When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to be brought up to North Wales by my brother for a weekend scrambling in the mountains, it was the start of my obsession with climbing and mountaineering. I loved being in the mountains straight away, but I definitely preferred scrambling to slogging up hills (the afternoon we arrived, my brother took us up the South Ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen, a slog if there ever was one!)
The best mountain in North Wales? Has to be Tryfan! Despite not being massive, it looks like a proper mountain with all it’s rocky buttresses flanking it’s North to South ridge. Tryfan has many classic scrambles and rock climbs on all sides and can be a great day out in it’s own right, or form part of a longer day, such as the superb Bochlwyd Horseshoe.
This consists of ascending the North Ridge of Tryfan, where cunning route finding can either keep you on easy Grade 1 terrain or you can hunt out trickier Grade 2 sections, maybe passing the Canon, which will eventually lead you on to the summit where Adam and Eve reside – are you brave enough to take the jump…? From the summit the descent along the South Ridge is still scrambly in places and requires concentration to stay heading in the direction of Bwlch Tryfan, the col between Tryfan and Glyder Fach. Here you have a choice of tackling Bristly Ridge, which is a step up in terms of scrambling and although still a Grade 1, can feel closer to a Grade 2, it’s a bit steeper and has the odd bit of loose rock, helmets would not be unwise, or tackling the scree to it’s left which is a loose slog but thankfully not too long. If you’re confident in your ability then Bristly Ridge is definitely the better option. Once through the initial gully section (Sinister gully left of a dry stone wall) you arrive onto the ridge, passing over the Great Pinnacle Gap, leading onward to the Glyderau.
Up here you’ll have to pause to get your photo taken atop the Cantilever Stone, before continuing across the plateau, where you’ll need to use your navigation skills, especially if the visibility is poor, with lots of big drops around this is not a place to be “navigationally challenged”. Hopefully the weather will be clear and you can get the classic view of Castell y Gwynt with Snowdon in the background, as you make your way towards Glyder Fawr. Now this is where your navigation must be super precise as you’ve got to find the top of Y Griben Ridge, easy enough if you can see it but requiring good skills if you can’t. This marks your descent route back down towards the valley and is another Grade 1 scramble, stick to the ridge for fun and a bit of exposure or stay just left of it to make life a little easier. Once you’ve reached the large flat grassy area known as the football pitch, the difficulties are over but keep concentrating as there still a way to go back to Llyn Bochlwyd, down the knee jarring steps and eventually back to the car. Time for tea and cake at the Moel Siabod Cafe in Capel Curig.
You can make this day longer by taking in Glyder Fawr and then descending via Twll Du – The Devil’s Kitchen, or even further still ascending Y Garn as well, it depends on how much the cafe is calling your name….
Hopefully you’ve still got some gas left in your legs, because day 2 is a big one! Remember looking over to the Snowdon massif yesterday? That’s what day 2 is all about, but not by one of the walking routes, but by the ridge everyone’s heard about… Crib Goch. The Snowdon Horseshoe, it has to be done, preferably on a quiet midweek day when Snowdon is not covered with people, on a quiet day the atmosphere is altogether different. For that reason when I’m guiding it I always start from the Llanberis Pass rather than the Pen y Pass car park.
Park or get dropped off near the Climbers Club hut Ynys Ettws and meander your way up along the stream (you’ll need to break left at the last steep section) to the beautiful Cwm Glas which is simply a stunning place. Have a break here, you’ll have earned it and it’s too nice not to take some time to soak it all in. From here you’re going to break out in an Easterly direction to pick up the North Ridge of Crib Goch which is such a quiet and lovely easy scramble leading to the main ridge itself. You probably won’t have met any other people yet, but you probably will do about now!
You’ve read the articles and seen the pictures and now you’re here, on the knife edge, death defying ridge. It’s not quite that bad! But it is exposed and you wouldn’t want to slip, the terrain is easy, take it steady and you can always use your hands, if it weren’t for the drops you wouldn’t give it a second thought, but look left, look right and embrace the position you’re in, stunning! As you get to the end of the ridge the scrambling gets a little trickier, with one particularly exposed step but all too soon Crib Goch is behind you. The grassy area of Bwlch Goch is another good spot for a break and gives you opportunity to collect your thoughts and regain your composure if Crib Goch proved a little nervy!
Onward and upward though! Garnedd Ugain next, with a little more scrambling thrown in, as you reach the top here, you’ll probably see lots of people to your left on the Pyg Track and plenty more coming up the path from Llanberis, you may also scoff at the people sat on the train getting an exercise free ascent of Yr Wyddfa, not for too long though, it’s still a long way to go! As you continue now, on towards the highest point in Wales, you’ll be on the much busier path up from town and it won’t be long before you’re at the top, take a quick photo, enjoy the view if there is one, but this is often a busy place so not somewhere I stay longer than necessary. Anyway, the quieter Lliwedd is the next mountain on the list and daylight is being burnt…
As you approach Lliwedd check out the size of the cliffs on it’s side, these really are the preserve of climbers and mountaineers, home to the amazing but very adventurous Bilberry Terrace, Grade 3 and climbing routes such as the almost 300m long route Avalanche, V Diff. If the cafe was calling you yesterday, after today’s long day so far it’ll calling you loudly now, but don’t worry, as you drop down from Lliwedd the terrain gets easier and easier, and before long you’ll be on the mini motorway back towards the Pen y Pass car park. Once you get here you can either walk back down the Pass to your car, hitch or get a bus down. Either way, you’ll have certainly earned your tea and cake after this mega day out!
