Thursday, May 8, 2014

Four Very Different Days In Snowdonia

Day 1;
Saturday May 3rd;

Last Friday night I took the overnight ferry from Dublin to Holyhead which marries nicely with a train connection to Betws y Coed and I therefore found myself ready to meet Paul Harvey for a days rock climbing at 08.15 on Saturday morning. The weather was chilly but dry and promised to stay that way for most of the weekend. I had climbed with Paul the previous September when we had a great day and did two great VDiff routes, Flying Buttress and the Sub Cneifion Rib. Paul had let me lead both routes and I mistakenly had surmised that he hadn't done much lead climbing before but he was just being generous in allowing me the lead. I discovered today that he is a fine lead climber and showed good form on all the pitches he led.  I had left it to him to choose somewhere to go and he opted for Clogwyn y Tarw-The Gribben Facet in Cwm Idwal. This proved a great option as, despite it being a bank holiday weekend, we had the place to ourselves bar one couple of climbers who did one route and moved on. There are a limited number of "easy routes" here but three Diff to VDiff options were available and these we did.
Paul, ready for action

The direct start for Slab Intermediate

Beautiful climbing on clean rock

The first was "Slab Climb" which was graded at Diff and promised to give a good start to the day. It didn't disappoint and provided a great warm up. Perhaps a little too great as Paul started the route about five meters to the left of the correct line and this gave about five meters of smooth fingery unprotectable rock that definitely went a grade or two above Diff but up and over he went and an easy finish to the end of the first pitch followed at around fifteen meters. The guide suggests the route be done in four short pitches so I went up the next at just twelve meters. There remained about thirty meters or so of beautiful exposed clean rock which Paul did in one delightful pitch. If we were doing it again I would suggest doing it in two pitches instead. The day was still quite chilly so we didn't tarry and after negotiating the tricky descent we turned our attention to the next route "Slab Direct Route", VDiff. This time I started from the correct spot which proved considerably easier and I continued up to half height-around thirty meters up. Paul finished the route and it was a delightful atmospheric climb as it passed up beside the imposing wall on the right and exited up a recess to the top. Interest was continued throughout and its a route I would highly recommend. We enjoyed a nice lunch after and then opted to do "Slab Intermediate". I led up the start which climbs directly onto the slab and I found it quite difficult. When they give a VDiff grading hereabouts they mean it. Anyway Paul led up the next section and after thinking he had gone off route he retreated a little but went up a steep grassy groove that was nasty and slimy but we were finally on the base of the middle slab that rose diagonally to the right. Paul led this as well and it was a great pitch, full of variety and interest the whole way. It finished off the climbing nicely. All in all it had been a great climbing day, full of variety on some great routes. It had been a pleasure to meet Paul once again and I look forward to our next chance to climb some more. After getting very little sleep the night before it was no surprise that a long sleep followed that night.
The three routes. On left Slab climb, on right Slab route direct and Slab intermediate.          
Day 2;
Sunday May 4th;
After a much needed sleep I ate a light bite for breakfast and I decided to go for a good hill run directly from the campsite (Bryn Tyrch Farm) and head straight up the hill at the rear (Clogwyn Mawr) and make my way as far as Carnedd Llewelyn. To say I ran is perhaps a bit of an overstatement but I set off at a gallop for a couple of hundred meters until I reached the steep trail that rose directly to the top over 150 meters above. Once on top I continued as best I could on the rough ground and ran where possible and wound my way up and over each top that presented itself and gained more height on each one that passed. Some of the tops are quite rugged and would actually allow for some great scrambling but today I stuck to the easier trails (such as they were) and concentrated more on trying to keep up a reasonable pace. This area has a lovely remote feel to it and is much less frequented than the higher "honey pots" and it wasn't until I reached the top of Craig Wen 548 mtrs that I saw another person. I continued on to the summit above Llethr Gwyn at 678 meters where great views of Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir can be enjoyed. A big drop down followed to the 400 mtr contour before a bigger climb to the summit of Pen Llithrig y Wrach really tested the legs. Any hope of running up the hills was a dim and distant memory but the broad easy summit dome and the easy track to the col below Pen yr Hegli Du allowed for a lovely gamboling trot that stretched the legs a bit. The promise of a lunchbreak made the 200 meters to the top more bearable and indeed I continued on across Bwlch Eyrl Farchog to the top of Amphitheater Buttress before stopping.
Lyn Coryn

Towards Tryfan

Towards Moel Siabod

The Ogwen Valley

By the reservoir

Looking down at Amphitheater Buttress
The highest point of the day and Wales second highest mountain Carnedd Llewelyn was now well within reach and I managed to jog a lot of the remaining kilometer and a bit to the top. I didn't stop and set off on the three kilometer trip to the next peak Carnedd Dafyd and then to Pen yr Ole Wen. Solitude had long since been left behind but my spirits were buoyed by the knowledge that the hardest was now behind me and it was downhill for the remaining 10 kilometers or so. The descent is easy at first and then becomes steep in places but soon all difficulties are past and the route easily follows the Afon Lloer down to the busy A5 road. Mercifully the noise of traffic is quickly left behind and the remainder of the run is along a delightful green road to Capel Curig. I was pretty tired by the time I reached the entrance to the campsite and lets just say I didn't even try to run up the hill to the pitches but I was also delighted with the day. A total of five and a half hours was needed to cover the 25 or 26 kilometers and I reckon there was around 1600 meters of ascent. I didn't have long to relax though as I was booked into the excellent Tyddyn Bach bunk huts in Betws y Coed for the next couple of nights so I quickly decamped and my trusty thumb worked its magic yet again and it wasn't long before I was relaxing in my new surroundings.
Heading for Carnedd Dafydd

Across the Ogwen Valley towards Tryfan and the Glyderi

Looking back at Carnedd Llewelyn

Looking back to the start.


