Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Start them Young

Wish I had the opportunity to start winter climbing when I was young, maybe I would have climbed Central Ice Fall by now ?

Anyway, this post, for me, sums up the whole vibe this winter in Wales. One of passion, commitment, psyche and action.

Dave Williams not only grabbed routes for himself but got his son Peter ( aged 11 ) in on the action. Over the 7th and 8th of Feb this year he went on a mini break with his lad. Bivving at the back of Cwm Glas on the eve of the 7th, Dave, minus his karrimat and his son Peter enjoyed a snowy evening, the next day ascending Parsley Fern gully in a blizzard.

Dave commented " these pictures could maybe inspire some of those frustrated Dads swinging their kids in the park whilst secretly longing to be up on the ice! " Hope so, as looks like you two had a great time. I would be careful, It will not be long Dave, before your holding Peters ropes !

Peter the morning after- check out the snow blocks !

Peter on Parsley Fern Gully

Thursday, 19 February 2009

What were you doing on Sunday 8th Feb 2009

Hi Folks

It seems so long ago since I posted on here and so long ago that we had winter. However, winter has only been gone a week, yes it has only been a week and if your like me ? I am already getting anxious for more.

So what were you doing on 8th Feb ? Were you lucky enough to be bagging a Cold Climbs tick or not ? Think back, it was the weekend Cascade was in nick alongside the Appendix.

There has been quite a few Cold Climbs ticks being done in North Wales of late. Well here we are folks, another classic tick, Trojan and its in stonking nick, sorry, I should say was ! on Feb 8th

Trojan is to be found on Cader Idris on the north face of Cyfrwy. First climbed in summer in 1974, its first winter ascent was in 1979. J Codling, J.A.Summer and G Kirkham claiming the prize and what a prize it was. Imagine being back in the 70,s, without all your modern kit and finding yourself standing at the bottom of 300ft of ice. Not any ice, but a splendid line and un climbed.

"Trojan is a slabby 300ft corner rising from the back of a small amphithere. Its streak of near perpendicular ice beckons siren-like and sinous, calling to every ice man worth of the name to come and climb"

"The purity of the line, continous ice and exposure made it feel better than on the Curtain or Hadrian's Wall on the Ben. It had something of the feel of Zero Gully about it, except it was harder"

With a description like this ( taken from Cold Climbs ) its more than enough to get one pysched. But for many, they have never heard of it or do not consider it as its not associated with the Ogwen and Snowdon areas. Well your missing a beauty, but the Ed Brothers did not. They claimed the prize and if I was them, a smug prize it was, To add salt to our wounds it was in great nick, but for Dave Evans and Pete Harrison, minus me as work was calling, it was not to be. They made a last minuite dash, filled with hope, the following Friday and it was a day to late.

The route can form with a reasonable frost and does not need any snow to make it climbable. So keep your eyes on the ball and it could be you on the photos one day with another tick in the bag.

I leave you photos of Ed Booth and Adam Booth, AKA 'the Boothy Brothers'! from the 8/2/2009. Seems their choose of venue and route paid off that day. Nice one Lads, envy of many no doubt. This is one that got away for me. It was planned but any plan needs action.

See you next week with more updates.


Friday, 13 February 2009

Sad Day For All - Its Over Folks

This recent, superb spell of winter climbing in North Wales, I do believe, is over. It went truly warm yesterday and this morning it was all very claggy, damp and very warm. This news will shock and stun many people as over the last few weeks we have had it so good. Just last Sunday, Si Panton ( of Ground Up ) and I were discussing what to do. We had so much choice, this was not something we were used to.

The buzz and atmosphere, here in North Wales, has been unlike anything I have experienced before in winter. There is going to be an empty gap, lost souls wandering the high street in llanberis, hanging out in V12, drowning their sorrows with coffee and having to go back to a normal life.

This has been, one hell of a period, for the winter climbing scene in North Wales. The variety of routes in nick, the quality of routes climbed, the mass of new and exciting routes claimed, second ascents achieved, falls taken, and big guns in town.

But fear not, winter will be back, we have not seen the last, so keep that gear to hand and be coiled ready for the next hit.

To help pass those long lonely dark days and nights, the blog will not come to an end. I will input a variety of posts to help keep you remain focused, motivated and entertained until next time.

