Thursday, 9 June 2011

Climbing in North Wales

Welsh climbers witness a Cumbrian legend in action.

Dolgelly is the best centre, and, by means of the Great Western Railway, possesses a splendid communication with the larger cities. The presence of this convenience brings other famous Welsh mountains within reach.
Though the Arans provide little serious rock-climbing, an interesting day can be spent amongst the crags on the east face of Aran Mawddwy, and the walk along the ridge to Aran Benllyn attracts many mountain ramblers.
The crags which overlook Craiglyn Dyfi are specially suitable for beginners, and these can be reached from Drwys y Nant Station in 2 hours, and for the return journey Llanuwchllyn is best because practically all trains stop there.

The writer would suggest that the climber who wishes to taste the pleasures of the Cader climbs should make it a sort of movable feast, and four days would suffice in which to sample all the good things  worth attention. The first day could be spent on the Cyfrwy aretes, and in theevening a descent could be made over Mynydd Pencoed to Talyllyn, on the other side of the mountain, one of the prettiest places  in the district. Next day the return to headquarters  might be made by way of the Great Gully on Craig y  Cae. It used to be the proud boast of Dolgelly that its walls were 6 miles high, and the following two days could be spent climbing these, or, in other words, the north face of Cader Idris. If Cyfrwy is included, this extends for about 3^ miles, but the actual climbing is concentrated on the central portion in close proximity to Pen y Gader (2,929 feet), the highest point in the group.

The ordinary pedestrian route up Cader Idris is followed by way of Llyn Gwernan, where, it may be mentioned, an hotel is shortly to be opened which will give accommodation two miles nearer the climbing, and at a considerably higher level. The huge, crater-like hollow where the track diverges to the left to the Foxes' Path is encircled by fierce crags with the columnar ridges of Cyfrwy rising most invitingly on the right.

The little tarn of Llyn y Gader, surrounded by the " tumbled fragments of the hills," adds to the beauty of the scene. Supposing that the climber intends crossing  the mountain to Talyllyn and taking Cyfrwy en route, he will turn to the right at the outlet of the tarn.

The Eastern Arete This is the best course on Cyfrwy, and when seen from the Foxes' Path has the appearance of a finely serrated ridge with a curious truncated tower as central object of interest, about half-way up. This is known as the " Table," and most parties begin the ridge by walking up an easy gully which rises on the east side of the gap between the " Table " and the main mass. When approaching the arete from the foot of the tarn these details are difficult to locate because the ridge is seen " end on."

Cader's Cyfrwy Face

As the crags are approached the "The Table " becomes more distinguishable, especially if a movement is made to the right. It will be noticed that the gap may also be attained from the north-west by a steep, grassy gully, but the rocks are unreliable, and this approach cannot be recommended to one's best friends. The most sporting way begins immediately to the left of this gully, where a small pinnacle will be noticed almost directly below the " Table." Above the pinnacle a narrow, well-defined ridge leads upwards. until its disappearance in the steep, columnar front of the " Table " suggests a passage to the right. Here the rocks are more easily inclined, and a way can be found to the top.

The huge wall of the ardte, which now rises in front, looks impossible, but after the easy descent into the gap it can be confidently attacked from a point a yard or two down the gully on the left. There the rock is well broken up, and provides magnificent holding.
About 45 feet above the gap a step is taken to the left into a wide, grassy gully which leads directly upwards to the crest of the arete. An easy buttress now lands the climber at the start of a narrow 15-foot crack, which, from its situation, gives the best bit of climbing on Cyfrwy. It is best ascended by jamming the right leg and arm in its recesses and using some small holds on the outside for the unemployed limbs. Once the good hand-hold near the top is grasped the rest is simply a matter of " brute force and ignorance " ; but the lower part requires genuine skill. Then the ridge stretches away with a steadily diminishing inclination and interest until the top of Cyfrwy is reached.

