Some hills get attention just because they are above a certain height. The Munros in Scotland (mountains over 3000 ft in height) started the trend in the UK, and the Welsh and English Munros, although fewer in number, are equally popular with British walkers and mountaineers.
Tryfan at 3010 ft (917 metres) is the lowest of the Welsh Munros, and almost slipped off the Munro scale when the previous survey came out at 3002 ft (915 metres). For many though, it wouldn’t have mattered much if Tryfan had lost Munro status. One look from below tells its own story – this is a mountain with class!
Tryfan means ‘Three Peaks’. The main peak is crowned by two large blocks named Adam and Eve, which are three metres high and just over a metre apart. Leaping from one to the other is said to confer ‘The Freedom of Tryfan’ to those who survive! An otherwise simple step is made more ‘interesting’ by an almost sheer drop on the east side of the mountain.
The most popular route for walkers (and the most difficult) is the North Ridge, a fine day out and a Grade 1 Scramble route. I’ve gone this way several times before, though it’s a joke shared by those using the route that you probably never go the same way twice, such is the variable nature of the ridge. For a complete change, my route this time was ‘Heather Terrace’, a ledge traversing across the East Face of Tryfan.
My route took me past the small climber’s crag of ‘Tryfan Bach’. The last time I had been on the crag was many years earlier, when I went down instead of up, guiding a rescue stretcher on a training session with the RAF. As I passed today, two climbers were making rapid progress on one of the easier climbs, but I was more interested in picking the best line to ‘Heather Terrace’.
I wasn’t alone today – Border Collie ‘Mist’ was also along for a high mountain day. I have to confess that I’m not as blasé as I used to be about taking a dog on potentially serious mountain terrain – 25 years ago my Mountain Rescue dog ‘Matt’ would go anywhere that I did, but although ‘Mist’ is used to long mountain days, I had never taken her on a route with big drops below! Time to use the ‘Web Master Harness’ featured in post #56.
The harness is a great piece of kit – it fastens securely to the dog and has a hauling loop and a ‘grab handle’ if things get serious. With the harness, the dog can be roped or lifted over difficult sections or obstacles. Although ‘Heather Terrace’ is technically easy, the route passes through steep ground and crags and I wanted to be able to keep the dog under close control if necessary.
Of course, I needn’t have bothered – Border collies are quite capable of sorting themselves out, and ‘Mist’ had a great time, and by acting the ‘cute doggie’ she almost managed to beg sandwiches from a group we met on the route.
In pretty quick time we had finished the terrace route, and were heading down to the easy pass of ‘Bwlch Tryfan’, with the impressive scramble route of ‘Bristly Ridge’ beyond. However, a Grade 1 Scramble isn’t really the place for a dog, not even a Border Collie, so we settled for lunch instead before heading back.
The way back was not straight down to Ogwen – instead we took the Miners track then headed for Y Foel Goch, a route we had followed last year with friends John and Mavis (post #47). From there, the route followed new ground for me, with an interesting descent of the Gallt yr Ogof ridge.
Gallt yr Ogof isn’t a knife-edge epic, but it needs full concentration on route finding towards the end, where the ridge plunges over crags to the valley floor. No plunging for this man and his dog though, and before long we were back in the valley, enjoying views of Tryfan on the way back to the car.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock