More Boiler Slab

I had a rare day off on Monday for climbing, but unfortunately it coincided with the massive depression that swept through the northern part of the British Isles. Although not hurricane force, the winds were firmly gale force, and rain was imminent, so I had to lower my expectations of climbing VS – primarily the lines I seconded last time.

I climbed Column (Severe) as a repeat, as Matt informed me I took the wrong line previously, so for purity of ethics, I climbed through the shallow depression near the top, rather than moving left, as I had done before. The winds strength continued to rise, with the sea boiling beneath us, and foam frothing over the rocks, so it was pretty intimidating.

Before quickly retreating from the rain, I led Scent of Mutton (Severe) on the left of the crag, which was surprisingly good. It was obvious I had not climbed for a while, as I kept searching for massive handholds, but that’s mileage for you.

There was no point taking any photos, so I’ve included some favourites from last week in North Wales.

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Walking and Scrambling in North Wales

I recently spent five days in Snowdonia, based out of the Ogwen Valley. This was mainly a bid to accumulate the last few required Quality Mountain Days for my ML logbook after being deferred last year. This process has frustratingly taken longer than I hoped, but the added experience has been invaluable.

The Martian landscape from the summit of Glyder Fawr

As part of the trip, I incorporated an outdoor bivvy on the first night, which was partly inspired by Alastair Humphreys’ 24 hour Bivvy Challenge. I wanted to complete three big, long, high-level days, so set off from Gwern Gof Uchaf campsite below Tryfan. My route was basically a high level traverse of the Glyders, saving the fun parts, such as Tryfan and Bristly Ridge, for better conditions. The weather deteriorated throughout the day, so I was keen not to hang around. Glyder Fawr (999m) was the high point and then I followed the ridge northwards to Carnedd y Filiast (821m) before descending to the Nant Ffrancon valley to bivvy out.

Threading through the pinnacles on Bristly Ridge, Glyder Fach (994m)

The bivvy was fairly uneventful apart from being uncomfortable and letting in rain through the zip opening – fairly standard for a bivvy, but I’m glad I didn’t get a full-on soaking, as you often hear of.

The next day was an early start in order to cover more ground. This would be a fairly long traverse of the Carneddau from Bethesda, via the West spur of Carnedd Uchaf to end up back where I started on the Ogwen side. The weather was consistently wet and cloudy all day, and up on the plateau bitingly cold. I was very glad to take my lunch in the emergency shelter on Foel Grach, and was not surprised to learn later that snow had fallen on the Cairngorm plateau given how cold the air stream was. I opted to navigate from obvious cairns and tops, rather than following the paths necessarily, to avoid getting disorientated in the bad weather.

Attempting to topple the Cantilever

The rest of the walk was uneventful apart from a little care needed to descend the bad step on Bwlch Eryl Farchog. This would be an obvious place for a rope if out with a nervous or inexperienced party of hillwalkers. It was then a long trudge down the ridge and back to camp to warm up and get out of the weather.

James, deep in concentration, explaining a navigation technique

Unfortunately, the bad weather continued into the week, so now joined by friends, we opted to use the shelter on the East side of Tryfan to look at navigation, ropework and scrambling. The Heather Terrace again proved to be a useful approach to the Glyders, enabling us to tackle Bristly Ridge, which I led directly over the most interesting buttresses and pinnacles. I also finally managed to summit Tryfan, which had eluded me for years. My previous attempt was on a family holiday when my parents were reduced to their knees on the scrambling sections and we almost became cragfast after attempting to descend an unknown gully on the West face as a short cut to the car. This time I jumped from Adam to Eve to signify the achievement, although difficult to get a self portrait at the same time!

A self portrait perched on Adam & Eve, Tryfan

One of the highlights of the week was an introduction to scrambling ropework from my friend who is attempting his Mountain Instructor Award assessment in September. I then had the great opportunity to led a friend up Nor’ Nor’ Groove on the East face of Tryfan, putting into practice the skills I had just learned. It was wet, slimey and muddy, but an extremely rewarding way to move up the mountain environment, balancing speed and safety. Hunting for anchors, setting up the belay system and route-planning all added to the experience, which was thoroughly absorbing.

Elidir Fawr & Marchlyn Mawr Reservoir

The weather cleared for my finale of the week, a big day out. I aimed to walk from the Ogwen Valley over to Elidir Fawr, then back over Y Garn and Glyder Fawr, with some added spice at the end, descending Y Gribin and the False Gribin. As the day progressed, so the weather improved, and I reclined in the summit shelter of Elidir Fawr (924m) to eat my lunch, and then gradually peeled away layers returning East. It was exhilarating to take the direct line down Y Gribin, the wind whipping from one side and the sobering exposure dropping away on the other.

Perched high on Y Gribin

As you may have noticed, I haven’t reported on my SPA Training, as it was cancelled, but happily has been rescheduled for the beginning of June, so more to come then.

Heroic mountaineer pose

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