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Difficulty

Hard

Duration

4hrs

Distance

8.7 km

Elevation

770 m

Glyder Fawr: Time to Enjoy a Scramble Fest

As you’d expect from the fifth-highest peak in Wales, Glyder Fawr is not a mountain to mess with. If you don’t have a head for heights then you don’t have the head for this hike.

If however, you love a scramble, you don’t scream when you see scree, you don’t get too flustered if you lose your way a few times and you don’t mind being a lone insignificant dot in a vast awesome landscape. Then, my friend, this is the hike for you.

In two weeks of hiking my socks off in Snowdonia National Park, including five trips to the top of Snowdon and back. Glyder Fawr was my favourite hike of the lot! And it rained.

Planning Your Own Walk – A Glyder Fawr Itinerary

Which Route up Glyder Fawr

Glyder Fawr is one of the 11 peaks that make up the Glyderau Mountain Range, known fondly as the Glyders; there are loads of walking routes here and several that take in multiple peaks.

I opted for the Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach Circular, which takes in not only the fifth-highest mountain in Wales but also the sixth for not much extra effort. Yep, it’s a freaking twofer!

It’s a steep path but a lot of fun. I was not disappointed.

There’s a less steep version of this same hike that approaches from the Miner’s Track from the south. Starting and ending at Pen-Y-Pass or Pen-Y-Grynd. Kinder on your knees but it misses out on all the fun of the Devil’s Kitchen.

Where to Park

The Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach route starts at the Ogwen Car Park which is just next to the Idwal Cottage Youth Hostel and directly across the road from the lovely waters of Llyn Ogwen.

The parking lot is at the westernmost end of the lake. But if the main parking is full, there are some lay-bys and parking spots a little further east along the A5, still on the shore of Llyn Ogwen. 

What to Pack

Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach are not hills to mess with. Do not attempt this hike in anything other than hiking footwear you know you can trust. With all the scrambling and loose scree up there, it would be very easy to turn an ankle.

So no flippy flops.

Prepare for the worst weather-wise. Even if the sun is shining and you can fry eggs on your car bonnet down at Llyn Ogwen, you could still be engulfed by the worst Welsh weather imaginable at the top of Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach.

Pack waterproofs and a warm layer. I didn’t bring gloves and my fingers regretted it! 

Oh, and of course pack enough water and snacks for half a day’s hiking.

A beautiful view at the lakePrepare your jaw for multiple droppings. Maybe wear a chin guard. 

 

Route Description: My Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach Experience 

Bye Sunshine, Hello Rain

So all good things must come to an end. After almost two weeks of continuous sunshine in Snowdonia, I woke to an overcast sky and rain. Normal British summer has resumed.

No bother. I’d planned to hike up Glyder Fawr today and that’s exactly what I was going to do. A bit of rain can’t stop the legs of this hiking machine.

I arrived at the car park at the same time as a few other cars and none of us were able to get the pay and display machine to work. We formed a little gang and marched off to the Ogwen Snack Bar for assistance.

The chap working there just told us to “ignore it and go for a walk” 

So that’s exactly what we all did.

Usually, when the machine is firing on all cylinders, it’s £3 per 4 hrs to park here but today it was free! 

Glyderau Range Facilities

If you’ve read this blog before you guys know I love a good car park.

The car park here is by the youth hostel, meaning you could crash here if you wanted a super early start. There was the cafe, the National Trust Ogwen Cottage visitors centre and even some nice working toilets.

Apart from the Pen Y Pass car park which serves the Snowdon “superhighways” of Pyg Track and Miners Parth, this was probably the most developed centre I’d come across in the last two weeks in Snowdonia. 

Standing stones give the heights of the peaks aheadStanding stones give the heights of the peaks ahead. Glyder Fawr 1001m. I like the extra 1m. 

On with the Hike

After going all out yesterday to get up and down Snowdon via the Rhyd Ddu path in under three hours, I woke up a little achy and a little creaky. So today I resolved to take things a bit steadier.

I planned to go slow and soak in the beauty of the Glyderau Range around me while contemplating the many varied mysteries of the universe. 

I was alone once more as my gf and usual hiking partner Sara was still furiously working away on a project, making us some Nik Nak money.

The footbridge over the Afon IdalFinally, a photo I’m happy with. Moody sky right?

Moody Sky In the Morning

As I crossed the footbridge over the Afon Idal that marks the start of the hike the rain started as if on cue. 

I popped my coat on and although the weather alternated between half rainy and half sunny for the rest of the morning. I kept my coat on for the rest of the hike. I’d read enough about Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach to know the weather doesn’t take prisoners up there.

