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:

Saturday, 29 January 2011

James Kelly reports on Idwal - Sun 29th Jan

Had the following email from James late this afternoon:

Hi Andy,
We (James and Andy) decided to head up to idwal stream today after yesterdays report of Ice on the route, got on the route at 7.30am conditions climable although not a lot of opportunity to place ice screws.

Another 3 teams on the route behind us, the whole route could do with a bit more of a freeze which should happen over the next few days.

1 team of 3 on the ramp again looked a bit thin but claimable, Bottom of South Gully looks claimable again second pitch looks very thin hope this helps anyone heading to the area.

James Kelly

Friday, 28 January 2011

Idwal Stream & Oblique Gully plus general conditions report

Having (obsessively) watched the forecasts for the last few days I decided that today might be a good day to head out & see what was frozen. My initial objectives for the day were 2 gully lines high on Glyder Fawr: High Pasture & Oblique Gully.
I had hoped that Introductory Gully up the right hand side of Idwal Slabs might be in condition, but it wasn't. However the closer I got to Idwal Stream the more climbeable it looked. And on close inspection it certainly was good to go. Plenty of fat ice, although tonnes of water also. I climbed the first 3 or so pitches until it levels out a bit. Well worthwhile & I imagine it will see plenty of ascents this weekend, although wether it will take decent ice screw placements is debateable!
I then traversed across left onto the flanks of Glyder Fawr to have a look at High Pasture. The turf on High Pasture was certainly rock hard, but the lack of any snow or ice whatsoever did not inspire me & I decided not to bother. Also from this point on the crag I could see some tempting looking ice over to the left in Oblique Gully, so that is where I headed. Now the new guidebook gives Oblique Gully a grade of II 2/3 although a sentence in the intro to Glyder Fawr does say something like 'grades could be higher in lean conditions'. Well never a truer sentence was written as it turns out!
Today Oblique Gully was a mix of ice smeared rock, rock hard turf & vegetation, and bare rock. I encountered the first major obstacle early on, it was a 9 foot high cave with blank ice smeared walls on either side. In fatter conditions this must bank out with snow, and the ice must fatten up to enable climbing, but in todays conditions it would have been more like grade V/VI terrain and I refrained. The only way up was to step out left, onto the exposed buttress which is made up of ice smeared slabe & frozen turf. In my estimation this went at around III/IV. Once back in the gully (which was no mean feat!) it was back to approx grade III terrain. Now the new guide says that when the gully splite into two, it is best to take the right hand option, which takes you up to a chimney which is 'sporty' in lean conditions. This was true. It certainly was sporty! In todays conditions I would certainly have to put Oblique Gully at the upper end of grade III, & more realistically III/IV. DO NOT GO THERE IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A GRADE II ROUTE AT THE MOMENT!

From what I saw today although the other Idwal ice routes are starting to form none looked complete. Also looking accross to Y Garn, there are no complete gully lines in any way, just a dusting of fresh snow. Also Cwm Cneifion is much the same story with Easy Route on the headwall (& possibly Corner Gully I/II) being the only snow lines. Tower Slabs has not formed.
Pic 1: Idwal this morning
Pic 2: A pretty bare Y Garn
Pic 3: An enticing looking Idwal Stream
Pic 4: Idwal Stream 1st pitch
Pic 5: Idwal Stream 2nd pitch
Pic 6: Idwal Stream 3rd pitch
Pic 7: Base of Oblique Gully
Pic 8: The 'impassable cave'!
Pic 9: Higher up in the gully
Pic 10: A bare looking Cwm Cneifion

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cwm Glas gullies & Trinity Face

I have had quite a few emails in the last week & noticed a few questions on UKC regarding any snow which may be left in the higher gullies. So today I decided to head down the A55 and have a wee look. The forecast for the day according to MWIS, MetOffice, & MetCheck ALL stated very clearly that today would be a day with fantastic visibility, 90% chance of cloud free summits, sunny & clear skies. That sounded too good to miss, so off I went heading up Cwm Glas Ridge which leads right to the summit of Carnedd Ugain. My plan was to get some great photos of Cwm Glas area gullies & the Trinity Face to see how much if any snow was left in the popular gully climbs. BUT as you will see from the pics below this was not to be, due to thick cloud cover from around the 700m mark. So absolutely no stunning views as promised! However I can report that the ground is frozen solid from around the 800-850 mark, but the gullies are stripped clean. From the top of Cwm Glas Ridge I could see (now & again when vis was more than 10m!!) that all snow is gone from Cwm Glas, with only the odd patch left where cornices have been at the top of Parsley Fern & adjacent gullies. Nothing else. It is all gone. There was no snow at all on top of Carnedd Ugain, but it was very cold with rock hard ground. As far as the Trinity Face goes, again I couldn't get a photo of any use (see below), but the same story seemed to be true from the odd bit I could make out.
So all round bad news regarding any hopes you may have had of the nest few cold days refreezing remaing snow, as it has all gone. It is going to take a big dump of snow & a freeze/thaw cycle, which unfortunately is not forecast for at least the next week or so.
Pic 1: A great view of Cwm Glas (!!)
Pic 2: Another great viw, this time of the Trinity Face (!!)
Pic 3: Summit Carnedd Ugain

