North Wales Trip

or… “So why exactly did Christina and Louise spend 10 hours NOT getting to the top of Snowdon?”

Despite a poor weather forecast, a good crowd (quality as well as quantity!) turned up for this weekend. We were staying in the campsite near Capel Curig. The weather was great. Since I had headed up (with Cathy) a day early, hoping to do some navigation practice, this was not such great news…but you doubtless all know that mountain weather is fickle. We went up the interesting East Ridge on Pen-y Ole-Wen, thus avoiding the crowds and a boring upwards slog. Towards the summit of Pen-y Ole-Wen, we met some people heading down our route. As we ate our lunch, up they popped again. You do meet all sorts! Then we had an enjoyable long stomp round and down the other side of the Carneddau. The next day was climbing in Llanberis Pass. I was in a group of 6 including Jean and her sister (the amazing beginners), Cathy, Christina and Mike. Did Mike really want to get entangled in an otherwise all-female climbing group? Hum. We did some very enjoyable, multi-pitch routes.

The next day did not get off to such a smooth start. At the last minute, we realized that Jean and her sister wanted to walk not climb. So Cathy and Mike teamed up and dashed off to climb Tennis Show on Idwell Slabs. They were so enthusiastic, they could not wait to leave the car and get going. Unfortunately, they were a little too enthusiastic. They set off too soon, and this later resulted in a long cross-country stomp around Tryfan to the slabs!

Christina and myself decided to try the Gambit (v.diff) on Crib-Y-Ddysgl We quickly skimmed the guide book – the route had 3 stars, what else do we need to know? We got our stuff together. Then Cathy yelled her parting shot “you do realize you have to carry your pack on that climb, you come down the Pig Track on Snowden?” So, Christina repacked into a smaller rucksack that she could actually climb in. We had borrowed Cathy’s car, and planned to drop Jean and her sister at Pen-y-Pass, collecting them again sometime before the cafe shut at 6. But then we discovered the petrol looked very low. Or, was it diesel? Oh dear. Eventually, a nice chap listened to the engine for us. Of course, when we finally unscrewed the petrol cap, it was colored green inside.

So, after all the hassle of the morning, by the time we set off, it was already 11 – not an auspicious start! By 12:30 we had found the foot of the climb. Since neither Christina or myself had ever been let loose without a much more experienced friend on hand, we were impressed even by this small achievement! We had lunch, and then set off up the climb.

An hour later we had a little snack and decided that getting 2m off the ground in an hour was not good progress – although we had both got up that same 2m several times, after we learnt how to utilize an abandoned piece of gear to safeguard our retreat. We also had some moments of high drama when Christina decided to try an alternative start, which then started to crumble under her feet. Luckily, she decided to do the next move very quickly, rather than tumble 3 moves extremely quickly. Well, after a discussion about whether we would have better grip on the slime wall in walking boots, whether walking boots could be worn to aid foot jamming, whether a tall experienced friend would be a help, we decided to give up and do something else instead – climb the Parson’s nose. This was an easier graded climb – a Diff. And indeed we ran up it, two very easy pitches, all finished by 3pm. Unfortunately, that saw us on top of the nose, with air all around. I have since discovered that nose’s are often like that – live and learn! Half an hour later we had worked out how to get down to the ledge that connected the nose to cliff (well, neither of us have done that sort of thing by ourselves before). That descent would be easier for tall blokes. I jumped the last 6 inches, Christina, being 5.5 inches shorter than me, had to jump nearly a foot.

Now, those who know the area will know that:
there is an easy scramble down from that point
there is a long scramble up from that point

We know now that it is always a good idea to read up on the route the night before. (Or take an experienced friend along.) I looked around, saw that we were probably 40 minutes from the ridge. We’d be a bit late at the cafe, but we could always run down the track. So, we went on. To be precise, we carried on climbing. We now know why climbing, on double ropes, up a relatively easy but winding scramble is not a good idea. 40 minutes later, and we still appear to be 40 minutes from the ridge. Although the conditions are fine, I am starting to feel a bit concerned. We phone up Cathy just to reassure anyone waiting for us. We re-assess our moving strategy. Christina remembers doing the same scramble in winter with just an experienced friend to push/pull/grab her on the trickier bits. Get rid of a rope; coil the other so we only use it on the trickier bits (as by now my nerve is shot to pieces!) Of course, since neither of us has had to coil ropes like that before, having always had the experienced friend on hand, it takes us 15 minutes just to remember how to tie the rope properly! Women – spent more time gassing about what to do than actually doing it! It was at this point that we start hallucinating about cups of tea. Anyway, at long last we get to the ridge, and get on our walking boots. Rupert is surprised to hear that we are still on the hill. He is already at Huntingdon. We start to run down the Pig track. The sight of 2 women pelting down the track, still all geared up, caused some light relief to the last few people heading home that evening. We encouraged each other on:
me to Christina: “Come on Christina, I’m catching you up”
Christina to me: “this isn’t even a 5km race pace”

and made it to the car before sunset. There, see we had plenty of time!

It was great to be out climbing on a great hill, with great scenery in good weather. What it’s all about really. Fantastic company – Christina offered not one word of criticism on my time estimation, or my lack of bottle. It was great to do something where we had to make our own mistakes – I hope we do it better next time. Perhaps we should try our big exploits on a Saturday rather then immediately before a 5-hour drive on a Sunday? Thanks, deeply groveling thanks, must go to Cathy who kept calm, sorted out transport, packed our tents, waited, and waited, and waited for us, then greeted us with a cup of tea, and drove us much more than half the way home while we snored!


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