Thanks for all the info, pictures and support overt the last month,

Keep the faith

I leave you, with what I think was the the most impressive piece of action this winter in North Wales.

Blenderhead on Clogwyn Ddu.

Unclimbed since 1998, with only 2 ascents, One by Paul Pritchard, 1996, 1 point of aid and one by Nick Dixon, 1998, free, graded VII-7 possibly harder, maybe VIII-8. Early this season with the crag well rimed up and going into slightly unknown territory Rocio Siemens decides to give it a shot.

We have all by now, heard of the 40 footer she took as her axe popped as she was about to clip a piece of pro. Only slightly phased! she went back up for another go ! this time taking a line slightly more to the right, which yields more pro. Getting further this time and upto what she thought was the crux, she called it a day and we abbed off.

Two ascents came quickly by some handy teams and both the leaders fell of the crux, one having to resort to aid, the other being lowered down, runners in place then re-ascending. It was not until the 3rd ascent by Ian Parnell that it went truly free and the grade settled at VII-8

Nice one Rocio

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Spoke to a friend of mine who had been in Idwal this afternoon. He supplied some pics (see below) to give an idea of conditions. Based on this, I went up this evening after work to tick a few routes I had not climbed before.

I soloed, Sting Ray IV (Left of the Sting), Devils Kitchen IV, Coldhouse Crack III and got half way up Grecian IV before going into reverse thrusters, as the Pillar seemed very hollow ! There were quite a few head torches in the cwm when I left.

Whilst on these routes I came across many teams. In particular Jon and Vernon from Ashby-de-la-Zouch and the 3 musketeers ( Thats what they called themselves ) Thanks for all of you being as polite to let me through. Whilst talking to these teams it was apparent they had come from all over. One of the musketeers had traveled from Chichester this morning, nearly a 7-hour journey each way for a day out ! He had even hired axes from Peglers Outdoors. With this commitment I would let him have them for free Dave !

Freezing level was above the crag when I left and it was raining. There is a thaw on, but as there is a lot of ice on many routes, these are currently holding out quite good. Forecast is coldish this evening and maybe Saturday then temps above the summits.

Vernon Bayliss on Devils Kitchen IV ( quite Poky for the grade today ) . He was on a day trip with Jon both from Ashby de la Zouch

The 3 Musketeers

Idwal this afternoon

Devils Appendix this afternoon( Climber on first pitch near bottom )

The Sting, Sting Ray and Devils Cellar this afternoon

The Ramp and Screen this afternoon

Berwyn had a very quick trip up Central Trinity this morning - just before the weather came in. Conditions were great with near perfect neve on the upper section of the route. I was surprised to see so little snow in the other classic lines though as I had hoped to climb Right Hand Trinity or Great Gully but these proved to be a bit too lean to solo.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sheffield Big Guns In Town

Why would you go anywhere else other than Scotland. My friend Rob Jonson posted these words on his blog yesterday. Oh Rob I think you got it wrong. YOU WOULD GO TO NORTH WALES old boy !!! as its the happening place

Yesterday ( Mon 9th ) I visited the Black Ladders with Ian Parnell and Dave Evans. Since I was a lad, well a old lad at Uni, I had heard of the legendary routes Chris Parkin had put up with the likes of Lew Hardy and Dia Lampard in the mid 90,s on the Ladders. These mystic routes have had an alure surrounding them over time, as both Chris and Dia have a reputation for being handy and not afraid of knarly ground and long runouts with anything harder than V being just VI. These routes are only now becoming known as info is avaialble.

On my first visit to the Ladders in 95, I climbed Western Gully my first grade V and got a taste for classic Welsh grade V. Now I was back with a secret weapon in Ian. Most of Chris's routes have not received a second ascent to date and Ian was keen to get one done. He chose, The Scott Report, this being possibly the hardest of Chris's routes on the Ladders. After our ascent, this came in at VII-7/8 with a fine steady lead by Ian on the hard pitches. Read the full report on Ians Blog

Ian going over the first of 4 overhangs on pitch 1

Ian having just finishing crux which is on pitch one

The route had 2 main pitches, followed by an easier pitch, then up easy snow / rocks to top. On the walk out it was a lot warmer of late, with a thaw at lower levels.

