The purpose of this blog is to report on winter climbing conditions in Snowdonia, to keep you lot who like nothing better than climbing ice, snow, frozen turf etc in ridiculously low temps informed!! As well as it being a record of some of my own winter climbing adventures. Feel free to email me any of your own conditions reports & photos you have & I will post them here. The more info on winter conditions the better! email:
Sorry for the slow reply but here are some photos from the winter. There're all from the South and in order are Barn Door on Cader and Maesglasau Falls, both taken in that fabulous cold spell in January. The last photo is West Gully on Cader taken in early March, arguably the best conditions of the season.
Thanks for your efforts with your blog, great stuff.
WILL ADD EVERYONES PHOTOS SOON, BLOG PLAYING UP A BIT AT THE MOMENT.
Well, this was my first winter taking the step from winter walking to more vertical things, and I've loved every bit of it. One highlight was having an easy introduction to ice on Cneifion Stream followed by Easy Route in glorious sunshine. That was the day I really learned how exposed easy snow slopes feel when you're 150m up them on bullet hard neve! An ascent of the Fase Gribin and Y Gribin was another great day, in bad visibility and with deep snow down to Ogwen. I think my favourite day came on essentially the last decent weekend. I had a solo exploratory venture up the uncharted North Face of Y Foel Goch (the previously unnamed one near Gallt yr Ogof) on snow and ice, and topped out under beautiful blue skies. The mountain will certainly be worthy of another visit under a decent freeze.
All the people I've bumped into in the cwms have been friendly and talkative, offering advice and tips, and all in all I think I've learned a lot. Roll on winter 2010/11!
I'd just like to thank you for your excellent work this winter in reference to the Andy Mountains website. I have checked the site nearly every day and have found the info extremely useful. Sadly I only got out once this year due to work, badly timed holidays and very unlucky weather!
But thanks again Andy for your persistence and obvious love for the welsh winter climbing, its great to see and hopefully we will get the same winter next year!
It was my first winter climbing this year. I got the kit at Christmas time and was really pleased when you agreed to meet up with me to show me around Sgt's Gully. It was a great first experience and led to a few more days on the ice, memorably at Ogwen, a very busy Idwal Stream, a day on the Glyders, walking up Snowdon after 2ft of powder in a complete white out and meeting other very hopeful people, and a final solo up the side of Snowdon from the pass. Some amazing Alpine weather and some really cold, windy, snowy days too!
I love the ice, and although I'm back to rock climbing now, hope to be able to come up again next year from my new base in Cornwall.
Just saw your request.....difficult to know where to start! Due to the fishing being so poor this year so far I've taken advantage of alot of time off since New Year. Spent more time in the hills than ever before, 10 days in Fort William at start of Jan and a week in Cairngorm middle of Feb, filled in with all the days in Snowdonia inbetween. I've just treated myself to an apple tv and have just put on the Welsh shots to remind me of all the good bits. I was talking to a friend I climb with in Scotland today and he said I should try and log stuff. So what have I done route wise this winter, Right Hand Trinity x 2, Little gully (Trinity face), The Ramp (Cwm Glas) gained by an undocumented III corner (probably been done lots time before though!), Sargeant's gully, Parseley fern gully, Hidden gully x 3, Tower Slabs x 4, Broad gully (Ffynnon Lloer), Bristly Ridge, Crib Goch x 3 or 4, Central Gully (Glyder Fach), Pinnacle gully (Craig yr Ysfa), Avalanche Gully (Craig yr Ysfa), Amphitheatre gully (Craig yr Ysfa), Eastern Gully (Ladders), Pyramid Gully, Play School x 2, North Ridge Tryfan.
I think the best all round route was Play School on the Ladders, it has a bit of everything, three pitches of grade III ice, snow gully, a little traverse and a great easy ridge to finish on. I did this route first with Mike who I hadn't met before as he was looking for a buddy the previous evening so I replied to his post. We were treated to an Alpine Ladders, wall to wall blue skies, no wind, ice everywhere. Did Pyramid with some great pitches of IV ice and topped out at 1200, so it would have been rude to go home, Play School was calling. Door to door a 12 hour day but what a day it was with great company. Second time on Play School was with a friend Jo, after we spent a night out on the Carneddau - planned - amazing sunset and sunrise. We were both pretty weary descending to the foot of the ladders on the second day, but again were treated with Alpine conditions. We buried all of the overnight kit on the ridge save lugging it around all day. The direct start to the foot of Play School was a very spicey III and Jo's first foray onto sustained ice, in at the deep end, but she climbed well despite a little hot ache action. We topped out into more sunshine, dug up our kit and trekked back to the van in Cwm Eigiau, an epic two days.
