They’ve updated the Steve Ashton “Scrambles in Snowdonia” guidebook.

They’ve done what?!

Written by Haydn Williams

They’ve updated the Steve Ashton “Scrambles in Snowdonia” guidebook. The “they” in question is a couple of new contributors, rather than Ashton himself. It’s a welcome refresh to a classic book, although I’m concerned I’ve been doing it wrong all these years because the Cicerone website say that it’s suitable for use from “early March to the end of October“!

Anyway, I decided many years ago that I would aim to get through all of the scrambles in the book. Progress has slowed somewhat recently, but the new version contains 16 new routes, so there’s some more work to be done now. One of the new routes is Penmaenbach Arête, with the curious grade of “1+”, but intriguingly situated right next to the A55 coast road at Penmaenmawr.

From this angle the ridge is fairly obvious. The A55 coast road is to left of the image. © Haydn Williams 2018
From this angle the ridge is fairly obvious. The A55 coast road is to left of the image.
© Haydn Williams 2018

I’ve driven past hundreds of times, and had seen something written previously about it being worth a look, but had never really got around to it. Zoe chose the route partly on the basis that it looked fun, and partly because the weather anywhere much higher than sea-level was disgusting.

Wow, looks like a proper ridge! © Haydn Williams 2018
Wow, looks like a proper ridge!
© Haydn Williams 2018

After parking in Dwygyfylchi a pleasant surprise awaited us at the end of the 10-minute walk-in. The ridge is unexpectedly well-defined when you get there, particularly on the left-hand side which falls away into a bowl that terminates in the A55 tunnel at its far edge.

Flat, straight into steep at the start. © Haydn William 2018
Flat, straight into steep at the start.
© Zoe Pickering 2018
Scramble by the beach. Weird. © Haydn Williams 2018
Scramble by the beach. Weird.
© Haydn Williams 2018

Beyond the narrowest / steepest bits, the new guide suggests sticking to a ‘runnel’. I stayed true to the Ashton bible and launched myself up the slippery gorse-filled cleft, while Zoe stuck to the boring clean rock rib next to it. Suffice to say it quickly became clear who had made the more sensible choice.

Ignore the route description here. It doesn't end well. © Zoe Pickering 2018
Ignore the route description here. It doesn’t end well.
© Zoe Pickering 2018

With the excitement of the seaside scramble over, we commenced a loop around the back of Penmaenmawr. We started in shirt sleeves and eventually ended up in lots of layers to protect against the wintery showers blowing off the Carneddau onto Foel Lys. We still found time to make an admittedly quite small snowman though.

We left him watching the coast. © Haydn Williams 2018
We left him watching the coast.
© Haydn Williams 2018

After that we had a quick chat with a chap who had more enthusiasm for walking in driving rain than the rest of his group of six people put together, and continued along a Bronze Age track to pass the Druid’s Circle which I wasn’t even aware has been perched above the town for around 3,000 years.

Back end of the Druid's circle. I wonder if it was this bleak 3,000 years ago. © Haydn Williams 2018
Back end of the Druid’s circle. I wonder if it was this bleak 3,000 years ago.
© Haydn Williams 2018

We finally dropped back into Penmaenmawr via what we thought was the less-than-spectacular Graig Lwyd neolithic axe factory. Given that neither of us are practised at identifying such sites, I don’t mind admitting that we’ve since found out that we were in the wrong place by about 200 yards. Oops! As an aside, it seems that finding these things is essentially a case of just wandering around and stumbling across them – the original discovery paper from 1920 begins “When on holiday in North Wales this past summer, I had the good fortune to discover an important prehistoric site…“. How terribly British.

Approaching the summit of Elidir Fawr. © Haydn Williams 2018
Approaching the summit of Elidir Fawr.
© Haydn Williams 2018

The following day we had an early start to make take advantage of the best of the weather. A short round of Carnedd y Ffiliast, Mynydd Perfedd and Elidir Fawr was decided upon. I’ve never been up to Marchlyn Mawr on the hydroelectric scheme access road before, but it makes for very quick access to that part of the world. There wasn’t much snow hanging around after the rain of previous days, but Elidir Fawr is always nice, and the scree descent off the North side is utterly brilliant. Despatched in three hours, it was a nice efficient way to finish the weekend off.

Last vestiges of the recent snow. © Zoe Pickering 2018
Last vestiges of the recent snow.
© Zoe Pickering 2018

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