With Ian making his second visit to North Wales this year ( previoulsy El Mancho and second full free ascent of Bledderhead VII-8 ) and Rich Cross and Andy Cave also visiting last week ( see below ) its really good to see these guys giving North Wales a shot . Its also great for the scene and if conditions continue I am sure they will come up with other goods here.

Over last weekend, I was keen to repeat Back in Black, on Equator Walls, in the Pass, which Pete Harrison and Megan Beaumont had put up on the 6th Jan 09 . There seemed more ice on it than when Pete climbed it. We climbed the route in 2 pitches, instead of 4 pitches which Pete did. Ist pitch at IV and the second pitch ( 55ms) at VI-6. Pete graded it at VII-7 but thats winter, the grades change depending on conditions. This second pitch provided really good, continually absorbing and interesting climbing, first on ice, then mixed, then turf, keeps coming all the way to the belay. Top find by Pete and think how many years this has been waiting to be climbed ?

Me on crux second pitch of Back in Black

Earlier the same day, Tim Blakemore, Tasmin Gay and myself managed to grab a rare ascent of Chequered Wall. This gave a pitch of IV-V to the first belay , then a good long 35-40m second pitch of steep, sustained ice, a little fragile at times at VI-6, with the last pitch being III-IV

Tasmin on first Pitch of Chequered Wall

Tim on second pitch of Chequered Wall

Tasmin on second pitch

Western Gully on the Ladders has seen many ascents since last Friday. This classic grade V Cold Climbs tick has lived up to its reputation. With the legendary Dave Walsh shown on one of its crux pitches in Cold Climbs, this routes provides it all. Dave Evans message on my phone tonight sums this route up. Best route, ever, just awesome, what such good climbing, its great all the way to the top, every pitch is ace, I would get on it with comments such as this. Also Dave and Pete Harrison climbed a direct pitch up from the first cave - missing out the original pitch 3&4 traverseout right, up and back into the gully. It's a superbpitch worth 3 stars by itself and is the natural line. It finishes at the big cave before the crux slab. Chris Ayres first did it. Dave gave more words of praise saying, everything you need in a pitch of mixed climbing and more, its a classic.

Whilst on the subject of the ladders, Chris Parkin himself has been out along with Steve Long ( Chief Officer of MLTUK ) They were trying a new line see Steves Blog for more.

Last Wednesday ( 4th Feb ) Rich Cross of Alpine Guides and Andy Cave ventured up into Cwm Lloer to climb on Craig Lloer. They climbed 3 nice routes, North Arete, 75m- III -IV. This Follows the buttress crest as closely as poss in 2 pitches. Moonrise Direct 35m. VI-7 ish ? This Follow Moonrise to its traverse left, then direct finish up short overhanging wall into an awkward final groove. Great climbing including a wide can opener crack, then tricky moves above a ledge to get into the finishing groove - there’s gear for this bit, but strenuous to place. Finally, First Trinity Groove (with RH variation at the top, into the last pitch on Second Trinity Groove). 80m. IV, 4. Excellent turf lined groove with spaced pro on first pitch. Belay after 45m on rib right of groove. Second pitch up a fun turfy grove and chimney.

Rich Cross on Moonrise Direct - Photo by Andy Cave

Cascade has had numerous ascents over the weekend.

Climber on second pitch of Cascade

Pete Holden and Matt Sutton also did Western Gully today ( Tues) reporting good conditions. Also saying that Icefall Gully and Pyramid Gully on the Ladders also look in magnificent condition..Icefall especially which is very fat and almost a single pillar of ice.. Of further note Pete did Devils Staircase on Sat with Chris Woodall and Dave Richards, which he described at the top end of its grade perhaps even six in the upper sections. This was having completed a solo tour de force of South Gully, the Ramp, The Screen and Devils Cellar as a warm up!

Jo Henderson climbed the Devils Kitchen today ( Tues 10th ). This has not been in good nick for years. Fantastic climb today, very atmospheric but seemed to be thawing a bit while we were there unfortunately. Needs to be climbed with care at the base of the route as it's quite fragile at the moment. Saw teams on South Gully and The Screen today also.

