One word sums up Idwal Staircase; atmospheric.
At grade 2+ this route isn’t for the faint-hearted and after rainfall when the staircase is sloshed with water, only the bravest will make an attempt without rope protection.
This delightful gully is complimented superbly by the continuation over excellent, grippy rock on the upper reaches above Idwal Slabs.
Here I show you the route I took, you can also explore my photos, videos and tips.
In a hurry?
Watch my video and use the chapters to skip to the relevant sections if you wish:
Approach – How to Get to Idwal Staircase
My parking map displays over 250 spaces, many of them in laybys and free car parks along the A5. Go check it out if you’ve never visited the area before but be warned, this is a popular mountain range, and parking can be problematic on busy weekends.
The approach to Idwal Staircase couldn’t be easier and takes around 20-30 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Park in one of the laybys on the A5 and take the path behind Ogwen Cottage up to Llyn Idwal; follow the trail clockwise around the lake, past the Idwal Slabs to the prominent slit in the rockface.
The map and images below may help:
Imagery © 2023 Google, Airbus, Bluesky, Infoterra, COWI, Cnes/Airbus, Getmapping PLC, Landset, Maxar Technologies
The Staircase can be extremely slippery when wet so you may wish to attempt this route later in the day when the ground has had a chance to dry out.
This grade 2+ route becomes treacherous after rain and in the winter when it rarely dries sufficiently.
How to Scramble Idwal Staircase
The Idwal Staircase is a series of narrow steps and ledges up a steep incline with an arching roof overhang. The line stays cool and shaded well into the afternoon and sometimes all day long.
Scramblers usually start closest to the wall on the right and try to avoid the black algae, which is super slippery.
The first 10m is intimidating as the line is steep and the rock is smooth offering little grip.
Thankfully, after 10m or so, the pitch eases, and spiky rocks appear which offer reliable foot and handholds but do watch out for and avoid the black algae which persists along the water line all the way to the top.
In dry conditions, follow the true line of the gully to its natural conclusion at the top. In wet conditions, start drifting leftwards just before the jammed boulders to avoid the water line.
At the exit, follow a grassy line leftwards towards the rocky, orange-tinted slabs on the continuation.
Looking up at Idwal Staircase.
Spiky rocks offer better holds on the upper reaches of the Staircase but watch out for the black/green algae.
There are dozens of potential lines up this grippy rock (see photo 1); most will be around grade 2 but watch out for lichen in the wet.
The rock is generally sound with little loose material.
If you come across a large, steep wall with a crack in the middle, you’ve gone a little too far to the left (see photo 2). Look to the right edge of the wall and scramble up the ridge (this is about 15m to the right of the crack – See photo 3).
No, you’re not in Yosemite, this really is rock climbing in North Wales. Pick your line, there’s plenty to choose from.
This steep wall can be found to the left of the best lines. It’s surmountable but tricky – and avoidable.
At the steep wall, head right for 15m and scramble up this ridge from right to left, to bypass the tricky wall crack.
Beyond the steep wall, the scrambling continues over solid, grippy rocks up to a point between the top of Seniors Gully and Seniors Ridge.
Descent and Continuation
A descent of Idwal Staircase isn’t recommended as it’s too slippery.
From the end of the route, one can descend to the lake via Seniors Gully (grade 1+), continue up Seniors Ridge to the summit Glyder Fawr (grade 1+) or the braver scrambler can attempt Cneifion Arete or Maybe Tower Rib, both are a grade 3 and parties here generally use rope protection.
Route Profile and More Info
Scrambling Grade: Grade 2+,
Navigation: Grid Ref: SH 644 589. What3Words: count.revision.fluctuate
Dangers: The staircase is steep with a risk of falling from height, the ledges are narrow, esp at the start of the route. Rainfall and moisture will make the route (inc the continuation) considerably more dangerous.
Approach Time: 20mins.
Ascent Time: 15-20mins in the Staircase and 40-60mins on the continuation.
Popularity: The adjacent Idwal Slabs are popular with climbers and Llyn Idwal is a popular circular walking route.
Fun Rating: 8/10.
My Dislikes: While the rocks on the continuation dry fairly quickly in the sun, the Staircase may stay moist all day, even in the summer.
Kit List: My kit list is here.
I’ve scrambled around this area many times but I’m now revisiting past routes and also discovering new lines for this website and my YouTube channel which is an ongoing project.
I hope you found my video, photos, map and description helpful – subscribe to my channel for the latest video content.
I first found out about Idwal Staircase in Steve Ashton’s “Scrambles in Snowdonia” which I always carry with me.
If you want a guidebook to take with you on scrambles, this compact book is the best.
Recommended Guide Book:
Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton (#ad)
About Daniel Woodley
This description of Idwal Staircase was created by Daniel Woodley, aka The Bald Scrambler.
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.
Daniel Woodley aka The Bald Scrambler