Saturday, 15 January 2011

No news for you

Sorry all, but no news whatsoever for you at the moment due to the fact that nobody including myself is going out. It has rained most of the week here in N.Wales with warm temps of up to 12c. No real cold weather or snow forecast for the next few days from what I can see. Possibility of -1 to -3 high up from monday night for a couple of days, but its not looking good.
The only consolation is that Scotland is crap at the moment too, so no need to be jealous!
I will be out climbing in Snowdonia on monday & will post on here what I find regarding remaining snow in gullies etc.. but don't hold your breath for good news.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Another big thaw?

Looks like we have another big thaw in progress in the mountains. Temps are above freezing high up & forecast to stay that way for the next week with no snow forecast either.
Looks like it may have to start from scratch all over again.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Cwm Cneifion report by Mike Nolan (Sun 9th)

Hey Andy
Thought I'd send over this conditions report. I hope it's useful.

Picture 1: Cwm Idwal from Sub Cneifion rib.

Nothing at all in Cwm Idwal, the only ice we could see was the top pitch of The Devils Appendix.

Picture 2: Clogwyn Du from the base of Tower Slabs.

3 or 4 teams on it at about 3:30. 3 people were on Clogwyn Left Hand, seemed to be hanging around on pitch 2 or 3 for a while, can't have been in too good condition, it was relatively warm, about +4 in the car park so I assume it was still pretty thin.

2 teams headed up hidden gully which looked great, snow was perfect, couldn't have been any more solid. Plenty of it in the gullies in Cwm Cneifion too!

Also, slightly unusual maybe, somebody was *rock climbing* up Travesty, couldn't see any tools anyway and it looked pretty bare so I only assume. Far too cold for that!

Picture 3: Tower Slabs

Slabs were in great condition. Although, alot of water falling at the bottom. Decent fat ice and vegetation was in good condition.

Had a quick look at Tower Gully which also had great solid snow. Didn't get to see the crux because it started going dark so I couldn't check the ice up there.

One more thing. On the approach up to Cwm Cneifion, shortly after the Sub Cneifion Rib, the path crosses 2 snow fields. I'd really advise having an axe ready at least for this bit as a slip would be pretty bad. Same goes for the approaches to the climbs in Cneifion. Crampons and axes should be put on as soon as you come into the bottom of the Cwm because the snow is difficult to get up without them. We saw one guy slide about 20 meters before he managed to arrest.

Hope there is some useful information you can use there. It was a great day and better conditions than I expected!


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Tower Gully, Tower Slabs, Hidden Gully & more...

Today I headed down into the mountains expecting to see a covering of fresh snow, but it seems that yesterdays forecasts of blizzard conditions for several hours had not come true.
Cwm Cneifion was my chosen destination & my route for the day ended up as: up East Wall Gully then up Tower Gully, down Easy Route then up Hidden Gully. Down Corner Gully then up Tower Slabs.
Once again Cwm Cneifion provided top class bomber neve & a suprising amount of fat ice. Tower Gully was in excellent nick all the way including the small ice section. Easy Gully was a pleasure to descend on top class firm snow. Hidden Gully was the 'little gem' it so often is, again full of bomber neve & ice. Corner Gully proved a good descent choice next, only slightly steeper than Easy Route, and with a slab of 7 or 8m of ice which would be fun if ascending. Last but not least Tower Slabs was in great nick, with far more ice than I had expected, with teams on it all day long.
I also went for a look at Clogwyn Righthand but it was a bit too thin in my opinion (I was soloing!)
All in all a very rewarding day!

Also Alan went up Parley fern LH today & reports 'super neve' all the way with fat ice in all the right places.
Pic 1&2: Looking up & down Tower Gully
Pic 3&4: Looking up & down Hidden Gully
Pic 5: Looking back up Corner Gully
Pic 6: Clogwyn Du
Pic 7: Right & Lefthand
Pic 8: Tower Gully & Tower Slabs
Pic 9: First pitch of Tower Slabs (thanks to the 2 climbers who let me solo past)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Black Ladders by Carl Davies

Hi Andy,

Did Eastern Gully on the Black Ladders today. The walk in was interesting weather starting with drizzle, turning to hail and then quite heavy snow by the time I reached the crag. So route location was a challenge but I worked out where it was in the end. I skipped the direct start on the ice and traversed in from the right. There was ice on the direct start but it was thin and didn't have a proper look as to whether it would have been climbable or not. There was a team that started Pyramid on the second pitch. There was ice on the first pitch of Pyramid but it didn't look very well bonded to the rock. Eastern was great with good neve which became more solid the higher I got. Dusting of powder over top of it. There were two chockstone problems which were moves of III. I belayed myself over both of the problems (slung spike on first and a slung snow bollard on the second), the second holding a little ice. Pretty windy up top, with plenty of spindrift just before the top out, but on the way down the visibility cleared and had some nice views of the crag on the way home. I met Hugh Gilbert and Nick on the way down, haven't met Hugh but recognised him from his blog picture! They were the team on Pyramid and they said it was great. We also spoke to someone on the way down who had done Icefall Gully. Seemed to be plenty to go at in the Ladders.



