Five members and one active non-member had an exciting and eventful day out on the flanks of Tryfan in the Ogwen valley, Snowdonia.
The combination of Milestone Buttress on the North Ridge and Grooved Arete on the East Face makes for well over a thousand foot of exceptional climbing.
Milestone Buttress is a 400ft Difficult climb with two starts, the Overhang start and the ‘Crack Start’. This gives the first problem if two parties start the climb at the same time, hence a blockage at the first stance. The overhang can be surmounted by bridging tactics or by a couple of moves on small toeholds, but once over, it’s easier climbing to the belay ledge. The route then follows spikes, grooves and smooth walls to a splendid hand traverse under a great block called the Bivalve. The Bivalve is probably the most enjoyable pitch of the whole route and the crux being the escape from it. The final sting is the last pitch, up a chimney, polished by the upward thrutching of thousands of tweeds and Polartec fleeces. The chimney is awkward to start and it has been known for some climbers to seek help in getting established. I found the easiest way to made upward progress is to back and front the chimney untill large hold appear near the top
A long walk then traverses the hill to the glaciated ledge of Heather Terrace on the East face and the base of Grooved Arete.
G.A is one of the finest routes of its grade anywhere in the British Isles. It was first climbed in the nineteen thirties by H. Steeple and held it’s reputation as a serious climb with a notorious crux. Its best to get an early start for this popular climb and enjoy the morning sun on your back. We arrived a little late as the sun was passing over the huge crag. The atmosphere on the face is tremendous, towering blocks and massive spikes. The face is so splendid that it played host as the 1953 Everest Expedition training ground.
The base of the climb is well marked with a large GA scratched into the rock wall at the start. The first pitch throws the climber right into the character of the route with a steep polished groove. Not to worry though, a small chock stone awaits the fingertips at the back of the crack, to ease the struggle and soon the first difficulties are over. Upon reaching the large spike above on the left, a distinct arete rises above. At this point you can imagine tweed dressed gentlemen smoking their pipes, tied onto hemp ropes, lazing in the sun, tossing the coin for the pitch which promises superb in-cut ‘Tryfan Holds’. From the top of this pitch a short walk of ten yards brings you to the base of the steep Terrace Wall.
This is the point where we hit the queues and where in the thirties the pipes were tapped out and put in the top pocket.
The impending wall above meets the edge of Bastow Gully with a defined groove of 100ft or more. The lower 60ft leads one into a false sense of security whilst the upper section is a real test of nerve. If the leader falters on this pitch, he will wonder "what on earth am I doing here, when I could be decorating that cupboard under the stairs at home”. The groove steepens until a delicate left step secures the way to the Haven, which is the final respite before the crux ‘Knights Move”.
The ‘Knights Move” is the move to climb up the wall and across the slab, so called because of the three moves up and two across that the Knight would move on a chess board.
If your going to hit a back log of climbers this is where it will happen and as you wait, thoughts of retreat may enter the head accompanied by glances for ways off this mighty wall. In dry weather we found the crux to be very enjoyable with tremendous exposure once on the slab, but acceptable for the grade (HVD). A small exposed stance is the reward for overcoming the crux and the old saying of “two’s company and three’s a crowd” fits perfectly.
The final chimney is not without problems but the promise of a walk off or on a good day a final pitch up the back wall will ease the burden.
Only David truly finished the climb and that’s on the summit of Tryfan.
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