Sunday, 13 April 2014

Glyder Fawr Mountaineering Day

Today I was joined by Mike and Jon from Clwyd Mountaineering Club. The plan was to ascend Idwal Slabs via the Ordinary Route (Mod), scramble up to Continuation Wall and ascend via The Arete (VDiff, 24m). We were then to scramble across to the main Glyder Fawr cliff and take on the Central Arete (VDiff, 200m). The forecast was for rain from about midday, though, which didn't bode well for our later start of 0930...

We parked at the parking along Llyn Ogwen at SH656602. I originally intended to head direct to the Idwal Slabs from there, but Jon was wearing approach shoes and Mike via ferrata boots, both ideal for the climbing we were to do, but not for the peaty bog that lay ahead. So we detoured along the main A5 via Ogwen Cottage to keep our feet dry and cover the ground quickly.

Soloing Ordinary Route (Mod) on the Idwal Slabs.

We arrived at the slabs at around 10am, which was reasonably quiet. We harnessed up quickly (to save time later) and, at Mike's suggestion, began to solo up Ordinary Route. The route was largely clear, and by soloing, we were able to keep ahead of the large group that was waiting to climb behind. We soon reached a woman belaying at around the 100m mark, and, after asking nicely, climbed past. We watched as her partner ascended the final steep section of the slab, waited for him to build his belay, then climbed past. Both were very polite and we didn't seem to disturb them with our soloing antics (a first for me!).

Which way now?

Once at the top of the route, we were then in a quandry: Jon had tried but failed to find the Arete before; and the directions I had brought were not very clear, not helped by the fact that I think I missed a page out of the photocopied entry from the guidebook! Luckily, I'd brought the original. By ascending further to the big arrow on the Slabs exit route, we eventually saw the small boulder perched on the cliff, then carefully traversed right to investigate further. We found the 3m wide quartz at the foot of the wall, but still took a while until we were certain that this was the route. Mike eyed up The Groove Above (S 4b), but I was in my big boots, so was keen to only stick on VDiffs. The Arete it was...

Although the route looked reasonable, finding the first protection was difficult. I jammed a nut in the right corner, mainly as reassurance, and placed a large sling. I then stepped up the centre of the wall to investigate a large gap: it would've been ideal for a sling and a 1930s style chockstone, but I didn't even have a hex to my name, so decided to leave it and stepped back down. I now stepped up and right into the corner, then walked up the terrace ledges, draping a sling over a small, 1in deep flake. The handholds here were better, so I made certain my feet and hands were secure before stepping left and placing a good nut in the only available space and continued up the arete. This was definitely a 'leader never falls' route: but at this point, I started to feel the wind buffet a little, which raised my awareness a notch. I continued on around the arete corner to the left, draped another sling over a small spike, then mantled up into the main shelf. I found a good place for another hex  in a small shelf at the back, but was only able to rest a number 10 rock in it. Oh, it'd be fine for relatively static tension downward, but not a big fall. I thought that this might be a good belay point, and was quite keen to have company up here after such a bold route! After more fruitless searching for another decent placement, I decided it would be better to just get on with it, and to escape the final 'easy' part of the route, to the right and up onto the top of the arete: phew! Once on the top, a perfect couple of cracks welcomed me, and it was with these that I built my belay. Time to relax on the top and watch/listen to the boys struggle up below...

Mike and Jon, a bit chilly

By the time Mike and Jon arrived at the belay, their were quite chilled, not helped by the coldness of the rock. It was 1pm: given that we'd escaped the showers so far, we chose to abandon an ascent via Central Arete, and instead to keep moving up Senior's Ridge. We headed up into the cloud, bagging the summit of Glyder Fawr just as a shower arrived. We continued rapidly down the scree slope to Llyn y Cwn: the rain stopped and we descended out of the cloud. As we came down through Devil's Kitchen and into the bottom of Cwm Idwal, we were able to both reflect on the routes we climbed and recce Central Arete for another, perhaps sunnier day. We will be back!