Best Limestone Scramble in North Wales

TerryJamesWalker.com
Standard

Travelling East on the A55, I’ve always looked at the curving arete of ‘Penmaen Ridge’, and wanted to scramble/climb it.  Below and around the line, there is lots of scree which has always put me off thinking it would be chossy and loose.  I checked it out on ukclimbing, as the route is not in any of the guidebooks I own, and many people recommend it, saying the rock is solid.

Well, on my way to Oxford yesterday, Jacqui and I did the route, and it was fantastic.  Here is a bunch of photos showing the way and the ridge itself.  Enjoy.  T

Scrambling Penmaen RidgeWe parked on Old Mill Road, opposite Ger-Y-Glyn SH741769.  There you cross a small river and head to the end of the houses to follow a footpath into the forest.

Scrambling dwygyfylchiGo up some steps, probably hidden by the summer overgrowth, and follow the path to an awesome rope swing in a tree that’s been rigged up with fairy lights.

climb footpath

 

Rope SwingDon’t gain too much height, as the route starts at SH743780, which is pretty much sea level, at the end corner of the camping field, through a gate and about 150m on the right.

Penmaen Ridge StartAfter 10m of scrambling, you are on the ridge proper and can enjoy the exposure of both side falling away from you.

Penmaen RIdge Scrambling

There are a couple of tricky steps along the way.  You definitely need 3 points of contact for these, and it’s worth checking each of the important holds to see if they’re loose before committing all of your weight to them.  I didn’t find anything too loose, but I’m sure there is if you search around, or are just very unlucky.

Penmaen Face ScrambleThe views in both directions are excellent.  The noise from the road is a bit annoying, but with such a short walk in, you can’t have the solitude of a full on mountain day.

Top of PenmaenFrom the top of the scramble, you can continue up grass, heather and gorse until on the top plateau, heading South-West there is a stone walled area that forms part of the farm… Travelling South along this wall, you will find yourself on the North Wales Path, which leads back to Dwygyfylchi.

TerryJamesWalker.comIf you’re interested in guided grade 1 Scrambles, or want to get involved and learn the ropes for higher graded ones, then check out my website at Terry James Walker

New Bolt in Belay of Solstice and Equinox

Standard

Last night I attended a Bolting Workshop at Bus Stop Quarry, delivered by Chris Parkin.  As part of remaining current and striving to improve our knowledge technically and professionally, us members of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), register a certain number of days CPD (continual professional development) per year.  Last nights workshop will count towards 0.5 of a point towards those CPD required.

AMI Bolting Workshop

Chris demonstrating the placement of a stainless steel expansion bolt and hanger

Firstly we talked through the professional ethics and law to do with having a good understanding of bolts and their quality… If a bad one were to fail and an instructor’s client injured, there may be a case for negligence.

Then Chris drilled and put in a 10mm stainless steel expansion bolt, nut and petzl hanger.  Rated to about 25kn, we tested it to 10kn (1 tonne), and it held totally fine.  Should a bolt like this receive excessive use over 5 years in a softish rock like the Slate Quarries, then it may start to wobble and move around.  Recent testing by Mark Reeves showed bolts in this category still hold to about 1kn outward pull.  Which isn’t in my opinion overly dangerous as was reported by BMC etc, but I certainly wouldn’t be top roping groups of clients on those bolts.

He then placed an alternative which is a 6mm rod hanger, held in by resin.  It was a hot day, and after less than 1 hour, the bolt tested to 5kn of outward force (6-7 climbers all hanging directly outwards from it, and it would hold)  These bolts are believed to be slightly more suited to the slate, as long as they are not constantly being loaded sideways to create twisting.  The correct placement by the person doing the drilling and glueing is therefore extremely important.

Bolting Slate

Old bolt circled, New bolt with arrow.

I then asked Chris’ opinion of the single bolt belay that exists above Solstice and Equinox (used last weekend).  It is an 8mm bolt with hanger, the bolt sits inside a barrel in the rock… Both the bolt and barrel looked to be heavily corroded.  There is a sling placement around a big bolder to the right that forms the main part of my belay, but it would be tragic for the bolt to not be backed up by a climber and failure to happen.

So, Liam and Konrad were properly keen to get the drill going and resin in a new bolt for practise and to work the new skills we’d just seen.

There is now a new 6mm resin bolt directed towards the climb which should be good for 20 years at least, and would probably hold 30kn directionally (2 ford fiestas).  Considering the traffic these routes get, I think this new bolt is a good thing.  Shame about some of the old bolts which are there, I think the hangers were taken from them for no good reason (that I know of).

Think I’ll go and have a look at the ‘Gnat Attack’ belay next.  Safe Climbing people.  T

2 day Trad Climbing skills for Alpine Trips

Standard

This weekend, I had the joy of working with Ashok, whom like Geoff from the week before, also has a trip up Mont Blanc planned for August.

The Aims of the course were to take an indoor climber and teach all the necessary skills to be a competent trad climber, skills that will definitely help in the Alpine climbing.

Day one saw some of the worst weather of the whole summer so far, so we immediately retreated to the Beacon climbing centre.  Teaching people indoors, although not as pleasant, is far better set up for understanding the systems.  I’ve never seen an introductory Rope Access course taking place on an oil rig in the North sea!  Yet we strive as hard as possible to teach climbing techniques and skills outdoors where the gear placements and the belays are often awkward.  Well, it is definitely easier to teach some stuff indoors, such as abseiling and all the different methods of attaching oneself to a belay:

2 bits of gear, sling clipped to both, big overhand knot in the sling, clove hitch rope from harness to carabiner on the sling.

2 bits of gear, clove hitch the 2 ropes from harness to each individually

2 bits, run each rope through a carabiner on those bits of gear, then back to a clove hitch on HMS carabiner on harness.

