I arrived at the bunkhouse in Lanfairfechan for the weekend not knowing quite what to expect. There were a couple of familiar faces but otherwise just a handful of random friendly mountain bikers. I hadn’t taken a bike so was planning on walking - or climbing, should someone willing to show me the ropes (literally!). As it happened that person was Matt. Full of enthusiasm he seemed more than willing to take myself and Fiona, both comparative beginners but with a little climbing experience in my case and a little more in Fiona’s case, on an ascent of Tryfan by the Grooved Arête.
Matt had briefly explained what this involved. For anyone who doesn’t know Grooved Arête is a multi-pitch rock climb. Graded Hard V Diff it climbs 700ft over 7-8 pitches. In my eagerness, I thought “Yes, I can do that!” without having time to worry about all the implications and allowing myself to be overcome with self-doubt! As it turned out, I could not only do it, but thoroughly enjoy myself in the process.
We were late setting off and by the time we had parked and walked up to Heather Terrace and located the start of the route it was midday. Undaunted, the sun was shining, there was no wind and no rain. We had small backpacks to carry our walking boots etc (although I confess Matt had to carry one of my boots as it wouldn’t fit in!). Matt led swiftly and using 2 ropes Fiona and myself tied on and proceeded to follow one at a time. The climbing itself was no harder than I was used to, but the higher I got the more exposed I felt, as the ground looked an awfully long way down. There were a few tricky bits where I thought I was stuck but a few deep breaths and I just applied myself to the job in hand. Having complete confidence in Matt was essential at his point. I’m not sure I followed the exact route but it seemed to work! There is a famous section called the Knights move, presumably because it involves a diagonal move followed by a short traverse over a very exposed slab. I think if I’d had the choice I’d have decided to give it a miss! But as we had to get up before we could come down I had to just do it. I think Fiona following felt the same way. Hoping for a nice rest did not happen as we were now on a small ledge attached by a hanging belay. I think it was about this point that I told Matt that I’d never done a multi-pitch climb before! Unfazed we carried on eventually reaching the top just as the mist came down and the light was beginning to fade.
We now had to get off the mountain. A scramble over rocks in order to pick up a faint path was followed by using compass bearings in torch light. The mist was still down and the cloudiness meant there was no natural light at all. It was a weird even slightly creepy feeling of isolation as we picked our way downhill. Following Matt’s chatter was very reassuring and meant we could follow the voice and still watch our footing. I was glad I wasn’t alone as my skills can just about manage daylight navigation but nothing like this. Matt’s navigation however was excellent and we were all pleased and relieved when headlights on the main road became visible in the distance. I’m sure Matt would have come down much quicker on his own but he never complained or nagged us to hurry up.
The three of us returned safely to the car and bunkhouse well pleased with our adventure. Thanks again to Matt for leading and getting us all safely down and to Fiona for the company and moral support.
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