Saturday, 19 April 2014

Tryfan Mountaineering Day

Today I was joined by Craig, Jon and Glyn. The plan was to take a grand tour of the Tryfans. The weather was forecast to be good: dry, sunny, windless; and actually turned out to be even better than that! We met relatively late at the big layby on the A5 near SH668605. I'd expected there would be parking problems due to the bank holiday bringing out everyone, but there was sufficient space for us to park safely. We sorted out all our climbing gear and, looking at the weather, decided to ditch the big mountain boots in favour of walking shoes and trainers.

Once packed up, we headed the short walk to Tryfan Bach (Little Tryfan). The path is easy to find as you head from the end of the layby, through the gate, then almost back to the farm to the second gate on the right in the fence. The ground here was a little damp, but not avoidably so.

Craig on Left Edge, Tryfan Fach (just out of the bright sunshine)
Little Tryfan was heaving! There were at least 10 pairs of climbers on this short rock crag. Luckily, our later arrival meant that most of the climbers were already near the top. We paired up, Glyn and Jon tackling the Mossy Crack (VS 4a), while I led Craig up the Left Edge (VDiff). The sun was not yet high enough in the sky to shine on the rock, but even so, it was not overly cold. I climbed the route in two pitches, mainly to get some practice in belay building, but my rope organisation skills could do with practice, too. I left Craig with a bit of a bird's nest of ropes for the last pitch! He was kind enough to let me know, though, so this was something else for me to think about and practice for the rest of the day.

Heading to Tryfan from Tryfan Fach
Once Craig and I finished the route, Jon and Glyn were there waiting. We joined up then headed toward Tryfan main. We scrambled over the final top of Tryfan Bach and toward the Heather Terrace path. There was a little bit of wet peat in the gully between the two, but we were able to skip over most. We continued along the Heather Terrace, identifying Bastow, Nor Nor and Green Gullies. There was one group of climbers just starting up Grooved Arete (obvious by the GA scratched on the rock). The start of North Gully was another 50m beyond.

Craig on an exposed and tricky pitch 2!
The North Buttress (VDiff) route starts in the second groove to the right of North Gully. Glyn chose to lead the VS variation in the first groove, which allowed Craig and I to start at the same time, keeping the two groups together. The climbing on the first pitch was fairly physical, with a few boot jams and a good amount of thrutching (such a good word!). The climb was mainly protected by slings: I like to tackle these old routes in the manner that they were originally climbed! The second pitch was good but, as a leader, had a bold step sideways to get up onto the arete. Craig took the easy option and climbed from the bottom of the Arete. The third pitch gave us two options: follow Glyn and Jon up the fairly blank small groove on the left, or take an obvious larger groove to the right. The larger groove looked easier, but had a 6 foot long fallen pinnacle resting in it: tapping it made a hollow sound. I was tempted to go this way but didn't like the consequences of this pinnacle falling off (to be fair, it probably weighed 250kg and was going nowhere), so I struggled a little but finally surmounted the arete again. Pitch four was then fairly straightforward and took us to the scramble section.

At this point in the route, there's a big, 50m scrambly gap in the route. By this time, it'd been a while since we'd heard from Jon and Glyn, so we assumed they were long gone. We scrambled up the path to Terrace Wall, and there they were, Jon belaying, Glyn halfway up, carefully considering the direct assult on the Belle Vue route (Beeline?, VS 5a). Craig and I watched for a bit and, realising that we were contributing nothing to help Glyn's route finding, referred to the route notes and easily found the quartz-slashed hanging boulder halfway up the wall. Pitch 5 was straightforward and dispatched quickly. Unfortunately, this was the first time we'd been in the shade all day (shaded by the main summit of Tryfan here) and the chill air was noticeable. Time to crack on back into the sun!

Craig on The Traverse
Pitch 6 is "The Traverse" pitch, and it's amazing! The capitals are there not because it's scary, but because it was worth naming it and they named it well. It basically takes you from the shadows around to the right of North Buttress to Belle Vue Terrace. The climbing is easy, with good places for hands and feet all along the route. The gear again is mainly slings. There's a bit of up-and-down route finding to follow, but it's all there. The main challenge lies in protecting your second for the traverse; oh, and not looking down! For me, this certainly was the pitch of the route, the exposed position balanced by the good holds, lack of polish and the Eastern Carneddau backdrop, especially on a clear day like today. It would be a worthwhile route just on its own (you can get to here by scrambling down the top of North Gully), and is comparable to pitches of Spiral Stairs on Dinas Cromlech.

On Belle Vue Terrace with Glyn
Once on the Terrace, I set up the belay, Craig started climbing, Glyn arrived, Jon arrived, and Craig arrived. We tackled the final pitch 7 relatively quickly: I used only 2 slings for this section in today's dry conditions, then friction-belayed Craig to our final destination. We sat and ate lunch at the top, enjoying the clear skies and breezeless warmth from the sun, before packing up and scrambling across the top of North Gully to bag the summit.