The nice thing about the changeable weather was the contrast between the dramatic clouds and spots of sun meant my photos for the day all turned out ten times better than usual.

A rocky path to Glyder FawrAnother pretty decent photo. I’m getting the hang of this now.

Lake Idwal: No Swimming Please

It was perfect rainbow weather. And I love rainbow spotting. But sadly I didn’t come across a single one. It wasn’t a rainbow fest like my Sandstone trail hike.

After half a mile I came to the shore of Llyn Idwal which would have looked very inviting for a wild swim on a blue sky day. But I’d seen a sign back down at the trailhead asking people not to swim in Idwal as the lake is “protected for its nature”.

The path continues to follow the east shore of the lake. 

I think if I was having a rest day, a more gentle hike just around the shores of Llyn Idwal would have been very pleasant. The views are astonishing. 

Lake IdwalCwm Idwal. The cleft at the middle back behind the lake is the Devil’s Kitchen/Buttcrack. Your destination.

Darwin’s Idwal Boulders

The large boulders that scatter the shore of Llyn Idwal might just look like normal old rocks to you and me. One such cluster here provided a lightbulb moment for Charles Darwin who visited the Glyder Fawr in 1831.

The father of evolution was having a wander and a ponder – probably stroking his beard – when he noticed the rocks by the shore here contained marine seashells.

From that he realised the rocks must have been created within an ancient ocean, and that forces within the Earth’s crust must have deposited them here.

I don’t know enough about Darwin to know what he did with this brain spark but I definitely paid a lot more attention to the boulders here than I usually do rocks as I walked past.

Shout out to the AllTrails app for this too. If there hadn’t been a little waypoint marked on the app I would’ve had no idea.

Onwards and upwards to the Devil’s Kitchen

The first mile of this hike is nice and gentle but as you leave the lakeshore at its southeast the path finally starts to climb. You will pass below the Idwal Slabs, very well-known cliffs in the climbing world.

It gets steep quickly. It’s a bit of a shock after the gentle ambling around the lake looking at rocks. There were several rushing streams cascading down over the rocks with bridges to cross over them. 

Mike and a streamMe and a stream.

Mike crossing a streamA nice pic of my hairy leg. You’re welcome. 

Getting Cooking in Devil’s Kitchen

After the stream/waterfall section, an upward scramble through a boulder field to the Devil’s Kitchen begins.

The Devil’s Kitchen is a deep crack in the crags between Glyder Fawr and neighbouring peak Y Garn. You don’t actually go through it, you climb up to the entrance and veer left through a similar crack unseen from below.

Most refer to this as the Devil’s Kitchen section. So I will too. From below the whole section looks gnarly but it’s actually quite good fun. Nothing too extreme but you’ll likely have to use your hands and feet at some point.

Well, you will definitely have to use your feet. If you can up just using your hands then you are doing very well. But you know what I mean. There will be some actual climbing involved. 

It was a bit drizzly at this point but nothing to worry about. 

A boulder field to the Devil’s KitchenThere it is, the Devil’s Buttcrack.

Devil’s Buttcrack, More like!

Now to be honest I’m not a trained mountain part namer but as I scrambled up toward it, it looked more like a butt crack to me than a kitchen, but there you go!

Devil’s Buttcrack isn’t as mysterious somehow. Wouldn’t look as good on an OS map.

And I suppose not many people would enjoy climbing near a buttcrack. So probably best they went with “kitchen”.

Apparently, the name originated due to ominous steam emanating from the crack in the crags that looked like someone was boiling a big pot of something down there. And who would be doing such a thing up a mountain? The devil of course.

Poor chap gets such a bad rep. 

It wasn’t steam, of course, but mist/cloud formed by moist air hitting the rock face in a particular way. 

A stile across a lovely dry stone wallStyling it out at the top of the Devil’s Kitchen.

Brief Rest Before the Real Scramble Begins

You will know you’ve conquered the buttcrack section when you make it to a stile across a lovely dry stone wall. A nice place for a little pit spot to catch your breath and nib on a scotch egg.

This wall and stile mark the end of the bigger scrambly boulders and the start of looser smaller scree underfoot. This continues for a few hundred metres until things top out and you get to a wee lake.

Lyn Y Cwm. which in the rudimentary mountain Welsh I’ve picked up over the last week I think must translate Lake in the Valley.

A looser smaller scrambly bouldersEnough to make you scree-m!

Scree Slopes and Cold Fingers

It’s a pretty little lake. And get used to looking at it as you will be taking a few breathers over the ascent to the summit up the next scree path, which is way steeper than the last one.

Once I emerged from the Devil’s Crack section, I also left the protection of Cwm. Up here I was a lot more exposed and the wind immediately cranked up a gear. I had to tighten my hat to stop it from being blown off the top of my head.

