Tryfan North Ridge - Is this the UK’s Best Scramble?
Written by Ben Aldridge
I absolutely love climbing mountains and have been lucky enough to do this in some wonderful places all over the planet - Japan, The Rockies, The Andes, The European Alps and all over the UK. I often get asked where my favourite mountain is. Honestly, I don’t have to think about this for long. The answer is simple. Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s Tryfan in North Wales. Located in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, Tryfan juts out dramatically from the surrounding mountains and looks like a stegosaurus’ spine. It also looks like a spikey Cornish pasty and goes by the nickname of “Dragon’s Back”. If you haven’t seen a picture of it, Google it. It’s an unmistakable and iconic mountain in the UK. It’s also an incredible climb.
The great thing about Tryfan is that you have to scramble your way to the summit. For those of you unfamiliar with scrambling, this basically means that you will need the assistance of your hands to reach the top. There is no straightforward hiking path. Tryfan is essentially a massive pile of rocks that you have to navigate your way through/clamber over.
Which is the Best Route up Tryfan?
The Climbers Routes up Tryfan
Lying at an impressive 915 meters above sea level, Tryfan requires a lot of physical effort to reach the top. You do have choices though. There are so many routes you can take to reach the summit and the beauty of the mountain is that you can find something to suit your level of experience. On the West Face there are technical climbs that require gear. This is a wonderful place to get familiar with multi-pitch traditional climbing. On the East Face there are more rock climbing routes with a ton of airy exposure. If you know what you’re doing, there’s a lot of fun to be had there.
Tryfan North Ridge
For those who don’t fancy dragging the ropes and gear with them, the Tryfan’s North Ridge is the best option. This is by far the most popular route and is great for people who want to sample some of the finest scrambling in the UK. If you’ve never been scrambling before, it’s always best to go with someone who knows what they’re doing. You might also consider hiring a guide if you don’t feel confident on your own.
Tryfan’s North Ridge is a truly spectacular route. It’s given three stars in every guidebook (the maximum number of stars for a route) and is considered to be one of the “classic routes” in UK mountaineering. The scramble follows the crest of the mountain and gains exposure towards the top. About two thirds of the way up you’ll stumble across the “cannon stone” which actually looks like a cannon. It’s a very popular spot for a cheesy photo riding the cannon and posing (yes, I’m guilty of doing this).
The final third of the north ridge is scrambling at its finest. There are lovely big handholds and a nice bit of exposure thrown in the mix. Nothing crazy, but enough to make you feel like you’re properly in the mountains. When you finally reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views. However, be prepared to see the occasional lunatic attempting to jump between two famous stones on the summit… These giant stones are called Adam and Eve and the legend is that you will gain the “freedom of Tryfan” (whatever that means) if you complete the leap of faith. Given the death drop on one side and the polished nature of the rocks, I think it’s best to give this a miss! I’ve been on that summit over a dozen times and never once felt the temptation to give it a go.
Tryfan is fantastic in all seasons and most conditions too. The wide range of routes mean that you can climb in pretty much all conditions. I’ve been there in the heart of winter with crampons and an ice-axe and also in the baking heat of a cloudless summer day. Both completely different experiences. Both unforgettable. I’ve been there in torrential rain, soaked to the skin and also in dense fog that made it incredibly atmospheric (code for very scary). I’ve climbed on the East and West faces with gear, and scrambled the North Ridge without. I’ve been with so many different friends and have many wonderful memories from my times there.
The fact that you can find such variety on this mountain is why I love it so much. They say that it’s impossible to climb the same route each time you ascend Tryfan’s North Ridge and I can totally see that. It’s such a jumble of rocks and each climb has been so different for me.
Tryfan definitely has a place in my heart. In fact, writing this blog post has made me want to drop everything and go on an adventure there right now! Have I convinced you to pay it a visit? Have you already climbed this iconic peak? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.
About the Author
Ben Aldridge writes about practical philosophy, comfort zones, mental health and adventure. His first book How to Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: 43 Weird & Wonderful Ways to Build a Strong Resilient Mindset is an exploration of unique ways to leave our comfort zones, face our fears and overcome our anxieties. Heavily influenced by Stoicism, Buddhism, Popular Psychology and CBT, Ben's challenges encourage us to get uncomfortable and experience the personal growth that we can only gain from pushing ourselves to the limit.
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