The Ultimate Guide to Bristly Ridge

By The Bald Scrambler

Bristly Ridge

Published By: Daniel Woodley. Updated: 17th October 2023. Filed at: Glyderau Scrambles. Disclosure: I may earn a commission from purchases made via links. Disclaimer: Scrambling is a dangerous sport, this route description does not provide step-by-step instructions. Read Disclaimer.

Bristly Ridge is one of the finest scrambling routes in the UK and has a bit of everything:

  • Within reasonable walking distance of car parks and laybys.
  • Often completed as part of a circular route taking in Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr.
  • Choose from two popular gullies to start the adventure.
  • Quality scrambling up a ridge line.
  • An exciting pinnacle to navigate around.
  • Some of the best views in the Glyderau.

My name is Daniel Woodley, and welcome to The Bald Scrambler and my route description of Bristly Ridge.

If you’re new to scrambling or unsure of this route’s difficulty, please read the about me page, which contains an important disclaimer.

Parking For Bristly Ridge

I’ve created a map with over 250 parking spaces, most of these are free and any of them can be used for Bristly Ridge.

See: Glyderau Parking Map (updated late 2023)

Approach – How to Find Bristly Ridge

I almost always take on Bristly Ridge after first scrambling up Tryfan’s North Ridge and ascending the South Ridge to a col which marks the starting point of the Bristly Ridge route. This isn’t the most direct route but it’s an irresistible 2 for 1 offer with excellent scrambling lines on both routes.

There are more direct approaches:

1) From Ogwen Cottage

Take the path left of the toilet block near Ogwen Cottage up the wide steps and after a short distance, take the left fork and follow over a footbridge. After 200 metres or so, the path will curve rightwards, here take a slightly narrower path to the left, ascend a steep path next to and then over a stream up to the left bank of Llyn Bochlwyd.

Continue to the pass where you’ll see a stone wall in front of you, Tryfan’s south ridge to your left and Bristly Ridge to your right.

2) From the A5 layby between Glan Dena and the campsite at Gwern Gof Uchaf, take the footpath to behind the campsite, go over the steps and take a right, following the path to the left of Tryfan Bach, a popular climbing area.

From the fence behind Tryfan Bach, either turn right and take the longer Heather Terrace route to Tryfan’s South Ridge and descend to a col between Tryfan and Bristly Ridge, or go over the fence and take the direct route by continuing straight up to the col.

Bristly Ridge as viewed from Tryfan's South Ridge

Bristly Ridge and the col, as viewed from Tryfan’s South Ridge.

Dexter Gully and Sinister Gully

Sinister and Dexter Gullies and the stone wall at the col.

Retaining wall beneath Sinister Gully

A small man-made retaining wall marks the route to Sinister Gully. To the right of this is Dexter Gully.

Choose Your Gully

Most scramblers I’ve met go up Sinister Gully; it’s a steep but well-worn route with solid holds.

One tricky bit is a short but near-vertical wall about 3/4 of the way up, but this never goes beyond a grade 1+ scramble and can be avoided entirely by taking a line just a couple of metres to the left which rises gently up to the wall’s top. Just look for well-polished rocks, as this is a very popular avoidance line.

(Update: here’s a video and route description for Sinister Gully)

Another option is to take the neighbouring Dexter Gully, which is steeper, contains lots of loose scree and is more dangerous.

I recently published a complete guide to Dexter Gully, and below is a 10-minute video I created in 2021:

Bristly Ridge Route description

Once you’ve topped out of the gully (either Sinister and Dexter as they’re very close to each other), the scrambling is fairly typical of what you’ll find on most grade 1 routes, and with this being a popular area, I found lots of well-polished rocks to follow.

As a general rule of thumb, consider backtracking and rerouting if you find yourself on rough rock that looks like no one has ever walked on it.

Below is my video of the entire Bristly Ridge route starting from the top of Dexter Gully:

As you can see, the first serious obstacle I encountered after exiting the gully was a short pinnacle with a deceptively steep drop on the opposite side into a gully (see 5m:33s into my Bristly Ridge video). I found a line slightly to the right of the centre where several ledges on the opposite side assisted my descent.

The second obstacle was The Great Pinnacle Gap. You’ll appreciate how steep the opposite side is once you’ve navigated past this pinnacle. I took a left line along a worn route that descends towards the gully, I didn’t enter the steep gully but veered right, and after a brief scramble of a few metres, entered the gap with the pinnacle bypassed and now towering above my right shoulder.

You can see how I navigated The Great Pinnacle Gap in my video at 12m:24s.

I don’t recommend climbing up to the top of the pinnacle; the descent on the opposite side into the gap is very steep and will most likely require ropes.

The ascent out of the Great Pinnacle Gap involves a good quality scrambling that soon levels off as the scrambler approaches the summit.

Photos From Bristly Ridge

(click to expand)

Loose stones on Dexter Gully

Now you know why the loose stones are a hazard in Dexter Gully!

