Friday, April 29, 2016

Snowdonia...Amphitheatre Buttress and Atlantic Slab.

Saturday April 23rd;

 I went back to Snowdonia last weekend with Denis O'Brien for another taste of what this wonderful place has to offer. Denis had never been here before so it was nice to get the chance to show him around a bit. He is also trying to get more experience of rock climbing/ mountaineering so there is nowhere better to come. The weather forecast was reasonable and we were hopeful of getting some good days under our belts. We traveled overnight on the ferry and hoped to catch a few hours sleep on that before driving to the mountains and climbing on Saturday. We were booked in to stay at the excellent Tyddyn Bach bunk huts for Saturday and Sunday nights and we were booked to return home on Monday evening's ferry so we had three days to look forward to. The chance of a sleep on the ferry evaporated thanks to a few bus loads of teenage girls that were as noisy as they were excitable.
A Bothy or clubhouse on the way in.

The route in red

We emerged from the boat into a beautiful dawn and we were soon on our way to the hills. This being promised as the best weather day I decided that Amphitheatre Buttress would be a worthy day out. We drove around to the Tal y Bont side and went up the steep little lane and parked at its end. We got ourselves sorted and set off in past the old dam walls and around the end of the U shaped valley when the climb comes into view. This would be my third time on the route. The first time was way back in 2008 when Tim Long led the route. The second time was in 2010 when myself and Neil Nand alternated leads on another good day so this would be my first time leading the whole lot. It is fair to say that I haven't been doing a whole lot of proper climbing in recent years and after taking a bit of a tumble in Scotland I was a bit anxious to see if I would still enjoy leading. We arrived at the base of the route and I donned the fully laden harness and started up. The first real test arrives after around twenty meters when you arrive at a notch and you have to move left onto the slab. It is (or at least it was for me) quite tricky and as I was climbing in boots the little footholds didn't inspire much confidence. Still it is well protected and after a couple of moves I was established on the slab and moving up again. I was now fully immersed in the climbing and enjoying myself to the full.

Looking up at the start of the route
On Pitch 2

Denis looking...epic?

It is a lovely varied and interesting route that offers a wonderful day out. It has good pro when you need it and for a plodder like me it provides thrilling climbing in a remote mountain setting. I ran out a full rope-length for the first pitch and the second saw me climbing the beautiful slab section. This was over all too soon and next up came the crux section which was super polished but it went okay and I was soon above it. After this the route becomes more broken and we moved together until we reached the narrow little arret that is easily protected with a couple of slings. We continued up the remainder of the route and topped out in beautiful sunshine and enjoyed a well deserved lunch. I had really enjoyed the whole thing and it was pleasing to have got a good lead under my belt. We continued up to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn and from there descended easily along the gentle spur of Tal y Llyn and back to the car. It was a short spin around to Betws Y Coed where we were soon settled in for the evening. The fun wasn't quite over however as after we went for a walk into the village on our return, as we walked by the A470 we saw a man lying in the briars down the embankment below us. We had seen him shortly beforehand in the village and he was clearly the worse for wear. To say I got a fright would be an understatement. I told Denis to stay where he was and I went down the 10 feet or so to him. I thought maybe he had been struck by a vehicle but on closer inspection he seemed intact except for some cuts to his face and hands from the thorns. A young guy who had seen him moments before stopped and rang the emergency services and we stayed with him until they arrived. He had woken up before they came and thankfully he was okay but confused. Trying to keep him where he was and not fall further down the bank was all we had to do until the police and the ambulance arrived when we left them to it. It had been a full day.
The narrow arret

Looking down from the top

Happy chappie

Sunday April 24th;

Where does the time go ??. Today we were meeting with Paul Harvey with whom I have had a couple of lovely days out in the past. I was astonished to find that it had been almost two years since we last met. He has had his injury problems and a knee operation put paid to his outdoor endeavours for a considerable time. We met in the Siabod Cafe in Capel Curig where some good coffee and chat followed and after looking at the guide book Paul suggested looking at the Atlantic Slab. I was delighted to agree as it had been on my wish list as well. We originally had thought to go to Little Tryfan or maybe Milestone Buttress but we reckoned on a fine Sunday morning they would be very busy but it was a real surprise to not see a soul on either crag as we drove by. We parked at a lay by on the road down by Ty Gwyn and had a pleasant stroll across the valley floor until we were past the farmhouses at Maes Caradoc. After this there is nothing for it but to turn and climb the steep ground up into Cwm Perfedd where the impressive slabs are fully revealed. Further steep ground follows before we eventually arrived at the base of the slab. Our route for today was Central Route on the Atlantic Slab.
The impressive slabs. Red slab on the right..Atlantic slab in the centre