The route back beyond the road
Day 3;
Monday May 5th;
Oh dear, I had a few aches and pains after my efforts the previous day but nonetheless I was really looking forward to today as I had agreed to meet with Tom Hutton. He lives in the area and is a well known writer on all things outdoors and we had tentatively considered a trip to the Alps together last year which didn't come about but we had stayed in touch and today was to be our first outing. We met in the excellent Moel Siabod cafe in Capel Curig and it was immediately obvious that I was in for a good day. He is an interesting, informed and informative guy that has an obvious and deep knowledge and love for the environment and we has a long series of good conversations throughout the day. We opted for the stress free but entertaining scramble of the north ridge of Tryfan followed my the delightful Bristly Ridge on Glyder Fach. After enjoying a good coffee we set off for Ogwen and we were pleasantly surprised to find some available parking right at the start of the route. We were in no rush and often stopped to enjoy the views and chat and generally make the most of yet another good weather day. Time passed easily as we chatted about his extensive knowledge of the mountains in Ireland and indeed about some mutual acquaintances of ours. You are never short of company on this route and we has occasional words with other groups. It was nice to share the obvious excitement of some new visitors to the "fearsome" delights of this lovely mountain. As we neared the summit the wind became quite ferocious and we found a sheltered spot to enjoy a bite to eat before descending Bwlch Tryfan and enjoying the undoubted delights of Bristly Ridge. Strangely the wind once we reached the summit of Glyder Fach was nothing near as strong as Tryfan so we were able to enjoy the exceptional landscape of the summit and beyond. We descended pleasantly via Y Gribin to Llyn Bochlwyd and back to the car. I don't think there was a lull in conversation and were in agreement on the problems with access and the need for balance and protection of the environment. After a well deserved treat in the same cafe we said farewell and I hope we get to enjoy other days in the future.
Pick your own best route up tryfan

At Bwlch Tryfan


The well named Bristly Ridge

Summit views from Glyder Fach

Fine mountain scenery
Day 4;
Tuesday May 6th;
It had rained from late evening into the night, so I was delighted to wake this morning to another great weather day. I had decided to do the Snowdon Horseshoe today as hopefully the enormous throngs that undoubtedly covered the mountain over the bank holiday weekend would be gone today. I was returning home on the overnight ferry that night so I was in no great rush to get started but thanks to the excellent Sherpa Bus service I was in Pen y Pass at 09.30 an ready for the off. I decided to ascend the ridge between the Pyg Track and the Miners Track via "The Horns" and I was immediately all alone and able to enjoy the stunning views down the Llanberis Pass and up to the inviting first target for today the wonderful Crib Goch. Although starting up this way adds maybe fifty or sixty meters to the days climbing it is worth it for the quiet and slightly different perspective it affords. Soon though I arrived at Bwlch y Moch and the scramble up to the summit could begin. It is a delight and never fails to be a joy despite its familiarity. The cloud was up about 3000 feet but it lowered slightly  when I reached the ridge on top but this only added to the atmosphere. There was once again a stiff breeze on the top and discretion was definitely the better part of valour as I took as I took care on the knife edge crossing. The fun just gets even better once you reach the excellent pinnacles section. After this some more scrambling can be enjoyed on climb to the second top of the day Garnedd Ugain 1065 meters. The cloud was stubborn in its persistence now and the strong wind also ensured I didn't delay as I continued easily to the summit of Snowdon Yr Wyddfa 1085 meters. Here there were throngs of people and I has my first surreal experience of going into the large well appointed summit cafe. Going from the biting wind into the heated environs of the cafe seemed to set my face on fire but looking about I could see I wasn't the only one. Despite not being a great fan of such paraphernalia being build on mountaintops I nevertheless enjoyed the rather unique experience. I wasn't however too disappointed to leave the summit behind and the madness disappeared as I descended steeply to Bwlch Ciliau. Once again I was below the cloud and the views are tremendous. The twin topped mountain of Y Lliwedd with its hugely impressive cliffs never fail to inspire and I still harbor hopes of one day climbing a route on them. I was feeling strong and I wasn't long reaching the top where I rested a while and just basked in the glory of my surroundings. On down to the Llyn Llydaw reservoir and the miners track made up the rest of the route. another hitchhike and I was in Betws y Coed a mere twenty minutes later when I finally had time to explore the many gear shops. All in all it had been a most enjoyable trip when the weather had been great and I was able to sample some of the best that the area has to offer. Many thanks to Paul and Tom for their great company ad I look forward to making my re-acquaintance with both them and the area in the not too distant future.
Dinas y Gromlech

Crib Goch

Llyn Llydaw

Approaching the pinnacles

Heading for Y Lliwedd

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