They may not be the biggest or the most impressive hills around, but the mountains of Snowdonia have their own charms and history making up for their modest size. I’ve always thought that climbing in the mountains is something really special. Spectacular views and fantastic climbing is normally guaranteed in Snowdonia when you know which cliffs to get to.
Over the last couple of weeks though the perfect combination of sunshine and breeze (to keep the midges at bay!) have been fairly standard on my days off and I’ve had the opportunity to get out climbing at Ogwen, my most local climbing venue being only a 15 minute drive up the road. It was often really wet up there last year which meant I only got the chance to climb there a couple of times. The first route on the list was a route called ‘Kaya’ on Glyder Fach. It was first climbed by two friends of mine; Noel Craine made the first ascent of the original route and then Johnny Dawes straightened it out with a direct finish. They and others have all raved about the quality of the climbing and they weren’t wrong, it was a top quality route! Dave Rudkin and I both climbed it on our second go, both happy to have climbed it but a little gutted to have failed to on-sight it due to very silly errors on our parts and greasy conditions- although we would say that wouldn’t we! I also noticed a cool looking unclimbed wall to the right that day- but more on that later!
The following day Dave and I were joined by John Orr as we headed up to Gallt Yr Ogof to attempt ‘Heart of Stone’, another top quality E7. It was Dave’s turn to go first and he put in a sterling effort up the steep wall, getting all the gear in before finally falling off with what he described as “bone marrow pump” a few moves from the top. I was up next and also got ejected a couple of moves from the top with elbows pointing skywards and feet pedalling downwards! It’s got a pretty healthy run out on the final section! The climbing on it is fantastic though with consistently steep climbing on perfect crimps, pockets and side pulls. We all had another go getting even closer to the top before Dave on his third go managed to cruise through to the finish after a brief abseil inspection. Unfortunately the midges had come out in full force by this point and we had to make a fairly swift evacuation of the crag!
The following day was a long one work wise but very rewarding. At 4am I was out with Run Snowdonia helping out on the first leg of the 14 peaks with a keen group of walkers from Exeter. It was a misty and murky morning which hadn’t raised my hopes for a pleasant walk but, 30 minutes later, we broke out of the clouds as we approached the lower slopes of Crib Goch and walked up into a stunning sunrise combined with an amazing cloud inversion. It was the first cloud inversion I’d seen this year and the fact that it was coinciding with the sunrise made it even more special. By 8am we’d finished the leg and I had to dash off for a twelve hour shift elsewhere feeling fairly lethargic!
I also managed to return to the unclimbed wall I’d noticed on Glyder Fach. First I headed up with Ant Douglas for a quick blast to see if it was possible and managed the route first go, despite feeling like I was falling off half the time. The rain was moving in though which meant we had to make a fairly hasty exit. I headed back up with Emma Twyford though for my second go at it, hoping for a go on the lead whilst Emma was keen for a shot at ‘Kaya’. After a quick top rope I realised that the only way I’d be able to protect the crux moves of the route would be with a short sling attached to the first peg of ‘Kaya’, taped to the wall at a 45° angle to bring it just about within reach. I was hoping to clip the peg on lead, which would be possible, but would require some very delicate and dangerous moves that I wasn’t too psyched for on the day. The line is pretty good too, ascending the clean wall between ‘Kaya’ and ‘Lot’s Wife’. Unfortunately the first section does naturally trend rightwards into the crack line, in which you get a low side runner, but you soon make a committing step left and commence on a very thin sequence up the wall, having clipped the peg which slowly eases in difficulty before you finish up the ‘Watchtower’, an E3 that breaks onto the upper section of the wall. The lead went just about as smoothly as it could have and we both reckoned the climbing to be about E8 6c or F7c+ R/X.
Having climbed my route Emma now got psyched for ‘Kaya’. She made very short work of the lower crux section before cruising up to the upper crux. She spent a while working out the next few moves and waiting for the sun to go behind the clouds before making the tricky move up to a big positive side pull. Emma relaxed for just a moment having reached this good hold and both her feet popped off robbing her of her first E7 flash. After a very brief rest she cruised to the top and I’m sure she’ll be on-sighting many hard trad routes soon with her awesome sport climbing fitness.