Thursday, 11 February 2010

Y Garn and The Devils Kitchen

I checked the mountain webcams on my site early on Saturday morning to see where the sunshine and snow was and the webcams looking towards Snowdon were showing blue skies with a gorgeous orange and purple sunrise colour on the horizon and white streaks of snow on the summits, so Snowdonia it was to be. One objective of my next visit to Snowdonia was to climb the two 3000ft mountains in Wales I still haven't climbed. I have climbed to the top of thirteen of the fifteen Welsh 3000's but still not done Y Garn or Elidir Fawr. As we were not getting up stupidly early I realised we would only have enough time to do one of them today so decided on Y Garn as it is by far the better choice of the two and easily accessible from the A5 car parking at Idwal Cottage.

Y Garn from Idwal Cottage path

After an easy journey along the M56 and A55 we parked up on the pavement of the A5 at Idwal Cottage. The weather forecast for the entire weekend was overcast cloud, cold on Saturday and even colder Sunday. However sun glasses on already as we left the house it was plus six degrees celcius and sunny blue skies! We headed up the well laid path behind the toilet blocks at the car park by Idwal Cottage, passing through a beautiful cast iron gate made with a shepherds crook for a hinge and a sculpted leaf for its handle, most surprising. After the path bent back on itself we then reached the shores of Llyn Idwal in the huge glacial amphitheatre of Cwm Idwal. From the shores we got a panoramic view of our planned walk over the huge bulking monster of Y Garn in front of us.

Y Garn from Cwm Idwal

We crossed the outflow of Llyn Idwal and headed to the path ascending the north eastern ridge of Y Garn towards Pinnacle Crag. This is quite a steep and sudden ascent at first until it flattens out as it enters the minature glacial hollow of Cwm Clyd. From here we got out first view of a frozen Llyn Clyd, the tiny glacial lake that sits in the floor of Cwm Clyd. I've often looked at this spot on a map and though of it as a perfect wild camping spot. Looking behind us we could now see Pen yr Ole Wen in its full glory, I've often felt sorry for Pen yr Ole Wen as it gets a bad reputation for being a big lump but it is far from that, its an exciting ascent route if ascended via Ffynnon Lloer and from this side, viewing it from higher up instead of from the road it looks most impressive.

Nant Ffrancon and Pen yr Ole Wen

When you reach Cwm Clyd you are then at the bottom of a fantastic ridge walk to Y Garn's summit plateau. It starts off as an easy ridge walk and turns into a much steeper affair with boulders. Today the ridge was a foot deep in snow and the snow seemed to be turning into something that resembled a Slush Puppy without that toxic looking blue flavouring in it. We took care and used existing steps and kicked our own in places. As we were ascending the ridge a strange thing happened and all of a sudden clouds started appearing below us in the valleys in the mountains, it lingered for around ten or fifteen minutes then with a slight change in wind direction it was gone again. The top of the ridge got quite narrow and made for an exciting finale. Once on the summit the views were amazing and far and wide.

Nicky heading up steep final section on Y Garn

Every mountain around seemed to have cloud on it including The Carneddau, The Glyders, Snowdon and even the lower Tryfan. Y Garn was splendid though, views for miles and incredibly warm considering its height and the fact it is the middle of winter. There were quiet a few people on the summit, everyone in good spirit and chatty. There were a few people suddenly appearing over the eastern cliffs who had been mad enough to ice climg up the steep face, I was certainly in envy of their lack of fear! At the back of the cairn was a slope of snow where groups of people were discovering the secondary use of their Survival Bags come Sledges. Two dogs including a very cute Collie puppy were entertaining Nicky while I was stood on the summit educating people on Brocken Spectres and telling them how one could happen any minute as the conditions of sun behind and cloud below were perfect for it. Then all of a sudden a Brocken Spectre caused by us all stood on the summit appeared in the cloud below. They are awesome when they happen and when you are with someone who has never seen one before it is even better. Even more awesome was this huge towering cloud that appeared over Pen yr Ole Wen, it only took about five minutes for it to appear and after that it was there in all its glory for most of the day. It really did make Pen yr Ole Wen look like a Welsh volcano!

Pen yr Ole Wen looking volcanic above Llyn Ogwen

After chattting to dozens of friendly folk on the summit and finally dragging Nicky away from the cute dogs, we descended to the broad grassy col between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr. We reached the frozen Llyn y Cwn and then took the wide rocky path down to the Devils Kitchen which turns into quite a messy and scrambly affair as it passed the Devils Kitchen itself. The path took us down back to Llyn Idwal with cracking views across to Pen yr Ole Wen which reflected in the still icy waters of Llyn Idwal. It was a great day and good to be out walking with Nicky again. The ridge up to Y Garn was brilliant and we couldn't have asked for a better day weather wise, those atmospheric days are even better than those of clear blue skies, we could have sat on the warm yet snowy summit of Y Garn for hours with the like minded folks.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...


  1. Fantastic mate! It seems everyone was out and had great weather.

    I know what you mean about the atmospheric conditions. Some clouds can lend a bit of depth and almost give the view a mood of sorts thats missing in the clear blue skies so many lust after.

    I can't believe I've still never been to wales! I'll have to do it some time this year.

  2. Never been to Wales, yowzers! If you ever head down there and want to stay at ours on the way down to split the journey your more than welcome! ;-)

  3. Nice report and great pics, Jamie!

    I well remember doing this route the other way around, 20-ish years ago. Shared lunch and a brew with a bunch of kit-less squaddies in the summit-shelter, then ran down the ridge, racing them to the tea-shop. They lost the race, despite the "encouragement" of their sergeants. Great fun :-) but hard on the knees :-(

  4. I might take you up on that at some point. How about an OM meet in the land of the dragon, leek and daffodil?

  5. Looks like the route I took on 22 December, Jamie:
    But you had a bit less snow, it seems, so yours was a substantially different experience...
    Always a good walk, though, especially if you continue over the Glyders.