North Wales has loads of great scrambling, we really are spoilt but these two days are a couple of the best easier scrambles. Because they’re so good it’s rare for them to be quiet, unless you can get here midweek and even then in good weather you’re unlikely to be alone – but that’s great, I love seeing people enjoy the outdoors! If you want those quieter scrambles, they are there to be found as long as you’ve got a sense of adventure and are keen to get exploring, but you’ll have to find them yourself, I’m not sharing all my lesser known gems…!
These two days left a lasting impression on me, they quite literally changed my life, after these two days all I wanted to do was be a mountaineer and scrambling was the gateway to a life of climbing and travelling all over the world to climb. I bought a book by Steve Ashton called Scrambles in Snowdonia, which I still use today, and I just worked my way through nearly all of the routes. These days I love passing on my knowledge and enthusiasm and will never forget the influence of those early scrambling days out.
If you want to get into scrambling but are unsure you have the skills, we run various courses to help get you up to speed: Intro to and advanced scrambling courses
This summer has been awesome!
Work has been top drawer fun and I’ve been enjoying my climbing loads.
Work has mostly been local which is ace because I love North Wales, but I’ve also done a bit in the Peak District and the Wye Valley as well as a two week work trip to Croatia, which I can only just call work. The majority of my work has been teaching / coaching leading and such like, which I really enjoy.
In my down time, training at the wall has dropped off a bit but I’ve been getting plenty done outside including a mega trip to Chamonix in the Alps. In North Wales I’ve ticked some classic routes like Kalahari E3 at Gogarth and loads of other equally brilliant routes.
I’ll make the next blog more interesting, but in the mean time check out our Facebook Page for more regular updates!
I’ve had a great week again this week, this time with Elizabeth who’s over visiting from Australia.
We’ve done absolutely loads…
Day 1, Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs looking at the basics of seconding and staying safe on belays and then a few slate routes in the afternoon to focus on movement skills.
Day 2, Pulpit Route and Rowan Route on Milestone Buttress focusing on setting up belays and introducing the placing of trad gear and then some more movement skills on the RAC Boulders.
Day 3, Tryfan Bach where Elizabeth led us up a couple of routes – first ever leads!
Day 4, Tremadog, I lead up Grim Wall and Elizabeth led us up Boo Boo and Hale Bebe.
Day 5, The Beacon due to rain, recapping and looking at more set ups, abseiling and leading indoors.
Over one week we progressed so far, from never having held a nut or cam, through to confidently leading V Diff routes, which was a stella effort.
If this sounds like something you’d like to do, get in touch!
Our Facebook page has loads more photo!
I’ve had a great few weeks work, but not many days off!
It started with a trip down to Dartmoor with a group of MOD apprentices who were up for a challenge and full of banter which made for a top week. We did an overnight walking expedition, a challenging day on mountain bikes and a chilled but productive day climbing (including some leading) at Dart Rock. The group of instructors on the course was top class, mostly made up of other MIA’s and other really experienced people, which really makes a big difference to the “product”. We managed to get an evening out bouldering at the wall as well, where I got pretty shut down by some cheeky grading!
Then I ran a learn to lead course up here at home in Wales for Chris who was looking to build on his previous leading experience. I made some inspired crag choices (or got lucky!) and we escaped some really grim weather going to Milestone Buttress on day one and Tremadog on day two. Quality couple of days!
The next week was another local one working for CCAT, which is a military camp in Capel Curig. I had another enthusiastic group for the week on a Summer Mountain Foundation course which runs along similar lines to a Mountain Leader course. We had some really challenging weather and one stunning day where we were treated to some stunning scenes on the North Ridge of Tryfan. All the cadets passed comfortably.
Finally this weekend I was running a Single Pitch Award assessment. The weather was challenging again but we made the most of any shelter we could find. We went to Lion Rock, Union Rock, The Beacon and Colgwyn Cyrau. The candidates all did well so there are three brand new enthusiastic SPA’s out there now.
In amongst that lot somewhere I got out with my mate Paul who was practising his rescues for his MIA assessment which he then went on to pass the next week!
For more shots of what we’ve been up to check out the Facebook page!
Well it’s still unsurprisingly hot and dusty in Kurdistan! Today was particularly unpleasant, getting blasted by dust and dirt in strong winds whilst replacing some seismic equipment…
The work here has been interesting and a world away from my regular work back home, that’s what’s great about working as an MIA, there’s potentially so much variety.
I only have a few days left on this hitch before a 3 week break where I’ll be back home for a bit and then off to the Alps with Heather, then I’ll be back out here for a bit more sun.
Things haven’t stopped at home though, we had a learn to lead trad course with Richard this weekend, which Stu McInnes stepped in to run for me, with Andy Owen (going for his MIA soon) fulfilling the photography and belay duties role.
They went to the Milestone Buttress on the first day, doing a few routes there, finishing with the first pitch of Superdirect. Richard was keen to do a proper mountain route on the second day so Stu decided on Gashed Crag on Tryfan which Richard lead up with Stu alongside to help and advise.
A great two days apparently with Richard being good fun to be with and quick to learn.
Feed back from Richard:
“It was a fantastic weekend thanks, exactly what I wanted! Stu did a great job of tailoring it to just the right level for me and we did some awesome climbs, especially Gashed Crag .”
If you are interested in joining us on a course, please get in touch to see what we can arrange.