Devils Kitchen Tues 10th ( Henderson Collection )

Report from Nic South Gully has certainly formed interestingly. The right hand line was nice and steep with some excellent chandelier / icicle features to negotiate at the top of pitch 2. Mandy and I also climbed Lefthand Icefall gully IV 4 on the Black ladders on Saturday which gave a great day out. The ladders were fairly busy and I'm sure lots of people found the graupel storm interesting that set in during the afternoon. Huge torrents of the stuff flowed down from the open slopes above us, funnelling down the gully burying my arms (and the belay) as we climbed.

Nic on second pitch of South Gully

Well its been a long report, Hope it wet your appetite for the weekend. Lets hope the weather holds out so we all can go and have some.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Just a quick update for now, full report on Tuesday.

Tony Moody sent me this info on Cwm Idwal for Sunday.

Climbed South Gully and Devil's Kitchen. Had done South Gully about 12 years ago and think it has formed much more interestingly this time. It's really very, very good climbing on the main pitch.

Thought Devil's Kitchen gives a brilliant pitch up steep blobs at the moment. It's not possible to exactly follow the g/bk description as the ice out right hasn't formed, so it needs a steep direct approach. More than good value for a IV! Although short I'd say harder than Cascade.

Pretty mobbed up there on the Screen. Devil's Pasture popular too. Didn't see what was happening further L. On walk up saw people heading for the Appendix. So probably got climbed again yesterday, although I noted that the icicle didn't really apper to have touched down!

Also have 1 place left this weekend on grade III/IV ice day. Give me an e mail if your interested.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Best Winter Conditions Since 1996-Major Lines In Nick

Friday I climbed Cascade( V/VI ) in the Pass. Having waited 20 years to climb this Welsh Classic I got my chance. Having drove down the Pass on Friday to check conditions out, I was surprised to see have much ice there was. Game on I thought. I spoke to Si Panton later that day and found out that James Mchaffie and Jack Geldard had made on ascent that day. Thats Fridays plan then.

So Dave Evans, Andy Teasdale and I left the road at 6.00 am Friday morning. I was sure Si would be making it up there also, so I was keen to get there before him and I did. Si arrived an hour later. However this did not really matter.
What a route, the ice was tops, we split it into 3 pitches as to have 1 each. Arriving at the top we were all dead chuffed. Cascade done and its only 10am.

Tim Blakemore and Tasmin did an early ascent of Cascade Saturday morning, saying that it was like a circus after

Me on first Pitch of Cascade Friday morning

Andy Teasdale starting second pitch

Dave Evans setting off on top pitch of Cascade

We then climbed Groove Slab ( IV ) today it was thin and felt harder more like V with little pro on the first 30ms. After this we went over to the Equator Walls area. We went up the Gutter ( Grade 1 ) which is to the left of Face Route and pieced a potential new line together. This being a mixture of ice and turf, Graded IV/V. This we called Costa Del Peris. We then climbed another ice pillar/wall and called this Face Off Grade V. This will have been done before and as it is not recorded anywhere we have named it.

Ice on Equator Walls

Tim Neil checked out the Devils Appendix on Thursday and decided a few more days would see it in, so planned for a early start Saturday morning. This paid off

Tim on the first pitch of Devils Appendix this Saturday morning. Not a bad 3 days for Tim ( see below )

Lou Neil on top pitch of Appendix- Such a cool route, like being on a different planet, but we are only in Idwal were Lou's comments. Maybe only idwa Loul, but it is one of the best ice venues in the UK.

Tim Neil and Toby Keep blasted up to the Black Ladderson Friday to find it plastered in snow, rime and a lot of ice. They climbed Western Gully another true Welsh Classice one of a few routes which had eluded Tim and Toby over the years. They reported good and interesting conditions, not bomber , but who needs that. There were teams on ice Fall Routes on the right hand side of the crag.

Tim has just returned from a v successful trip to Patagonia with Matt Stygle ( see news link ) well, when I say just, I mean Wednesday evening. Having arrived in the midst of the best winter for 12 years he had no time to relax. So it was Idwal on Thursday, the Ladders on Friday and ?? today. Seems like there is no stopping him apart from a JOB !

