If you’re planning on going up Tryfan’s North Ridge for the first time, this short article is for you.
I’ve already published a more detailed page about the North Ridge scramble but here I wanted to share some details about the notorious North Tower – a section on the route that many newbie scramblers and hikers balk at, then return back down the way they came.
In a hurry?
Watch my short 5-minute video:
Why This Tower is Notorious
The North Tower is the steepest section on the North Ridge of Tryfan and at first glance, the route up it (or around it) isn’t obvious.
Also, a quick look through Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue’s incident report web page shows dozens of calls are made each year because folks have got lost on the way back after retreating from the North Tower:
Two walkers were descending the north ridge of Tryfan and diverged from the main path when they saw their vehicle in the car park and made a direct line towards it. They ended up on steep ground unable to continue up or down so called for assistance. A small hill party was deployed to locate and assist the pair, finding them on Rowan Route, a scramble. With additional help from RAF MRT the two were raised with a technical rope system to safe ground before being short-roped off the climber’s descent to the north ridge path.
This page aims to show you the two routes I have taken several times and provide a description of each. You can then decide if the North Ridge of Tryfan is a scramble you want to attempt.
Disclaimer: This is not a step-by-step guide, and the entire North Ridge is a grade 1 scramble and dangerous. I accept no responsibility for the actions you take on this route. This is not a hiking route.
The Two Routes
Here’s how I’ve summited the North Tower in the past:
- The direct route, straight up the middle, following the worn rocks.
- Go down the left path for around 130 steps into the gully and then ascend up to the back of the North Tower.
The photo below shows the two routes:
(White arrows are approx)
1) The Direct Route
I’ve seen several groups of people struggle on the direct route over the years and I’ve heard of many more bailing out and going back down the North Ridge.
The line isn’t obvious and the terrain is steeper than any other section on the North Ridge.
I’ve found it best to look for the worn rocks, this is a choke point on the North Ridge and thousands of people take the direct route up the tower each year. There are tell-tale signs of the best line to take – worn and polished rocks.
The gully and the direct route on the North Tower
2) The Side Gully
To the side of the North Tower is the East Traverse Path, a climber’s route that leads onto steep terrain.
However, by going down this path for 130 steps, one can take the gully to the top of the North Tower.
I’ve done this route about a dozen times and always found it a bit easier than the direct route, but there is a catch.
It’s easy to get lost down the East Traverse Path and if you go too far (past the gully) or you attempt to descend that gully, you’ll probably end up in trouble – most of the routes on this side of the mountain are either difficult grade 2-3 scrambles or climbing routes that should only be attempted by those with rope.
The gully itself has a couple of scrambling sections; at the bottom and top. But for the most part, one can just walk up it.
Here’s a photo:
The Top of the North Tower
At the top of the North Tower is the Notch; a dip into the gully at its highest point. Whichever route you take, you’ll have to dip into the notch if you want to continue up to the summit which is 20 minutes or so away.
Me standing in the Notch
Which Route is Best?
The purpose of this web page isn’t to tell you which route you should take – I’m not a qualified mountain leader or guide.
I just wanted to share information about the two routes I have taken in the past and to highlight a few dangers:
- The direct route is steep.
- The gully route increases the risk of getting lost (esp in descent).
- Retreating back down the North Ridge is also risky as in poor weather, many have drifted onto the Milestone climbing area by mistake.
Still in Doubt?
If you’ve watched my video and read my web page, and you’re still in doubt about whether the North Ridge of Tryfan is for you, I suggest finding a local guide who can take you out for a day, perhaps as part of a group.
The North Ridge is a serious grade 1 scramble and every year, dozens of people call mountain rescue.
There have been fatalities too.
I hope you find my North Tower article helpful, I urge you to watch my video (top of the page) to see what the route is like.
On this website, I publish scrambling guides, photos and videos and occasionally hiking routes as well.
If you’re looking to get into scrambling in Snowdonia, I recommend Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton.
Recommended Guide Book:
Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton (#ad)
About Daniel Woodley
The photos, video and route description on this page were created by Daniel Woodley, aka The Bald Scrambler, and this page forms part of my Scrambling Routes.
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