I have to start this post by stating that I am not a climber. I have dabbled indoors, but having never had a consisted partner to climb with I rarely manage the local climbing wall. I do however lack the ability to turn down a good offer and the chance to do something new, irrespective of the level of pain or humiliation it might cause.
Armed with brimming optimism and boundless ignorance I set off to North Wales with two friends (both very good climbers). I’d made them well aware of my lack of ability so thought nothing more of it, we are all Mountain Rescue team members so they’d understand I was being serious, right? A few training walls and perhaps I’d be left to potter off on my own for the afternoon while they tackled something more interesting? How wrong I was.
Saturday kicked off with what was going to be an epic walk of the Ogwen valley’s ridges, tackling the North face of Tryfan (a particular favourite of mine as I do like scrambling) and then onto Y Gribin ridge to ascend the Glyders and back down Bristly Ridge. I was happy with this, scrambling is loads of fun.
We headed off in typical North Wales murky weather and started our ascent up Tryfan.
For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Tryfan rises up out of the Ogwen valley like a half buried prehistoric dinosaur (think stegosaurus) and the North ridge is a very popular scramble.
It is however, responsible for a significant proportion of the 150+ Ogwen Mountain Rescue Team‘s call outs per year, due to its seemingly obvious path from the road, which soon disappears as you have to navigate your own route through the rocks to the summit. The ascent is short and steep, and at times it is easy to drift too far east or west and find yourself in serious climbing territory. Hence the high number of call outs the team has from inexperienced walkers unaware of the dangers.
We were acutely aware of the number of people on the mountain that day who were woefully under-prepared – from one person wearing jeans, to a family out with a child wearing trainers. I really can not emphasis enough that this is not a mountain to take lightly.
That said it is a tricky mountain that can catch out even experienced climbers and mountaineers, you only have to read the team’s call out list to discover that even hard core climbers come unstuck on Tryfan. Despite our experience we still managed to find ourselves in awkward cracks and exposed steps requiring a confident grip and the occasional removal of rucksacks to get ourselves up and through the rocks.
Of course the cloud descended as we reached the summit so we had a quick lunch and headed off the back of Tryfan and down to the valley.
Our plans quickly changed as the heavens opened so we decided to retreat to our rather lovely accommodation for the weekend at Ogwen Team’s HQ. (Being able to use another team’s base for the weekend is definitely a perk!)
Sunday was always planned as climbing day due to the better weather predicted. Well, I survived scrambling with the two hardcore climbers so how hard could it be? I’d be on rope and they’d be warned about my lack of experience…
We set off on Sunday knowing we were heading for great weather later in the day. I mean this is virtually the same shot as from the day before and look at the sunshine! In Wales no less!
We started out on Tryfan Bach tackling Slab 2 route – apparently a VDiff. (Which in my book constitutes a route which takes the skin from the end of your knees and your fingers, but is easy enough to not ruin your confidence!)
This was however my first outdoor climbing so I was impressed (rather than terrified) that they thought it wise to take me on a short multi pitch route. After a bit of swearing I made it to the top with ego intact.
Since the sun was out we decided to finish the day round at Milestone Buttress to tackle the Direct Route which despite the glorious weather was quiet. 5 pitches, yeah I can do that! Commence a bit of swearing and praying resulting in very sore knees and toes.
Pitch one was ok – follow the crack and then step out and over the rock. It’s a bit polished to start but otherwise ok, although the step around the rock at the top of the pitch caused a few leg jitters.
I’ll be honest I don’t remember much detail of the other pitches as I continued to climb upwards and despite the swearing and wondering why I was climbing a rock instead of walking over mountain tops, I was also having loads of fun.
Pitch 3 did cause a fair bit of swearing as I confronted the chimney and my fears of sliding down the rock gripped only by pressure from my bum on one side and my feet on the other. Very undignified but I managed it. Eventually. And I had feet to greet me at the top!
Pitch 4 had a scarily long step across a void after traversing a crack and round a rock. So that had to be done in one go to prevent me sitting on one side and refusing to get back up.
After an easy pitch 5 we descended the gully to get back to our kit via abseil as it was very wet and fully of midges, so speed was our priority. In all it took about 6 and half hours for three of us to scale Milestone Buttress and get back to our kit.
Despite the moaning, swearing, sore knees and toes I thoroughly loved my first venture into rock climbing outdoors and it was loads of fun to second a multi-pitch route. I’m a long way off ever leading anything though!
I should thank Owen Phillips for the mis-use of his photos – though I’ve only used those with me in them (yellow helmet) so I assume it was ok to use!