Tryfan, of course (Bwlch, not summit)


t was only a matter of time before I introduced my children to Tryfan, but it’s a peak that needs you to be fit and well, so this week we stared up at the sleeping stegosaurus and I explained that we wouldn’t be going to the top, because

it’s a scramble and I’m injured,

it’s a tough hike for a too-tired youngest child who did not sleep well last night, and

Tryfan is capricious: one minute a fun scramble, the next, a foggy disaster. People die on Tryfan (a regular few). People get rescued from Tryfan (a lot). I haven’t planned a walk up Tryfan, therefore it’s not a good idea.

On our last day, we walked to Llyn Idwal instead, and peered up at Y Garn – a great, bald lumpen mass of scree and effort, at which point, the lake and boulders of Tryfan started to look appreciably more appealing.

We played with the stones in the lake, skimming flat pieces of slate for two, four, ten bounces. Leaping from one stepping stone to another beside the shore. Dabbling in the shallows, eating apples and Eccles cakes, toying with the idea of a walk.

Fun at Idwal

There were lots of people at Idwal; it’s an easy place to visit and the perfect nursery for fledgling walkers — tiny children in cute boots shouting, “Daddy, I love it here!”

We wanted a bit of solitude – perhaps Llyn Bochlwyd, tantalisingly close, my hand could cope with one short clamber: up we went. We sprawled by Bochlwyd instead, on the soft mossy mid-rise, facing west, ignoring the implicit, looming invitation to our north. The sun made our skin tingle, the sky was clear, the water perfect for dipping toes. My hand in a bandage, no swimming… A young couple settled on the opposite shore and set up their music, booming tunes filling the entire basin between Glyders and Tryfan, really?  Half an hour of listening, of missing the silence of the hills, of Tryfan walkers passing by, no one else settling in the din. I love music but I don’t love having it forced on me in the hills. Earphones, people.  

Llyn Bochlwyd

We could escape up Tryfan…

Nope. Youngest was tired, and I was one-handed. We’d planned nothing. (We’re fairly fit, I know the mountain…)

We could just go up a little way? 

We wandered up, almost as if we weren’t, just “a bit” to escape the people and the music, and it was beautiful, but I told them, not the summit today. We neared Bwlch Tryfan, peered down at Bochlwyd, watched the clouds sail over the Glyders, felt the breeze, sat on rocks, lay back on the grass, soaked up the silence. Watched sweaty people huff and puff past.

We pottered in the stream, admired the beautiful white quartz blocks, and moseyed up to Bwlch Tryfan where Youngest said, “Mum, I’m tired.”

I promised my children that we’d only ever go up mountains if they wanted to, and would turn back any time. They need to be able to trust this so I said, “OK, let’s chill out here for five minutes then head back.”

The others cried, “But Mum, look!” The summit, an apple’s throw away, like every kind of prize.

I know. Next time.

We have our own rules on the mountain: always plan, always err on the side of caution, never prize the summit over your safety, etc. I know that you can, on occasion, stretch the rules and get away with it on familiar turf in good conditions (although Tryfan has less leeway than most), but under any circumstances, anywhere, I know that you can’t take a tired child further up, and then expect them to be OK all the way down. That’s not how biology works, especially when “down” includes climbing down a waterfall. Especially when it’s already afternoon. Especially when a movement in the air is already whispering that it’s time to leave.

I could feel Tryfan: the feeling of being somewhere that is, for me, a type of home – but also the sense that this is a place where you can only stay for a short time. By all means lie on your back and close your eyes in the sun, but for God’s sake don’t go to sleep and if a breeze kisses your cheek, it’s time to look at the sky.

Ten minutes after we turned back, the westerly breeze picked up, and washed the clouds in over Adam and Eve. We saw the silhouette of two walkers swallowed; our last view of them a frozen snapshot of hesitation as they turned to face the weather, grey outlines above vertical crags. The summit vanished. Even the path was gone. That’s Tryfan.

By the time we reached Ogwen, my youngest was ready to rest, but still smiling and keen to go up again another day. His brothers were looking at the cloud-capped peaks and starting to understand.

Tearing ourselves away from the mountains was like ripping velcro. None of us wanted to leave; a thousand little hooks urged us to stay. We sat in the car park at Ogwen, staring at the mountains that we’d all miss. Had places to be: good places to go. Still, left bits of ourselves there. Wanted to come back even before we’d gone.

Diolch, Eryri.



Advice: it’s dangerous. It’s a scramble. It’s summer, right? Be fit and equipped, be careful, read the weather, the descent is the hard part, navigation is everything, watch for clouds, slippery when wet, slippery when dry, exposed, steep, rockfalls, drop-offs, never jump, take it seriously, enjoy, fear, love.

Pre-walk reading:

Grough article on Tryfan.

Routes up Tryfan.

Dec 2018 Boulder warning.

Kit – this list is good, I’d add a Strava watch (or any waterproof watch) in case other timepieces fail, plus Strava is a potential location backup, and note that SCUBA diving torches are robust, waterproof, and can come with an optional strobe for emergencies. Don’t take spare batteries – take a spare torch (includes bulb, saves fumbling). Also fig rolls. My personal kit list is here.



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