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 places...no rain...some excellent rock climbing (at least an excellent route) and getting sunburned on the Glyderau...life is good.