Monday, April 15, 2019

A return to Snowdonia

I have been doing a fair bit of running, my usual hiking and I've even tried to fit in a  few visits to Awesome Walls in Cork so I had hoped to be in better shape for a bit of rock climbing. With that in mind I answered a shout from a guy on UK Climbing for a partner on "easy stuff" in North Wales for Saturday and Sunday April 6th and 7th.

I had a long weekend off work so I decided on the easier option of travel this time and caught the afternoon ferry from Dublin to Holyhead. I had intended to camp at the excellent Platts Farm in Llanfeirfechan so it was with some disappointment I discovered en-route that it was booked out. I opted instead to stay at a cheap hotel in Bangor and it was still nearly dark when I checked in. I think the overnight ferry is probably just as easy.

Saturday April 6th;

Craig Condie met me on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning and he had decided to do Amphitheatre Buttress. I have done this a few times before and I was delighted at the choice and reasonably confident I would be able to do it. I didn't have a map and neither did Craig so our first problem was to find the right road to the car park near Llyn Eigiau. Now I know I have been there before but I have a less than perfect memory and using mobile phone maps and my dodgy recollections we went wrong and found ourselves going up from Trfriw, turning around and finally heading up the correct lane from Tal y Bont. Alas we took a left turn higher up and ended up at the small reservoir at Coedty. Oh dear it wasn't the most auspicious start but on the plus side it was a gorgeous morning and the snowy mountains looked wonderful. I had been a bit taken aback by the amount of snow that was still on the mountains and I wondered if rock climbing would be possible but I reckoned that a buttress like the one we were heading towards should be snow free and provide a good adventure.

Parking where we did added a couple of kilometres to the walk in and we made another mistake in crossing the bog to reach the correct car park rather than stay on the track we were on. Lets just say that this was energy sapping and was more akin to post-holing  through crusty snow than anything else. Finally we were on the correct route and we gladly hot footed it into the spectacular valley. Around into Cwm Eigiau and past the old disused mine and the route looms dead ahead. Snow now lay on the ground and after the steep climb to the base of the route we geared up and readied for the fray.
I started up the first pitch. Starting at the very bottom the first few moves are fingery and slabby and the wet snowy soles of my boots didn't inspire confidence but it isn't difficult and I was off. I soon reached the corner where you have to move left onto the continuing slab. I have always found this difficult and stepping off snow onto the slab I found too daunting so I asked Craig to have a look instead...oh dear. He climbed up to the corner and found the hand hold that is higher up above the corner (which I cannot reach) and he was up. He finished off the pitch and I followed up. I wasn't climbing well but I was okay. Craig continued up to the base of the slab pitch but he couldn't figure out the start so I joined him to have a look. I found the start (on the right side) and I was off. This is a superb pitch with continuous interesting top quality climbing and while I was not really comfortable I got up to the top and brought Craig up. Next comes the crux pitch and I led this as well. I was less than stylish but I got up it and again Craig followed me. We moved together until we reached the "pinnacle" pitch and again I went first across this short but interesting little arret. Again we moved together until we reached the next awkward step which I just couldn't figure out. I knew there was a stretchy step but I wasn't spotting it so Craig again took over. He was just out of sight when he made the moves and climbed up but once I followed it was again a struggle for me and it was a disgraceful shuffling desperate couple of metres for me. Bollocks. Just below the top there was another step and once again I struggled there but once Craig went up I found the bomber hand hold that made it easy..another bollocks moment. I need to make a final decision soon on my climbing future.

Topping out to an alpine landscape

Back near the car in the evening light

 Anyway all that aside it felt great to top out into an alpine landscape and we were in great spirits as we enjoyed a late and well deserved bite to eat. We descended back to the valley via Bwlch y Marchog and hot footed it back to the car. It was nearly 7pm by the time we were back and Craig then dropped me around to the campsite at Capel Curig. Craig had been a real gent throughout the day and is excellent company and a fine climber and while there was a half hearted agreement to see each other the following day, I wasn't expecting much after my poor performance and frankly it would be a relief if things ended there. Besides I was too tired to be too bothered as it was 8.30pm by the time I was cooking dinner and I went straight to bed when done. A long excellent sleep followed.

