(by Gerry Moss, from IMC Newsletter Autumn 2004)
It’s the region of heart’s desire! Small wonder then, that the October Bank Holiday meet to Snowdonia, in North Wales, is a long-standing, and popular, IMC tradition.
Ably organised for decades by Des Doyle, the patter of little feet has lured him to fresh fields and pastures new in recent years, and the meet has faltered a little as a result. It is high time to get it back on track Snowdonia was, and is, an inspired choice of venue for the October week-end. There is something here for all tastes, and all talents. Indeed, if you haven’t experienced Snowdonia’s mountains or crags, there is a huge gap in your climbing C.V.
The Snowdon Horseshoe, which includes the airy Crib Goch arête, lies at the head of Llanberis Pass and provides the finest mountain outing south of the Scottish Border. The ascent of Tryfan via the NE Ridge, followed by the Bristly Ridge to the Glyders and a descent by the Devil’s Kitchen, gives another great mountain day. The Carneddau provide a higher, longer version of the Galtees, with a stiff pull up, followed by a long, gently undulating ridge walk, with superb views. Further south, the shapely Cnicht, known as the Matterhorn of Wales, can be combined with the Moelwyns for a great day’s walking. All of these outings provide ideal training for the Alps.
‘Rock climbing in Snowdonia’ by Paul Williams, details almost 500 climbs on 77 crags in the area (and this is just a selection!). Tiger, crag-rat, traditionalist, mountaineer; all are equally well served. You can choose to follow in the footsteps of some of Britain’s most noted climbers: Kirkus, Edwards, Pigott, Allan, Brown, Whillans, Fawcett, Dawes and Redhead, all contributed to the store of fine routes in this region.
For those climbing at V.Diff/Severe/H.Severe level there are many classic mountain routes, ranging from half to full day outings, some of them depositing the climber on top of summits as high as 3000 feet. For example, the Idwal Slabs, (a much larger version of the Bearnagh Slabs) with multi-pitch Diffs, V.Diffs and Severes at a user-friendly angle, lead on to a higher tier, which, in turn, leads to the final band of climbs below the summit of Glydyr Fawr. And there are plenty of roadside crags too, offering oodles of shorter climbs in the same grades.
For those wanting to climb at higher grades the list is just as long. Llanberis Pass for example, boasts 12 crags, (including the slate quarries) with traditional routes from Diff right up to E8. Many of these are two or more pitches in length.
If you tire of climbing in the mountains, an hour’s drive will bring you to Tremadog, often in sunshine while cloud sits on the hills, where several road-side crags give multi-pitch routes from severe upwards on good rock, in a lovely, sylvan setting, just above sea-level. And when you tire, or feel like a break, just drop down to Eric’s Roadside Cafe, for a bacon butty, beans on toast or a mug of hot tea.
And I haven’t even mentioned the sea-cliffs of Gogarth, only a five-minute drive from where the boat docks. If you haven’t experienced the Gogarth Grip, you haven’t experienced sea-cliff climbing at it’s best.
Nor is rain (and it has been known to rain) as great a spoilsport there as it is at the Burren or Fairhead, for example. There are numerous clean, classic routes that go in all weathers, e.g., the nine-pitch Slanting Buttress on Lliwedd; the deep, dark slit of Lockwood’s Chimney (a penitential exercise for the obese, a hen’s race for skinny little geeks like yours truly); the Hyll-Drem Girdle, a four-pitch HVS that sneaks along under a huge roof, keeping you snug and dry, while the rain cascades off the lip; and, at Tremadog, you will find climbers on many of the routes in all weathers.
If you really must avoid the rain, The Beacon Climbing Wall, just outside Llanberis, is about four times the size of the UCD wall, with a large, separate bouldering area and a café.
You can shop till you drop in Llanberis (2), Capel Curig (1) or Betws y Coed (4) gear shops, (Joe Brown’s, in Llanberis, gives 10% discount on production of an up-to-date IMC card). If you are in the market for rock-boots, the large selection of makes on offer is bound to please.
If you haven’t gorged yourself in Pete’s Eats, you haven’t lived. I have seen strong men brought to their knees by the sight and scent of the Big Jim Special.
Traditionally we have based ourselves near Llanberis, only an hour’s drive from the boat and close to the hills and crags, most frequently in Jesse James’ Bunkhouse (that’s the owner’s name, honest), a down-to-earth, basic bunkhouse, but with a good kitchen, a spacious common-room/dining room, and a passable drying room. At the minute there is plenty of room available, at a cost of £10 Stg per night, but there is always a run on accommodation in Snowdonia on that particular weekend, so we need to move fast on this, as it is a case of first come, first served. And, as Jesse runs it on a commercial basis, a hefty deposit must be paid in advance, in order to secure places.
The days at the end of October are shorter, much shorter, than September days. IMC folklore is full of tales of members thrashing about in the dark, struggling to find the correct, safe way down off these steep, cliff-studded mountains, due to a lack of appreciation of the difficulties involved, and the time required to complete the route before darkness. If you intend tackling any of the mountain routes a headtorch is a decided advantage, but an early start is a definite must. I speak from years of experience on this one.
Ex Dún Laoghaire
Stena Line HSS (100mins.)
Departs D.L.: 11.10 16.05 21.45
Departs H.H.: 8.55 13.45 18.30
Ex Dublin Port
Irish Ferries Cruise Ship 3hr15min.
Depart Dub. 09.05 21.05
Depart H.Hd. 02.50 15.00
Note: I haven’t given the times for the Dublin Swift, which is quite a small boat, and not a good bet in October, as Autumnal gales may cause cancellation.
Ex Dublin Port
Stena Line Cruise Ship 3hr15min.
Depart Dub. 08.30 (Sun-Fri) 08.15 (Sat.) 21.15 daily
Depart H.Hd. 02.30 14.30
Fares Depends on which service, or combination of services you choose. Both lines have a website, (www.stenaline.ie, www.irishferries.com). It makes sense to have a group of four per car, where feasible. Talk to your fellow members.
So, there you have it. There has already been expressions of interest from some of the old hands, and this will present newcomers to Snowdonia with an ideal chance to tag along, or tap in to their knowledge and experience. We will give all the assistance and advice we can, and try to point you in the direction best compatible with prevailing conditions. The rest is up to you.
Croeso Yspryd Eryri. Welcome to the Spirit of Snowdonia!