At this point, I also severely began regretting not double-checking that I’d packed my gloves. I hadn’t. And my hands were frozen by the wind wrapping my knuckles.

This is the British weather that makes life so interesting. Yesterday I was covered in suncream on my hike up Snowdon. Today I’m kicking myself for not bringing woolly mittens and a hot water bottle.

Neither mind. The proper scree scramble was about to begin and that was going to warm me up quickly.

Steep path on the Glyder Fawr trailAnother photo that doesn’t do it any justice. This, my friends, is hella steep.

Scree-m If You Wanna Go Faster

The next 1 km is a tough steep scree path. This photo doesn’t do it justice. The combination of the small stones and the steep incline is an absolute leg and lung killer.

Imagine (if you’re old enough) the travellator from Gladiators. “Contenders ready!”. You take a big step up but then slide back half a step, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

It’s kinda like doing Micheal Jackon’s Moonwalk but on a 60-70% slope.

It was on this section that I really started to regret pushing it so much on Snowdon yesterday. My legs were seriously on fire. But soon I was about to be rewarded with stunning views across the Glyders to make up for it.

Or was I?!

Mike walking directly into the heart of a fat cloudThe peak, I think. Or some alien planet.

Head in the Clouds

Nope. My reward for making it to the top was to walk directly into the heart of a fat cloud. The views I’d been looking forward to were blanketed in white.

It wasn’t what I’d hoped for but I loved it nonetheless. It was seriously otherworldly up there.

It was super eerie and I’d yet to see a single person on the hike since I’d left the car park.

Was I supposed to be up here? I kept imagining some mad winged pterodactyl would swoop out of the cloud, pluck me up, ferry me off and feed me to her young.

Maybe I’ve seen too many films.

I eventually found the peak of Glyder Fawr but there was no trig point, just some jaggedy rocks. 

Fifth tallest spot in WalesFifth tallest spot in Wales. Look at the views!

Now, Admittedly looking at this photo it could be just about any rock on any mountain, even a rock at sea level. Could even be a rock in my back garden. But it is the Glyder Fawr peak, I swear! 

Iron Throne-looking rock sculpturesGame of Thrones Iron Throne-looking rock sculptures.

Onward to Glyder Fach

Once you’ve reached the peak of Glyder Fawr, the next mile or so of the hike is on the plateau between here and the peak of neighbouring Glyder Fach. Remember I told you it’s a twofer.

Glyder Fach is just a few metres shorter than Fawr so don’t worry there are no more lung-busting 70% inclines ahead. Just a nice sea of rocks to clamber over. It’s brilliant. Even in a thick cloud.

Pile of rocks on the way to Glyder FachFollow the cairns to Glyder Fach and all will be well.

Please Be Cairn-ful 

Your route to Glyder Fach is well-cairned, it’s marked by piles of rocks that are hard to miss even in deep clouds. You can of course check your Alltrails map but following the piles of rocks is far more fun. 

Do please be careful though as there can be sheer drops in places and you don’t want to wander off the edge and do yourself mischief.

Cludair-Heaps of stone 

Castle of the Wind

Between the two peaks of Fawr and Fach is a third which you will skirt around and admire. This is the scene-stealing Castell y Gwynt, or Castle of the Wind to give it its translated name. And what an appropriate name. I mean just look at it!

This is real Lord of Rings territory. You can imagine some manky orc living here sharpening his teeth on hairy Hobbit bones.

Heaps and Heaps of Stones

According to Welsh language legend Sir Ifor Williams, the word “Glyder” was derived from the Welsh word “Cludair”, meaning a heap of stones. When you are up here looking at all these heaps of stone, this seems very believable. 

Man in the Mist

Between Castell y Gwynt and Glyder Fach, the rock formations just kept getting more fascinating. And I knew from my research that the best was about to come.

But before that, something happened that hadn’t happened since I’d left the car. Another hiker appeared. Like a spectre, he metamorphosed out of the mist with his lovely dog.

His timing could not have been better. We had a brief chat and then I got him to take this snap of me on the famous Cantilever Stone.

Bam! 

Image of Mike standing on the famous Cantilever StoneThe Cantilever Stone. Bonus point if you can spot Bob the Dog!

Thanks, random stranger who I’m going to call Alan. He had an Alan-y vibe. Very no nonsense. Your photo made the blog! As did your awesome dog, who I’m going to call Bob.

Thanks, Alan and Bob the Dog! Oh, and thanks Cantilever Stone. You’re all awesome.

Last 100m to the summit of Glyder FachThis is much steeper than the photo shows.