Sunday April 7th;

After a fine sleep I emerged into another promising weather morning. While it was cloudy on the tops there were patches of blue sky about. I was full of aches and pains from having used muscles yesterday that were obviously sorely underused and feeling a bit sorry for myself as well, as once again I had to deal with my increasing lack of climbing skills. I hadn't heard from Craig so I decided to walk from the campsite to the Glyderau plateau. The cloud hung at around 700 metres but I was hopeful that things would clear. Leaving the village past the new Joe Browne shop ( the old Pinnacle Stores shop is gone) I crossed the stile at the farm and headed up the craggy ground towards Cefn y Capel. The next couple of kilometres are very boggy and then you climb steeply for nearly 300 metres towards the twin topped Gallt yr Ogof. Now I was in the cloud and visibility was absent and once again I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn't brought any maps. I followed the trail over Y Foel Goch and here there was some snow cover that made following the trail more difficult. I was on the point of turning back when the cloud lifted and like Saul on the road to Damascus I was shown the way.
A cloudy start


The view towards Snowdon


On the 200 metre pull to the summit plateau I tried to avoid the slushy snow patches where possible and progress was steady. The other good thing was the weather. Clearances became frequent and by the time I was at the top of the rocky almost alien landscape of Glyder Fach it was mostly clear most of the time. I decided to continue on to the summit of Glyder Fawr and by then I was mostly in sunshine. What a treat it was, with this gorgeous otherworldly landscape looking great and now expanding views to the other mountains nearby coming into view. The views across to Snowdon from the top were a delight. As it was now so nice and having missed out on the views as I ascended I decided to return the same way to the campsite. Back near YFoel Goch the vista of Tryfan (clearly very busy) and Bristly Ridge rising to Glyder Fach was a real treat and of course the glory of the Snowdon Horseshoe also drew the eye. It was warm and sunny all the way back and another senior moment was the fact that I also had left the sunscreen back in my tent. I got a good scalding. Back down and a good shower and change of clothes went some way to restoring me and after a refreshing cuppa I hitched into Betws for some provisions (Pinnacle Stores is missed). A very pleasant evening ensued and my spirit was restored.

Monday April 8th;

I wasn't sure what I was going to do today, whether to head home early doors or go for a hike. The weather forecast was uncertain and promised cloud and rain in the afternoon but when I emerged from my tent it was pretty good with some high cloud but plenty of clear skies as well. I decided to head for the Pen y Pass and do the Snowdon Horseshoe. I was too early for the bus so I walked into the village and hitched a lift towards the pass. I quickly got a lift as far as the junction near the hotel. I walked from there up the path as far as the pass and then joined the hoards. It was cool and a little breezy but the cloud seemed to be lifting and Crib Goch was in full view. I enjoyed the scramble to the summit but it was disappointing that the cloud arrived as I neared the crest of the ridge. The wind was quite strong up here as well but it wasn't buffeting so crossing the ridge was fine. I enjoyed the pinnacles as usual and some of the best climbing is reserved for the final slopes before you reach Garnedd Ugain. With only the very occasional breaks in the cloud there was no reason to stop and I turned and rejoined the masses once I reached the track that comes up from Llanberis. The summit of Snowdon was the usual massing of hikers of all ages and abilities and I quickly passed beyond it so as to find relative peace for an early lunch. I was very conscious of my lack of a map and in the clag and with some snow laying about I decided not to try and find the correct continuation path and instead returned to the pass via the Pyg track. I walked back down the path to the Roman Camp and once again tried my hand at hitching back to Capel Curig. No joy this time but I was able to catch the bus anyway. It was a little disappointing not to complete the horseshoe but Crib Goch is always a pleasure and is ample compensation for missing the rest. The only pity is that Snowdon itself is so so busy. Don't go there expecting solitude.

I enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours back at the tent before beginning the long journey home. Three days in one of my favourite rain...some excellent rock climbing (at least an excellent route) and getting sunburned on the is good.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Winter to Spring ๐Ÿ˜Ž Snow on the Galtees to climbing Howling Ridge..What I did in March

Having returned from a very enjoyable trip to the Scottish Highlands it was nice to get back out on my own hills once again. I had enjoyed wonderful spring weather in Scotland and the mountains  there were denuded of snow. So it was somewhat ironic that for a blast of winter I had to head to The Galtees.

 The spring weather basically left as I returned home and a cold snap followed. I headed around to the northside of the range and decided to do the Clydagh Valley Horseshoe. The mountains looked amazing in the clear crisp morning and I was really looking forward to the outing. Besides the chill wind, the first thing I noticed was the joy of moving with a light backpack. I set off up towards Cush first and once I reached the open mountainside it was great to look across the valley and enjoy the sight of the steep snow clad hills that filled the landscape. The slog up to the summit of Cush is always  tough but it doesn't last long and soon enough I was enjoying this tremendous viewpoint. Well, enjoying might be stretching it a bit as it was really windy and damm cold on top. I wasted no time in setting off for my next summit Galtybeg. Down into the glen and things warmed up nicely  (relatively speaking ) and the 400 metre climb that follows ensured I stayed warm. Once on the ridge I could see some cloud starting to form which was a harbinger of the thaw that was to arrive around noon. Not that it had arrived yet and it was bracing all the way to the summit of Irelands highest inland mountain, Galtymore. The wind and the chill on Dawsons Table was vicious and it wasn't a place to linger. Thankfully once I was lower send traversing above Lough Curra things were easier and I enjoyed myself until I passed Slievecushnabinnea when I was able to decend easily to the valley floor. An enjoyable stroll back through the woods saw me reach the carjjust 3 hours 20 minutes after I started. The thaw had really kicked in and as I drove back the snow was in swift retreat. It was a lovely morning.

