We set off on the 4hr drive to North Wales at 5am looking forward to the long weekend with the gang as a bit of “teambuilding” leading up to our Alps trip in a couple of months. Sharon (my daughter) snored in the front of the car, Michael (her partner) started on his first Cornish pasty in the back as we reached the M5 at Shrewsbury.
It’s not looking good at this point, dark clouds and light rain. Our plan for today is to do a simple rock scramble route up the East Face of Tryfan before meeting Ged at his cottage at around 5pm. The rest of the gang arrive early tomorrow morning (Saturday) with our aim of doing a few routes Alpine style on Idwal Slabs.
By 9am we’re in the Pinnacle Cafe in Capel Curig scoffing bacon butties and mugs of coffee watching the rain bounce off the windows. Michael has his second Cornish pasty.
By 10.30am it’s stopped raining and the sun has come out, so we stiffly get back into the Jeep and drive round to the base of Tryfan which is half covered in brooding cloud half way down to the Heather Terrace.
“It’ll be a bit wet up there” says Michael, a truly insightful comment considering it’s been pissing down for about 12 hours here! More seriously this led to some discussion about which route to choose with it being obviously more sensible to do a gully rather than a buttress route in view of this face of Tryfan having a lot of lichen on it, not good at the best of times and a darn sight worse in the wet. We settle for Nor Nor Groove, it’s only a UK Grade 2 scramble but we decide to take harnesses and rope etc in case it’s a bit hairy in the wet conditions.
By 12.30 we have just reached the Heather Terrace and I am so pissed off. No matter how many times I come here I can never find the entrance to this terrace, it’s a bloody menace. Why do we have such an aversion in the UK to a signpost or two like they have in the Alps. You can see the terrace above you all the way from the road but I end up in miscellaneous gullies, scree runs or small buttresses I have to retrace my steps from. One of these days I’m going to bring a bucket of white paint and mark the bloody thing!!
Michael has a sausage roll and a packet of crisps.
Sharon and Michael rope up together as I set off up the first “pitch” of quartz slabs. It’s very wet but there’s no real exposure at any point. It starts to rain a couple of times but this doesn’t spoil the fun, even though I get ahead by a fair way as Sharon and Michael put in some protection along the way.
We top out on the North Ridge around 2.30pm at the difficult notch on the North Ridge route and enjoy watching the hikers cope with the exposure at this point. Michael asks if I have any Cornish pasties.
There’s a bit of a debate now as to what to do next as we seem to have a couple of choices. We could go down the North Ridge back to the car, or we could go up it to the summit of Tryfan then come back down the east side track. A third option was discussed, I take no responsibility for raising it, which was to go straight down over the west face alongside Milestone Buttress.
As you’ve probably guessed we took the most stupid option of the three and set off down the west face. It’s now 3pm or so and plenty of time to get to Ged’s by 5pm when he’s expecting us.
Four hours later we arrive at Ged’s cottage to meet a very worried man. “Where the f**k have you been, I got no answer from your mobile, I phoned home and Champa says you left at 5am ....”.
“Well it’s like this Ged, we decided to traverse the North Ridge (silly bastards he says) and go down the west face. We soon hit a series of places where we had to abseil, we had only one rope, only a couple of slings and no cord, we forgot to bring a torch as we expected to be down by 4pm, Sharon twisted her ankle, there was no signal on the mobile, it was dark so we couldn’t see where we were going, you know the sort of thing”
“Ok, you’d better come in” he says.
Got any pasties, asks Michael!