Half day hills
Part two – Glyder Fach by the Bristly Ridge
Our limbs were aching, we were dehydrated and we faced a four hour drive back to the flatlands but still our thirst for the high places remained unquenched. We needed another half day hill to see us through until our next communion with the mountains. I would be back in five days but Juggs would likely endure a long exile before his return. Fortunately Eryri is well endowed with half day hills and many of them have exciting routes to their enchanted summits. Furthermore, there are a few classics that my bear like friend has yet to sample and one omission so great that it needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. So the choice was simple, we would ascend Glyder Fach by the Bristly Ridge, a classic mountain course in every respect.
On the brief but steep pull into Cwm Bochlwyd my oldest companion was suffering; a year of scant action had seen his mountain legs wither and pained oaths were offered to a biting north easterly. It was worth the effort though, for Bochlwyd is a fine place to recline on a rock couch and survey the untamed magnificence of the little Glyder’s north face, which of course we did.
A steady plod soon brought us to Bwlch Tryfan where our route reared up into the churning cloud. It matters not how many times I stand before the Bristly Ridge. In summer sun, the pallor of a rainstorm or under the gleaming snows of mid winter the effect is always the same; in me it engenders incredulity that an easy scramble, albeit one at the upper end of the grade can be found on such an intimidating bastion. But that is one of its many delights. Juggs was feeling it too, “It looks terrifying” he drivelled as we looked on in awe. Periodically the clag would part to reveal a series of jagged and seemingly inaccessible pinnacles covered in thick hoar frost. A vision enough to make me for a moment question the sanity of our plan. However, half day hills afford only half day procrastinations so to linger at the bwlch was not an option.
Another short but tiresome slog found us at the foot of the gully which provides access to the ridge proper. I have always found it to be the mental and physical crux of the whole route as it is dank, in places steep and full of loose rock just waiting to be sent down onto the head of a hapless scrambler. Peculiarly, the Bristly Ridge is the only grade 1 where I consider wearing a helmet and this day we did just that.
The lower reaches of the gully were dry but for the odd dribble of ice and before long we were below the steep rock step which to my mind borders on rock climbing and is an oddity on an ‘easy’ scramble. Above this obstacle we were met by the final tricky climb which fell without a struggle. After the confines of the gully there was a marked sense of openness and we stood for moment taking in the scene and sharing the elation of being freemen of the mountains, a privilege never to be taken for granted.
Now we could crack on and enjoy the eponymous bristles to our hearts content. We climbed pinnacles and broad towers, each one a charm to savour until we reached Great Pinnacle Gap. There the rock lay under a frosty veneer, the mood was overpowering and our surroundings impressive in the extreme. And then onto the upper ridge, narrow and spiky, airy and life affirming until much too soon we alighted onto the Glyderau’s boulder strewn plateau where old, crusty snow lay thick on the ground.
We sat awhile in a nook below the Cantilever, the only sound the wind ferreting through the toppled turrets and scouring the ancient slabs and splinters of rock which adorn that barren mountain eyrie. Then with sadness it was time to leave and say farewell to the little Glyder, but we will be back once again to refresh the part of us that is dulled by life in the city. We would willingly give a hundred days of urban life for one half day with the mountains and the Bristly Ridge had shown us what a worthwhile sacrifice that would be. Happily, we have the best of both worlds.