The climber would have been well advised to have left the rucksack at the foot of the climb, and the descent to recover the luggage may be made by one of the wide gullies to the east of the arete just visited. After this the base of the crags may be followed to he foot of the North Arete, which, despite its striking outline and reputed difficulty, gives a comparatively easy course to the summit.
The climb starts just to the east of a wide scree gully with a short pitch near the top. This is known as the One Pitch Gully, and the North Arete forms its left retaining wall. After an easy initial scramble, a short chimney slants up to the right ; from its exit there is a fine view downwards into the gully.

Thirty feet of simple hand and foot work end on a small platform with the ridge rising vertically in front. A passage to the right on the face of the cliff discloses a crack filled with good, splintered rocks, which allow the actual crest of the arete to be regained easily. Thence onwards the ridge is disappointing, for by keeping alternately on its right-hand side and on its summit it is almost a walk for some distance. The fine tower of rock which is so conspicuous a feature in distant views of the North Arete can be easily avoided, or surmounted direct by a crack which runs up its centre.

The steep rock-face beyond the "tower-gap" can be circumvented by a stroll to the right, where two short slabs mark the end of the climbing. Numerous other ways can be made up the front of Cyfrwy, but though practically all have been visited, they are of too indefinite a nature to favour detailed description.

The enthusiast will prefer to wander over to Mynydd Pencoed and, after enthralling glimpses down into the vast abysses of Craig y Cae, make for the south- westerly grassy slopes leading down to Talyllyn. The Pen-y-bont Inn is picturesquely situated at the further end of the lake.

Craig y Cae and its gullies may be easily reached in an hour and a half from Talyllyn by following the ordinary track up Cader Idris, until at the base of the great hollow on the left some easy grass slopes slant up into the magnificent Cwm. The Great Gully stands at its head, but in a recess on the left, and it is scarcely visible until close at hand. When reaching it by keeping on the left-hand side of Llyn y Cae, the outlets of several smaller gullies are passed and two of these would entertain any parties who scarcely feel equal to an attack on their more impregnable neighbour.
The wonderful rock, which forms the left wall of the Great Gully throughout, is called the Pencoed Pillar, and just to the left of it the East Gully cuts the crags from bottom to top. The course, as described hereafter, gives quite 400 feet of continuous climbing, and begins with some slabs somewhat like those at the foot of the Central Gully on Lliwedd. Above these the gully is straight and steep, with a noticeable scarcity of screes.
A jammed rock is soon in evidence, and this can be surmounted direct or circumvented by a crack on the left. Higher up some backing-up practice can be enjoyed between the narrow walls, and enjoyable scrambling continues until the gully divides. Neither branch contains anything of further interest, but the curtain of rock between them affords a pleasing little climb to the summit.

The Little Gully is a conspicuous and winding cleft east of the former course. It contains but two distinct obstacles ; the lower one is easy, but the upper cave pitch requires some careful backing-up until the cap-stone can be negotiated.

The Great Gully commences with a short 12-foot pitch, which serves as introduction to the more difficult obstacle just above. This is of the cave variety and though the roofing-stone may be passed on either side, both exits are awkward ; after the first step, that on the left rather belies its first impression. The third pitch is the reverse ; it is even more slimy, smooth, and rotten than it looks, and the best plan is to climb up the grassy, left wall, whence a broad, grassy ledge leads easily back to the bed of the cleft. It should be noted that this ledge is of importance for those who wish to escape easily and quickly from the gully, or for others who do not prefer the attack on the three lower pitches. In wet weather their neglect is both advisable and justifiable.

A narrow chimney,  quite 35 feet in height, now rises straight ahead, and in dry weather only gives trouble in the upper part where the rocks are smooth and water- worn, under normal conditions it bears a strong resemblance to a waterfall, and at such times may be circumvented by grassy ledges on the right. Indefinite scrambling follows for quite 150 feet, whilst the structure of the gully gradually changes. Huge, unclimbable walls rise on either hand, and gradually narrow down until, below the notorious fifth pitch, the gully is scarcely 15 feet in width, whilst near the summit, about 80 feet higher, the two walls are only a few inches apart. In this roughly inverted funnel great rocks are wedged in the most neglige manner imaginable, but the central boulder and a chimney between it and the left wall give the solution of the problem.
An apparently impossible problem it certainly is, and has been, for several parties, because this central boulder is almost impracticable of approach from directly below, while the chimney on its left has no bottom. Close inspection will show that there is a square recess in the overhanging right wall of the gully, which may be reached by some careful climbing from the upper part of the cave. The second man can join the leader in this recess and steady him with the rope belayed during the step thence across to the central boulder.

