A rendezvous on Friday night a couple of weeks back formed the start of a hilly weekend in Snowdonia. Jamie and I took my car, naively assuming we’d beat Gary and Gareth in the camper van by a lengthy margin. Unfortunately stops at my parents’ house and two supermarkets reduced our efficiency somewhat, and we arrived at Beddgelert at 23:00 to find that the campervan contingent had already spent 15 minutes wandering around trying to find my car or the caravan (and failing on both counts).
Saturday morning continued the rainy trend which had made its presence known throughout the night. Undeterred, we modified our plans from climbing to rambling, finally deciding on an ascent of Yr Aran, which none of us had been up before. Nonetheless, our unwavering faith in our own navigational ability gave us confidence, and was summed up by Jamie with the phrase “If Gary gets lost, I just assume it’s the mountain that’s wrong.”. After climbing for about twenty minutes we entered the cloud, and thus didn’t actually see anything from the local maxima of Craig Wen or Yr Aran. Some consternation was caused by the disparity between reality and the map when the trig point marked on the 1:25,000 was noted to be conspicuously absent from the summit of Yr Aran. However, I soon resolved this by arbitrarily deciding – with no evidence whatsoever – that the trig point must have been hidden beneath the small summit cairn and we therefore must be on the correct mountain. Thus reassured, we continued north in the cloud, and eventually down to the quarry at Bwlch Cwm Llan. Shortly after lunch, we discovered a drainage tunnel cutting under the track and into an old quarry working. Given that it was under eight inches of water, G and I approached the tunnel problem from different angles. He used his high-tech Yeti gaiters to prevent water ingress into his boots; I took off my boots and went barefoot.
Once inside we found ourselves in a verdant world of ferns and foliage reminiscent of the Lost World. Another tunnel continued further into the quarry workings, but further exploration evidently required scuba gear and an unhealthy interest in dark places. We returned to our entry point, passing pterodactyls and several triceratops along the way. Being the hiking enthusiasts we are, we then retired to the pub. I had the novelty of catching a steam train back to the campsite to fetch the car, and dinner provided a welcome interlude before another pub visit.
Sunday's weather proved far more amenable, with blue skies visible at the campsite. We decided a visit to the main cliff of Glyder Fach was in order; Gareth and Jamie were to ascend Dolmen Ridge (***, 3) while Gary and I took on Main Gully Ridge (***, 3 or Mod, depending on who you believe). We climbed to the bottom of the cliff together, and then split to find our respective routes. As per the rules of the Scrambles in Snowdonia challenge, I was bound to take the more difficult Grade 3 variation of Main Gully Ridge. The only snag with this option is that the hardest moves are the very first ones, with little gear and plenty of exposure. Also weighing heavy on my mind was the fact that every move would be recorded with my new birthday present – a helmet-cam. I was therefore thrilled when Gary offered me the lead, particularly since I'd done only one mountain route in the past eighteen months. I reminded myself of recent climbing successes in the Peak District (backing off a Mod, with a rope, in rock boots), and stepped up to the plate.
Anyway, I surprised myself by getting back into the swing of things without any major dramas (albeit very slowly!), and lead the whole route. We did two very exposed pitches, then a third up to the top of the ‘slot’ described by Ashton. I can only assume it was a printing error which meant the words ‘slimy, grotty, muddy’ and ‘slippery’ were missed out of the description of said slot. Gary politely pointed out later in the day that despite the amenable angle this was the place in which I placed the most gear! Despite my initial claim that the lead had required balls of steel, we eventually agreed that it was probably a little bit less hardcore than that. From the slot, we moved together and confirmed that the top half of that ridge is my absolute favourite place in the whole of Snowdonia*. After a bit of food, we met Gareth and Jamie back at Idwal Cottage. They’d taken one pitch on Dolmen Ridge, moving together the rest of the time, and had obviously had a thoroughly enjoyable day too.
Gary took the campervan back down south, while we made our way to Nottingham to the sound of mid-90s cheese and, in the words of Gareth, "bouncy old-school hip-hop". Unfortunately the helmet-cam footage wasn't quite up to being broadcast on the BBC HD channel, but I've cobbled something together quickly in iMovie from the bits we did get. Once I've had a bit more time to tighten it up a bit and get rid of the really boring bits, I might post something up here.
* As long as we don’t include winter. That might complicate things.