The theme tune to The Littlest Hobo starts playing, I love that tune and the lyrics seem to resonate with me, so it’s been the ringtone on my phone for years.
“Er hi! Is that Jez”
“Are you available for some private guiding during the week after the Bank Holiday?”
“Let me check the diary, I am, what have you got in mind?”
“I’d like to get some climbing done, but I’d really like to get a little more familiar with Lliwedd, especially Bilberry Terrace…”
At that moment I had flashbacks to my Mountaineering Instructor training, we did Bilberry Terrace, it was wet, green, involved tricky route finding and is on one of the biggest cliffs in Wales.
“Sounds good! I’m up for that!”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I meet with Shane who was the man on the other end of the phone, who’d ended up booking three days with me and the focus of day one was to guide Shane up as much rock as possible getting him used to the exposure of climbing and getting used to tying nots, clipping in to belays etc., so we headed to Carreg Wastad on a beautifully sunny day.
Shane had climbed a bit in the past and has lead up to VS, but that was before work and kids put a stop to it for a while, so most of the stuff we covered was just a reminder really. I lead Shane up some cool routes working through the grades – Wrinkle a three pitch V Diff, Crackstone Rib a super classic two pitch Severe, Skylon stepped it up a bit to HS 4b and after that I asked if Shane was still in his comfort zone “well it’s had to get scared on the second isn’t it he replied”, so I took that as a challenge! Next up was Lion, a pretty stiff four pitch VS 4c, Shane had a couple of falls on the crux but battled through and on reaching the top he admitted his comfort zone had definitely been stretched a lot!
On the second day we went to Tryfan Bach looking at lead climbing skills before a quick visit to the slate quarries so we could get some footwork thought going on, ticking Equinox at VS and Solstice at HVS.
Day three was the main event – Bilberry Terrace.
A slightly earlier start was required for this one so we could get parked at the Pen y Pass car park and I think we pretty much got the last space at 0800.
The walk in to Lliwedd is about an hour, it’s pretty easy going until the final scree slope up to the start and we didn’t have too much kit to carry as the weather was once agin brilliant and we only had a small rack of kit fo the route, I took a set of nuts and a few cams, along with the usual few slings and krabs plus a skinny 30m rope. On the walk in we stopped to look at the cliff and guidebook so we could work out the route, this always gets harder the closer you get and I made sure Shane was involved in this as well as it was part of his goal to be able to come back and do it without a guide at some point, the route takes a devious line though some really impressive terrain. The Stevie Ashton scrambling book (jokingly known as the little book of death..) has a really good description for this route, which I was super useful considering this wasn’t a route I had much memory of in terms of route finding.
The start is a steep, tricky rock step so Shane put me on belay for this bit and I placed one runner on the way, a red nut before getting to the first of many direct spike belays. From here you follow the terrace easily enough so we moved together for a little bit until there’s a cheeky corner with a chockstone to thread as a runner, this was the only other bit I pitched during the route and to save faffing with a sling a chucked a gold cam in before reaching a nut belay.
So far so good, we hadn’t got lost yet, the rock was bone dry and although there was plenty of vegetation and some loose rock, it was nowhere near as grim as I remembered! The key now was route finding so we looked at the book regularly and to my surprise were able to follow obvious signs of wear from other people who had prevuoisly adventured this way, in the form of cleaner rock and worn away steps in places. Don’t be fooled though, this is not a polished path like many scrambles and the weather was being extremely kind to us..
Before we knew it we were at the half way point and for virtually every section I went ahead leaving shane attached to a spike belay before finding another spike to belay from, mostly scrambling about 20 metres each time. The route takes in some absolutely fantastic positions and the views to Snowdon, Crib Goch and back East towards England were absolutely breath taking. Shane was loving it all, really soaking up the atmosphere, the only near miss being him dropping his phone which thankfully only went a few metres down on to a ledge!
The rest of the scramble went nice and smoothly and I think I was enjoying it just as much as Shane was, two hours after starting the scramble we were stood on the summit bathed in sunshine. A celebratory handshake and a few photos later it was time to make our way back down, I decided to carry on a bit further on towards Snowdon before heading down a quiet grade one scramble called y Griben so we needed to concentrate a bit longer before reaching the super highway of the Miners Track, which always proves a bit of a slog back to the Pen y Pass.
Shane had wanted to do Bilberry Terrace for about 20 years after someone mentioned it to him all that time ago, so I was really psyched to have been able to help in facilitating this adventure. Lliwedd is a great cliff and you’re guaranteed solitude even though you’re in the shadow of what is apparently the busiest mountain – Snowdon.
If I’m lucky enough to guide anyone up there again I’d take a similar amount of kit, even though I used very little of my rack, in worse conditions I expect I’d place more kit and you never know when you might need to run away! If this has inspired you to go and do Bilberry Terrace take care, it’s a serious place to be and you need to be well versed in roped scrambling, if in doubt seek instruction!
To cap the day off I went climbing after work and ticked Mabinogian E2 5c in the Llanberis Pass.
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