Tim setting off on Western Gully

Toby looking shocked as Tim mentions the word work

Toby sending the slab pitch on Western Gully. For some this is often the crux, but not this time.

Idwal is in good nick on many routes, rumours are, that Cwm Dlyn is in nick, there is talk of Cwn Silyn being in nick. North Wales is buzzing and awash with enthusiasm.

Seagents Gully looked in great nick today with quite a few parties on that ( see picture below ) Sinister Gully is there up above in the Cwm

Face route is in really good nick, alongside all the ice to the left.

Berwyn was in Idwal on Saturday, he reported good conditions on Introductory Gully as well as great conditions of other routes in the Cwm, Just look at the picture of Idwal, Berwyn sent in, it is tops ( see pics below )

It is brill out there. Conditions have come in really quickly over the last 1-2 weeks, in particular the last 5 days. Crags are covered in snow, there is a lot of ice around and the turf is frozen in many places. Bring it one !

Have a good one

Friday, 6 February 2009

Routes to Consider

Here are some photos of Pistyll Y Llyn from Saturday 10th Jan 09, yes, this year. This does look a very good outing. Its approx 500ft long and gives upto 5 pitches. The left hand branch is III and the righty hand branch maybe a little harder. Its not in the guide, but is located south of Machynlleth and can be seen from road SE of Glaspwll.

Tim Sparrow apparently did the first ascent of the right hand line over 20 years ago.

Shown below are photos of the falls. Thanks for Gary Morgan and Rob Watt, who is who on the pictures I am not sure.

Back to Cwm Idwal. There is a line( which is not in the guide ) to the left of the Sting. However, it must have been done before. It gives a good pitch of 4-5 and has rock gear near the top. Thanks for Rory for the pictures ( 9th Jan 09 )

Picture of where this line is to be found

Thursday, 5 February 2009

It is getting good and I am told not to forget Scotland !

Conditions are really starting to shape up. With the forecast being good and cold until end of next week then I would try and get out as much as you can. If your wondering in regards to the weekend then try and get to North Wales.

Just in from Big Tim, Chicane Gully and South Gully in Idwal are in good nick. Also Geoff did Face Route last night.

Keep posting the comments folks as its a great resource for all.


In addition to this, some friends of mine who are up north for the season, sent me an e mail telling me not to forget that winter also exists up north, having recentley climbed 2 of Scotlands top ticks. These should help wet the appetite.

Lee Roberts on Stirling Bridge Annoch Mor

Route Two on the Ben

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Llech Ddu Hit

Today was a great day in North Wales, clear blue skies and no wind, a complete change to yesterday. Pete and I went on a visit to Llech Ddu. We found windslab on small lee slopes at this level 600m, nothing to worry about here, but highlights that pockets could exist higher up.

A strange noise was heard on walk in !

We climbed a new route V-5/6 , 2 pitches, 30m and 40m. This is just to the right of Lota and made most of the turf around. The first pitch had a small tricky rock section, with the second pitch providing the best climbing on blobs of turf. This route would would be easier with some neve.

Pete on the second pitch of the new route

Next we did the first winter ascent of Corridor Gully - we think ? The line in the guide we feel is in the wrong place and the description is not great. Anyway this proved a really good route with a small overhang to pass. 50m IV-6.

Pete on top section of Corridor Gully

Next we climbed another new route, starting up the first section of Far East Chimney then going direct up the corner. The corner was on thin turf and had v little gear. V-4. This would be less serious with neve in the corner

Finally we took time out to look at the Black Ladders In Its Glory

Hi baggy,

We did sergeants gully yesterday due to a possible threat of possible wind slab on other routes. The ice was thin in places, as expected with a covering of powder snow. The gully needs a good couple of nights of freezing to be properly formed, so at the moment its do able but thin in places. water in some parts just underneath the ice, so care is required.

Cheers Big Andy Jones

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Potential - AVALANCHE - Threat

Report from Nic

Climbed the ever popular Clogwyn Left Hand branch today with my mate Mark . The crux pitch was thinnly iced and tricky negotiating what felt like an overhung few feet but manageable with protection in the corner and a bit of mixed before moving left beneath the small overhang. We finished normally up the righthand narrowing, my axes thumping nicely into the bomber Neve of the upper slope. Top route, it's not all about Scotland after all!

