Well, I had always known the fearsome reputation of the Slate in North Wales. When my dad offered me a free trip over for some walking and a couple days climbing I couldn’t say no. I prepared for the week, packing various essential items including; gear, ropes, shoes, clothes, and aeropress (arguably the most important piece). Soon I was on a ferry to North Wales, complete with fry, and loathing all other people present (mainly because they all had loud screeching pets called “children”).
Sadly the weather gods had deemed us unworthy of sunlight, and the forecast looked grim for about half the trip. To get the most of the dry we drove straight to Tryfan from the ferry and set off on a supposedly classic scramble up the North Ridge to the summit.
After a bit of the upwards walking on a sort of scree-slope thing, that managed to swap between rock and dirt frequently, we arrived at the “Canon Stone”. This is a striking rock which leans out into almost any picture you try to take, and always looks like it’s about to fall over on top of you.
The first is me getting the logo for QUBMC in (got to keep the sponsors happy and that), but the second is a far nicer photo of the big rock.
Any way, after a break and a nice chat with a man from Wales, who was recently back from Australia, we got back to pursuing the top of the mountain. We may have gotten a bit lost and ended up in a gully, which dad wasn’t best pleased about, but in all fairness it was a very pretty gully.
Eventually we arrived at the top, and sighted the famous (not really that famous outside of the UK, but fairly well known) Adam and Eve blocks. It is said that at one time the great Earl of Tryfan, who built the mountain out of clay and porridge, named the two blocks. Not long after he died in 22 BC, everyone forgot which way round they are named. After much meditation I was able to discern which block is which, and so was able to teleport between the two ancient druid stones, unlike those idiots who have to jump (picture evidence below).
It was at this point that I noticed a bird had followed us. I like to believe her name is Aderyn.
After a bit of an easy walk down the other side we reached the car and headed to the B&B and rested up for the next day.
This was the day of the “not so great” weather. We clutched at the proverbial straws that were drawn to decide the conditions that day, and headed back to Tryfan. However we looked not to Tryfan itself, but a trio of mountains behind it.
We walked up behind Tryfan to Glyder Fach, which roughly means “Small pile of rocks” (Glyder – “heap of stones”, Fach – “Little”).
An inaccurate description to say the least.
Standing at 994m high I would hardly call it Fach, but the Welsh seem to have a similar humor to the Irish. But once we started up the scree slope to the top of the ridge the Glyder bit was starting to make sense. Eventually we ended up on the ridge and could see nothing.
Now normally missing out on the views is a bother, but I found out that most mountains in Wales have really cool rock formations lying around. This combined with the lying cloud leads to a brilliantly eerie quiet walk through an alien landscape. It was fantastic.
It was very funny to know I was in a huge open space, and yet could see absolutely none of it. Eventually was headed on to our next peak, Glyder Fawr, far more accurately described as a “Big pile of rocks” (Fawr – “Large”).
On the way I found more cool rock piles, and soon we stopped at the top of the 1001m peak where we were once again graced by Aderyn’s company.
After food I took the obligatory photo of the top, though I couldn’t decide exactly which bit of rock was the actual top. So I did what any reasonable and sane person would. I took pictures of both.
That one? No wait, it was the one I was just on I think….
Decision made, it’s this one.
As we began to walk off the view transformed before us to show, we were in fact, on a mountain.
After this dad managed to trick me up another one, called Y Garn, which means “The hilt”…..I think…… However at 947m it’s for a big fucking sword. Perhaps it belonged to Bendigeidfran (“Bran the Blessed”) who was a Welsh giant, supposedly, who’s sister supposedly married some Irish king. Apparently he was mean to Bran’s sister, so he sailed over and killed EVERY IRISH PERSON, except for 5 pregnant women. These women then, of course, repopulated the entire island. I am a little skeptical of the whole thing.
It rained. So we wen’t to Liverpool, I asked why the Liver Building is pronounced “Lie-ver” not in the normal way. Then we went to a U-boat museum.