I really liked Right hand Trinity, grade II snow with a couple of harder icy corners and that awkward chockstone at the bottom. Good bunch of tat under the chockstone which was handy. Second time I did it there was a 4 foot cornice at the normal exit so I had to traverse left where it diminished which in poor snow was a little unnerveing.
Through the winter I became alot more familiar with the area and there's loads of stuff I'd like to have a crack at next year, fingers crossed for another icy winter. I've attached a few shots, some of them may be useful.
Take it easy and hopefully get on a bit of rock with you soon.
I am away for a week in the Yorkshire Dales until saturday the 27th on a family holiday. When I come back I am presuming that winter in Snowdonia will be over, and I am going to put a summary of this winter's action (as I have found it) on the blog.
Please please email me with summaries your winter experience, wether it be memorable climbs, good friends made, stunning photographs taken, whatever... and I promise to put it here on the blog.
Had an email just now which read the following: Hi Andy,
After a couple of days back at work to discover the fishing is just as bad as it was a month ago and strong wind forcast I had another day off. Couldn't resist a swift wander into Cneifion. I picked up one axe but went back in the house to get the other one, just in case! 14 degrees in the valley but I could see that big fat ice on the last pitch of left hand on the drive in, so I thought maybe a chance of something on Tower Slabs. Amazed to see its still hanging on, so trudged up through soft snow, but not up to your knees soft. The first pitch was pretty good, and there's bits above there too. The ice is soft but that did make for great placements. Water is running behind so I don't suppose it'll survive the weekend. There was bits falling off left hand across the cwm. The top half of it is still there but there was a stream running over the bottom half. Right hand also pretty stripped as per photo. Very windy at top where it was a little depressing to see plenty of rock and turf uncovered. Made a quick exit down Gribin as it started to rain. I did feel a bit of a muppet making my way to the car in rain with two axes on my back!
Due to extreme thawing all over the Snowdonian mountains at the moment, I thought today would be as good a day as any for the Cneifion Arete. Ive not done this climb before, but fancied it for a while. Had hoped to be doing the route with a partner & pitching it, but that was not to be, so I was on my own but decided to have a go at soloing it anyway. Unfortunately cloud cover was so thick in lower Cwm Cneifion I started to have some doubts about my cunning plan. However undetered, I found the base of the climb, and started up. Within about 5 mins (less probably) I felt very uncomfortable with the situation I was putting myself in & downclimbed. Cneifion Arete goes at a winter grade III, or a summer scramble grade III with a mod/diff rock climbing grade initial pitch. Due to the complete lack of ice or snow on it today it would have been the latter. In clear sunny condition on dry rock I am sure I would have had no qualms in bombing up it, but not today with zero vis, damp rock & blowing a decent old gale. So I chickened out! Next time...
So I went for a reccy of the Cwm instead. There is a major thaw on everywhere, and it looks very much like the end of the winter climbing season in Wales (unless we have a very cold snap or two very soon) Did a unamed 80m gully on the flank of Senior's Ridge, which was barely climbable due to wet soft snow & cruddy ice, an easy gully though. Snow cover gets considerably thicker in upper Cwm Cneifion, but as you gain altitude if anything the snow gets worse. I was repeatedly sinking knee or even thigh deep in wet snow every 3 or 4 steps. Hard going. There was now absolutely no visibility & I was wondering what the hell I had bothered getting up at 5am for! In fact I could only see Clogwyn Du when I was within spitting distance. There was definite avalanche debris around the upper cwm, some old, but some near Easy Route looked very recent. Also noticed large fracture lines appearing here & there in the snowpack. Take care! I cannot comment on any of the climbs conditions on Clogwyn Du as I could not see them, but would imagine any ice remaining on say R & L Gullies would be in awful nick, although I did hear that they were both climbed yesterday (sunday)
So if it's no good in Cwm cneifion I would guess it's no good anywhere at all. (But please correct me if I am wrong, I would love it if I was wrong!!)
