

It’s then a steady climb breaking through 1000m to our final Glyder  – Glyder Fawr a peak with no well defined top despite its stats as the highest on the Glyders (1001m).  In fact, apart from the views, it was somewhat disappointing after all the spectacular rock formations around Glyder Fach.  Who would have thought that the 7 metres in height difference would have made such a significant change in summit landscapes?

In the background of this image, you can see the continuation of the Glyder traverse leading to Y Garn but for ourselves, it was time to make our way down from the Glyders highest point to Pen y Pass.

Glyder Fawr Summit – or is it?

Whilst the initial climb up to the ridge at Y Foel Goch had been challenging we didn’t know it now but the descent to Pen y Pass was to prove just as difficult in a different way.  I believe this route is normally used to climb to the summit of Glyder Fawr but we had chosen to descend which proved to be a knee breaking experience with a steep drop of almost 650m through jagged rocks, streams and occasionally a path.  It is a while since I had walked down from such a height and the last time I had got a terrible pain in the side of my knees and this was the case this time.  

No problems going up but the descent is very painful.

Andrew who has already had an operation on one knee and now waiting for one on the other also had problems but led us down a very undefined route to reach Pen y Pass with about 20 minutes to spare before the last Snowdonia Sherpa passed through on its way to Capel Curig and beyond.  In fact, there was even time for a quick pint from the Youth Hostel. 

If we hadn’t made that Sherpa we would have been either walking another 5.5 miles along the main road with mostly no path OR paying for a taxi service.

All in all a great day out in almost perfect weather conditions especially with Andrew and Aaron joining me.  Andrew did a great job navigating us on the route particularly on the initial ascent and the final descent and Aaron amazed me how easy he made it look especially carrying that heavy rucksack for most of the day.  Also, another photo location is off my list. 

Some of these images and many more from the National Park can be found in the Snowdonia and North Wales gallery where you are able to buy a variety of wall art prints, canvases, and personal and commercial image downloads.

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