Bristly Ridge's first obstacle

A steep drop not far from the top of the gullies. I found the right-hand side easier to descend.

Daniel in Dexter Gully

Topping out of Dexter Gully with Tryfan’s South Ridge in the background.

The Great Pinnacle on Bristly Ridge

Looking back at The Great Pinnacle – Can you see the avoiding line? (Right side, nearly halfway up)

Terrain on Bristly Ridge

Typical terrain on Bristly Ridge

Tryfan from Bristly Ridge

Tryfan from the top of Bristly Ridge

Descents and Continuation

After you’ve topped Bristly Ridge, you’ll find yourself only a short walk away from The Cantilever and the summit of Glyder Fach.

As a continuation, you could hike over to Glyder Fawr and descend to Llyn y Cwn, where you can descend further into the Devil’s Kitchen.

Also, consider taking the Y Gribin scramble down to Llyn Bochlwyd.

Or, from Llyn y Cwn, you could ascend up to the summit of Y Garn and then make your way down to Llyn Idwal.

Both of these options are hiking routes that take you back to Ogwen Cottage and the A5.

In a hurry to get down from Bristly Ridge?

There’s a very steep scree slope to the side of Bristly Ridge which offers the quickest descent but watch out for falling rocks which is common on busy weekends. This scree slope ends about 30 metres from the col between Tryfan and Bristly Ridge – the starting point of the scramble.

Comparing Dexter Gully to Sinister Gully – Which Should You Choose?

If you’ve never scrambled up Bristly Ridge before, consider that Sinister Gully is the most popular as the handholds are more solid, and there’s less sludge and fewer loose stones.

The one steep wall can be avoided by taking the left line.

While both gullies are a grade 1 scramble, Sinister is, in my opinion, more enjoyable.

Don’t be put off by the unusual names; sinister is Latin for left or left side, while dexter is Latin for right, or right side (source).

Comparing Bristly Ridge to Tryfan’s North Ridge

My two favourite grade 1 scrambling routes in the Glyderau are Tryfan’s North Ridge and Bristly Ridge, hence why I usually complete both in one day, time permitting.

Tryfan’s North Ridge is longer, closer to the A5 but the most popular lines aren’t quite as steep as those on Bristly Ridge. Also, on Tryfan, there are dozens of different lines one can take; these all merge near the upper sections, while on Bristly Ridge, the route is narrower.

Both routes are a grade 1, but on Bristly Ridge, a couple of sections venture towards the upper end of the grade scale.

Route Profile and More Info

Scrambling Grade: Grade 1 with a couple of sections nearing grade 1+.

Navigation: Literally straightforward once you’re out of the gully, I found the best line to be roughly central, veering slightly to the left of The Great Pinnacle. As with any route at height, low cloud could confuse first-timers.

Dangers: Dexter Gully is full of loose rocks and several steep ledges. Sinister Gully is steep with a confusing wall to navigate. Steep drops and smooth rocks can be found throughout this route. The Great Pinnacle is a particular hazard if the left line is missed. The remaining dangers are typical of any grade 1 scrambling route.

Approach Time: 1hr 15m

Ascent Time: 45-60 minutes including the initial gully scramble.

Popularity: One of the most popular scrambling routes in the Glyderau, just behind Tryfan.

Fun Rating: 9/10.

My Dislikes: None.

Recommended Equipment: See my kit list here.

Similar Routes in Snowdonia:

Nor’ Nor’ Groove is a grade 1+ gully on Tryfans east face.

Tryfan’s North Ridge offers similar grade 1 scrambling but over a longer distance. Also, consider Tryfan’s South Ridge.

Y Gribin on the Snowdon Mountain Range.

The nearby Seniors Ridge is slightly easier but navigation could be more problematic, esp in bad weather.

Notch Arete is a step up at grade 2 but thoroughly enjoyable in good weather.

The nearby Main/East Gully Ridges on Glyder Fach nudge the difficulty level even higher.

The East Ridge of Y Garn offers mixed scrambling with the upper section well into grade 2.

More:

I’ve scrambled up Bristly Ridge dozens of times, and it never fails to impress me.

I initially found this route in a guidebook called “Scrambles in Snowdonia” by Steve Ashton. It was first published back in 1980 but has been updated several times since, most recently in 2017.

If you’re new to scrambling or want to find new routes, try this compact book that is small enough to fit in your backpack and maybe even your pocket.

Recommended Guide Book:

Scrambles in Snowdonia

Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton (#ad)

About Daniel Woodley

This description of Bristly Ridge was created by Daniel Woodley, aka The Bald Scrambler, and was added to the Glyderau Scrambles Section.

From walking along beaches and kayaking down rivers to making his way up mountains and even jumping out of planes, Daniel has a love of the outdoors but scrambling is his real passion.

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Daniel Woodley

Daniel Woodley aka The Bald Scrambler

Have fun, keep safe. Hopefully I’ll see you on the mountains one day

By The Bald Scrambler

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