Out soloing on my own today (becoming a habit) Went up to Cwm Clyd (Y Garn). Firstly climbed slabs to the left of A Gully (see photo). Some good sections of ice & mixed climbing went at about a II/III at a push. Then dropped down & did B Gully on great neve snow all the way. Never done this one before and found it to be easy at the grade I/II. No cornice to speak of at the top (see photo), which disappointed me a bit as I was after a bit of adventure and would like to have done battle with one!! Then descended Banana Gully, which has a small cornice. Poor snow conditions in Banana, sugary collapsing snow apart from top 30m or so.
Top pic: Y Garn topo (dotted line to left of A Gully is the slabs I climbed) Bottom pic: Lack of cornice at top of B Gully
I've been out into Cwm Lloer today. I took a friend up Equinox (I) for his first winter route. It's a short route below the East Ridge that zigs then zags up easy snow ramps. Very pleasant but far too short. The snow in the cwm was still excellent, but was becoming soft on the ridge in the sun. We stopped to chat to a couple who had done The Headwall, and two others topping out on Icefall Gully on the Black Ladders. Very alpine conditions anyway. Sunglasses and sun cream advised! Let's hope this snow hangs round for a bit longer yet.
My good friend Mike Francis was out in Cwm Cneifion yesterday (friday). He climbed an interesting unamed gully line which joins the lower & upper cwm. (see top pic, diagonal line sloping right to left) Then did Tower Gully, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and dropped back down Easy Route to do Hidden Gully ('the little gem'!) Hidden Gully is pretty banked out at present, but still providing good sport even if it is short lived. Nice one Mike!
I went out yesterday to Craig y Ysfa, was at the route for half 8 trying to beat the sun, Pinnacle gully was pretty soft in places with interesting steps in the lower sections, which were a little less complete after I knocked snow off! I was up there earlier in the week on Avalanche gully which was nice with a couple of icy steps,top has a dodgy looking cornice though so put some gear in before topping out. It was ok and I looked at it today and it hadn't moved. Approach from Conwy side, its nice in there, never been up there before until this week. Came back down today over Penllythrig. I fancy that amphitheatre buttress, there's snow on the top half and the bottom is bare, good alpine practice. May be better really early when snow is firm though.
Top pic: Pinnacle Gully (friday) Middle pic: Crag earlier in week Bottom pic: Top of Avalanche Gully earlier in week
Haven't posted on here for a week, as I was in Scotland last weekend, and have only managed one day in Snowdonia this week which was yesterday (thursday). Myself & Davey.C (who had been up all night working a 12 hour shift) took all our climbing pro with us intending to see if we could do a route to push our grade a bit, thought it was about time. That was not to be though as Davey was practically asleep when we arrived and my back & good old ankle injury playing up again. So leaving the rope, harnesses & pro in the car we walked up to Cwm Lloer, which is still in great winter nick. Its like another world when you arrive there, as the walk up besides the Afon Lloer stream was a very warm one. T-shirts & sunglasses job, with no snow to be seen. Then you arrive over the crest, to Cwm Lloer completely frozen over and full winter conditions around the cwm! As you can see from the top photo all winter routes are in climbable condition. Hourglass Gully, Broad Gully, Moongroves, Left Hand Y Gully, Right Hand Y Gully & The Headwall all complete and looking good. The snow condition was very varied in the cwm itself (and for the first half or 100m ish of Broad Gully). Ranging from icy crust with deep graupel underneath to powder to great neve. Although there was some evidence of avalanche debris around the cwm, including in Broad Gully, I would say it was several days old. In my opinion there was no avalanche risk when we were there. From about the 800m mark, so halfway ish up Broad Gully snow turned to solid neve. There were some good ice falls on the right of the gully again, in fact much better formed than my previous climbing here a couple of weeks ago. If you were to include the 2 obvious ones in an ascent of Broad Gully (we did not this time) I would say you could class the route as a grade III/IV or maybe a straight IV. (The first ice fall is to the right of the gully start, and was about 6 or 7 metres of good vertical ice. The other one of note is approx 100m up the gully, and is a similar height, and also vertical.) Just doing a direct ascent of the gully line without the ice was a good I/II as the guide book would suggest. It was yet another stunning day in Snowdonia, with brilliant blue skies, and blazing sun. I had my binoculars with me, and looking across to the Glyders from the summit of Pen Yr Ole Wen, Cwm Cneifion was again looking fantastic, as was the Gribin ridge, and the face og Glyder Fach. Idwal area was bare, although I would imagine there is still some ice to be found. The Devil's Appendix is not formed. Y Garn also looking great, A, B & C gullies and buttress & Banana Gully looking very well covered and enticing.