Pinnacle Ridge Scramble (Pen yr Ole Wen)

Pinnacle Ridge is a brief but airy scramble on one of the rocky ribs lower down on Pen yr Ole Wen’s south-westerly slope. It is normally approached from Idwal Cottage and the rib is easy to identify well in advance.

The traditional Pen yr Ole Wen path that starts on the western side of Llyn Ogwen is initially followed for around 100 metres of ascent. A group of distinctive small circular shelters will become visible on the left and at this point, another path heads off to the west, running parallel to the A5 below.

After a fairly short distance along this path, the rib becomes visible to the right, slightly higher on the slope. The distinctive pinnacles should be visible at the top of this. This is Pinnacle Ridge.

One of the circular stone shelters on Pen yr Ole Wen
One of the circular stone shelters
Looking up towards Pinnacle Ridge
Looking up towards Pinnacle Ridge

The couloir now needs to be ascended directly on the right hand side of the ridge. There is no easy track here and it’s a bit of a slog to ascend, and care needs to be taken on scree and unstable rocks.

Eventually, directly beneath the initial section of the ridge, an old stone wall of little purpose is reached. Slightly higher than the wall, a grassy ramp becomes apparent at the foot of the ridge, rising from right to left.

At the end of the ramp, the ridge is ascended on sound rock. It’s a decent little climb but over very quickly. It barely feels like you’ve started before the first pinnacle is reached.

The first pinnacle can be climbed but it’s a more difficult climb that comes with a tricky down-climb from the other side. This is what I was told anyway and so bypassed the first pinnacle carefully on the right.

The second pinnacle can also be easier passed on the right, but to do this would make the outing a little pointless. Climbing and crossing on the left is far more interesting, as well as being incredibly exposed. The scramble is rated at grade 2+ and I imagine that’s mainly due to this exposure as it’s not a technically difficult route. The great photos you sometimes see of people crossing pinnacle ridge are usually taken on this second pinnacle.

A (hopefully) helpful diagram of the Pinnacle Ridge route
A (hopefully) helpful diagram of the Pinnacle Ridge route

So this is the highlight of the scramble and probably the only reason why many do it. I climbed up to the pinnacle although, due to its shape, I’d call it more a fin than a pinnacle. The top edge is sharp and is perfect to use as a handrail. The drop is immense. There are two tiny footholds and a lot of faith is put into that handrail. I’m not great with big drops like that and I’m not ashamed to say that my leg started wobbling as it stretched across the pinnacle to the other foothold. I believe the medical term is ‘disco leg’.

Below is the footage of the route from my headcam. It was the first time I’d ever used the headcam and so I had to guess the optimal settings. In hindsight, I think a 4:3 ration would have been better than a widescreen 16:9, and I should have made a little more attempt to look at the pinnacle and glance down at my feet when crossing it.

And then… that’s it. It’s over bar a very brief scramble up onto a grassy shoulder. I had no problem with the scrambling and thought it was good quality, and I thought the crossing of the pinnacle was quite thrilling. But at the same time, it can’t be denied that the scramble is disappointingly short.

I descended with care back down the couloir, leg back to its normal self, and happy to be alive.

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