Thursday, September 26, 2013

A short visit to wonderful Snowdonia.

Well I'm back home again after a slightly abridged visit to one of my favorite places..Snowdonia. On Saturday morning after I finished my night shift I did my usual thing of train and ferry and arrived in exotic Holyhead at 16.30. Train again to the Llandudno Junction where I "enjoyed" my first experience of Kentucky Fried Chicken fine dining and then the final leg into Betws y Coed where I gratefully crashed in a B&B for the night. A long much needed sleep ensued.

Sunday September 22nd;

Looking towards Crib Goch
I emerged into the town on a bright warm morning and did my usual trick of sticking out my thumb to try and get a drive to the mountains. There was a bus due in a while but why wait. I tend to be very lucky and this time was no exception as I was being driven to Capel Curig within two minutes. I actually hadn't a definite plan in mind even at this stage. I had thought about the Atlantic Slab but my drive was only going as far as Capel so I made a spur of the moment decision to start my day from here. I was a little disappointed to see that there was a fair bit of hill cloud about but I was fairly confident that this would burn off as the day progressed. I decided to head up the broad boggy ridge that leads to Gallt yr Ogof and continue along over the Glyders. I had done this before but in pish weather so I reckoned that it would be a worthy outing in today's conditions. The cloud was lifting all the time and soon only the higher tops were concealed. I hadn't done a lot of hill walking lately but I was quite pleased to find that my legs felt fairly strong and I made steady progress.

Happy chappie

Tryfan's east face

Cantilever Rock

Castel y Gwynt and Glyder Fawr

Looking back to Glyder Fach
Tryfan West Face
One of the reasons I picked this walk was that I didn't want to experience the "madding crowds" that come with this part of the world on a fine Sunday. The massive population that lives within a couple of hours drive of this beautiful place ensure that some of the more popular spots can be really really busy. My route is initially somewhat off the beaten track and rises in a series of steps before a steep push to the first significant top Gallt yr Ogof at 763 mtrs. The bit of cloud that had hidden the top had by now cleared and I could see all the way along the route as far as Glyder Fach. The next top is the broad and rather featureless Y Foel Goch and I then dropped down to the wide saddle before Glyder Fach with its cluster of little lakes. Here is a great spot to stop and enjoy the stunning views across to the majestic east face of Tryfan. Here there are rock-climbs a plenty and the promise of great future days out but today I was in hiking mode and I set off up the rather tedious 200 meter climb to reach the other-worldly summit plateau of Glyder Fach. The day was now glorious, with warm sun, which felt more like a mid summer day than one in the middle of Autumn. Still I wasn't about to complain and I basked in the heat of the day and enjoyed a bite to eat on the summit blocks in blissful solitude. The summits of the Glyders are really quite unique. The large shards of rock (some up to 10 mtrs long) give the impression of crystal formations or are like something from a superman movie.

Truly Fine Mountain Scenery

Final mountain of the day.

Into Llanberis Pass

Spoils of Slate mining

I lingered a while before setting off for the next summit Glyder Fawr 999mtrs. This soon passed and I made the steep loose descent to Llyn y Cwn above the "Devils Kitchen" and them set off on the deceptively stretchy drag to Y Garn 947 mtrs. Here I rested a while and had a second bite to eat and I was to have a beautiful Raven alight just eight meters from me and regard me with a speculative eye while I ate. They really are a majestic bird and surprisingly big. Its luxuriant pitch black coat glistened in the sunshine and the huge strong beak looked like it wouldn't have any difficulty tearing the flesh from the carrion from which it survives. It was a real treat to get such a good look at it and it buoyed my already good spirits further. I had decided not to descend to the Ogwen Valley and I opted instead to continue north over Foel Goch and from there across to the next 3000er Elidir Fawr and then to descend to Nant Peris. This added considerably to the overall distance and climb, but the day was so good it seemed a shame not to make full use of it. All the while the weather and views remained stellar until finally I made my way down south towards the road. On the descent I was treated to the sight of a few Red Kites soaring above and as I got lower the huge mounds of spoil from the extensive slate quarrying that was done here  dominated to my right and to my left the stunning vistas that bound the Pen y Pass were an inspiration. So after 18 kilometers, 1700 meters of climbing and six and a half hours I reached the busy road. I walked the fifty or so meters to the bus stop and saw that there was a bus in an hours time to Betws y Coed. Rather than wait I once again stuck out my thumb and lo and behold the first car that came along gave me a lift back. Result !.