Glyder Fach and Down

After the iconic Cantilever Stone, it’s less than 100m to the summit of Glyder Fach. I didn’t hang around before making my descent. As atmospheric as the clouds were, it was still a bit chilly up here.

I’d read on Alltrails that this hike wasn’t for newbs. The way up had been tough for sure but nothing too scary. I never felt like I was going to topple off the hill.

Going down, however, is a bit sketchy and I started to appreciate the warnings. It had rained on and off throughout the climb but thankfully the sky tears hadn’t been too heavy and they relented by the time I reached the descent.

But during heavy rain, or after a proper downpour I am positive the descent down the steep scree slope to Bwlch Tryfan would’ve been a much hairier experience.

Down to Bwlch TryfanThe sea of stones.

Down to Bwlch Tryfan

Bwlch Tryfan is the pass between Glyder Fach and neighbouring Tryfan.

I took it steady and thankfully the clouds finally cleared to give me the views I deserved for all huffing and puffing. 

As I slid down bits of scree, in a nice controlled fashion, I imagined my gf and usual hiking partner Sara being here. She would’ve hated this big. She’s not a big scree fan.

As I was about to come down a long gully section when I spotted some others coming up the opposite way. 

Rather than start the descent and risk knocking rocks onto their noggins, I perched on a pretty ledge and dangled my hairy legs in the breeze. I ate my NikNaks and the remainder of my cheese sarnie and life felt good.

Once they were up and past me I began to shimmy down the mountain. It was doable, as I did it, but I concentrated far harder on these few hundred metres of descent than at any point on any of the five routes up and down Snowdon summit. 

Take it steady folks.

Bwlch Tryfan hill topTryfan is not a hill to be Tryfled with.

The Descent Continues

The view from Bwlch Tryfan up the so-called “Bristly Ridge” to the summit of Tryfan is very enticing. Tryfan is a very good-looking mountain. All craggy and whatnot. I can see why it often wins praise for being one of the UK’s favourite peaks.

Next time I’m in Snowdonia, Bristly Ridge and Tryfan are going to be at the front of the queue for peaks to climb.

The descent after Bwlch Tryfan is much more manageable. You still have to pay attention of course but it’s not the focus fest that the initial scree path was.

I took it nice and gentle with a few bouts of hopping from boulder to boulder thrown in when the path allowed.

The clouds had lifted completely and I was rewarded with stunning views of Llyn Bochlwyd to my left as I descended.

The view from Bwlch Tryfan up the so-called “Bristly Ridge”

The Last Leg

Just after you pass the shores of Llyn Bochlwyd and come past Clogwyn Y Tarw to your left there is a final steep-ish section back down to level ground. And then it’s a pleasant stroll back to base.

Alltrails has a nice-looking route that takes in both Llyn Idwal and Llyn Bochlwyd. To be honest there are so many walking routes in this amazing mountain range you could be crisscrossing on awesome hike after awesome hike for weeks on end!

As I got closer to the car I realised the sun was out and it was scorching! So listen to people when they tell you the weather does vary hugely from the peak to the bottom. It does. I’d gone from thick cloud and frozen fingers to sweaty face and sunburn in under an hour.

Back to Base

I got back to the visitors centre after 4 hrs and 1 min of hiking. I hadn’t been watching the clock at all. Just enjoying myself ambling around. But when I saw it, that 1 minute annoyed me. Grrr! If only I’d sprinted the last 500 meters like a loon I could’ve been back in under 4 hours.

Anyway as I was growling at my watch I looked up to see the cafe at the bottom now swarming with school children all joyously feasting on ice creams and having a lovely time in the sun.

I hopped in my car and that was that, another Welsh peak bagged. 

360 Image of Mike after finishing Glyder Fawr hikeOne of my world-famous mini-world photos to celebrate.

Final Thoughts: A Scramble Fest or a Scrambled Mess?

This Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach Circular hike has got it all.

Beautiful lakes, incredible views, Darwinian boulders, scrambles through demon buttcracks, 70% scree slopes, castles carved by wind and that miraculous famous Cantilever Stone.

It’s a winner from start to finish.

I’m still a newbie to hiking. Before starting this blog a few months ago I’d barely even seen a hill. So all of this is new to me. But in my own humble opinion, I’d say Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach are a great introduction to the world of scrambling.

That said, if you’re up for a challenge but want something slightly less nerve-racking as Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach I’d consider giving the Moel Siabod hike a go first.

After this, I’ve now got a real taste for scrambled legs. So Bristly Ridge, Tryfyn and Crib Coch are firmly on my agenda for my next trip to Snowdonia.

Until next time Hiker Heroes, remember to pick up those crisp packets and always shut the gate behind you. Treat the trail like you would a loved one.

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