Friday, December 31, 2010

Do you fancy going to the Alps this summer?

I am running a small trip to do the Tour De Mont Blanc in August 2011. There are eight spaces on the trip which we will do over eight days so that you can fit it into a weeks holiday. The trek is a world class route that takes in France, Switzerland and Italy and enjoys some wonderful views. If you would like more details then have a look here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ski Touring

Having spent the last 12 days or so with some mystery bug I have been building up to a full day out over the last few days by some short ski tours on the hills behind my house and some extended sledging sessions with the kids. Today I teamed up with my mate Bryn for a short ski tour. We left my car in Llanberis and took his Bongo upto Waunfawr. We skinned up Moel Eilio and then across Foel Gron and Foel Goch and back down to Llanberis. We had some stunning views and it was great to be out again. The main challenge of the day was getting the cars to the car park and back in one piece! The skiing wasn't great as the snow was pretty cruddy today but it was brilliant to be out ski touring here in Snowdonia with coverage as far as the eye could see! Bryn had the best of the powder yesterday on the Glyderau as you can see in his film here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Skills Refresher

It has been snowing heavily here all afternoon so if you are snowed in but still fancy refreshing your winter skills I have uploaded the recent article that I did with Trail magazine. The article looks at the basic winter skills we need to stay safe in the mountains in winter and can be viewed as a PDF here.

Conditions Report

Hey Rob,
Dave, Neil and I went into Cwm Cneifion today. Paths are now ok so wasn't too hard going to get in there. We decided to have a crack at Left Hand in the end. There was plenty of activity round the Cwm with teams on Tower Slabs, El Mancho, Right and Left Hand. The first pitch was thin but took a few stubby screws here and there, gear was a bit sparse (probably got a V). Last main pitch was expansive, ice was pretty brittle, but pleasant sustained III. Top out was baltic, bit of breeze, major windchill, frozen water bottles, etc. Beautiful walk back, sunset then moon rise. Going to have a look at the back of Idwal in the morning, sounds like the Screen may be ok again.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Conditions Report

Hi Rob,
After having some fun on my snowboard yesterday on a hill close to the house I thought I'd try and venture into the mountains today. Was thinking Crib Coch but wasn't sure how easy it was going to be to get to it! Had a plan to go to the park and ride at Nant Peris and get the bus up but after a quick chat with a MR guy and some council guys by the Vaynol the prospect of the buses running seemed slim. The road up to Pen y pass was ok with care however the snow was being blown back into the road in places. The car park was partially cleared at Pen y Pass and with all the huge piles of snow it was reminisent of a scene from an alpine village. The path was easier than I thought with the trail well broken but was still hard work with 1-3 foot of snow at the sides. Once on the approach to the ridge proper alot of the snow had been blown off the rock which made it far easier going and I was beginning to enjoy the scramble. I made it up a couple of hundred metres past the start of the scrambly section and looked down after my foot slipped to find one of my crampons at a funny angle. The front basket had sheared in half, straight through the steel bars. So turned round to descend which was not easy without crampons even though I only had 2-300 metres of scrambling to downclimb. Think in hindsight I would have been better leaving the good crampon on. It was a shame it happened as I think conitions on the ridge would have been enjoyable, but at least it didn't happen halfway along. I was thinking of a little walk along the Pyg track instead but past the style it looked very hard work and I can only imagine that it would only get worse further into the cwm. There were a few folk about with most heading to Crib Goch, I guess to try and avoid the deep snow.
Roads were all ok really, I went via Caernarfon on the way just incase Dieniolen was dodgy, but came back that way and it was fine. Maybe see you out and about this week.

Photos in the snow

I have been for a short ski tour this morning onto the Northern end of the Carneddau. The depth of the snow is incredible, being about knee deep as an average and much deeper in the drifts obviously. The views were beautiful as we have had a stunning blue sky day. I drove over to Llanberis later on and took the following photos along the way. My car showed -6c at Pen Y Pass at lunchtime.
Llanfairfechan and Anglesey 
Wild ponies above Llanfairfechan

The Miners Track from Pen y Pass

The PYG track from Pen y Pass

Looking towards Snowdon from Plas y Brenin

Cwm Idwal

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Took the dog for a walk this morning and did the whole route on skis, woo hoo! (Me that is not the dog!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Its snowing

My house this morning
Well the weathermen weren't wrong, it did snow and it still is! We woke up this morning to a couple of inches of snow here on the North coast. Llanberis has had about a foot of snow and its still coming down. As you can imagine the roads are chaotic, it took me 40 minutes to drive the 8 miles to Bangor this morning and most of the minor roads are impassable. The mountains would be very hard going if you could get to them and with more snow forecast tonight and tomorrow are probably best avoided for a few days. Ah well feet up then!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More of the thaw

I have been out with Andy again today doing some scrambling in Cwm Idwal. The thaw has continued and all of  the low lying snow has now gone. As you can see from the photos some of the main ice lines still have ice in them but they are waterfalls once more and great chunks of ice have been falling all day. I don't know how much snow remains up high as we did not get up to the summits and the clouds were down all day. It is forecast to get colder tomorrow but there is no more snow due yet.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Thaw

I have been joined today by repeat client Andy. The original plan was to do some winter mountaineering over the next couple of days with a winter skills refresher today. The weather had other ideas though. It has been very warm overnight and the freezing level has been above the summits all day. Andy had always wanted to visit the Northern end of the Carneddau and so we decided to do some poor visibility navigation. We got to the summit of Drum at approx. 750m and the snow had all gone at that height except where it had been compressed in the paths or accumulated in drifts. With the weather set to remain warm tomorrow it looks as though all of the superficial snow will disappear but hopefully the main gully lines and summits will retain some which can freeze on Sunday and provide an excellent base for the rest of the season - its early days yet!