Monday September 23rd;

Before I left home I put a shout out in UK Climbing asking for someone to climb with and I was delighted to get a reply from a man living near the area called Paul Harvey. We agreed to meet at 9 am and we set off for a crag called Dinas Cromlech in the Llanberis Pass. Our objective was the VDiff route called Flying Buttress. This is supposed to be one of the best climbs of the grade in the area and I was really looking forward to it. The weather was warm and humid but the cloud was hanging low in the sky, indeed we were enveloped in the mist as we drove over the Pen y Pass. Paul brought all the necessary equipment and once we selected the necessary gear we set on up the steep unrelenting 100 meter climb to the base of the crag. Safe to say we were both quite warm by the time we arrived at the start of the route. We were also the first here so there was no need to queue for the start. Paul didn't have a lot of experience so I was happy to lead the route.

The steep first pitch

The second pitch and the upper Buttress

Cenotaph Corner, a bit beyond me I'm afraid
The first pitch runs to about 25 meters and rises fairly steeply to a pleasing point high above. I set off up and was pleased to find that despite the very polished rock there is an abundance of lovely big jug holds that inspire confidence. I don't like placing cams in polished rock so I relied on wire placements of which there were plenty to choose from. Progress was fairly rapid and I arrived at the first luxuriant belay point. Paul easily followed and I set off on the next short pitch. This is an almost horizontal one that passes a couple of small pinnacles before dropping into a notch where the main body of the crag rises steeply skyward. The next pitch is also fairly short and it forms a rising traverse rightwards onto the exposed main face of the cliff. Here the exposure is considerable but there is superb protection and I was really able to enjoy the situation. The belay is on a narrow ledge with good spikes offering easy sling placements. From here it is straight up the face before another exposed rising traverse to the right to the base of a chimney that leads to the top. The  start of the chimney  is quite awkward but a few strenuous ungainly moves, that I'm sure aren't to be found in any instruction books, saw me established in the chimney and it was easy from there to the top. We made great time and we were both delighted with the route and we were sorry that it didn't keep going for another few pitches. It is a superb 90 meter route that did indeed live up to its star billing.
Paul at the start of pitch 1

The excellent final pitch follows the ridgeline from right to left

Trust me its steeper than it looks
Looking up the first pitch

On the more broken middle section.

Well pleased after the last pitch
We descended the couple of hundred meters back to the car and as the day was still young we headed for the Qgwen Valley to a climb I had backed off of the previous November with Frank due to damp soapy rock and matching boots called the Sub Cneifion Rib. This is another VDiff route of 110 meters in length. A quick bite to eat and a decent coffee from the new cafe by the carpark and we were off into the huge and beautiful Cwm Idwall. The base of the climb is at about 500 meters so we had a bit of a climb to do again to reach the start and we were ready for a rest when we arrived in to humid heat of the early afternoon. The earlier mist had now burned off and wonderful views were once again the order of the day. Paul was once again happy for me to lead and I set off up. As you approach the rock seems quite laid back but it is steeper than it looks and is of a very different nature to Flying Buttress. All the lovely reassuring hand and foot placements are now gone and smearing and crimping are more the order of the day. I must confess to have found it much more difficult than the earlier climb. I ran the first pitch out to about 35 meters and I was quite relieved to finally reach the belay. About ten meters below after climbing up to a notch in the slab there is a climb up and to the left over a steepening and a fingery section above that I felt were very hard for a VDiff.
  The next section is little more than a scramble and is very broken and somewhat spoils the climb but a traverse to the right leads to a lovely line of clean rock to the top of the climb. This I did in one forty meter pitch and it was great. There is a tricky move out of an overhanging notch onto the ridge-line and afterwards the route continues (steeply at times) in a leftward slant to the top. This section I really enjoyed as perhaps I was getting more used to the different style and demands of climbing required by this more slabby route. The big smile on Paul's face as he followed me up told me all I needed to know about how much he was enjoying himself. He followed on each pitch with apparent ease and only needs a little more experience to get the confidence to make a fine lead climber. We had now completed two fine VDiff routes and we retreated to the car well pleased with our day. Paul was great company throughout the day and I am indebted to him for coming along and making it possible to have a great days climbing. We parted with the promise that we will have other days in the future.

Tuesday September 24th;

Alas I awoke at four in the morning with terrible indigestion that later developed into a seriously upset system and I had no option but to abandon plans to do the Parsons Arret that day and so I headed for home. The timings for all the trains and ferry worked very well and I was home for five that afternoon, feeling a little better but very very tired. A serious sleep ensued and I look forward to returning and doing more of the abundance of great climbing that the area has to offer.
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