At the top of the route, before bagging the summit (behind)
Our descent route was via the south path with a slight rightward trend to gain the exit stream from Bochlwyd. Here I dunked my head into the cool waters of the llyn, by lying on a flat platform rock level with the surface: ah, refreshing! After a brief rest and recce of the Glyder Fach cliff for future days out, we route marched back to the parking after a long, tiring, but completely satisfying day.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Snowdonia Conditions

Bright sunshine is forecast, but still easterly winds (admittedly light), so there'll be a chill in the air and possibly a bit of summit fog around midday. I can see high, big, slow-moving fluffy clouds out of my window.
So pack:
a) Sun glasses and sun cream;
b) a compass and a map (and know how to use them) just in case.

Happy mountaining!

Met office forecast for Tryfan today.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Glyder Fawr Mountaineering Day

Today I was joined by Mike and Jon from Clwyd Mountaineering Club. The plan was to ascend Idwal Slabs via the Ordinary Route (Mod), scramble up to Continuation Wall and ascend via The Arete (VDiff, 24m). We were then to scramble across to the main Glyder Fawr cliff and take on the Central Arete (VDiff, 200m). The forecast was for rain from about midday, though, which didn't bode well for our later start of 0930...

We parked at the parking along Llyn Ogwen at SH656602. I originally intended to head direct to the Idwal Slabs from there, but Jon was wearing approach shoes and Mike via ferrata boots, both ideal for the climbing we were to do, but not for the peaty bog that lay ahead. So we detoured along the main A5 via Ogwen Cottage to keep our feet dry and cover the ground quickly.

Soloing Ordinary Route (Mod) on the Idwal Slabs.

We arrived at the slabs at around 10am, which was reasonably quiet. We harnessed up quickly (to save time later) and, at Mike's suggestion, began to solo up Ordinary Route. The route was largely clear, and by soloing, we were able to keep ahead of the large group that was waiting to climb behind. We soon reached a woman belaying at around the 100m mark, and, after asking nicely, climbed past. We watched as her partner ascended the final steep section of the slab, waited for him to build his belay, then climbed past. Both were very polite and we didn't seem to disturb them with our soloing antics (a first for me!).

Which way now?

Once at the top of the route, we were then in a quandry: Jon had tried but failed to find the Arete before; and the directions I had brought were not very clear, not helped by the fact that I think I missed a page out of the photocopied entry from the guidebook! Luckily, I'd brought the original. By ascending further to the big arrow on the Slabs exit route, we eventually saw the small boulder perched on the cliff, then carefully traversed right to investigate further. We found the 3m wide quartz at the foot of the wall, but still took a while until we were certain that this was the route. Mike eyed up The Groove Above (S 4b), but I was in my big boots, so was keen to only stick on VDiffs. The Arete it was...

Although the route looked reasonable, finding the first protection was difficult. I jammed a nut in the right corner, mainly as reassurance, and placed a large sling. I then stepped up the centre of the wall to investigate a large gap: it would've been ideal for a sling and a 1930s style chockstone, but I didn't even have a hex to my name, so decided to leave it and stepped back down. I now stepped up and right into the corner, then walked up the terrace ledges, draping a sling over a small, 1in deep flake. The handholds here were better, so I made certain my feet and hands were secure before stepping left and placing a good nut in the only available space and continued up the arete. This was definitely a 'leader never falls' route: but at this point, I started to feel the wind buffet a little, which raised my awareness a notch. I continued on around the arete corner to the left, draped another sling over a small spike, then mantled up into the main shelf. I found a good place for another hex  in a small shelf at the back, but was only able to rest a number 10 rock in it. Oh, it'd be fine for relatively static tension downward, but not a big fall. I thought that this might be a good belay point, and was quite keen to have company up here after such a bold route! After more fruitless searching for another decent placement, I decided it would be better to just get on with it, and to escape the final 'easy' part of the route, to the right and up onto the top of the arete: phew! Once on the top, a perfect couple of cracks welcomed me, and it was with these that I built my belay. Time to relax on the top and watch/listen to the boys struggle up below...

Mike and Jon, a bit chilly

By the time Mike and Jon arrived at the belay, their were quite chilled, not helped by the coldness of the rock. It was 1pm: given that we'd escaped the showers so far, we chose to abandon an ascent via Central Arete, and instead to keep moving up Senior's Ridge. We headed up into the cloud, bagging the summit of Glyder Fawr just as a shower arrived. We continued rapidly down the scree slope to Llyn y Cwn: the rain stopped and we descended out of the cloud. As we came down through Devil's Kitchen and into the bottom of Cwm Idwal, we were able to both reflect on the routes we climbed and recce Central Arete for another, perhaps sunnier day. We will be back!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Snowdonia Conditions

It's been so warm of recent that virtually all of the snow has gone, apart from a few small, avoidable patches on the occasional north-facing slope. The thaw was exacerbated by the last week or so of relatively warm (and last weekend's very wet) weather.

The forecast for this weekend is high pressure pushing in from the southwest today. This will slowly be pushed back by the low pressure to the north of Scotland, which will drop temperatures, raise the winds to around 30mph on the tops and drag in a couple of weak cold fronts in the middle of Saturday, bringing a chance of drizzly showers. Sunday looks to be getting better, and Monday looks gorgeous!

This is my amateur interpretation of these sources:
As for me? I'm going climbing in the Ogwen Valley on some classic and airy VDiffs.

Have fun!