A trip to North Wales had to include Snowdon. So despite the stinging wind, and low cloud we suffered on and pretended to enjoy it. Soon we arrived at the top and of course I can provide stunning views of the valley from the top.
We also stopped off at the cafe…. It was a strange experience. Torn between liking it and hating it, on one hand I can now have coffee atop a mountain that is made by an espresso machine. On the other there is a complaining old person in flip-flops, moaning about how scruffy I look and would like to sit further away from me.
Once again the bird found us.
We left in good time and began our decent by Y Lliwedd, a nice mountain by itself, and with a face that has obvious climbing all the way to the summit. It destroyed every fiber of my being, knowing that I wasn’t going to be climbing it at all.
Eventually we made it back down with no bother.
This was to be the first day of the climbing proper. But almost as though I was still in Ireland, the weather gods saw fit to laugh at my mortal plans.
I met up with sponsored Plas-Y-Brenin mountaineer, Ceci, and the visiting Fyfe. Immediately we began the ritual of denying the conditions. “Might get better…” “Could go for an easy scramble…” “This cup of tea is great thanks!” “I hear the Beacon climbing center is pretty good…..”
Soon we realised the truth and hit up the wall, where we met a man who knew Eddie Cooper. I bought a chalk bag, we stared at the strong man Nick Bullock, and climbed the plastic holds. All in all fairly fun. And far dryer than outside.
Our determination to get on some of these Welsh routes was still as strong as ever, and we regrouped in the morning at The Brenin. Ceci suggested the famous Tremadog area. Well known for the notoriously hard route Strawberries.
We arrived in what seemed like the only place in Wales it wasn’t raining. Sadly, to our detriment, it had been raining yesterday. So when we scrambled up to our intended route, it was……moist? Maybe a kind word for it, but you get the idea, not for climbing today we thought.
Our last bastion of hope was Holyhead Mountain, on the coast where it was to be windy but dry. Very windy as it turned out. If ever the elements were to share their opinion on the current political climate surrounding Brexit, it was now (oooh careful now, controversial).
I was to lead Breakaway, a one star route. I looked at it and it seemed to be a good little challenge.
I had no clue.
Windy it was, but bearable for climbing. I started up the first vertical bit to the bottom of a slight overhang. Easy enough, with a couple of good gear placements. I eyed up the technical moves ahead, and thought them to be fun enough. I sussed a sequence and moved through some lovely movements on crimps to the good looking “hole”, while telling myself “the footholds are good, tones of friction, you won’t slip…”.
Now “hole” is an understatement, Alice herself could have fallen down this thing and found a rabbit with a pocket watch. I sunk my arm in up to the bicep and began placing reassuringly good cams and offsets. I decided on the next moves using hand jams, and began. I very quickly regretted this choice.
The wind picked up to a gale and soon found myself stuck on the corner I had to rock-over round. Magically I caught a LEGITIMATELY USEFUL KNEEBAR. This was a strange one, being very solid and secure, but unable to move on because of the wind. I waited for a tiny window to make some marginal moves, thankfully successfully.
After a dander (crawl in a tornado) up the slab I made an anchor and was followed in good order by Ceci and Fyfe. We then decided the wind was far too much, and Ceci needed to be back at work, so packed up and headed back to The Brenin. Absolutely brilliant route, even with the conditions.
Final round up
First off a huge thanks to Ceci and Fyfe for bringing me climbing. It was great, though only one route was done, but I appreciate the dedication despite the odds and weather saying NO to us.
Here is a list of thoughts, followed by miscellaneous photos:
-Welsh Cows are big, and Welsh sheep are small.
-Welsh sheep have dog tails.
– Guinness in Wales is 90% of Guinness in Ireland (try it and you will see what I mean).
-Welsh pub food is great.
-Buying damaged outdoor clothing is where it’s at lads.
-Wales is AWESOME, for climbing, walking, eating, drinking and taking photographs.