Notch Arete is a delightful but challenging grade 2 scramble along an upper section of the west face of Tryfan. There are several routes that lead to the starting point but Y Gully is an obvious choice at the same grade.
Everything you need to know about this route can be found in this guide and also in my video published June 2022.
In a hurry?
Watch my video and use the chapters to skip to the relevant sections if you wish:
Approach – How to Get to Notch Arete & Y Gully
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.
Notch Arete can be reached by climbing the North Ridge of Tryfan to The Notch and then descending the gully westwards, before climbing back up by the arete to the side of the gully but here I’ll show you how to reach Notch Arete via Y Gully.
The map and images below may help:
Imagery © 2023 Google, Airbus, Bluesky, Infoterra, COWI, Cnes/Airbus, Getmapping PLC, Landset, Maxar Technologies
The approach to Y Gully is long and quite a slog over mostly grass or scree (you choose!)
This side of the mountain is shaded in the morning and the ground is often damp until the sun rises over Tryfan’s North Ridge.
Don’t let the long approach put you off, this scramble is well worth the effort but if it’s been raining the night before, maybe hold off until later in the day so the gully and rocks have a chance to dry out.
Part 1: Y Gully
Near the upper section of the approach slope, you’ll come across a gully shaped like a “Y”.
To stay within the grade, take the centre/left branch and not the right branch.
Starting off, I took a line slightly to the left of the gully centre along well-worn rocks for about 10 metres or so and then stepped into the gully on its left edge, where there were plenty of holds on the gritty, dry rocks which are steep enough to warrant the grade 2 rating.
The heather didn’t interfere with my efforts, and the small amount of lichen was dry and easily dodged.
For most of this gully, I found myself trending on the left side, as it offered the best holds.
There are two notable obstacles in the gully itself:
- A large blocking boulder – approach from the right and underneath to take the steps to the left to go past it (or avoid it entirely by scrambling up the left edge of the gully as I did before entering the gully above the boulder).
- A blunt blocking prow further up is just small enough for most to reach around and, with some upper arm strength, to pull up and directly over.
The final section of Y Gully broadens out with grass and solid rock.
Part 2: Notch Arete
Near the top of Y Gully, I took a left and followed an easily found goat’s track for about 20 metres or so into the adjacent gully which I ascended for another 15 metres or so – watch out for loose scree as there’s plenty here.
Notch Arete is on the left side of this gully (which also has The Notch at the top).
The lower part of Notch Arete is difficult to access due to a blocking tower (see lower-left in the image below).
Most will find it easier to ascend in the scree bed of the gully for a few more metres until access to Notch Arete is found (see centre-top of image).
The wide, flat, slabby rock marks the start of the scramble proper.
The lower section of Notch Arete
The slab and rocks on Notch Arete
The best way to scramble up Notch Arete?
From the wide slabby rock, go straight up the middle, making use of the many flakes, grooves and indentations.
This is pure grade 2 scrambling on sound rock that will leave you wanting more.
You can get a good selfie too if that floats your boat:
Just above the flat slabby section.
This scramble ends at the top of the North Tower on Tryfan’s North Ridge, which is a 20-minute scramble from the summit of Tryfan, and from here there are lots of options:
- Descend down the gully and scramble up Notch Arete again, just for the fun of it.
- Make your way to Tryfan’s summit.
- Head down the North Ridge.
At the top of Notch Arete with Tryfan’s North Tower just behind the camera.
Route Profile and More Info
Scrambling Grade: Both Y Gully and Notch Arete are grade 2 scrambles.
Navigation: Reaching the start of Y Gully from the A5 is straightforward, although certainly a slogfest. Navigation from the top of Y Gully to the start of Notch Arete could be difficult in low cloud if you’re not familiar with the area but it is only ~25metres. Care should be taken if descending off the mountain via the North Ridge as it’s easy to end up on steep terrain above Milestone Buttress.
Dangers: After rain, the gully will hold water for some time and rocks will obviously be more slippery. Consider an afternoon scramble if it’s rained overnight. Getting onto Notch Arete could be a challenge if attempted too far down the adjacent gully (see photo above). Descent off the mountain via Notch Arete’s adjacent gully isn’t recommended as it leads to V Arete (grade 3).
Approach Time: 1 hour.
Ascent Time: 15-20 or so minutes each.
Popularity: Fairly quiet compared to the North Ridge, these routes are usually frequented by climbers and experienced scramblers only.
Fun Rating: Y Gully: 7/10. Notch Arete: 9/10
My Dislikes: The approach from the A5 and the shortness of the scramble, hence why it’s best as part of a longer day out.
Kit List: My kit list is here.
I’ve summited Tryfan over 50 times via several routes and Notch Arete is one of my favourites, although this was only my second time via Y Gully.
If you know Tryfan well, I suggest skipping Y Gully and gaining Notch Arete via another scramble or after a descent from the North Tower. The approach from th A5 is long and a bit boring, and it bypasses many other lines that are of interest, including the North Ridge.
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 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 Y Gully and Notch Arete 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