Tryfan's neighbouring lakes
Tryfan is only Wales’ 15th highest mountain at 918m high, however it’s one of the most dangerous mountains in the UK, causing a third of all mountain rescue call-outs. The peak cannot be summited without a scramble and has a very steep drop around one side, deep gullies and hidden bogs. The weather is very changeable and even experienced mountaineers can run into trouble if they don’t take caution to find a safe path down. Despite the risks though, Tryfan is an amazing mountain to hike or climb when approached with caution. It’s circled by lakes, waterfalls and rivers so there’s a lot to explore and photograph.
We attempted to summit Tryfan in Spring 2017, but the winds were so high it wasn’t safe. We ended up lying flat on our bellies against the ridge (Bwich Tryfan) waiting for the wind to pass, so we could hike back down without being blown over. We have since been back a couple of times to explore the lakes and soak up the views of the waterfalls. Our most recent visit had similar weather to our first; wind and rain all day. However, the falling mist created an eerie atmosphere around the waterfalls, invoking a sense of Tolkien-esque fantasy and adventure. Despite the bad weather, it was stunning and we had a fantastic day out.
Llyn Idwal is a beautiful lake to the West of Tryfan, which is named after Prince Idwal Foel, the Grandson of an ancient Welsh king. It is said that the Prince drowned in the bottom of the lake and now haunts the area. We didn’t see any sign of ghosts, but there are a lot of fluffy white sheep grazing, so dogs should be kept on leads.
The lake is easily accessible from the A5, following a well-maintained stone path from Ogwen Cottage and Ranger Base, around the foot for the mountains. You can park for free in one of the many lay-by’s on the A5, or you can pay and display in the outdoor centre car park. Money from this car park goes towards the upkeep of the local trails and the outdoor centre, so we choose to park here.
The trail passes rivers and waterfalls, before circling the lake. Once you reach the lake, there is a branch leading off towards the mountain ridge near Devil’s Kitchen if you’d like to ascend the mountains for incredible views over the valleys, or you can stay at lower elevations for more gentle stroll. The circular walk around Llyn Idwal is 3 miles long and takes approximately 3 hours to complete.
Llyn Ogwen runs along the side of the A5 and is supposedly where King Arthur’s sword was last discarded; thrown into the bottom of the lake, where legend says it remains today. You can find out more about the legend of King Arthur’s sword here.
A circular walk around this lake is also 3 miles, but is less strenuous than Llyn Idwal and only takes approximately 1-2 hours. As with the Llyn Idwal route, this trek also begins from the Ogwen Cottage and Ranger Station.
Llyn Bochlwyd, sometimes called Lake Australia (due to it’s shape) is higher in elevation than the two lakes mentioned above, sitting at 555m, over half-way up Tryfan’s Western side. Well worth the climb, this fierce and remote lake is surrounded by wild heather and rugged boulders. This hike is the most challenging of the three due to the steep climb and tricky terrain, but offers the best views. Take extra care in wet weather as the path is very slippery. You might want to avoid this hike altogether in high winds because there is very limited shelter and a high chance of being blown over!
To get to the lake, follow the same initial path towards Llyn Idwal from Ogwen Cottage. There’s a branch off to the left before you reach Llyn Idwal. This branch ascends the Western face of Tryfan, up towards Llyn Bochlwyd. The path rapidly gets steeper as you reach the lake, with rocky terrain requiring the occasional scramble. A circular walk around Llyn Bochlwyd and back down the same path, finishing at Ogwen Cottage, is again 3 miles in length. Expect to be hiking for approximately 4 hours and make sure you come prepared!
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