18 new routes have been climbed here in North Wales over the last 4 days which just goes to show the enthusiasm and talent that exists and the adventures still to be discovered here in the Park. You can read more details here. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Devils Pasture and The Screen

I have had a day off today and so have been climbing with my friend Rich. Rich is a fellow member of the Llanberis Rescue Team and SARDA Wales. We decided to head into Cwm Idwal and we had good fun climbing The Devils Pasture (III,3) and The Screen (IV,4). On the latter route the ice was better as it was thicker and was nice and squidgy with the rising temperatures we are experiencing today (it was 8 degrees in the car park when we got back down). Both routes were great fun though and Rich promised not to tell anyone that I dropped my axe as I followed him up the top pitch of The Screen. Sincere apologies to anyone below, I had been extolling the virtues of leashless climbing to Rich all morning and the rope flicked my axe as it was placed in the ice above me - bugger! I was relived that the top pitch was easier as I then had to climb it with just one axe. We also had a nosey into the Devils Kitchen but the final steepening was very thin so we decided to save that one for another day. The next couple of days are set to warm up and then its looking cold again for next week - the conditions then should be great.
Rich on the first pitch of Devils Pasture

The Screen

Rich finishing the first pitch of The Screen

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

North Ridge of Tryfan in the Snow

Its been another tough day at the office today! I have been joined by repeat clients Matt and Karolina for a day of winter mountaineering here in Snowdonia. It has been stunning again with blue skies and sunshine, there has been a chill breeze on the tops though. We headed up the North Ridge of Tryfan and had the mountain entirely to ourselves all day. The conditions were great if you followed the well trodden path that has been put in over the last week and avoided the unconsolidated snow either side of it. We refreshed some crampon and axe skills and then refreshed the ropework that we use mountaineering on the upper section of the ridge. Another great day.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Crib Goch in the Snow - what a day!

I have been joined by repeat client Steve today for a day of private guiding to make the most of some of the best early season winter conditions we have had in the last 20 years. Steve had done a winter skills course with me in Scotland last winter and a scrambling course in the summer and today we decided to combine the two and head across Crib Goch. The day was stunning with no wind, no clouds and bright sunshine all day. It was amazing! I will let the photos say the rest! 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Conditions Report

Hi Rob,
Well what can I say, Idwal is rocking at the moment. Teamed up with couple Irish guys, Rory and Mike, and Jonah over the weekend, We did South Gully and the Ramp yesterday which were both in good nick, except bit of melt on lower pitch of South gully.
We made an early start this morning to beat the crowds to the Screen. We were there about 0745 and there was already a couple of teams on the Ramp and maybe Central Route. The Screen is in great condition, lovely ice which was taking long screws. Its a little thin in the last corner before top. Mike and I topped out first and decided to get away from the crowds and go on a bit of a journey over Glyder Fawr to Cwm Cniefion. It was a slog up the slopes in powder snow, deep in places (2-3 foot!). We went down Easy Gully into the Cwm, cornices at top. There was a few teams around Pillar Chimney and Left hand. Left Hand didn't look to have much ice at all in the first pitch, couldn't see the rest of it. We had a look at Right Hand and soloed the first half, then moved together through the rest. It was thin with hardly any ice, but turf was good, but not completely frozen.  Ice doesn't seem to be forming too well in the last 200-300 metres.  Came back down Senior's Ridge occasionally stepping into thigh deep snow. Alot of snow has falled the last few days, just needs a little consolidation. We bumped in to Alec coming down and had a chat, I did a double take at first! Not many pictures today as kinda got carried away with all the climbing but have included one of Cwm Idwal on the descent which says it all. Out again on Wed and Thurs, colder on Tues.

Search Dog Training

I have been search dog training this weekend with SARDA Wales. Skye and I had a good couple of days and made some nice progress. Conditions wise yesterday was pretty warm and consistently wet but it would have been falling as snow on the tops. This morning the roads were lethal with black ice everywhere. The skies have been clear all day and hence the temperatures much lower. Its looking promising for the week ahead!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Ice Climbing in Cwm Idwal

I have had a great day out today with Jim who is on my instructor mentor scheme. We headed into Cwm Idwal to see how the ice was forming and went and climbed South Route (IV 4/5). I had not climbed the route before and Jim had never been ice climbing before which made it all the more enjoyable for both of us. The atmosphere improved still further as we realised the team ahead of us were friends of mine from Sheffield (Dave & John as per the photos below) which made the day very sociable. We climbed the route in 3 long pitches. The first pitch was thin at the top on the easy ground but the main ice was fun and short ice screws could be used to protect it. The main crux second pitch gives some superb climbing with the ice thick enough for screws and squidgy enough to give some satisfying placements. The top pitch of easy ground gave us some lovely views across the wintery landscape of the Park. A great day out in good company, brilliant early season conditions and enjoyable weather too!  I have included photos of the other routes that were being climbed for those keen to get out and enjoy the conditions. 

Dave Barker at the top of the first pitch

Dave on the second pitch

John on the second pitch

Jim finishing the second pitch

Climbers on The Screen and The Ramp

Devils Appendix not yet fully formed but climbers on The Devils Cellar

A frozen Llyn Idwal