Joe was back from Sandhurst for the weekend and not wishing to waste a visit to Wales, wanted to go and do a bit of climbing. I was in a Wedding on Saturday, but compensated for this loss of mountain time by taking Monday and Tuesday off work. So on Sunday we packed the car full of ropes, racks and guidebooks and drove to Snowdonia with rock on our minds. Neither of us had been climbing for a while, so we weren’t looking for anything particularly technical, just nice, long, atmospheric mountain routes and a friendly grade, with maybe a bit of bouldering thrown in for good measure.
We planned to spend some time on Tryfan, and so chose the Gwern Gof Uchaf campsite as our base. This is my campsite of choice when visiting Snowdonia as it couldn’t be better placed for the mountains of the Glyder and Carneddu Ranges, sitting as it does right on the footstep of Tryfan itself, and only a short walk from the mountain’s most accessible crags and boulders. Arriving in somewhat unsettled weather, we hastily erected the tent before opting for a bit of low altitude bouldering, away from the worst the weather could throw at us.
A short drive from the campsite, and back on the road towards Pen y Gwryd lie the RAC Boulders, a trio of large glacial erratics on the mountainside opposite Moel Siabod. The rocks offer a splendid location for a few hours of relaxing bouldering, having a good compliment of interesting easy to moderate problems, and being blissfully free of the crowds that often swamp the nearby Cromlech Boulders. Despite being relatively unpractised, I was quite pleased with my performance, dispatching problems that had previously eluded me and completing grades V1/2 with relative ease. Unfortunately, a slip at the top of a tapered crack had me slamming my left toe into the rock, which duly turned a disconcerting shade of blue. We left soon afterwards.
The showers had now ceased, and since my small but unfortunately placed injury prevented me from attempting anything too challenging, we decided to go and play around on Tryfan Bach, an easy angled and heavily striated slab, just a few minutes walk from the campsite. We played around on the easier routes, before making up our own, avoiding the cracks and playing on the blanker walls in-between.
That night the weather took a decided turn for the worse as a frontal system pushed rain over the mountains depositing the worst of it on our very position. Much of the next day was therefore spent sitting in a café drinking tea. At around 4 o’clock a brief respite in the weather provided us with a window just long enough for a route. Our crag of choice this time was the Milestone Buttress, again just a short walk away, and our route the Ordinary Route (D), an 80 odd metre mini odyssey with some highly entertaining positions. Wet and polished it may have been, the climbing proved interesting throughout, the highlight being an exposed traverse at around mid height. We returned to the campsite just as the weather resorted back to its default setting and the gloom of the Snowdonian evening enveloped us.
The next morning we where woken by sunshine heating our tent and on exiting in search of fresh air a glorious blue sky was laid out before us. The perfect weather to quit the valley and aim for something a bit higher. We’d had plenty of time to mull over possible routes the day before and decided on a Tryfan classic, First Pinnacle Rib, a 186 metre Diff with an unusually technical crux – the Yellow slab, which comes in at 4b. The route requires one to first ascend to the Heather Terrace, a sustained slog over vegetation and scree, which is frankly, an ordeal in itself. The route itself is relatively straight forward, we took it in turn to lead, sometimes linking shorter pitches together. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as it did result in considerable rope drag on occasion. We reached the summit in fine time, and after a brief interlude to admire the view, made out way back home.