Tryfan: will it still be a 3,000-footer?

Tryfan: will it still be a 3,000-footer?

It’s the summer weekend with the longest daylight hours, which means, almost certainly, the mountain rescue teams of the western Lake District will be looking forward to interrupted sleep as hapless Three Peaks Challengers struggle to find their way on the felltops.

The hundreds of once-in-a-lifetime peak summiteers will be making themselves unpopular again with the residents of Wasdale Head as the minibus doors slam, the roads are choked and the unsavoury waste of hordes of charity mountain-goers despoil the countryside.

But, on a high mountain-top in Snowdonia, three more seasoned hillwalkers might be about to make themselves almost as unpopular.

Depending on their findings, the trio, John Barnard, Graham Jackson and Myrddyn Phillips, will descend Tryfan as heroes or villains in many mountain lovers’ eyes. Their quest is to determine for posterity whether the shapely Ogwen Valley mountain belongs to the elite 3,000ft class or not.

Set as a metric number – 914.4m – the magical height seems meaningless. But in imperial terms, 3,000ft is the standard against which Britain’s mountains are judged. If it was in Scotland, Tryfan would be a munro. As it is, it forms part of the 15-peak (as with so many statistically based mountain challenges, there is argument, with some saying 14-, others 16- ) challenge to bag Snowdonia’s top summits.

On Ordnance Survey maps, Tryfan’s height is marked as 915m – which puts it in the target zone of the three amateur hill sleuths who have already been responsible for the demotion from the munro tables of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean, which was found lacking the stature by 1.4m. Given that OS says there is a margin of error of 3m in its aerial surveys, it became clear to the trio that Tryfan needed closer scrutiny.

The project involves spending at least two hours on the mountain top gaining readings

The project involves spending at least two hours on the mountain top gaining readings

And so, the amateur surveyors will take their very unamateurish Global Positioning System gear to the top of Tryfan to take their readings and submit them to OS. They have already made a preliminary sortie to work out which of the mountain’s two summit blocks – Adam and Eve – is the higher and Myrddyn has made the leap from one to the other a few times, nailing his credentials as a true Tryfan summiteer. The project is being supported by both the Snowdonia Society and Ordnance Survey.

Their efforts will no doubt make the news – there are television crews in almost every direction the men look. But the trio’s measurements will be scrutinised most carefully by the thousands of hillwalkers who love a good challenge. And the Welsh 3,000-footers could become a bit easier.

But for some, Tryfan will always be a magical mountain: it’s shaped like mountains should be and it’s pure rock straight out of the box. Right from the first steps from the A5, the peak demands respect – and a hands-on ascent, whether by the Heather Terrace or the more adrenalin demanding North Ridge. Whatever its height, Tryfan will still draw the true connoisseur.

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