How to scramble Pinnacle Ridge, Pen yr Ole Wen

A short, sharp scramble on the side of Pen yr Ole Wen in north Wales, Pinnacle Ridge comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. But what it lacks in metres it more than makes up for in excitement.

At the start of the ridge scramble. Notice the old stone wall spanning the gully on the bottom right of  the picture – a key landmark.

by Ben Weeks |

Total distance 1.5km | Total ascent 230m | Scramble rating Grade 2 | Go there on a clear and dry afternoon (easier said than done!)

In the land of Eryri, most ridges are proud, boastful things. Crib Goch tears across the sky, making even those sure-footed folk on the Miners’ Path feel dizzy with height as they gaze up at it. Bristly Ridge is similarly bold, thrusting its daggered spines upwards and from the skyline above Cwm Bochlywd, while Tryfan’s North Ridge dominates the view most of the way along the A5. It’d be easy to assume that anything worth the effort of climbing will make itself known, and everything else can be ignored.

This, of course, is nonsense, and Pen yr Ole Wen’s Pinnacle Ridge is the perfect example. It lurks amongst the crags and gullies of Braich Ty Du on the mountain’s western face. Just one broken rock spur amongst many, it’s hidden in plain sight and easy to miss. If you’re lucky, you might catch the profile of its upper ‘pinnacles’ from a car window. More likely is that your first proper view will be as you traverse the hillside towards the start of the scramble. And this early tantalising should be enjoyed, for the ridge itself is short. But by God is it sharp. Although the scrambling may be over all too quickly, the airy thrill-drenched exposure will stay with you long after the mountains of the Ogwen Valley have left your rear-view mirror.


From the Ogwen Cottage visitors centre, head along the A5 to cross the outflow of Llyn Ogwen. After the bridge take a stile on the right, then turn left to head north along the western flank of Pen yr Ole Wen. Pass three distinct circular stone pens on a grassy shoulder (from here you might catch your first glimpses of the ridge and its upper pinnacles ahead) and continue along the track which stays around 30m above the road.


After about 300m the path passes beneath a flat-faced buttress. This is the toe end of the rock spur that becomes Pinnacle Ridge. Head up a steep scree path to the right of the spur towards a tumbledown wall that crosses the wide scree- and heather-filled gully.


Roughly 10m below the wall a groove leads up towards the crest of the ridge. Climb this easily, then scramble over a series of ledges, watching out for thorny vegetation and being aware that this is prime adder-basking territory!

The start of the scrambling on Pen yr Ole Wens Pinnacle Ridge
The start of the scrambling on Pen yr Ole Wens Pinnacle Ridge. ©Tom Bailey, Trail magazine


Above the ledges is a short wall. Climb this to reach a ledge below the start of the pinnacles proper. This is where things get interesting!


The easiest way to pass the first pinnacle is on its right, carefully clambering around the rock over sizeable drops. The second pinnacle can also be bypassed this way, but if you’re brave (and you’ve somebody ahead of you to take pictures) this can be tackled on its left with an airy traverse using the sharp crest of the rock as handholds and wedging your feet onto slim ledges and cracks.

Traversing the final pinnacle  – what a photo op!
Traversing the final pinnacle – what a photo op! ©Tom Bailey, Trail magazine


A short, easy scramble finishes the ridge on a grassy shoulder. Look back to see the awesome view of the final pinnacle. If you’ve a pal climbing up behind you, you’re obliged to take photos – it looks epically heroic!


There’s more broken scrambling to be found if you want to continue to the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen, but you have to go looking for it and you’re still a long way from the top! Alternatively, head down the scree- and heather-filled gully (now to the left of the ridge as you look down) to cross the stone wall and join the scree path to retrace your outward route back to Ogwen Cottage.


**Follow this route with HALF-PRICE digital Ordnance Survey Maps for the whole of Great Britain by subscribing to Trail magazine.**

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