Saturday, 2 March 2013

Tryfan (February 2013)

Being in a kayak club takes you to places in Britain which have plenty of climbing available.

Having arrived in Snowdonia two days early for a kayak trip down the River Tryweryn Stephen and I hoped to get some climbing done on Tryfan.

Tryfan viewed from Pen yr Ole Wen in summer conditions.
A blocking high over Europe had kept the rain away for a week. But the same high pressure was feeding sub zero arctic easterlies over Britain. I decided to bring my fleece onesie!

As we drove up the A5 from Capel Curig towards Llyn Ogwen we got our first full view of Tryfan's east face. I had forgotten what a spectacular mountain Tryfan is: it looked particularly awe inspiring with snow etched into Heather Terrace and whispy cloud adding an air of mystery and grandure. I thought of music to accompany the scene: the first movement of Holst's The Planets perhaps, (The Bringer of War) and it was clear that with such low temperatures we were going to have to battle the elements.

One advantage of mountaining in cold weather is the lack of summer crowds and we easily found a parking place.
Glyder Fach (above) and Cwm Bochlwyd (below) from the A5 car park

As the freezing wind was blowing from an easterly direction we decided to try climbing on the more protected west side of Tryfan and elected to try our hand on Milestone Buttress.

Stephen 'kitting up' at the foot of 'Super Direct' (see below) HVS, Milestone Buttress.

After selecting a bomb proof ground anchor I belayed Stephen as he climbed the first pitch of Super Direct. The west face of Tryfan was not as sheltered as we had hoped. After only ten minutes, despite a thermal base layer, fleece onesie, thick Craghopper trousers, and Berghaus fleece and jacket I was getting very cold and wondering how Stephen was feeling. He soon told me and with a few expletives decided to retreat.

An honerable retreat from 'Superdirect' with the A5 and Llyn Ogwen beneath.

About thirty feet to the right of Super Direct is the easier, and we hoped more sheltered start of Direct Route so we decided to have a go at this. From a terrace the first pitch follows a thin polished crack and slabs for about 100 feet to several flake belays. Stephen made light work of this, put in very secure protection,  collected the sling he had used to abseil off previously and made himself secure below some flake belays. At last it was my turn to climb and I relished the friction provided by dry rock and the 'new' Hanwag hybrid climbing/walking shoes I was trying out (thank you Stephen) But the freezing rock was transferring heat from my hands and soon they had lost all feeling. On reaching the top of the pitch it did not take us long to decide that we had suffered enough and retreat was the only sensible option. This we did by carefully descending the start of a grade 3 scramble which eventually reaches the north ridge of Tryfan.

Undaunted, after depositing our climbing gear back at the car, we decided to make a day of it and ascend Tryfan by the north ridge. This route is a relatively straightforward grade 1 scramble made harder on the day by a chill factor way below freezing, snow patches and verglas (ice covered rock sometimes difficult to spot)

We started unconventionally from a car park at the head of Llyn Ogwen by 'bush whacking' up an easy angled heather covered  broad shoulder. As the ridge narrowed we chose rock rather than well worn paths as this avoided slippery snow patches but at the same time we had to be wary of dangerous verglas. Here and there the enjoyable scrambling gave way to more leisurely sections where we stopped and admired the views.

A leisurely section of the north ridge with Llyn Ogwen and Yr Ole Wen in the back ground.
There are three prominant peaks on Tryphan. As you ascend the ridge the stark grey North peak is always visible providing a focal point, a destination to concentrate the mind should the going get tiring. I started to get cramp in both legs so we stopped in a wind eddy to take on fluid and eat some sardines on oat cakes (I am now a convert to this delicacy). Between the north and central peaks a short scramble down leads to a gulley and from here we could look 600 feet or so down the precipitous East face.

With all thoughts of cramp forgotten we stumbled across the famous Adam and Eve blocks at the summit.

Stephen bridging Adam and Eve (we did not fancy jumping)
On the way down the south ridge we met up with a family who were also descending. The father proudly displayed his latest gadget, a miniature hand held weather station complete with anemometer, altitude and temperature sensors. He informed us that the wind chill reading on the summit had been -19 degees! As we plodded down the track to Cwm Bochlwyd thoughts turned to a warm welcome in the Y Giler Arms and perhaps a pint or two of Bathams Ale. (almost as good as Harvey's best)

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