Cwm Idwal and Cwm Cneifion 6/01/2011 by Mike Peacock

I had this email from Mike late this afternoon. Thanks Mike, looks like you had fun!

Hi Andy and a happy 2011!

I managed to get out today. Me and Gareth Harvey wandered into a sorry (and sodden!) looking Cwm Idwal. The top of East Wall Gully looked reasonably complete so we headed through the rain to it. Despite the snow on the approach being quite soft conditions in the gully were very good although there were a couple of rocky steps halfway up.

Into Cwm Cneifion (and still with no sign of the cloud shifting) we went looking for some decent ice on Cneifion Stream and found a bit, but not much. We headed on to the back, past a nice collection of mini-igloos, but called it a day soon after as I'm still recovering from the excesses of Christmas! Typically as we walked out the cloud lifted. There were a few people on Easy Route and Tower Slabs, and it did snow quite heavily for a while.

Hope that's of use to people,


Thwarted again?

Wednesdays climbing was thwarted by illness, and it looks like tomorrows may be abandoned due to 'Constant whiteout for several hours' according to the MWIS forecast (Mountain Weather Information Service)
Damn it!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Black Ladders info

Some Black Ladders info on Huw Gilbert's blog now.

Reports & pics from Misha

The following info is from Misha & is also on the UKC Welsh Winter Condition thread
A couple of his photos below too.

'Hidden Gully on Clogwyn Ddu in easy condition for the grade. Good neve most of the way up with little bits of ice towards the top.

From a distance, it didn't look like there was any ice on P1 of Clogwyn LH. However later spoke to a team who said they had gone up the approach gully to have a look and thought the ice was thin and required mixed climbing up the rock to the right. They didn't fancy that, so abbed into the start of the last pitch and found good ice there.

Pretty much all the routes in Cwm Cneifion up to III are doable but some are thin in places (see comments re the ice step in Tower Gully - I managed to pass it in descent but the ice was quite brittle, with largish chunks falling off). From a distance, Clogwyn RH looked like turf/mixed climbing towards the bottom but snow and a bit of ice higher up.

Parsley Fern LH has a bit of ice (II/III depending on the line chosen), which was reasonable but dinnerplating in places. However the ice section is pretty short, so I'd say you get more bang for your buck (or axe placements for your approach slog) on Tower Slabs in Cwm Cneifion.

I thought C Gully on Y Garn merited a III due to the bit of mixed climbing that's referred to in Andy's blog. Wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for a II.'
Pic 1: Parsley Fern LH & RH
Pic 2: Parsley Fern LH ice

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Y Garn easy gullies today

I have been out for a few hours today (a bit later than expected, sorry Al!) on the gullies of Y Garn. I opted for the following combination: Up C Gully, down A Gully, up B Gully, then down Banana Gully. Snow conditions were good, certainly for at least the top 100m or so with plenty of frozen turf around.
Highlights of my day were on C & B gullies. C Gully provided good neve from where the gully narrows between the buttresses, with patches of decent ice. There was a couple of sections of bare ground where it steepens but frozen turf & ice made up for the lack of snow there. B Gully provided two interesting obstacles today. The first was the boulder at around a third of the way up, which is usually banked up with snow, maybe just leaving a slight steepening of the gully. Today though it was an 8 foot bare boulder blocking the way! It is possible to skirt around it to the right, but if you want to tackle it direct as I did it is good mixed fun. Get your left axe up as high as you can into the crack & lift your right foot up onto the small ledge which is aroung knee height. You can then push/pull up to standing & hook both your axes right over the top of the boulder out of view into frozen turf. Its then just a case of going for it. (It may also depend if you are a lanky tall git like me!). The next obstacle is the cornice directly at the top of B Gully. The snow towards the top of the gully becomes rock hard, and the angle increases sharply to an almost vertical 12 foot finish (that may be a slight exageration!), where front pointing is essential. Climb it direct & be rewarded with a lovely top out as you hook your axes over its lip, and pull yourself to safety. but DO NOT SLIP at this point, as you would go a long way!! Alternatively traverse right onto an easier angle for a safer exit.
It was cold on the tops today, around -5c, so with the low temperatures which are forecast for tonight, those gullies which depend on decent snow should be nice & hard tomorrow.