Area: Snowdonia National Park
Map: OS Explorer OL17
Height Gain: 1000m
Difficulty: moderate – difficult
Y Garn and Glyder Fawr are probably high up on most people’s Snowdonia bucket list. On a clear day they offer views to rival any in the area, and you can count on their tracks and trails being far less crowded than Snowdon itself. This will certainly reward you with smiles for your miles. For a quick visual overview check out our video:
You’ll begin your adventure at YHA Idwal Cottage (grid reference SH649603). The car park here costs £4 for the day but you’ll need to make sure you arrive early to secure yourself a space. There are lay-bys located close by on the A5 if you miss out on a space, but just make sure you leave your car in a designated safe spot. The police have, on occasion, been forced to clamp down on dangerously parked cars along this road due to the sheer number of people who flock to the area at certain times of year.
To the left of the toilet block you’ll find the start of the trail. The initial path will take you through an iron gate and over a bridge passing a lovely waterfall. From here you’ll sweep slowly around to your right until you arrive at the shores of Llyn Idwal. This really is a beautiful setting for a lake, so take a few moments to enjoy your surroundings.
Heading along the right hand side of the lake shore, you’ll approach and cross the stepping stones. Here you’ll pass through a gate and start to begin your ascent of Y Garn. The slope is fairly gentle at first but quickly becomes much steeper. Take care with foot placement and don’t forget to lift your head up from time to time to enjoy the views around you. As we set off before sunrise we were able to watch the sunrise over the valley from the ridge, which was pretty special.
The ridge up to Y Garn is fairly wide and there is an obvious path to follow. It’s also a pretty short ridge so you’ll be up at the summit before you know it. The views from the top are simply amazing. As well as the more imposing mountains and summits that we were surrounded by, one of the lads I was with spotted Moel Famau, our local hilltop in North East Wales. I’ve simply never had a clearer day than that in Snowdonia during the winter months!
Once you’ve gorged yourself on the awesome views and had the obligatory cairn photo, you’ll continue in the same direction to begin your descent. Keeping the steep cliffs to your left, fix your focus on the small lake (Llyn y Cwn) below you to the south-east. The path down to it soon becomes more obvious and you’ll reach it in no time at all.
Once at Llyn y Cwn, if you’re tired, you now have the option of hanging a left to follow the path to Devil’s Kitchen and then back home via Llyn Idwal. However, if you’ve still got energy left in your legs, you can continue straight ahead to take on the mighty Glyder Fawr. Glyder Fawr, at 1001m, is the higher of the two peaks and also offers you opportunity to test your scrambling skills. Although there is a trail to follow, we quickly ditched that to work our way over to the magnificent boulders that can be scrambled over to reach the summit. If you do decide to leave the trail, just take care as there are areas of loose scree to pass over before you reach the boulders, and slabs of giant rock which make this such a fun route.
The summit of Glyder Fawr resembles a lunar landscape. It really is a remarkable environment. Like Y Garn, it also offers brilliant views on a clear day. Just make sure that you explore the summit and its many amazing rock formations before you leave. It’s certainly a great photo opportunity. You’ll have a great view over to the summit of Snowdon and you’ll be able to look back across to Y Garn.
If you chose to scramble up to the summit of Glyder Fawr, you’ll now descend back down the recognised path. It’s steep and has sections of loose rock and scree in places, so just take care with your foot placements. You’ve come this far, you don’t want to slide down on your backside (or worse) now!
Once you reach the bottom of the descent path, you’ll be back adjacent to Llyn y Cwn. You’ll now need to hang a right to follow the path down through Devil’s Kitchen. Although the start of this final descent is quite gentle, it soon becomes very steep in places. As a result, care must be taken. When we last visited, despite there being very little snow up high, this section of the route remained pretty icy. As such, take your time. You wouldn’t be the first person to slip on this section!
Once you’ve descended through Devil’s Kitchen you’ll arrive back at Llyn Idwal. On your way, you’ll be sure to marvel at the age and scale of this giant stone amphitheatre. Keep to the right hand side of the lake, crossing the stream on your way. You’ll now have the iron gate and car park in sight. Of course, you’ll be tired, but you’ll also have had a damn good day. There are a few places to refuel nearby. With everything from cafes to pubs, you can be certain to find somewhere to suit your tastes. And, let’s face it, what better way to relive the outdoor memories made that day.
Y Garn and Glyder Fawr are beautiful and challenging mountains that offer superb views. If you’re planning a trip to Snowdonia this year they should definitely be on your ‘to do’ list.