Paul and Denis almost there

Curious geometric split...Swastika Rock?? Almost

As Denis doesn't lead and Paul had been out of the game for a long time I once again took the front. I climbed up The Runnel, the gully on the left side of the slab until mid way in the slab and set off up. Well I did for perhaps fifteen feet as I found the going delicate (I was once again in boots) and wet patches of mossy rock and nowhere to place any protection meant I came back down. I went a little to the right and spotted a much more likely line and set off up, this time successfully. The route is long and varied and entertaining. There are some delicate little sections and some vegetated heathery sections but the rock is so grippy that it is a pure pleasure to climb. I stayed well to the left of the right edge and we climbed pitch after pitch (8 in all) until we emerged on the sunny plateau a little tired but with big grins on our faces. Over 300 metres of super climbing lay below us and we hadn't seen another soul all day. I had really enjoyed the route and it is definitely a place I would like to explore some more. I was also pleased with how the climbing went as it is never that easy to climb with three on a rope but we kept it as simple as possible and things went very smoothly. We enjoyed a well deserved late lunch and turned towards the spur on the southern side of Cwn Perfedd, which looks very steep but it offers a nice easy way down to the valley below. Paul was feeling the effects of the day by now but considering the fact that he hadn't been  out on the hills at all he had done really well. It had been great to climb with him again and hopefully we will get the chance to get out again soon. We returned to the cafe in Capel Curig and after a brief coffee and chat we said our goodbyes. Nothing unusual occurred in Betws y Coed that evening.

Paul and Denis following on

The route we followed

Snowdonia really is great.. Tryfan and Glyder Fach

Monday April 25th;

We had had a great couple of days so far and whatever the weather would bring today the trip had proven well worthwhile. We were hoping to do Flying Buttress at Dinas y Gromlech but it was raining quite heavily by the time we reached the Pen y Pass. We decided that the Snowdon Horseshoe would be a fitting finale to the trip and after waiting a little for a lull in the rain we changed and set off up the Pyg Track to Bwlch y Moch where we turned and headed for Crib Goch. The wind was fairly strong here and the rock ran with water but progress was never too difficult and eventually we reached the summit with its super narrow crest. We traversed the ridge, always taking care not to be dislodged by a sudden gust and then we reached "The Pinnacles". These I tackled direct and Denis decided that discretion was the better part of valour and stuck to the track. As usual the pinnacles provided great sport but the fun is over all too soon and we arrived at Bwlch Coch. In the cold windy conditions and in the absence of any views we didn't linger and soon reached the next scrambly section. Again I climbed the rocks direct and Denis stuck to the track. I continued on past the narrow section and reached the cairn and easy ground but there was no sign of Denis.
Denis....before his disappearing act on Crib Goch

I had a few bites of flapjack while I waited for him but there was no sign. I was getting a bit worried so I returned along the ridge to the start of the rocky section but again could see nothing. Getting more worried now I reasoned that he must have gotten ahead of me and was probably waiting at the summit of Garnedd Ugain so I hot footed it to the top but again no sign. At this point I should perhaps point out that Denis didn't have a map nor had he ever been here before. I was really worried by now so I again retraced my steps all the way to Bwlch Coch and called and down-climbed in places to see if he had fallen and I wondering if I should call the rescue. I had tried his phone several times but it wasn't ringing. Finally I decided that perhaps he might have continued to the summit of Snowdon and if so he would surely be waiting there. I went more in hope than expectation by now to the top but again there was no sign of him. I was reluctant to get the emergency services involved as I didn't know for sure that there was anything wrong with him but if he wasn't back at the car when I got down I would have to make the call. I went down the tourist route as quick as I could fully expecting the worst but there he was sitting in the car waiting for me. I wasn't sure how I would react but its fair to say that anger was to the fore. Lets just say the trip back to Ireland was long and silent. It was an unfortunate end to what was otherwise a very good trip.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring or Winter?? No Rockclimb on The Reeks

