Sunday, 1 June 2014

Scrambling Snowdonia Spring Bank Holiday

This May Spring Bank Holiday was the first time that my ML (S) Training group had been able to get together since August. The group consists of Mark (who lives 'dahn sahf') and Rob, who is now North Wales based, and with whom I have managed at least 1 QMD (reported elsewhere in this blog).

So what was the plan? 2 QMDs involving lots of scrambling, a minimum 5 hours, and possibly some navigation.

You'll have to excuse the brevity: it's almost a week since this outing and I've had another tiring mountain day today. So I'll let the pictures do the talking, as much as I can!

Sunday: Tryfan and Glyder Fach

The route for today was North Ridge of Tryfan, Bristly Ridge, then descent by Y Gribin. I asked whether we could do an alternative start, especially because I've done the standard North Ridge start a couple of times. So instead, we headed around the right base of Milestone Buttress and took in the dark, foreboding, soggy, but excellent (despite the midges!) Milestone Gully. This is a 50m grade 2 scramble over wet but grippy rock. Mark was a little wary about the exposure, but we'll forgive him because it's the first time he's been in the mountains for about 8 months!

We gained the main North Ridge just below the Cannon, then carried on over, gaining confidence as we continued scrambling and moving over the rock. We passed a group practicing protected climbing (MIA assessment group?) near the north summit. Once we'd overcome some interesting climbing challenges, we arrived at the main summit, with Adam and Eve on the east edge. I stood atop one, which is the closest I've come to making the step from left to right; Rob, however, gained his 'Freedom of Tryfan' honours with aplomb, stepping between the monoliths faster than my camera could take a single picture - hence the following couple:

We continued rapidly down the south side of Tryfan, not adhering to the edge and aiming to gain some time to keep us on track. Next up was Bristly Ridge, a grade 1 scramble that can be very dangerous. A couple of sources have since mentioned that one of the gullies has a very dangerous and loose block: unfortunately, we were unaware of this fact at the time; fortunately, today was not the day for the block to fall. After scrambling out of the gullies, we gained the pinnacles after which the ridge was named, and continued to the summit.

Once atop Bristly Ridge, we were gifted clear skies and fantastic views, so much so that the Cantilever Stone was simple to find. The rock around the Cantilever was completely dry, which made getting onto it much easier than the last time I tried, which I think was in heavy rain, or ice, or something, earlier this year. Anyway: dry rock = easy cantilever pics.

We then headed to the summit proper of Glyder Fach (something else that I rarely do), traversed that, then scrambled over Castell Y Gwnt too en route to Y Gribin. Here we descended rapidly, covering the ground without mishap, gaining the path back to the Milestone Buttress car park. The day was rounded off nicely with refreshments at the Siabod Cafe: for me, an indulgent hot chocolate with everything (cream & marshmallows) as well as a large piece of (well-earned, I think) Lemon Meringue Cake. Ah!

Monday: Cwm Glas, Crib Goch, and Crib Y Ddysgl

Today's route started from Cromlech Boulders in the Pass, up the beautiful and serene Cwm Glas, crossed to ascend the screes to Crib Goch's North Ridge, then continued the main traverse of Crib Goch and Crib Y Ddysgl, finishing with a descent back toward Cwm Glas via Gyrn Las.

We met at Siabod Cafe for approx 0830, and bumped into Paul Poole, one of the reasons that we were here gaining Quality Mountain Days for our Mountain Leader qualifications, for a brief chat. However, our main concern was the weather: As I'd driven along the Ogwen Valley, there'd been very heavy downpour; but the forecast was for clear weather after 9am. So we tarried a while before setting off for our start location in the Llanberis Pass.

The walk started from the Cromlech Boulders, halfway down (or up, if that's the direction you're travelling) the Llanberis Pass, just after (or before!) Cromlech Bridge. The lay-by parking had just filled, but there was still lots of space between the boulders for us. The heavy rain (both this morning's, and overnight) meant that Afon Nant Peris was very full and not easily crossable, a stark contrast to earlier in the year when it had been easy to step from stone to stone. We chose not to get our feet wet at this early stage and crossed at the bridge. 

