Friday, 2 May 2008

The Day the PyB Instructors Went Home Early

On Thursday 1st of May the prolific JeffB, and your news editor AndyG, went to Wales for a bit of easy mountaineering.

After a leisurely start compounded by slow traffic in Warrington and in the road works outside Queensferry, we arrived at Ogwen and proceded to the Idwal Slabs. Not surprisingly, given the lateness of the day, it was quite busy and the best route, Tennis Shoe, was already occupied by two teams.

So we decided to have an adventure. Knowing that most routes on the slabs are technically within our grasp, we set out up the rock, without consulting the guide book, to find our own way to the top. This produced three long pitches of pleasant slab climbing on the delightfully rough and pocketed Idwal rock. Later scrutiny of the guide book determined that we had started up Charity and, after a little diversion of our own along a beautiful rounded arete, we had finished up the final pitch of Hope.

So far the weather had been kind to us and the day was warm and bright although some impressively large black clouds had already passed over. Finally the inevitable happened as we set out to follow a party from Plas y Brenin up Lazarus on Holly Tree Wall. We were lashed by a vicious and torrential hail storm which covered all the ledges and holds with hard granules of ice, briefly turning the place white and lending a distinctly wintery feel to the procedings.

We caught up with the party from Plas y Brenin at the top of the first pitch in Javelin Gulley. After some discussion they allowed us to climb past, since they were intending to abseil back down. They excused their decision on the grounds that their rope system was unsuitable for leading their clients in the newly worsened conditions but anyone who has been to Plas y Brenin will remember that the instructors always like to be back in time for tea and cakes at four o'clock.

However, we had more time to spare and were determined to press on. The next problem was that just as quickly as it had arrived, the hail was melting and our route was now deluged with water. A steady lead and careful gear placement was required. For added interest, we encountered two particularly loose flakes which required special care given our situation high above the slabs.

We stopped for a bite to eat on the next ledge and admired the fine view across Llyn Idwal and down the Nant Francon in the now much improved weather.

Next Jeff had a look at Groove Above but we eventually settled on The Arete to get us over Continuation Wall. Then we put away our ropes and gear ready for the scramble up Senior's Ridge to the summit of Glyder Fawr.

Although the weather was now fine again, many parties had retreated during the hail shower and we had the summit all to ourselves. We enjoyed extensive views in all directions, including a particularly good view of the Crib Goch ridge and Snowdon.

Finally, we descended via Llyn y Cwn, and the path beside the Devil's Kitchen, to Ogwen Cottage where Jeff had parked the car. It was time to get some chips.