I have just got back from a brilliant day ice climbing at Torpantau Falls in the Brecon Beacons. The waterfalls are located on the east side of Gwaun Cerrig LLwydion and are accessed by a road which passes alongside the Talybont reservoir and then goes steeply up the hillside. This road was “interesting” after the snow on Friday and I am very glad we took snow chains as we would have not got up without them.
We started the walk with my housemates but left them soon to traverse around the side of the escarpment to the waterfall. This took around 45 mins and involved spending most of it in knee deep snow, however as the snow was a fine powder it was not hard going!
As we were walking around we had no idea of what the condition the ice on the fall would be in, however as we traversed around and could see up the gully it was clear there was ice all the way up, if a bit thin at the start. We roped up at the very bottom ice fall however this was largely pointless as any leader fall would have ended up hitting the large ledges as the climbing steps were very short, though you must not fall off ice climbing anyway! Despite only leaving Bristol at 8am we were the first climbers on the crag which was great as there was no waiting around at belays or avoiding ice falling from above climbers
After two pitches we arrived at the base of the main ice fall and it looked very impressive and had a great amount of ice which took screws really well! This was my first proper pitch of water ice climbing and it was fantastic, first time placements most of the time in great ice which wasn’t too steep and could be protected well. When I got to the top I started making the belay and suddenly the ice became bullet hard and very difficult to place ice screws in. Eventually with much hammering and frustration I had two solid ice screws in for the belay and Neil climbed up.
The second pitch of the main fall was the crux in these conditions and I took a line slightly right of the line up the previous pitch which had the added benefit of not dislodging ice onto the climbers below as there was a fair few bits of loose ice. The ice was thick and mostly good, however due to the ice being so hard I couldn’t get any gear in and after hanging on the steep ice for a while trying I just had to carry on and make sure I didn’t fall! It was an exciting pitch which certainly got the adrenalin flowing but it definitely wasn’t my limit.
After this there was one more step up to the top which Neil wanted to lead, as it was a short looking step which looked great I decided to solo up after Neil had lead it which proved exciting as it was steeper than it looked from the ground with tricky foot placements. At the top of this step we put the gear away and climbed up the last few short steps to the top and walked out.
I am fairly new to winter climbing and this was supposedly Grade III, however when comparing it to the three other grade III routes that I have done this felt much harder, Neil thought this compared to the other Grade IIIs that he has done as well. This could however just be because it was a water ice route which I am not used to, or it could be because it was in lean conditions.
It was a lovely short walk out with hardly any height loss which was over quickly, the drive back in to the valley was a bit more exciting than the drive up as the road was more icy than in the morning and also one of my snow chains broke on the final turn of the ascent.
As it is continuing to stay cold I am looking forward to getting out again later this week to another one of the water ice venues in the Brecon Beacons.