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.
Check out our courses page (and our Facebook page) and if we can help you achieve any ambitions, just give us a shout!
Another successful Instructor Training Month is drawing to a close. All that’s left is for Pete and Antonia to complete the official Mountain Leader training that we have starting on Monday with another 4 people joining us on the course. The Single Pitch Award training was completed last weekend.
We’ve got tons done on the course this month from single pitch cragging on Holyhead Mountain to climbing classics on Dinas Cromlech and from micro nav in the Carneddau to mountain scrambling on Tryfan. The focus of our course is not only to pass on lots of new skills but also to have a great time on the crag and in the mountains and hopefully we’ve achieved that again – lots of laughs, smiling photos and growing log book entries would suggest we’ve got it right. Low ratios and program flexibility mean we can really make the most of the month and focus our attentions where they are needed.
The weather has been super kind to us, with only this last week being a little mixed, which always makes life a little easier, but we had to cope with some pretty grim wind and rain on our overnighter in the Glyders this week which always brings up a few learning points and highlights any kit weaknesses.
If you’d like to join us on the next course it starts on the 2nd March 2015, please look around the site for more info and see loads of photos on our Facebook page.
Today was supposed to be an admin day, but after only ticking off a couple of jobs I was thinking how busy Snowdon must have been at the weekend, it being a bank holiday and all. There’s been lots of Facebook posts and other media attention surrounding the amount of litter on our hills, mainly on the big three – Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowdon, partly due to 3 Peakers but certainly not solely.
Having recently become single it seems I have more spare time on my hands now when not working so I thought I may as well go for a nice stroll with a bit of a purpose. I Initially thought about heading straight to the summit and filling a bin bag, but I’m not sure if the cafe does anything to look after that area? So instead I thought I’d take the Llanberis path as far as it takes to fill one bin bag.
It’s still pretty busy out and about, which is great to see and there were plenty of people on the path up, mostly families today and as expected there was a fair amount of rubbish about the place. It turns out you get a few odd looks wandering up Snowdon filling a bin bag!
So how far did it take to fill one bag? Well it turns out as far as the halfway station! I’m not sure if there was more or less than I expected really. Things that did stand out were the empty bottle of Bud, the standard lonely woolly glove but the amount of banana skins were unreal! Do people really think they just disappear overnight?! Other than that it was quite a few cans of fizzy drinks and water bottles mostly, plus lots of sweet wrappers.
This isn’t something I’ve done before, but I would do it again, it only took a couple of hours and on a personal level I felt happy to have done something useful. I very rarely use Snowdon for work, I’m not really involved in 3 Peak work but it is a hill that has suffered and always will suffer from over use.
Like most people involved in the outdoors I always pick up a few bits of litter during the day, but does everyone? Probably not. Should everyone? Of course!
Education is the key I guess, should there be more signage about taking everything home with you? Maybe, I don’t have the answers be we do all have a duty to educate our groups and clients as well as challenging others if you see them drop stuff, I have done that and would do it again.
Have fun in the hills, take your litter home and spread the word!
I’ve just returned from assessing a Mountain Leader assessment…
I had three strong candidates with me and we started in Capel Curig going across the Glyders to Cwm Ffynnon the first day, over to Lliwedd the second day camping in Cwm Tregellan and finishing off with a short walk on the final morning. The weather was extremely kind to us, even being dry for the night nav which is a novelty!
One of the main talking points and the source of a little envy was pack sizes. I think that pack size and weight is directly proportionate to how enjoyable the exped is!
The shot below shows the varying pack sizes we had, mine being the smallest on the left.
So what can you do to reduce the size and weight?
Start with a smaller sack, if you have a large one, they say you’ll fill it. I reckon 40 litres is easily doable, I used a Black Diamond Speed 30 although they do come up slightly larger than 30l in my opinion.
Tent wise I use a Terra Nova Laser Comp, I picked this up “cheap” a couple of years ago for £125 from Sports Direct. This weighs in less than a kilo and packs down super small. I don’t really like the tent, but it serves its purpose even using carbon fibre for the two mini poles and titanium tent pegs. On your assessment, if you only have a two man tent, share! There’s no point lugging round a big tent for just one person.
Use the lightest sleeping bag you can, the weather was warm for this trip so I used my Mountain Equipment Titan Light 250 down sleeping bag, which again packs very small and weighs in at 750 grams. If you’re using down, be extra cautious of getting it wet, I carry mine in a lightweight dry bag.
I usually use a Jetboil for cooking, but mine was at my parents house so this trip I used my trusty MSR Pocket Rocket @ 85g, with a titanium mug @ 64g with the smallest gas cannister you can get @ 200g. Food requires some thought as this setup is only good for boiling water, so couscous for dinner (just add water to the packet), porridge for breakfast (again, just add water to the packet) and a few hot chocolates plus other snacks. This keeps things light, simple and minimises washing up.
Those are the main areas for weight saving I think. I put my lighter Crux over trousers in rather than my heavy weight ME ones, I had my normal Patagonia waterproof jacket, carried an Patagonia soft shell and packed my Patagonia Nano Air warm top but didn’t wear it.
As always I had a spare hat and set of gloves, 1st aid kit, camera, 2 x head torches, water, maps plus the usual other bits like spare socks, lighters, spork etc.
By keeping it light, you won’t be working so hard which means you’ll be in a better position to look after your group, navigate successfully and hopefully have a nice few days in the hills!
I don’t do much guiding on Snowdon but I do really enjoy it when I do, a day hillwalking with nice people, in the sun, what’s not to like!
It was Melvyn’s 60 birthday a few days earlier and his daughter had paid for him, his friend and his son in law to come up to Llanberis for the weekend and climb Snowdon.
They got super lucky with the weather, sunny with enough of a breeze to keep us cool. We started at 0900 and they kept up a good pace the whole way up making the summit by 1130 so we had our summit shots and took an early lunch before wandering down.
It was super busy up there but the lower we got, the quieter it became which was nice and we were back in Llanberis by 1400, they made really good time and were an absolute pleasure to be with.
Check out my hillwalking page if you’re looking to be guided up a route or learn some hillwalking / navigation skills.