The Glyders via Bristly Ridge

Bristly Ridge

The Glyders, or Glyderau mountain range in Snowdonia are one of the most exciting mountain ranges in Britain. The ordnance survey map tile covering this walk was once voted the best in the nation. The route starts from the grand setting of the Ogwen Valley. The exciting grade one scramble up and over Bristly Ridge gives endless hands on rock fun. The exposed drops from Bristly Ridge give awesome views across Nant Ffrancon and Cwm Idwal, probably the nation's best example of a landscape shaped by glaciation. On the summits of Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr you will find the fascinating rock formations of the aptly named Cantilever Stone and the amazing Castell y Gwynt. The descent route takes you by the infamous Devil's Kitchen path and back through the idyllic Cwm Idwal to complete an exciting and eye-opening day out in the Snowdonia National Park's most exciting mountains. This route is all about rock and excitement. The scramble up Bristly Ridge is so much fun and the views from it are impressive. If the weather is bad or you don't have the ability to tackle Bristly Ridge there is an alternative ascent via Bwlch Tryfan.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts at Idwal Cottage on the A5 by Llyn Ogwen in the Ogwen Valley. There is plenty of roadside parking in the numerous A5 laybys and a pay and display car park by Idwal Cottage Youth Hostel at grid reference SH 649 603.
  2. Look for the cafe and toilet block buildings on the south east edge of the main car park. Follow the footpath towards Llyn Idwal that heads off from directly behind these buildings.
  3. The path will go through an iron gate before crossing a footbridge over the Llyn Idwal outflow stream. Follow the path as it heads south east. However, at the point where this main path bends to the right changing direction, instead continue on a smaller path which stays on the south-easterly direction.
  4. After only twenty metres you will reach one of the footpaths heading south from the A5 laybys. This path heads towards the Nant Bochlwyd. When it reaches Nant Bochlwyd it ascends a steep section over Bochlwyd Buttress.
  5. The path then flattens out and reaches Llyn Bochlwyd. Continue along the path through Cwm Bochlwyd passing the eastern shores of Llyn Bochlwyd. After Llyn Bochlwyd ascend the loose path to Bwlch Tryfan.
  6. At Bwlch Tryfan there is a stone wall that crosses with a wooden stile over it. Do not cross the stile unless you want to miss out on the fun of Bristly Ridge. If you don't want to do Bristly Ridge, cross the stile then turn right on the normal ascent path to Glyder Fach.
  7. From the path look at the huge buttress end of Bristly Ridge; you will see a scree path ascend to the right hand side of the nearest small buttress. The wall that crosses Bwlch Tryfan goes to its left hand side.
  8. Ascend that path and you will find yourself on an area above the buttress at the foot of a gully. This gully is known as the Main Gully and is the harder of two possible ascents onto the ridge.
  9. If you move up to the left by just ten metres you will see the stone wall from Bwlch Tryfan which came up the other side of the small buttress. Here you will find yourself at the foot of the other gully known as Sinister Gully, and despite its name, the easier of the two gullies.
  10. Choose which gully you wish to ascend. In summer Main Gully is the more exciting challenge. It is the steepest, the rocks are loose, and it turns in to an exposed narrow chimney towards the top. I would avoid Main Gully in winter conditions as the chimney at the top of the gully is then more of a full on winter climb.
  11. Take care ascending whichever gully you choose. Descend if necessary and choose a different route if you can't handle it and always be patient around others who may be taking their time. Always be aware of kicking rock on those below, and rocks coming down from above.
  12. Once on the top of the ridge you will have earned a rest. Sit and marvel at your surroundings. Tryfan looks immense from Bristly Ridge. Continue along the crest of the ridge with care, planning your next move over some incredible rock pinnacles.
  13. Eventually you will come to a point on the ridge known as Great Pinnacle Gap. Here you have to drop down on to flat slabs that can be lethal when wet, and pass by an impressive tall pinnacle of rock.
  14. The views to your right over Nant Ffrancon and Cwm Idwal are awe-inspiring, and probably the nation's best example of a landscape shaped by glaciation. I would recommend sitting for a while on a quiet pinnacle and soaking up this unique and incredible setting.
  15. Continue along the crest of the ridge beyond the Great Pinnacle Gap, crossing or passing a few more smaller pinnacles. This really is an amazing place and the satisfaction of completing Bristly Ridge is overwhelming. You will eventually reach the plateau of Glyder Fach and the main path coming up from Bwlch Tryfan.
  16. Head in the direction of the higher ground to reach the boulder covered summit of Glyder Fach at nine hundred and ninety four metres above sea level. The summit is a great place, the most obvious land mark being the astonishing Cantilever Stone. This is a huge slab of rock balancing in mid air looking like a huge ironing board.
  17. A photo on top of the Cantilever Stone is an essential ritual when on Glyder Fach. The rock looks as though it should topple over when people stand on it. However after thousands of walkers standing on it each year, often in significant numbers, the Cantilever Stone still sits in the same precarious position it has for centuries.
  18. From the summit of Glyder Fach you will see on the far western side of the mountain plateau a huge natural display of sharp slate rocks, soaring skyward like something out of a science fiction movie. This is Castell y Gwynt - translated as Castle of The Winds.
  19. Castell y Gwynt gets its name from the noise that strong winds make as they pass through the tall spiky rocks. Head west along the plateau towards Castell y Gwynt. The closer you get the more you realise just how spectacular it is. There are also great views from here across to Snowdon.
  20. Follow one of the paths round Castell y Gwynt and head down the short descent to Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder. From Bwlch y Ddwy-Glyder follow the obvious path as it slowly ascends the flat but rocky plateau of Glyder Fawr. The path edges the rim of the Nameless Cwm, affording stunning views down through the Nant Ffrancon valley.
  21. After a while you'll reach the top of Glyder Fawr, the highest of the Glyderau range at nine hundred and ninety nine metres above sea level. The summit of Glyder Fawr is not nearly as exciting as that of its smaller sister Glyder Fach.
  22. From Glyder Fawr descend northwest over rocky ground then along the obvious path until you reach a steep decent to Llyn y Cwn. Descend this steep section to reach the shores of the sheltered Llyn y Cwn.
  23. When you reach Llyn y Cwn head to its eastern side. From here head north east along a path until it reaches a wide track descending with stunning views ahead to Pen yr Ole Wen across the Ogwen Valley.
  24. The wide track eventually reaches a small old stone wall that crosses its path. The steep rocky path continues along a tricky descent. Crampons are definitely needed here in winter. The path turns left under the crags and heads towards the bottom of the Devil's Kitchen, a huge cold rock gully now on your left.
  25. After admiring or looking fearfully at the foreboding gully of the Devil's Kitchen, follow the path as it continues its tricky descent towards Llyn Idwal before eventually flattening out to a much simpler level before reaching Llyn Idwal below the famous climbing slopes of The Idwal Slabs.
  26. The path now heads north around the eastern shores of Llyn Idwal and reaches a small wooden footbridge over the outflow. Follow the path to the right back to Idwal Cottage to reach the start of the walk.
  27. You could finish off the day by visiting Capel Curig a few miles down the road where you can shop, eat and drink at the Pinnacle Cafe & Outdoor Shop, Joe Browns or one of the friendly local hotels. The village of Bethesda north of the Ogwen Valley also has numerous cafes and pubs.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL17 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 115 Map Click to buy Harvey Snowdonia Mountain Map Click to buy Pathfinder Snowdonia Walk Guides

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.