Four big kids playing in a rock playground.

Four big kids playing in a rock playground.

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 5, 1999
Activities Activities: Hiking

Setting off with such enthusiasm.

My mate Stu biting off more than he can chew
Three years ago Mark, Paul and I had climbed Tryfan. It had been a cracking day and one that Mark and I particularly looked forward to repeating. Paul with his dislike of anything that resembled a scramble was quite content to miss out and over a period of time Mark had also become somewhat hesitant. Throughout the last few years Stu and I had started to indulge in a little scrambling and therefore with both Mark and Paul unavailable our obvious choice of route for our next walk would be a repeat trip up Tryfan by the North Ridge.

With a top-notch weather forecast Stu, Kev, John and I parked up in a lay-by adjacent to Llyn Ogwen and set off like a party of excited school kids towards the base of the ridge. At this time it would have been fair to say that our scrambling intentions would have taken us up virtually anything we came across. This was exactly what happened when we started the climb. Instead of heading up the eroded rubble and rock that formed the obvious route we rather foolishly decided to attempt what in hindsight was far too hard a rock climb. Stu, being the rangy, supple, athletic sort somehow managed to drag himself up onto a rock shelf that we came to. Needless to say the rest of us decided to follow. It’s one thing deciding to do something and another thing actually doing it. There was no way I could drag my rigid frame up these various ledges. Kev somehow managed to clamber up onto the first one but then became well and truly crag fast. In fact it was only due to our help that he managed to reverse his ascent and climb back down to the relatively safety we occupied. Meanwhile Stu was up past this first obstacle and due to the crystal clear weather decided to continue on his own. In the meantime the rest of us chose as exciting a route as we could and struggled upwards through the rock playground that formed the ridge. It was baking hot and time seemed to pass by really quickly. What was on my mind was the fact that Stu had been gone a long, long time and with the thought of him on his own I couldn’t help thinking that he’d done something … either by getting hurt or getting stuck. I needn’t have worried, just before the final ascent we came across him making his way around towards the centre of the ridge. Just as we would have expected Stu had managed to put himself in some pretty awkward positions and it was clear to see that he was pleased to be back in our company. The remainder of the route to the summit was great fun and but for the need to make progress we could have all played on those warm dry rocks all day long.

Straight out of the blue we were stood there on the summit. It really was a crowded place with all manner of other folk scattered around. One bloke was seen to climb one of the two summit rocks and jump between them. These were well known as Adam and Eve and the way we were all feeling there was no way that we’d miss out on a similar opportunity. After all due to the slippy conditions that existed the last time we’d climbed this hill we’d been a little bit more prudent and given it a miss. Stu and Kev went first and then it was my turn. It was bad enough having to clamber up onto the six-foot high rock but standing there looking at the gap between the two rocks and the great drop down one side really made your heart thump. Anyway, with the “muck or nettles” phrase ringing around in my head I took the leap and thankfully landed safely. John for some reason didn’t bother. As we left the summit and proceeded down the South Ridge towards Bwlch Tryfan we caught a glimpse of the mountain rescue helicopter as it passed by on one of its reconnaissance flights. This should have been taken as a sign of the potential danger that could be encounted within this rock-strewn area. Having previously climbed this route before I alone knew there was much more excitement and potential danger to come on Bristly Ridge and so could fully understand the need for the presence of the RAF.

A sad end to a cracking day

Looking up from Llyn Olwen.
In no time at all we were all four climbing a forty foot vertical chimney and heading towards the even more impressive jumble of rocks that would take us the next few hundred feet towards the summit plateaux of Glyder Fach. As I’ve said before, “when you’re faced with a choice of routes it’s almost compulsory to climb by the most dangerous option”. That’s exactly what we did next. In fact in Stu’s case he went over the top. Not only literally but by climbing a near sheer twenty foot face. To put this into perspective, I didn’t even bother to think about it. Somehow, gritting his teeth all the way up he managed to ascend this ludicrous climb. One slip here and, yes he’d have got a one-way trip in that whirly bird. To prove how much he prided himself over this feat he still has a picture hung on his hall wall of himself nearing the top of this climb. Having sidetracked this route Kev and I rejoined Stu and spent a cracking half hour scrambling around on the jagged rocks that formed the now infamous Bristly Ridge. It was brilliant; they would go up, round a corner, down, along a narrow ledge, back up, around another corner and so on. It was just so unpredictable, but brilliant. Yes, there were some very serious situations, but we were all pumped up and full of adrenaline. What a route, but as they say all good things have to come to an end and that’s exactly what happened here. All of a sudden we were on the flat top of the ridge with all the excitement behind us.

Having spent several hours scrambling we were now free to walk along the summit ridge. Yes, there were the diversions of “The Cantilever” and “The Castle in the Winds”, but generally speaking it was quick easy progress across the moonscape that was Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. The descent down to “The Devils Kitchen” (they don’t half go in for names on these hills) would lead us to Llyn Olwen and the car. No doubt we’d be back in no time at all. That was the case until we reached the llyn. At this point we found ourselves directly under the Idwal Slabs. Given that it was a balmy sunny evening there were great numbers of climbers out on these well known rock routes. If fact from where we were most of these routes looked easy. All four of us spent quite some time just laying out in the sun watching the matchstick figures gradually making their way up the thousand or so feet of this great sloping rock face. One thing that we were able to study were the rope techniques that were in use. Having seen more than one clip come flying out of the rock face it certainly made me feel less confident. Looking further up towards the top of the slabs we could see a climber who was apparently stuck and unable to move from one ledge to the next. He’d been there ages, had made repeated attempts to extradite himself and continually failed to make any progress. Unfortunately he was so far up the route we couldn’t make out what his stumbling block was. No doubt he’d get going soon. Anyway, we’d arranged to go to Petes Eats and had to get a move on ourselves.

Back at the car, having picked up an ice cream on route we all had a chance to contemplate the day. It had been a cracking day and w’ed all indulged in some hair raising scrambling. Perhaps John was a little out of his depth, Stu most certainly wasn’t, Kev had had his most enjoyable day in the hills and I had loved every minute of it. The next morning whilst reading a newspaper I was shocked to see that a climber had been killed whilst falling several hundred feet off the Idwal Slabs. Quite possibly the poor chap we’d seen struggling to extract himself from his ledge was the unfortunate sole. We’ll never know. What this incident did do was to bring home the realisation that the risks taken whilst playing in these “rock playgrounds” were immense. From here on increased care would be part of our climbing.


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