What do you fancy doing ? - your choice!

What do you fancy doing ? - your choice!
The few days climbing described here were a bit of a revelation to me. In the past I’ve either been winter climbing or summer rock climbing. The bit in the middle where its too warm for one but too wet and cold for the other has been a bit of a frustration. Not any more “ mountaineering” I’m hooked!

Derek and I had planned to spend a few days winter climbing together in my half term brake immediately after I returned from my school ski trip. ( had I known how much energy 105 kids can suck out of you in seven days , I might have factored in a little more recovery time!) These plans were made in the heady days earlier this month when it looked like winter would go on for ever. Unfortunately the reality of the British maritime climate intervened and I returned from the French Alps to find spring had sprung.

Scotland was now out, as it was 10 degrees in the valleys and the thought of doing point five in lean dripping conditions made the decision an easy one! I phoned Derek to discuss plan B. As always Derek was more than happy for me to have the final decision on where to go. “ what about the lakes “ I said we could do such and such…he listen politely while I made my “final decision”, before we both agreed that “ maybe Wales would be a better option”, not that he had anything in particular in mind you understand!

When do you want to set off? How about Thursday morning? I replied.

Wednesday night we were off and on our way.
We’d call in at Reggie’s and make use of the caravan for the first night, thus removing the need to make a 5am start on the Thursday morning.

5.30 am we were up and away ( no that is an exaggeration, we did, to my surprise manage a leisurely start ) but what would we climb? We did have some unfinished business on the upper section of idwal, a route we were going to do in winter conditions, but it had been too windy. We decided we’d string something together to make a nice “ mountaineering day out” so we headed off to idwal.

It wasn’t winter conditions at all, but it was cold and threatening dampness, so winter clothing and big boots were the order of the day. Ever the optimist I grudgingly left my ice axes and crampons in the car and attempted to hide the 6 ice screws I’d brought so as not to look a complete idiot.

I set off leading up ordinary route on the slabs and soon got into a rhythm. I’d run out about 50m of the 60m rope when Derek suggested we move together on it as it was fairly easy ground and before we knew it we were at the top of the slabs. The next barrier was the Holly tree wall and the easiest way up Lazarus S 4a. Derek almost demanded the lead eager to get his teeth into something “Meaty”. Meaty it certainly was and I could be heard to remark as much ( in not so many words) as I followed him up, my hands now having lost all feeling in the cold. ( I’d climbed it once before with Mark Rothwell and remembered it being tough in rock boots!)

The gauntlet had now been thrown down. I picked it up and eyed up the next obstacle - Groove Above 4b - made a few half hearted attempts at the “ desperate start” and promptly threw the gauntlet back down…where it stayed!

Sanity having now prevailed I moved left, tail between my legs to lead “ the Arete - VD “ which turned out to be a lovely pitch, though it did begin to get a bit bold for my liking towards its end.

We now scrambled off right in search of the main prize , Central Arête a 600 ft VD. However just as we thought we’d found the bottom of the route the clag rolled in and it began to rain. After some lunch inside the survival shelter a peek outside revealed things had gone from bad to worse and we bit the bullet and descended to the comfort of Pete’s Eats for a big mug of tea and an early dinner.

Day 2

After only getting a total of 2 hours sleep, Derek took a little longer than usual getting his kit ready for the day ahead. For once it wasn’t my snoring which was to blame but the result was the same. A night spent in the kitchen of the Pete’s Eats bunkhouse, mattress on the floor and a light with an overly sensitive motion detector! Derek was not a happy bunny at breakfast!

The night before we had decided where to go the next day. It was to be my choice and after a bit of research I thought it would be nice to go up into Cwm Cneifion and do Sub - Cneifion Arête and continue on to do Cneifion Arête itself afterwards…we had a plan.

Next morning found us up bright and early and walking in to do Groove Arête on the East face of Tryfan with the added bonus of a quick trip up little try fan to warm up….something Derek had been thinking of doing for a while!!

We arrived at the base of little Tryfan still a little jaded from the poor nights sleep. “ How about we just solo this scramble up the edge of the slab” suggested Derek. Before I could select one from the many “ why that might not be a good idea” that were battling for space in my thoughts, he was off and the only option which seemed to remain was to follow and not slip!
About ¾ of the way up I could tell that some of those “ why this might not be a good idea” thoughts were now competing for space in Derek’s head, as the “scramble” unsurprisingly turned into a climb.

Suitably exhilarated and now wide awake we headed up to Grooved Arête. The climb itself was fantastic and doing it in big winter boots and heavy sacks just added to the experience. Some of these easier graded climbs I’d passed over and never gone back to as I moved up the grades, but to go back and do them in a “mountaineering style” was great.

The day ended sat below Adam and Eve on the summit with fantastic views and in great company .
Derek complimented me on such a fine choice of route.

That night we didn’t have to stumble far as we stayed in the bunkhouse at the farm below Tryfan. ( an excellent clean and warm place - highly recommended)

Next day was a unanimous decision. We’d put the big boots away, don the sticky rubber and go and do something hard in Llanberis.

The morning was very cold and the wind had picked up as we made the short walk up to Milestone buttress in our big boots and winter gloves!

“ This looks like a fantastic line”

It looks bloody desperate, I thought , but I offered to lead because at least I could see how desperate this was…god knows what was round the corner.

Direct Route VD ( polished as hell & inadequate runners! - authors note)

For once in a very long time that little voice warning me that there was a very real possibility of things going pear shaped was listened to and I backed off the pitch from about half way up. Derek then made it look easy and I went on to follow with that little voice having been silenced by the rope going up rather than down!

Each pitch was as good as the last and the crux lived up to its name. The only time I haven’t carried my camera for months meant I missed a once in a lifetime shot of Derek jammed in what can only be described as an “ off width” crack, head down with feet kicking in the air…muffed sounds of distress coming from the back of the crack.
Once I’d composed myself again and got him back on belay he lead the rest of the pitch it fine mountaineering style circa 1922 ( ie. Before the development of concepts like style and ethics!)

The traditional handshake on the top and a quick abseil down our single 8.5 mm rope ( a detail I’d forgotten to mention, we’d climbed all week on a single half rope which just added to that pre war feel - the leader never falls!!!) and we were down at the bottom both having had our fill and happy to do a bit of retail therapy in Betws y Coed on the way home.

A fine , memorable few days which just go to show just getting out, is what its all about.


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Comment by Rick Riding on March 1, 2009 at 20:55

I admit I may have added or omitted certain facts for the sake of entertainment value, but I can honestly say our little outing has inspired me to get out and just enjoy the mountains again, guaranteeing there will be many more. We might have to put up with each other for a while yet.


Comment by Derek Kenyon on March 1, 2009 at 20:25
Well said Rick

I had to wipe the tears from my eyes when I read your report, If I said it was a tad exaggerated would any one beleave me anyway!

I was reading one of the old journals about climbing in Ogwn, first assents etc. It reminded my just how soft we are with our fancy kit and guide books. Those early pioneers had next to now't and climb in all weathers. I feel humble to follow in those climbers and remind myself that mountaineering covers all season.

Will this article inspire or put members off only time will tell.

May there be many more

Thanks for putting up with me.

Kind regards



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