Afon Nant Peris in flood after overnight heavy rain

The slopes up to Cwm Glas are fairly steep, and there are no real paths, only boulder fields and sheep tracks. But it's a place full of beauty and solitude. We saw only 3 other people descending, probably from a wild camp.

Heading up Cwm Glas Mawr

The best bit about Cwm Glas, though, is when you've finally scrambled up past the waterfalls, usually panting from the steep ground, and discover: Llyn Glas! (Apologies for the errant finger...)

Llyn Glas, backed with Crib Goch, and a very naughty digit

We took some time to catch our breath, enjoy the views and absorb the atmosphere around Cwm Glas. It is quiet and serene, despite being on Snowdonia's busiest mountain massif. I've even been here when there's been 70mph southwesterly winds forecast, meaning this spot was largely sheltered by the surrounding ridges. The occasional gusts whipped up the surface of the lake into racing, dancing wisps before they were just as quickly blown away.

We crossed the ash flow tuffs, a stream or two, over to the base of the scree slopes of North Ridge. This scree was packed. It wasn't the usual large lumps that, as you step up 2 feet, send you a foot back down the mountain. Oh no: it was packed, small, gritty scree, but just as treacherous to ascend. Each step carefully up, using your boot edges, trying not to step too high, which would result in a slide potentially further back than you started. Small steps, small steps...

Eventually, the hell of this scree slope ended, and became the sharp but friable rock that is the North Ridge. This route is frequented far less than the main route, so the polish was minimal. A cool breeze from our left (the east) cleared away the midges and soon we had arrived where the east ridge meets the main traverse. 

To begin at the beginning: of the Main Ridge (apologies to Dylan Thomas)

Here we were lucky: the winds were light enough to almost stroll along the tops, taking care with each step and gently transferring weight from foot to foot. Sometimes the steps were a bit slopey so our hands were used, and at one point we courteously passed a (French?) couple who were moving a bit more cautiously than we. 

A small bold step on an otherwise simple and straightforward scramble
Soon, the ridge turns into a number of pinnacles. You could walk around these; we chose not to, to keep the experience and fun of hands on rocks going. And then the path drops down then continues up onto a 'bold' traverse. You wouldn't want to slip here(!), but the rock is wide, the handholds are good and the protection from the wind is excellent. And it's a fun bit of good climbing.

Reflecting on Crib Goch (and the 20 people now on it)
We continued on, over Crib Y Ddysgl, with more scrambling. By the time we had arrived at the end of the ridge proper, the cloud had descended. Now was our opportunity to NAVIGATE! We quickly found the Trig point in the fog, took a bearing of around 285 degrees for 100 metres or so, then changed direction to head directly north. This was enough to avoid falling over the cliff of Carnedd Ugain into Cwm Glas: this was our destination, just not so direct a route!

We walked to the end of the ridge, and lunched at Gyrn Las. We were still fairly solitary even here, despite being in full view of the tens of people trekking up the main Llanberis Path to the summit of Snowdon. 

Time now for some more Mountain Leader skills: Rob and I had both been down this route before, so Mark took the lead to get us safely down the steep ground of the east side of Gyrn Las, a task he completed with confidence. All that remained was for us to continue back down Cwm Glas, over to the Cromlech Boulders, jump in the car, and head back to Siabod Cafe for more post-mountain sustenance. Today's treat was the amazing soup (I forget which flavour, but I think it was Carrot and Coriander?), accompanied, of course, with another magnanimous hot chocolate with everything! 

Made it! Nice leading, Mark.

Postscript: not as brief as I'd thought. Oh well. To quote William Cowper: "If in this I have been tedious, it may be some excuse, I had not time to make it shorter."

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