Also, there is avalanche debris at the bottom of Hidden Gully but can't confirm if it was the cornice, i suspect so.

Cheers Nic Sharp

This report off Nick came after I posted my report below, so this just backs up the potential

Avalanches in North wales. A very rare situation in North Wales you may think. However, we need to consider all this fresh snow , with it now lying on that bullet hard neve I think we should be careful for the next few days at least. This thought of mine is backed up by ;

Report form a friend of mine

Went into Cwm Llafar from Bethesda today to look at conditions on the Black Ladders, I was thinking of climbing there tomorrow but it's not a good place to be right now. There's a significant ammount of snow available for transport today. The winds were strong and from the south and all south facing slopes where I was were being scored to the grass whilst the north sides were obviously getting heavily loaded. Just from digging around on some small lee slopes I was finding up to 30cm windslabs developing.

For the next 24 hours I wouldn't be going near anything that's both north facing and exposed to snow slopes either above or below. So Black Ladders, back wall of Cwm Cneifion (corner gully - hidden gully), Cwm Glas and maybe Trinity Face and anywhere else that fits the description. Plenty of other stuff in condition anyway.

Also whilst chatting to another friend of mine, he is of the same opinion . Good chance of avalanche high up on certain aspects,need to be careful.

Play Safe Folks

Monday, 2 February 2009

Its all going off

"Its all going off" an enthusiastic Dave Evans told me on the phone tonight. He had been out today and climbed Pasrley Fern, Central Trinity, then onto Hidden Gully on the Glyders, needed some fitness apparently.

Its all going off. Yep thats the deal and with it has come the best winter since 1995. The Park was topped up with a great dump of snow today, which is down to sea level. Given the forecast this could be the beginning of a top period of winter climbing.

In addition to this, lots of reports coming in from Sunday

Went up to Cwm Cneifion yesterday (Sun 1st Feb), did Clogwyn Ddu right hand. Good nick but not as iron hard neve as lower down in the cwm surprisingly! Good enough to romp up though! Had the crag to myself on a beautiful winter's to remember. Catch you on the crags. Jamie Barclay

Paul Walley reports in ;

Hi Baggy, Just to let you know me and a mate were up in cwm glas today and did sinister gully. The ice is formed on the ice pitch, although its a bit thin. Climbable though. Bomber neve everywhere. We came down parsley fern and the cornice at the top seems to be stable.

Si Panton let me know that Dafydd Davis was also on Snowdon the weekend, climbed Cave Gully, Couillour, and Ladies Gully.
today he bagged an ice fall on Craig yr Oen in the Moelwyns.

Finally it is very sad to hear that two climbers died on Snowdon yesterday. I offer condolences to the families involved from myself and on behalf all the visitors to this blog.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

All snow is top Neve

After a thaw last Wed/Thurs all the old wet snow has been transformed into super neve as temps have dropped. Any ribbon of snow could be climbed with ease with crampons on.

Today I visited the Trinity Face on Snowdon. Iwan had never worn crampons before and was keen to get on the snowpack. We started off in the bowl below the Trinty Face getting used to crampons and doing some skills. We then went and did Central Trinity ( grade 1 ). This was in ace nick with bone hard neve under foot all the way. In addition to this, there was small section which was a thin ribbon of ice which Iwan had no problems with. Topping out was a bit blowy though.

Iwan half way up Central Trinity and under flase impressions that Wales is always this good !

Main area of Trinity Face. Central Trinity is the R-Hand of the two obvious snow gullies which lead out from the snow bay which is sort of in the middle of the picture.

On the way back into the cwm we came across a small snow hole on the side of the train track. Snowholes on Snowdon a new one on me !

I bumped into a few friends, Ken Priest and Pete they reported great conditions on Right Hand Trinity ( II-III ) with v good neve and bomber turf. They said the gully was not stacked with snow/ice but this made it more interesting.

Ken ( enjoying his mighty flapjack ! ) and Pete, after topping out on Right Hand Trinity. Just look at the views behind them.

Unknown climbers on Right Hand Trinity, before final tricky section

A great day out for any climber on the hill and with the forecast looking good, things can only really improve. Get on the sick.