I have just got back from a fantastic week spent camping in Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Heading up for a weeks camping in North Wales in October I was expecting the week to be full of wet weather and hill fog, I was very wrong with only one day being a wash out and only one day was spent with an annoying amount of time in hill fog.
For the first two days I met up with the expedition society from Exeter Uni which I was a member of last year and who were in Snowdonia with 15 people for some scrambling.
Despite arriving in the rain we awoke on the first morning to a fantastic sunrise over Tryfan and its North Ridge, one of the most famous scrambling routes in the UK for obvious reasons. Despite having done the scramble up Tryfan’s North Ridge about 7 times in the past 3 years every time I climb it I manage to take a slightly different route which keeps it interesting, and when the weather is good the views are spectacular and I don’t think I will ever get bored of the ridge.
After a fantastic ascent of Tryfan with everyone in the group being confident at scrambling instead of heading down we headed up onto the Glyders to make the most of the fantastic weather, however unfortunately while we were up on top the cloud base dropped slightly and obscured the views somewhat. To ascend up the Glyders we split into two groups and I took 6 people up Bristly Ridge another grade 1 scramble which was significantly less difficult and exposed than I remember (although it was still significantly more exposed than Tryfan). This could be because the last time I did it was in a storm at the end of November 2.5 years ago! It was however still a fantastic scramble and it certainly beat the horrible steep scree slope which is the way to walk up from that side of the mountain.
The next morning was a very early start after a very late night drinking with a group from Derby in order to do the Snowdon Horseshoe with 11 members of the group before they headed back to Exeter. On the drive to Pen-y-Pass car park the sunrise over the Snowdon Range was fantastic and a good sign of the day to come. Last time I did the Snowdon Horseshoe the conditions were fantastic and I thought this time would struggle to beat it. Overall I would say this time matched last time in conditions but was the opposite. As last time was cloudy at first for Crib Goch and then cleared by the time we were on Lliwedd but this time it was clear on Crib Goch and cloudy by the time we were on LLiwedd. Despite the group containing a few people who had never scrambled before the weekend it was a very strong group who took to scrambling instantly which meant that I didn’t need to play the leader and babysit the group which was fantastic and meant that we kept to book time and managed to do the whole horseshoe in under six hours.
Unfortunately as per usual for the brief period we were on the summit of Snowdon the summit was covered in cloud having been clear before we were there and had cleared by the time we were at the col between Snowdon and Lliwedd which was a shame, but overall the day was fantastic. Being on Crib Goch with hardly a cloud in the sky and fantastic views in every direction was just fantastic. It will be hard for the conditions to meet or better that of the last two times next time I do this route due to the fantastic weather, I might have to do something like Bivy en route to get a sunset, star lit evening and sunrise to beat the last two times I have done the route!
The next morning Tom arrived to join me and Jackson, as it had been raining all morning we had a leisurely morning and once the rain stopped we decided that we would go for a climb Second Pinnacle Ridge, a 175m 6 pitch VDiff 4b up the East Face of Tryfan. It was a bit of an adventure as due to the mornings rain the climb was all soaking wet so we climbed it in big boots and due to leaving the campsite after 1pm it was getting dark by the time we finished the route and walked down in the dark. It is the longest climb I have ever done, the first time I have climbed on wet rock and the first time I have climbed in walking routes. Despite it ‘only’ being a VDiff because of the wet rock and big boots there were certainly parts of the climb that got the adrenalin flowing due to not being able to use any of the many footholds as there were so slippery and knowing that there were ledges below that I would probably hit if I fell.
It was quite late by the time we got back to the campsite and we were starving and tired so were glad to be back, while we were cooking dinner the weather cleared and made for a beautiful evening. From the campsite at the base of Tryfan which we were staying in there is no light pollution so the stars were just fantastic and there were a few shooting stars around too. That evening we decided to head to Gogarth the next day for me to introduce Jackson to some sea cliff climbing which is my climbing passion as I just love the isolation, exposure, commitment and climbing. The route which we chose to start the day with was Scavenger, a 3 pitch HVS 5a, on Gogarth Main Cliff which was a climb which should have been easily within my abilities.
