The Ogwen Triple offers a scrambling guide to a trio of Snowdonia’s great scrambles. It will make a great link up adventure for anyone comfortable on terrain up to grade three. Please do read on to find out more details about a great adventure.
The idea of linking mountain routes has a prestigious history. In 1987 Frenchman Christophe Profit linked the 3 classic North Faces of the Alps within 24 hours. In 1995 Frenchman Jean Christophe Lafaille upped the game by making a 16 day solo enchainment of ten alpine faces. The French termed this style ‘enchainement’s’. Americans call them ‘link ups’. Either way, the principle is the same. Ascending several long routes and travelling between them within one adventurous outing.
Few of us may be able to climb at the standard Profit or Lafaille did, but it really doesn’t matter. There’s a lifetime of easier grade link-ups in the British mountains that access amazing places, offer fantastic challenges and you can still be back in the valley for a celebratory meal by early evening. One of my favourite Snowdonia enchainement’s is a scrambling adventure I’ve come to call the Ogwen Triple. This links three easily accessed yet suitably challenging scrambles set around the stunning cirque of Cwm Idwal.
The access point for the Ogwen Triple is the Ogwen Valley. This long valley will already be familiar to many Snowdonia visitors and is easily accessed along the A5 from either the Bethesda or Capel Curig direction. Whichever route you take you are in for a treat. You pass under the spectacular Glyderau range and the southern swathe of the Carneddau. Central to all this, nestling right in the thick of it all, is the majestic tri-capped Tryfan. Just getting there makes this a stunning journey.
The starting point for the Ogwen Triple is the car park at Ogwen Cottage. This is situated at the end of Llyn Ogwen and offers a reasonable amount of pay and display parking. However, please do be aware that it does fill up quite quickly at busy times. There is a small food kiosk, toilets and weather forecast available within the car park (although we strongly advise checking forecasts carefully before you are stood in the car park!).
An access path to Cwm Idwal runs from the side of the buildings. It’s a well made track that sweeps into the Cwm. For a while the scrambles are hidden from view. Stick with it though. Soon enough the track weaves around the side of Llyn Idwal and the rocky wedge of Idwal Slabs and the surrounding mountains appear.
After following the left side of Llyn Idwal the path leads under the Idwal Slabs. It then starts to climb towards the Devil’s Kitchen. The path passes Idwal Staircase (a deep imposing corner that offers another fine scramble in dry conditions). Soon after that the first scramble of the Ogwen Triple leaves the path at a broad rib. This is just at the point where it crosses a stream that tumbles all the way into Llyn Idwal.
North West Face Route
This is now the bottom of a long grade two scramble called North West Face Route. The full scramble finishes near the summit of Glyder Fawr although the Ogwen Triple uses the first part of the route before heading leftwards at an obvious broad grassy basin situated mid way up the face.
The route starts up a blunt rib before following a series of ramp lines and cracks. The scrambling gets better and better as you get higher up the route. The rock is clean and generally sound although there are a few loose holds. As with all scrambles, test suspect holds before use.
Height can be gained quite quickly. Soon the sense of exposure increases as the face sweeps down towards the cwm floor. My favourite part of the route is the top section where the cracks give way to broad and open slabs. These offer a delightful way to the grassy terrace that leads across to the second scramble.
From the point where North West Face Route meets the grassy terrace there is a small path heading leftwards. This cuts across towards the right edge of the main Idwal Slab face. There are a few access points onto the face. Care must be taken to find a suitable line that doesn’t lead either to difficult terrain or a dead end. My favoured line ascends just left of steep vegetated couloirs. A broad horizontal ledge allows easy progress then weaves an interesting line in a rising leftwards diagonal before ascending on to a grassy terrace with Cwm Cneifion on your left. The scrambling in this section is great quality. Some steps are steep and exposed, but there are flat areas in between that provide the chance for a rest. The exposed situation on this section is fantastic.
From this point the alpine style ridge of Cniefion Arete stands out clearly on the other side of Cwm Cneifion. Getting to it involves a simple stroll across the basin and a walk up the steep slope which leads directly to its base. Cneifion Arete is, justifiably, one of the most famous scrambles in Snowdonia. At grade 3 it is at the high end of scrambling difficulty and needs a confident approach (especially in the lower section) and suitable skills. In places it is very exposed with steep drops on both sides. Those are, of course, also the features that help to make it such a fine route.
The initial wall of the arête is the technical crux and warrants a climbing grade of about moderate. There are plenty of holds and the rock quality is superb but it is steep enough to need a fair amount of physical effort. The wall soon ends at a small ledge and an interesting chimney then leads on to the arête proper. The exposure and difficulty on the arete can be varied with the most challenging, but also the more exciting, scrambling taking a line close to the arete’s right edge.
What I love most about Cneifion Arete is the continually interesting terrain. Infact, the only thing that would improve it would be if it carried on and on. Anyway, all too soon the arête gives way to a grassy plateau on the flanks of the Y Gribin Ridge. A short walk across the plateau and it meets the path. This, conveniently, is at a stunning viewpoint looking towards Tryfan and the north-west face of Glyder Fach.
Descent (and extensions)
The Ogwen Triple is now complete. A left turn at the junction leads down the lower part of the Y Gribin Ridge and eventually rejoins the path towards the car park (be careful to get the right path link up). If time and energy allow a brilliant extension to the day turns right at the path junction. This route heads up the Y Gribin Ridge (grade 1) and around the rim of Cwm Bochlwyd. You can then descend the exposed Bristly Ridge (grade 1) to hit its starting point in the scoop of Bwlch Tryfan. Alternatively, there are plenty of link up options on the face of Glyder Fach.
If you want to attempt this route please ensure you have the skills to do so safely. Of course, we’d always be happy to share the adventure on a Private Guided day. This combination is also the type of terrain we cover on our Advanced Scrambling courses. If you do want to go it alone, our Gear Up For Scrambling guide shares some ideas on the type of technical equipment we would use for an itinerary of this type.