A surprisingly wintry summit of Carrauntoohil

Its fair to say that this weekend didn't go exactly to plan. A good forecast meant I was all set to head back to Mount Brandon on Saturday with the plan being to do a big old two day round with a bivy on the ridge overnight. So I got up and packed up all I needed for the trip and set off in good time. It was a lovely weather morning with a chill in the air but blue skies being the order of the day. All was going great until I was entering Tralee (45miles from home) and I started to get the uneasy feeling that I had forgotten to bring my boots. A quick stop and my fears were realized and I was left with no option but to turn around and head back home (my old pair of crocs just wouldn't have cut it). So I spent the remainder of the day catching up on some gardening duties at home and looked forward to heading to Carrauntoohil on Sunday with Denis with Curve Gully Ridge being the target.
A nice sunny rock climb he saud

Icy hard snow

Winter still hanging on in the gully

There had been a light frost overnight but the day promised to follow yesterdays example and be a beauty. We set off back in good spirits and were looking forward to the technical challenge that this route brings. It was something of a surprise then to arrive back at the mountains and see that above 700mtrs was looking a bit wintry and there had obviously been a fairly severe frost and maybe even some snow. Still we put everything we needed into the bags for our climb and set off into the Hags Glen. Our hopes of a sunny blue sky day were also quickly dashed as there was clearly some precipitation falling in the back of the glen. We made our way steadily up through the levels and as we got to the lake we even had some snow falling. We arrived at the base of the route and it was decidedly chilly and even though the rock was clear of snow and ice down here I wasn't over confident that that would be the case higher up. To make the decision easier it started to snow fairly heavily so we turned away from the climb and made our way over to Central Gully where we found that it was fairly complete with hard frozen snow which required several slicing kicks to make a small step so we could make progress. Soon the gully was behind us and we climbed to the summit and enjoyed a now sunny and calm top. We continued all the way to The Bone and descended back to our car. It had been an enjoyable outing despite the disappointment of not doing our route of choice. It is hard to be too down when you come home with a touch of sunburn and been in the midst of a beautiful landscape for the day. More great days lay ahead.
Out of the gully  and wonderful views

The Bone

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cnoc Na Peiste North Ridge and a return of sweet winter.

What a way to start the day
My recovery continues slowly but surely and after a few weeks of physio and staying of the mountains since I returned from Scotland last month I was finally ready for a return to action. I went for a gentle 7K run yesterday for the first time since before Christmas and it went well so I was fairly confident that my knee would hold up to a sterner outing today. The weather had turned a fair bit colder overnight and I woke to a clear frosty morning which promised a reasonably fair day ahead. I met up with Denis and we set off for Cronins Yard where Bridie would be waiting. It came as something of a surprise to see a good dusting of snow down to low levels on the hills as we drove back and its fair to say that things looked decidedly wintry as we set off from the carpark at around 08.45. What a lovely morning. Chilly but with little or know wind. Mostly clear summits and little prospect of too much precipitation in the short term meant we were set fair for a very pleasant taste of a winters outing, and so it proved to be.

The ridge looming ahead

A tough of mist and snow only adds to the magic

As we walked in we had no real idea as to what we would do and on a whim I suggested the north ridge of Cnoc na Peiste which gives a very nice grade 1 outing to the fourth highest mountain in the country. I was very pleased to find that my knee wasn't protesting too much as I went along and my fitness was still fairly good so we made decent progress. On the rocky ridge itself there was no need for any hardware as the rocks were fairly clear and what snow there was was nice and dry and ice wasn't an issue. We were loving our day. Stunning views were a constant distraction and good fun was also to be had as we picked out the choicest options as we rose higher on the ridge. Eventually the fun petered out but it wasn't too far to the summit. We turned right on top and enjoyed the beautiful snowy yet benign conditions all the way to the top of Cnoc an Chuillin where we had an early lunch. Thereafter we continued to the top of the Devils Ladder where our solitude was definitely a thing of the past and we joined the hoards heading for Carrauntoohil. The slog to the summit soon passed and we enjoyed a brief respite before descending via the Heavenly Gates. We were back at the car in a respectable 5 hours 45 mins and a well deserved coffee and cake followed. Its good to be back.

Denis is a devil for trying Bridies lippy