Once we had put our gear on we made the descent to the base of the rock and the traverse which according to the guide book can only be made at low tide to the base of the climb. From the bottom we were not entirely sure from the description which line was the route we were trying to climb and having never been to the crag before we had to bearings to work from. After some discussion we agreed where the route started and started climbing. However, I quickly realised that the route was incorrect as there was move after move which I could not do and only got up by aiding by pulling on the rope and gear. At this point I just thought we were off on the first pitch as the route was surrounded by lots of much harder climbing and that after the first pitch we could get back on route. Due to not being able to do the climbing and having to aid my climbing was slow and after shouts about the tide I found somewhere to belay so Jackson and Tom could climb up before getting soaked by the sea. After they got to the belay I climbed up a bit and saw a ledge which I thought was the ledge at the top of the first pitch of Scavanger so traversed over and belayed happy that we were now back on route. It did not occur to me that we were now around 35m above the sea and the first pitch of the climb we were supposed to be on was 10m (in fact writing this is the first time I have realised this). At this point I started climbing the obvious corner and quickly started aiding and resting before deciding that it wasn’t the correct route so lowered off a nut and krab which I left in the rock and cleaned the rest of my gear. At this point we still didn’t make the decision that we were off route and at the right of the ledge there was a small corner with chalk on so climbed up that with difficulty before getting to a hard traverse with no gear above a dodgy placement so somehow reversed my moves and lowered off. Tom now had a go at leading as he is a slightly better climber than me and took a few big falls before we decided we had to give up as the sun was setting so Tom cleaned the gear as much as he could and left another nut and krab.
At this point we had an issue, the sun was setting, stupidly I had forgotten to tell anyone what we were doing (normally I do) and it was only an hour after high tide. It was not too far a swim to a bay over from the cliff so the decision was made that Tom a strong swimmer would abseil off, attempt to traverse back the way we came and if that was not possible then swim and call for help. I am currently very unsure in cold water due to having a panic attack in the middle of an alpine lake this summer and Jackson wasn’t sure he could do the swim in the cold water so we were not going to attempt to swim. Tom abseiled down and ended up to his waist in water due to the tide, but thankfully managed to do the whole traverse without needing to swim by ending up to his waist a few more times so we followed him down the rope. The traverse certainly got the adrenalin flowing as when sets of waves came in we had to hold on while we were hit by the waves which at times came up to my waist, and thankfully no huge waves appeared while we were doing the traverse. When we got back to the gearing up spot we met two locals who told us we were far too far right and in E3 and E5 territory! We certainly had a proper Gogarth Epic and we were thankfully all ok. I now can’t wait to get back and do the correct route as from the description it sounds fantastic.
The next day we were hoping to do another big mountain climb up LLiwedd, however when we woke up it was clear that the weather had not played ball so we enjoyed a nice lie in and when we woke up decided to head up into the Carnedds and scramble up the LLech Ddu Spur, a three star grade 1 scramble. It was quite exciting for me as I have not walked in the Carnedds since I was tiny and over the past 3 years I have just done stuff in the Tryfan and Snowdon area so it was great to go to a completely new area for me. The walk into the scramble along the valley was fantastic and really beautiful, unfortunately as we started ascending towards the spur the cloud base dropped significantly and we were in the cloud for all of the scramble. The scramble was great once we were on the spur properly, however it was very short and it would have been amazing if it could have carried on a bit more! Once we reached the summit plateau we got hit by rain and very strong winds so unfortunately it was just a case of navigating through the hill fog and getting down as quickly as possible so it ended up being a relatively short day with only 4 hours in the hills and for the first time in 2 days we got back in the daylight!
The next day was a washout so we headed to the Beacon climbing centre for an intense day of indoor climbing before our final night in the tent as I was heading back to Bristol with Jackson on Friday evening. The weather however had other ideas than allowing us to sleep as very strong winds battered my tent all night and due to the rain all day the pegs in the ground did nothing so two poles snapped and I spent most of the night holding my tent up. The sleeping area survived surprisingly well and eventually I gave up trying to save the tent and went to “sleep” but due to the loud wind, flapping of the broken tent and being worried that it was going to fully collapse overnight sleep didn’t really happen. The next morning we saw that my large tent didn’t have a chance as there were around 15 Sigma Beta 200s which Duke of Edinburgh groups were staying in which are small and relatively strong tents and about a third of them had broken too!
After we packed the tent up I headed down to south Snowdonia with Jackson to go to the Mach Loop, a training area for military low flying, with the hope of catching some jets before heading home. Shortly after we arrived we had three passes by some F15 Eagles which was great for me as they are a jet that I have not seen low level before, we then had a long cold wait with no more flying until the main event of the day later on which was Miss Demeanour, a privately owned Hawker Hunter display aircraft which we had a heads up from the pilot that he was going to do the loop twice between 2:45 and 3:00. After Miss D had done the two passes we quickly headed back to the car to get out of the bitterly cold wind and back to Bristol. It was a truly fantastic week which was planned very much at the last minute and it could not really have gone any better (ignoring the Gogarth epic) and I am now looking forward to my next trip away to the Peak District climbing in two weeks time, however this time I will be staying in a bunkhouse!