My Favourite Hike: Snowdonia’s sensational Bochlwyd Horseshoe

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: hikers on Glyder Fach
Towards the summit of Glyder Fach, with Tryfan catching the evening light (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

The Bochlwyd Horseshoe

In the second of our My Favourite Hike series (check out staff writer Julia's journey up Ben A'an in Scotland), Advnture contributor Alex Foxfield raves about a the Bochlwyd Horseshoe in Snowdonia, North Wales.

“The Bochlwyd Horseshoe is a magnificent day out,” he says. “Characterised by awesome scenery and a trio of classic grade I scrambles, it is possibly Britain's greatest mountain journey south of the Scottish Highlands.”

The route

  • Start/Finish: The A5 (next to Llyn Ogwen)
  • Distance: 6.1 miles/ 9.8km 
  • Elevation gain: 2854ft / 870m 
  • Difficulty level: Challenging
  • Duration: ~4 hours

This is an adventure that begins right from the A5 road (next to Llyn Ogwen), where there’s ample parking. Paths ascend past the great slab of Tryfan Bach to gain Tryfan’s North Ridge. Find your own line and enjoy the fun scrambling all the way to the summit, before descending the south ridge to Bwlch Tryfan.

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: looking out across Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal

Alex looking out across Cwm Bochlwyd and Cwm Idwal towards mighty Y Garn (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

Next, you ascend Bristly Ridge all the way to Glyder Fach’s incredible summit. From here, hike onwards to Glyder Fawr’s equally bewitching top, before retracing your steps as far as the top of the Y Gribin ridge. Enjoy this easy scramble in descent, following the ridge down to Llyn Bochlwyd and picking up paths back to Llyn Ogwen and the A5.

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: why I love it

As a Cumbrian born and bred, I knew Snowdonia would have to do something special to challenge the Lake District’s ironclad hold on my heart. I first visited North Wales in August 2016, eager to tackle exciting scrambles like those on Lakeland's Helvellyn, Blencathra and Great Gable. Little did I know that these old favourites were about to be blown out of the water.

First up is Tryfan’s North Ridge. Notice the need for capital letters there. This is the North Ridge, a legendary ascent that’s up there with the finest grade I scrambles in Britain. The cliché is that you never do it the same way twice, and it's true. There are so many fun lines through this rocky labyrinth that you’ll return again and again, whether on heady midsummer afternoons, silent autumn mornings or for winter ascents of truly alpine character.

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: on Tryfan's summit in winter

An adventure on Tryfan in winter can feel alpine in character (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

After Tryfan, things go up a notch, enough that the next paragraph is more instructional than inspirational.

Glyder Fach’s Bristly Ridge starts here and it’s important to correctly locate Sinister Gully, which is to the left and up slightly from the entrance to the broader Dexter Gully. Scramble up onto the ridge and continue. The crux of the route is the intimidating Great Pinnacle Gap, which is down climbed to the left before the ascent to the right of the pinnacle.

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: climbing Sinister Gully in winter

Ascending Sinister Gully in winter conditions (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

There, Bristly Ridge done – and what an immense journey! It’s at the sharper end of grade I scrambling in summer but goes up to a grade II/III climb in winter. My abiding memory was escaping the route by abseiling off from the Great Pinnacle Gap in fading light one February afternoon and glissading – the posh way of saying sliding on my bum – halfway back to Llyn Bochlwyd as the sun set behind the snow-capped peaks of the Northern Glyderau.

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: summit of Glyder Fawr

Snowdon hides in the cloud beyond the moonscape summit of Glyder Fawr (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

If there’s a summit in the world that has the character of the Iron Throne, its Glyder Fach’s jumble of angular rock. The great jagged tower of Castell y Gwynt forms a superb foreground to the nearby Snowdon massif, while the Cantilever Stone is an immensely popular photo spot.

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: Alex smiling on the way down Y Gribin

The author beaming on Y Gribin (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

Yet another uniquely fascinating summit awaits on the moonscape of Glyder Fawr, before the day’s final scramble down Y Gribin. By the time you’re back at the car, you’ll have completed one of the great mountain journeys in Britain; one that’s never the same twice.

Highlight: Tryfan

Bochlwyd Horseshoe: on the Cannon

On the famous Cannon halfway up Tryfan's North Ridge (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

I’m always blown away by the views towards the top of Tryfan, greatly enhanced by the way the ridge makes it feel as though you’re traversing the petrified spine of some massive ancient leviathan.

My Favourite Hike Collection

To see the other hikes in the series on komoot, click on the Collection below...

My Favourite Hike

(Image credit: Future)
Alex Foxfield

Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He's the former President of the London Mountaineering Club, is training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and is always keen to head to the 4,000-meter peaks of the Alps.