The holds prove good, and it is soon possible to swing the left foot across into the "bottomless chimney." The transfer of the body is but the work of a moment and thence upwards the way is obvious. The narrow hole which is the natural exit from the chimney has made more than one climber seem small arete in fact, a party were once defeated here and retreated by means of a fixed rope which had to be left behind. The writer is inclined to the opinion that a leader who could penetrate thus far would find no serious trouble in avoiding the narrow way by backing up outside the chock-stone.

The three remaining pitches are short, and possess no intrinsic difficulties. The outward prospect from the upper reaches of the Great Gully of Crag y Cae is, in the writer's opinion, unsurpassed in Great Britain. Curtain after curtain of huge, storm-battered, frost-riven rock form the framework of the scene, and, nearly 1,000 feet below, the gloomy waters of Llyn y Cae lie embosomed in the craggy recesses of Pen y Gader.

Dave Williams on Pencoed Pillar

The Pencoed Pillar, which is the crowning glory of this, one of the " truly delectable places," remains untrodden by human foot as far as its impressive north face is concerned. In June, 1903, those genial pioneers of real, British mountaineering camp-life, Messrs. Millican and Henry Dalton, discovered a somewhat circuitous route up the Pillar, but mostly on its easterly side. The presence of much vegetation and the possibilities of numerous variations will militate against the climb becoming popular. Of the remaining climbs on the northerly side of Cader Idris, the Central Gully of Pen y Gader, overlooking Llyn y Gader, is the best known. It consists of three sections formed by two wide terraces that stretch across the face. Each of these sections contains more or less well-marked pitches, though the uppermost is so indefinite that probably no two parties follow the same route.

The first pitch is about 70 feet high, and after climbing for about 30 feet on he right-hand side a watery traverse may be made to the left, and thence to the top. The second pitch is more deeply set, and after mounting the bed of the 50-foot chimney pitch for a short distance, splendid ledges suggest the ascent by the right wall. Above his the gully may be neglected or followed at will beyond the upper section.

Twr Du

These crags are situated about half a mile north- east of Pen y Gader, facing Llyn Gafr, and two well- defined gullies seam the easily inclined and somewhat vegetation-covered, northerly face. At their outlets the gullies are about 150 feet apart ; higher up they seem to converge and roughly resemble an inverted V. The East Gully slants upwards on the left, and proves quite easy until a smooth slab suggests the use of the rope. A stone which is jammed in the narrow bed of the gully can be climbed on the right, and, unless perfectly dry, a mossy, overhanging crack higher up should be circumvented on the left wall. Two neat chimneys end the serious climbing, but pleasing scrambling can be continued to the sky-line by following the ridge on the left.

The West Gully proves the stiffer of the two courses ; the first obstacle consists of a narrow crack about 50 feet from the start. It can be climbed direct, or by way of a leaf of overhanging rock on the right.
After some easy work a vertical, mossy crack is encountered, which is smooth and holdless on the right wall and overhanging on the other. This has not yet been climbed direct, and an awkward buttress on the right seems the best means of ascent. The beginning of this is especially difficult, and the leader will probably require assistance from those below. About half-way up the buttress a traverse can be made to the left to the top of the pitch ; a mossy crack above this gives no serious trouble. The gully then sends a slight branch up to the right, and it is advisable to follow this up for a few feet until a step across to the left can be taken into the steep crack which here forms the main bed of the gully.
This is now followed past an overhanging leaf of rock, and after a traverse across some slabs on the right the climbing is finished.

Further eastwards than Twr Du there is plenty of indefinite scrambling, notably on Ceu Craig and Mynydd Moel. The magnificent views from this outstanding shoulder of Cader Idris are the chief reward of the explorer.

George Abraham: British Mountain Climbs: Mills and Boon 1911.