These methods obviously all work for 3 pieces of gear in the rock (or trees etc), with slings, single rope or half ropes.

Beacon Climbing Centre

A keen young audience watching on whilst I was teaching

After talking through and then practising all of these methods, and looking at each of the nuts, hexes, cams and sling placements (The Beacon centre has holds that are designed to take nuts/cams and show this), we did a bit of abseiling in prep for the next day.

Come 3 o’clock the weather had dried up for about 30 minutes. The wind was blowing a breeze from the SW, so with a bit of local knowledge, I thought we could try Bus Stop quarry for a quick hit, and put into practise some of the things we’d seen indoors all day.

Bus Stop Quarry Climbing

Equinox or Solstice at Bus Stop, I can never remember which?

After a route and a half, the rain came again to call an end to a intense learning day.

Sunday, we visited V12 Outdoor shop, where I gave Ashok a 15% off voucher as my client, because I am a member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), so he bought a few sets of nuts and a rope.  Then we headed straight to Cwm Idwal Slabs.

I’ve never really seen the slabs that busy, there were a large contingent from the Peak Climbing Club, two groups from the Aylesbury Climbing Club, another MIA and her two clients and a group in front of me climbing as a 4 (very inefficiently and dangerously too).

We shot up the slabs on the right of the Charity crack, to sort of devise our own route and stay out of everyone’s way.  I placed about 15 runners on each pitch to show as many combinations of trad gear placement as possible, and get some of the shine off Ashok’s new kit for him 😉

Idwal Slabs Rock Climbing

Belay #3 on Charity, Idwal Slabs

After a few pitches, and letting Ashok build belays when he arrived below my belays, I was confident in his ability to determine the difference between a 2/5 marginal placement and a bomber 5/5, and also knew he is a very switched on guy.  Above is the photo of us switching gear and alternating the Lead for Ashok’s first go on the ‘sharp end’ of the rope.  The weather started to come in, with thick cloud rolling over the Glyders onto the slabs.

Lead Climbing Course

Ashok Leading up the final pitch

Once at the top, I thought we’d try a quick 2 pitch route on the Holly Tree Wall… “Original Route“, first done in 1918 which was a massive massive effort back then… The foot hold that you have to use to do the hard moves has been used by just about every person to ever do the route… it is very very polished and slippery!  The rain from the previous days didn’t help either.  Once Ashok arrived at the belay, having done the hardest move of the weekend, we left a bit of gear behind and abseiled down so as not to miss his train.  I then short roped us off the slabs and down the scramble back to the bags.

After a very fast pint of cider in the Fat Cat, I dropped Ashok off at the station, and will hopefully see him again later in the Summer and possibly in the Alps for some skiing.  T

Mont Blanc Preparation Course

Tryfan East Face
Standard

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company that run Mont Blanc trips out of Chamonix.  They generally run a 7 day alpine climbing introduction, which ends in the summiting of Mont Blanc.  One of their potential clients was unsure whether he was fit enough and skilled enough to make the most of the trip in late August or whether to wait a year and put some more time in.  I agreed to take him out and assess his skills and fitness against that required to climb a 4000m European peak, on the basis and experience I have from this Alpine Climbing Course.

After a few phone calls to Geoff, to organise kit and accommodation, we met up in the Bryn Trych the night before to plan a big day out.  As Geoff had not visited Snowdonia before, I wanted to link up a big day involving Llechog or Clogwyn y Person Arete to try and get a summit of Snowdon involved, maybe with Lliwedd etc.  As hard as I tried I couldn’t think of anything on the Snowdon Massif that could compete with a scrambling day in the Glyderau.  (Let me know if you can think of anything)

East Face Tryfan

Nor Nor Buttress grade 2/3, East Face Tryfan

So we met 8.45 in the Siabod Cafe for a quick panad, before embarking on the day.  Starting from Gwern Gof ….. (the one below Tryfan) … we smashed it up to the Heather Terrace on the East Face in about 45 minutes.  Geoff keen to show his fitness, and me keen not to lag behind!  But it showed it’s toll when Geoff ran out of water before we started the first scramble…!  Nor Nor Buttress variant.

I led each pitch with a focus on fast movement and efficiency rather than education of the rope systems I was using.  With a 50m rope, I body coiled all but about 12m, and made short fast pitches mixed with short roping the less serious sections.  We reached the top junction with the North Ridge at about 11 am.  Went over Tryfan summit, then to the south summit, and down along to the start of Bristly Ridge.

I wanted to find the most challenging route up the ridge, so stayed true to the line straight up and found some very challenging steps.  More than grade 1 for sure.

Bristly Ridge Glyder Fach

Steep sustained gully up Bristly Ridge to Glyder Fach

We topped out from the ridge as the clouds were rolling up and over the plateau of Glyder Fach.  It was like arriving at a 1970’s film set of the Moon landing with a trigger happy dry ice operator.

Glyder Fach

The Moon, I’m mean Glyder Fach

With a quick and irresistible photo on the Cantilever Stone:

Cantilever Stone Glyder Fach

Geology Rocks dude!

We then headed with very little visibility over the top of Glyder Fawr, which is a shame because the views of the Carneddau and Snowdon hills are utterly stunning.  Down the horror show scree slope towards Y Garn, then into Cwm Idwal.

We hit the Idwal cafe for an ice cream at about 4.30pm, a lot of terrain covered and the aim of the course (a bit of rope work and generally walking a long way over mountains fast) was accomplished.

Thanks Geoff for the wonderful day out and great chat along the way.  Don’t go back to work too soon, there are many adventures awaiting you.  Good luck on Monte Bianco. T