What a view from Cush

I returned to the Galtees on the 20th for an overnight stay. I wasn't being a complete selfish numpty as my wonderful lady wife and me had had a very pleasant away stay in the excellent Sneem Hotel Apartments where I enjoyed a few runs in this wonderful area. After returning home and with a full moon and clear skies promised I made a last minute decision to head for the wilds again. I had hoped to camp up on the main ridge near Carrignabinnea where there is a lovely flat ledge where amazing views to the north can be enjoyed as well as watching the sunset and the dawn if you have a mind. As I said it was a last minute decision and I left it too late to reach the ridge before dark. I only reached the 650 metre level before I had to finally drop the bag and erect my tent. I then had to drop down a surprising amount to reach a water source and it was fully dark before I was finally all settled. I wasn't too disappointed because the weather was not as forecast and I was engulfed in cloud and a stiff breeze was also buffeting the tent. My hopes of expansive moonlit vistas were not to be. Nevertheless I enjoyed the night and in the morning I completed the climb to the ridge where I was fleetingly above the clouds and Dawsons Table could be seen in the sunshine. I completed the walk over Galtymore and Galtybeg and returned to my car well before noon. Not the ideal outing I had hoped for but is always a pleasure to camp in the mountains.
Looking promising but the cloud increased

Briefly above the cloud.

The meeting of the waters

Not all the magic is on the tops

I'm training for a marathon which is on at the end of May so I have been doing a fair bit of running to try and build up the miles. I had entered the Mallow 10 mile race and I was looking forward to it. On the day the weather was perfect, dry and cool with very little wind. I was not sure exactly how fast to try and run but if I equalled my time of just under 73 minutes at Dunvarvan I would have been happy. As I stood in the crowd before the start I made a last minute decision to try and stick to the 70 minute pacers for a bit and just see how I felt. Well I was running well and managed to actually pass the pacers and I stayed ahead of them for the first five miles. When they passed me I thought that was it but I managed to cling on to them for another mile or so. Then they drifted ahead a couple of hundred metres but by then I had the bit between my teeth and I decided to try to break 70 minutes. Try as I might I couldn't bridge the gap and I finished at 70 minutes 12 seconds. I was more delighted than disappointed...but still...
It is just mile three..I didn't looks as relaxed further on.
Spring had well and truly sprung when on a warm sunny morning on March 28th I headed back to the Reeks for a bit of scrambly fun. I had decided to climb Howling Ridge and take advantage of the great conditions but as I walked into the Hags Glen I decided to head first to the Hags Tooth and so extend the day and add an excellent grade 2 or 3 scramble. After you climb the rock band after the stream just head towards the base of the tooth, picking the most interesting outcrops of rock en route and once you reach the overhanging section you have a choice...right or left. If you go right then you reach an impasse when you have to thread the eye of a needle through the rock to reach the northern side in order to reach the summit of the tooth. This can be fun but it is less hassle and just as nice to pass the overhangs on the right and scramble to the top. Some serious exposure is "enjoyed" neat the top but there is nothing too difficult. After the top just drop to the top of the gully that heads down to the first level of Coumeenoughter. Next comes the climb to the heavenly Gates. I like to climb directly up the rock steps that lie below the old hut as this gives a flavour of what is to come. I enjoyed a brief rest at the gates and then just set off Howling Ridge is always a joy and it felt especially good today when the rock was warmed in the sun, I just relaxed (carefully) and made steady and enjoyable progress up the varying steps. All to soon I reached the final pinnacled section and then it was over. I continued to the summit and basked in the afterglow of having climbed a great route. After my customary bite to eat I headed for the East Reeks. I had hoped to cross the Cnoc na Peiste ridge but time constraints meant I only reached the summit of Cnoc na Peiste before heading down. It had been a super day and re affirmed my liking for doing some more rock climbing.
Always inspiring

A great view of the ridge

Looking down from the top of Howling

Caher and Coumasaharn beyond

Looking up to the Hags Tooth...takes your pick of the best bits