Yesterday, a friend asked me if I wanted to go for a climb and although I haven’t done anything on rock for a couple of years, I decided it was time to get out on some; after all, I live in one of the best places in the world to rock climb, so the excuses of “it’s too cold” or “I can’t be bothered standing around at a belay stance” really shouldn’t hold any ground. I’ve been putting it off for too long, since a persistent back injury has often prevented me from doing anything, never mind pulling myself up a rock face. Here is said friend, Alex in obligatory pose.
We drove up to another friend’s house, but he was busy drilling large holes and whilst we watched, busy drilling accidentally into a water pipe. Oops. I guess he wasn’t coming climbing with us then. Initially I wasn’t sure I would either, as I was having a haircut in town and funnily enough, so was my pipe-busting friend. My climbing partner was convinced it was some sort of conspiracy to get us both out of climbing, but ‘having our hair cut’ is akin to, “I’m sorry, I can’t go as I’m washing my hair”; climbers are not known to be big girls, but today we did exhibit slightly girly tendencies.
The weather didn’t look ideal to be honest; it was wonderful first thing, but pretty breezy. The low stratus clouds were being held at bay on the west side of the Glyders, but eventually, they got the better of the mountains, and the cloud poured over the tops into Nant Ffrancon and Cwm Idwal, where we’d be climbing. We faffed about some more before deciding we would go up for a look anyway, despite the little rain that was blowing about in the wind. It looked pretty gloomy in Cwm Idwal from where we stood. That’s the beauty of living here; you can see straight up the valley to the south end of it, so the weather will always show itself to us. It has an amazing micro-climate, as you could drive up to the top in the rain and turn the bend down past Tryfan, and you could be back in the sunshine again; so you’d avoid climbing in one place but be able to do it in another.
After driving up with my friend, we parked in a car park for a minute, did a little ‘rock stroking’ to get a feel for it and decided from there it was a no. So we headed to what’s known as Idwal Cottage car-park, had a look up at Gribin Facet and thought, sod it, let’s just walk up and have a look. So off we went. No rain, just dry and windy. Great, time to get some good climbing in.
Walking up the Llyn Idwal path for a while, we diverted off left over the grass until we reached the lower part of the crag and started to ascend over the thankfully dry boulders. We stopped and stood back now and again just to look at the crag to decide what we were going to climb; we only had time for one really, so made our way to the bottom of Zig-Zags, a route that is graded at Severe, but most people who have climbed it rate it at Hard Severe, according to my friend. I’d reserve judgement until I was on it.
We geared up and decided Alex should lead, as I hadn’t for so long. The first belay was out of the wind and sheltered, a good start. He made his way up the first pitch, only encountering minor difficulties on the first little chimney and further up onto a large, flat (and polished!) boulder. He carried on into another chimney with a little more difficulty, due to it’s thruxy nature; I guess at this grade, you can always rely on some ‘above ground speiliology’. It was quite a squeeze in a fairly exposed spot. He got through it eventually and clambered over the top out of view, until he called that he was ‘Safe’ after setting up the next belay stance. My turn.
The climbing was easy until I reached the second chimney, which was quite a challenge. Alex said I should imagine myself climbing in a tweed jacket, hemp rope and hobnail boots, and I’d get up no problem! It was deep and off-width (meaning it tapered outwards from the inside; narrow at the back, wide at the front). Well, I say ‘wide’. It was possible to force myself into the chimney, but it was so off balance and unnerving as it just wanted to spit you out. I tried to force my left knee further in, as I needed to place my foot on a small chock stone, but it was so hard to do, so awkward. Hand holds were another matter altogether. Again, you couldn’t reach further into the chimney so you had to unnaturally move both arms behind you and up outside the chimney, in an attempt to find purchase. More thruxing and cursing was required, and eventually, I managed to get my right foot on a small lip on the outside of the chimney which I couldn’t see; I had to put faith in this and push off it to get me in a better position. I did it and breathed a sigh of relief. Now I could reach the holds further up, and bridge across the narrow chimney by wedging my feet across it. It was bloody hard! I pulled myself over and out of the chimney. Alex was grinning like a loon at the stance. I climbed up to him, tied myself off, and readied myself to belay Alex up the next pitch. Basically, this went across the top of a wide slab, peppered with quartzite crystal, with another little chimney at the end. I snapped this before Alex started off.
Yet again this chimney provided us with another challenge, but Alex got up it successfully. He disappeared from view and that was the last I heard of him until he pulled the rope through. Again, it was time for me to move on, so I grabbed a shot of the slab section whilst I was safe; the above picture really shows more of how wide it was. You can see the rope disappearing into the chimney at the end.
I dabbed across the slab with ease, and relished the airy position we were now at. This next chimney, despite being a tad smaller in height, still provided me with a challenge, You either love chimnies, or you don’t; there’s no middle ground, a bit like Marmite (which I love). This one required more bridging than anything else, so wasn’t too bad, but if the rock was even remotely damp, it would have been a nightmare. But I got up it and continued up the climb, until I could see Alex, yet again grinning. And why shouldn’t he be? The views we have from here are amazing, and worth struggling up chimnies to get them. Anyway, we’d finished the route now so discussed it a little. I sat down on a rock, with Ffrancon stretching away below me.
Before descending back to our rucksacks down the Climbers Descent, I grabbed three shots for a nice panorama. I applied my usual post-processing Lightroom, then I edited the picture further in Photoshop, increasing the contrast a little and instead of adding the normally warm filter I like to use, I decided to use a cooling blue filter, as I wanted to get across the fact that it was actually very windy and pretty chilly. I purposely left out Pen yr Ole Wen, out of shot to the right, as I wanted the Nant Ffrancon valley to be framed to the right of the shot, with the cloud and Glyders vanishing down on the left. The mountain at the left of shot is Y Garn, at 947 metres. When viewed from the east, it looks like a giant’s armchair. I love it. In the lower-right third of the image, you can just make out a walker, to give an idea of the scale of this beautiful place. I’m really pleased with the final look of this image.
We had a great time on this route as it was challenging in places and also fun. Having climbed it as a second, leading it I would say Zig-Zags classifies as a Hard Severe. But climbing being climbing, everyone’s opinion will differ.
Thanks for reading guys, I hope you enjoyed this post.