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The epic scramble up Dolmen Ridge

Dolmen Ridge is described in Garry Smith’s guidebook as a Tolkien-esque adventure and is a contender for the best Grade 3 outing in the Ogwen Valley. Like other routes on the Main Cliff of Glyder Fach, it is excellent as part of an enchainment starting with a route from Cwm Idwal followed by the Cneifion Arete. After a route on the Main Cliff, descend via Bristly Ridge and you can get in a bonus route on the East Face of Tryfan if the weather and light hold!

Approach

From Idwal Cottage follow the main paved path from the steps beside the Tourist Information Centre until it curves right towards Llyn Idwal at which point another good path on the left carries on towards Cwm Bochlwyd below Tryfan. The path runs beside Nant Bochlwyd until it becomes indistinct as the stream runs beneath boulders before Llyn Bochlwyd is reached. Going rightwards round the lake is slightly shorter but is often boggy. Skirting it on the left tends to be drier (careful not to take the path to Bwlch Tryfan) and meets a stream leading to the upper cwm. After a bit of boulder hopping there’s a little pool from where you can work out the geography of the cliff. You’re looking for West Gully which has quartz bands on either side and a scree fan at its base. Pick your way towards the base of the gully across broken and loose ground.

Alternatively, if earlier scrambles lead you there, an approach can be made from Y Gribin by dropping down and skirting the True Start before contouring around until opposite west gully. Cross large boulders to reach the scree below West Gully.

The Route

Steve Ashton’s guide takes you up the right side of the gully but Garry Smith’s starts on the left.

Both have merit but I quite like the latter. So start on the left of the gully over rock steps and quartz ledges until you reach a grass ledge without any obvious means of upward progress.

The dolmen ridge route line.
The line of ascent on Dolmen Ridge.
Dolman split pinnacle
The split pinnacle.

Go left on this grass shelf until you see a split pinnacle (Twin Peaks?) and clamber up the rocks below it. There is a steep little step just out of sight at the base of the split pinnacle with good holds that requires a bit of strenuous effort to get up.

Another burly little step and you find yourself in “The Courtyard” below the imposing Dolmen Buttress.

The courtyard at the base of Dolmen Buttress
The Courtyard at the base of Dolmen Buttress.

Cross this flattish quartz and grass shelf, heading diagonally towards the far right hand corner and the gully, thus avoiding the steep front face of the buttress. Step across just at the point where the gully steepens and shuffle right a short distance before scrambling up a little step and then walking up the bed of the gully for a bout 25 metres or so.

The ledge to regain the main buttress

On the left is a ramp/shelf that leads back towards the face of the buttress with increasingly big drops on its left side. Carefully follow this to the far end to a little notch (slightly wobbly block underfoot) and turn to look up.

Above is a corner (probably the crux) that feels exposed because of the steepness and the drop below your heels. However, the holds are good and positive and come to hand nicely.

A little sidestep right at the top avoids a slightly awkward move. Protection can be arranged in the cracked walls of the corner and a comfortable belay awaits at the top.

View from crux corner on Dolman
The view down from just below the crux corner.
The crux corner on Dolman
This corner is the crux of the route.

Easier but fun scrambling along the crest of the ridge leads towards the Dolmen (because it looks like a megalithic tomb) which can be climbed from the right to reach its gently sloping top. After admiring the views across to Anglesey, a foot traverse leftwards in an exposed position provides a means to continue along the ridge. From here there is a series of jumbled blocks providing enjoyable varied scrambling. Ultimately, the ridge eases and merges with the summit plateau, directly opposite the pile of massive boulders which form the summit of Glyder Fach. Bear slightly left of these to reach the Cantilever Stone and obligatory photo.

Continuation and Descent

After a play on the rocks of Castell y Gwynt, the scrambly descent via Y Gribin to the “football field” then becomes a path which intersects another path joining Llyn Bochlwyd with Llyn Idwal.

Turn left for Idwal and thence Idwal Cottage or right for Bochlwyd and the car parks closer to the base of Tryfan.

A sportier alternative from the summit of Glyder Fach is to head for the pile of boulders on the edge of the plateau opposite Tryfan. Following these leads to the top of Bristly Ridge which can be descended with care (quieter late in the day), making sure that Sinister Gully is identified by the rocky prow sticking out from its left side (looking down).

From Bwch Tryfan either take the path left to rejoin the approach route at Llyn Bochlwyd, or if you’re feeling fit, skirt the south peak of Tryfan to find (with a bit of difficulty) heather terrace and lots of options for a bonus scramble on Tryfan’s East Face.

(video included as an interesting piece of media, and may not accurately depict the route line described)

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