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One Minute Mountain: Glyder Fach

From its classic ridges to its moonscape summit, Alex Roddie gets his scrambling kicks on an Ogwen Valley favourite.

Castle of the Winds (Castell y Gwynt  © dgp
Castle of the Winds (Castell y Gwynt
© dgp, Dec 2009

Height: 994m (3261ft)

Personality: Rough and rocky, with hints of the gothic. Glyder Fach isn't the highest peak in the Glyderau range (that's Glyder Fawr) and it isn't the spikiest or most photogenic (Tryfan, of course), but Glyder Fach has something of the character of each. It's a handsome craggy lump of a mountain with a summit plateau scattered with huge rocks, and a north wall of prime rhyolite at just the right angle for scrambling. Of course it's a worthwhile tick for hands-free walkers too.

What's in a name? It's thought that 'Glyder' comes from the Welsh cluder or cludair, meaning 'heap of stones'. 'Fach' is a Welsh place-name component meaning 'small', so this is the 'small heap of stones'. The mountain is a bit more impressive than this makes it sound, luckily. But it is well endowed with stones - heaps of them.

Finishing Bristly Ridge in the evening sun  © jethro kiernan
Finishing Bristly Ridge in the evening sun
© jethro kiernan, Jul 2019

Busiest (and best) route: Bristly Ridge, often taken in as part of the Bochlwyd Horseshoe including Tryfan, Glyder Fach and (optionally) Glyder Fawr. This ultra-classic Grade 1 scramble is one of the best in Wales, nay the whole UK, and makes a natural continuation after descending Tryfan's South Ridge. Starting from the scree at Bwlch Tryfan, Bristly Ridge presents you with a choice of entry gullies. The leftmost one, known as Sinister Gully, looks imposing but is an easy climb on firm rock. The right-hand gully is another possible variation, but can be looser. After the gully, you'll soon come to Great Pinnacle Gap, the crux of the route. Steep but easy moves lead to a rocky crest that continues directly to the summit.

For the full round see this Route Card:

A sandbag of a scramble: Of all the scrambles on the North Face, Main Gully is likely to leap out as another objective for ambitious walkers who want to get into scrambling. Steve Ashton describes it as 'a gloomy scramble of surprising quality' in Scrambles in Snowdonia. It gets Grade 1 in most guidebooks, and it looks reasonable from the bottom, but this scramble is deceptive – it contains an evil move to overcome a chockstone that's good value for the grade to say the least. I'd put Main Gully at Grade 2, and recommend that parties including less-experienced scramblers carry a rope.

How about something easier? Y Gribin, the ridge bounding the west side of Cwm Bochlwyd, is really part of the neighbouring Glyder Fawr, but it's also a good way to climb Glyder Fach. It's a low-end Grade 1 scramble that mostly consists of steep, rough, bouldery walking, with a few sections where you'll need hands for balance. This route is ideal for the first-time scrambler. It's also the usual way down if you're doing the Bochlwyd Horseshoe.

Gribin Ridge  © johnhenderson
Gribin Ridge
© johnhenderson, Dec 2019

Anything for mere mortals? The Miner's Track, which makes a gentle ascent up the mountain's east shoulder, is probably the most frequented vanilla hillwalking route. The Miner's Track can be reached in a couple of hours from Pen-y-Gwryd from the south, or after a steeper, rockier ascent via Cwm Bochlwyd and Bwlch Tryfan to the north. The latter approach offers excellent views of Glyder Fach's steep North Face. For maximum value, combine it with a traverse of Glyder Fawr.

Summit landmarks: Glyder Fach has more of interest on its summit than most mountains. While the top is more plateau than peak, there are two famous photo opportunities: Y Gwyliwr, or the Cantilever Stone, and Castell y Gwynt, the Castle of the Winds. The first is a massive slab of rock precariously balanced on a stack of boulders – you can actually fit quite a few people on top for a novelty shot – and the second is a battlemented tower of rock splinters a little west of the summit. This buttress looks particularly impressive when under snow, wreathed with mist, or lit up by a low sun.

Cantilever, Glyder Fach  © Panick
Cantilever, Glyder Fach
© Panick, Oct 2011

Hidden gem: Llyn Caseg-fraith, on the mountain's eastern shoulder, is a fine spot for a bivouac or wild camp. The view of Bristly Ridge and Tryfan from this angle is first rate at sunrise.

Where to stay? In the Ogwen Valley, you can't beat Gwern Gof Uchaf campsite for convenience. It's at the foot of Cwm Tryfan and within easy walking distance of Glyder Fach. Further up the valley, YHA Idwal Cottage is a superb youth hostel. There's a variety of campsites, hostels and hotels in nearby Capel Curig.

Local pub: The Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel is the classic outdoor enthusiast's pub. In addition to a decent pint, you'll find a huge array of Everest memorabilia and antique climbing gear adorning the walls.

Self portrait on the summit of Glyder Fach.  © ScottTalbot
Self portrait on the summit of Glyder Fach.
© ScottTalbot

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