I headed over to Wales last weekend for a spot of climbing. This time I took all my rock climbing gear and I had arranged to meet an English guy called Neil Nand. I travelled overnight on Stena ferries and arrived by train in Betws y Coed at 6am. A short walk to the campsite and I pitched my tent and lay down for a spot of shuteye. Neil had arrived the night before and rang me at 7.30 and we met. We had breakfast and decided to climb Amphitheatre Buttress on Pen yr Hegli Du in the Carneddu. The morning promised good weather and we drove to Tal y Bont on the B 5106 and turned left up a narrow steep road to arrive at a large open plateau. We continued to the end of the road where there is good parking and walked on the good track past Lyn Eigiau reservoir with it's broken dam walls into Cwm Eigiau. This is a large U shaped valley which contains a disused slate quarry. Having passed this you are facing straight at the imposing crags on the northern side of Pen yr Hegli Du. Amphitheatre buttress is on the left of a large gully. It is a full 1000 feet long and is graded at VDiff.
There is a steep climb up to the base of the climb and Neil found it tough going. When we arrived there was two other parties before us. We rigged up and waited for our turn. We decided to do alternate leads and I took the first pitch. I also chose to climb in my boots as opposed to rock shoes as I would see this type of route as more a training exercise for Alpine climbing. The first pitch starts very straight forwardly up laid back rock until you arrive at a large notch where you have to move left on to another slab. This is quite awkward and involves some delicate moves. Up this slab and you arrive at a good stance with a spike belay, we were off. Neil led up the second pitch without any bother and we then came to the best section of the route. This is a long steep slab with adequate holds and loads of exposure. Up around a block and left onto the slab which it climbed via a series of cracks up to a ledge with a thread belay. You are now well up the crag and the situation is great. Steep drops in all directions, warm dry rock and great views meant that I was really enjoying the day. This is what I went there for.
Neil climbing the slabs
Shortly thereafter we came to the so called crux. This involves climbing up and around a short corner over to a large stance. This passed very easily and is very easily protected. A couple of more short rock sections and we came to a long scrambly section. This we moved together on until we came to a very narrow arret which I crossed and protected with slings. Above this we continued to move together, using friction belays where necessary. In this way we soon reached the top. There was a group of walkers there who were taking pictures of the climbers and seemed impressed with the effort. After a good bite to eat we continued up and over Carnedd Llewelyn (at 1064mtrs the second highest in Wales) and a long easy descent across the broad expanse of Gleddrfford and along Cefn Tal-Llyn-Eigiau and back to the car. We were both glad to sit into the car but were well satisfied with the day.
The forecast for today was good and after a good nights rest we arose quite optimistic for the day ahead. After a very leisurely morning we headed for Tryfan and the target for the day was First Pinnacle Rib on its east face. This is another VDiff route and 185mtrs long. I was really looking forward to this as it is supposed to one of the best routes at the grade in Wales. Unfortunately the day was showing signs of deterioration and the air was pregnant with moisture. Still we set off up the steep climb and gained the heather terrace. Neil was really struggling on the steep ground so progress was slow. Still this was no bad thing as when I arrived at the base of the climb the threatened rain arrived. Very quickly the rock turned as slick as ice and the decision not to proceed was made.
We retreated down to the car. As the forecast for the following day was really poor Neil decided to return to Salisbury. We said our goodbyes at the campsite and I went for a 9k run up and over a 700ft hill to get rid of the excess energy. By now the day had cleared up nicely and I had a pleseant evening at the campsite.
I was almost afraid to stick my head outside the tent this morning, however the promised bad weather had not as yet arrived.I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and wandered into town with the intention of catching the sherpa bus to the Ogwen Valley and climbing the Glyderri. After waiting for a full hour it became apparent that the bus wasn't going to come so I stuck out my thumb. Lo and behold the first car stopped. As we progressed up towards Capel Curig my eyes were drawn to the lovely flanks of Moel Siabod. A sudden change of plan I asked to be dropped off and headed its direction. Easy walking up a metalled road led to a disused quarry, on past this into ever wilder ground under the imposing southeast face and I soon came to a large Cwm with a nice ridge at its rear which led directly to the summit. Some nice scrambling along this ridge and I was soon at the summit.
Here I met a gentleman dressed in the style of the early climbers replete with green tweed plus fours and a flat cap. You just have to love the English and their eccentricities. I decided to walk back to Betws y Coed across the vast expanse of moor into the forest and down to the campsite. This went well until I reached the low point before the incline up to the woods. Here I had to go through a marshy section with bog myrtle and deer grass. This was very tiring and I was relieved to reach the higher ground. This however proved a false dawn as when I crossed a fence I entered virgin ground with chest high heather, grass and scrub which was exhausting to traverse. After a few hundred meters of this I decided to head for the forest. This was going from the frying pan to the fire and proved the worst yet to get through. It was with considerable relief that I eventually came to a road and I relaxed for the remainder of the walk back. The day had remained dry but shortly after reaching the tent it started raining. I had to cook inside the tent and it rained right through until I went to sleep at around midnight. As I had no climbing partner for the following day and the forcast was again iffy I decided to return home the following morning. Still although things didn't work out perfect I am really looking forward to my next visit.