Monthly Archives: October 2017

Tryfan

Tryfan

It has been a full-on few weeks, all things considered. Not least for my legs!

Straight after a couple of weeks in SW France (somewhat walk-heavy, as we were out there dog-sitting two very energetic Springers) I spent a long weekend in Patterdale in the Lake District with Adventure Quest (see recent Priest Hole post). When I returned home with veteran friend Jonny in tow (watch this space for upcoming blogs about his visit) we just kept walking! First a 12km “highlights” tour of my home turf, the Howgills. Next day: an 18km jaunt round the Fairfield Horseshoe, allowing Jonny to visit lots of Wainwright peaks in a single outing, his very first foray into the Lakes. A couple of days later, Jen joined the pair of us for a 22km hike – Lakes again – that took us from the Langdales to erm… ooops, sorry you’ll have to wait for the rest of that one too…

Eventually Jonny bade us farewell and headed homeward across the Irish Sea, and within a week we were on our way to Llanberis, North Wales. Here, Jen took part in the National Fell and Hill Relay Championships with her fellow Dallam Running Club mates, an odd bunch who seem to think hiking is too easy, and instead opt to run up and down mountains as if the peaks are mere stepping stones across a pond! Enough is enough, you might say.

Yet hang on a minute… since the event was in Llanberis, an overnighter with a friend in Bethesda, just “up the road”, was most definitely called for.

Yes, we were to meet up with ex-Army Major and my former classmate Tarquin and his family: Louise, Wes and Colin (the latter two are of the canine variety). In fact Tarqs and I were only recently re-introduced – I shan’t delve further into that as you can read about it in my Glyder Fach Chasm post! 🙂 However, I will remind you that whilst highly skilled in most things ‘mountainous’, Tarqs, like me, is a sandwich shy of a picnic…

This was the first time Jen had met my old school buddy, and whilst she might have noticed from Tarqs’ early sarcastic undertones that he is quite like me, she probably didn’t realise how much so until the following day when caution was quite literally thrown to the wind! Actually it might be more accurate to say the wind snatched it…

I guess that’s a good place to start: the weather forecast. When/if we reached our destination, the summit of the mighty Welsh mountain Tryfan at 917 metres ASL (3008 feet for those who prefer to measure in ‘old money’!), we expected to be greeted by a ‘steady’ southerly wind of around 68mph (109km/h), gusting to 98mph (157km/h). And…ermmm… we were still going to do this climb!?

I happily admit to having ‘sloping shoulders’ i.e. responsibility rolls straight off them! Whereas I excel at ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome, Tarqs has Sandhurst Officer-level ‘gift of the gab’ training, so I feel much more comfortable when he begins to explain to the girls his well-laid-out plan to scale one of Wales’ highest summits, via a Grade 1 scramble, during a hurricane… (LOL).

The Thinker (French: Le Penseur) is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Unlike me, Tarquin thinks before opening his mouth – Me? I only think about why I opened mine! I may or may not be able to confirm that Tarqs struck the pose below while mulling over how to answer Louise’s text (sent from work – she was obviously concerned) suggesting that, given the weather forecast, he was being irresponsible… even reckless!

His response, after a lengthy ‘Rodin’ moment was a single word – Adventurous! – and that we certainly were being. Naturally this gave rise to a few serious questions about what the three of us (myself, Jen and Tarqs) were doing and how prepared we were…

A number of things spring to my mind. Before setting off we had a full route plan and weather predictions from reputable websites. Also Louise (primarily) knew exactly where we were, and Tarqs kept her updated on our progress and when we expected to be down. All of us set off carrying additional layers: warm and waterproof clothing. We had food and water (and of course jelly babies. Essential). We had first aid kits, maps, compasses, ropes, an emergency shelter and my GPS-tracked Emergency Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). More to the point, we (Jen and I) were in the capable hands of Tarqs, who was operating essentially in his own backyard on a familiar route he had climbed a number of times.

Tarqs is a Mountain Leader with more years of climbing and hiking experience than I dare to mention (since he gets away with people thinking he is a decade or two younger than his real age. Why spoil that for him! *Ooops*).

Whilst he is a friend of old he was in ‘professional mode’ on the day – leading us as he would paying clients. He updated us regularly about our position on the way up and also down Tryfan, making sure that should anything happen to prevent him leading the way, Jen and I would be able to find our way down. He continually asked how we were doing, and given that we wanted to be up and down the mountain before the remnants of hurricane Ophelia swept in, drew our attention to opt-out routes. As the winds grew stronger we established a ‘fruit bat scale’ – a scale to determine how irresponsible we were… ermmm …uncomfortable we felt the climb was at any point, given the exposure and general weather conditions. My top fruit bat number was between 4 and 5 out of a possible 10. Jen might have hit 6 at one point on the scramble, and remarked that she wouldn’t have contemplated trying such a climb on her own, especially given the conditions supposedly awaiting us at the summit…

Tryfan, for anyone who has heard the name mentioned or feels like looking it up, can be found on OS Explorer map OL 17, scale – 1:25,000 (Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa). The gullies making up the route we took aren’t marked, but clever old Tarqs recorded the route on Viewranger (picture below). We ascended via Heather Terrace, and from there scrambled up Little and North Gullies to the summit; then we clambered down West Gully and underneath the West Face before following a track-ish back to the layby where the car was parked. Once safely back there, I pinched myself just to ensure I was still alive. Lol.

I would like to say, in all seriousness, that given a) my unfamiliarity with the mountain (Tryfan was another first for me) and b) the horrendous weather forecast on the day – the tail-end of hurricane Ophelia – I would never have attempted this climb alone or with anyone other than a knowledgeable ML in the lead. Tarqs had taken into account both his local knowledge and the wind direction, and proposed the most sheltered route accordingly. He had kept us regularly informed as to how to get off the mountain safely should he himself have a slip or fall. Fruit bats aside, it was a very reassuring experience!

Tarqs correctly anticipated the imminent change in the weather as we neared the summit, and pointed out our escape route. He then did what any self-respecting ML would do in ‘wind-free’ conditions, namely jumped the short (highly exposed! perilous!) gap between the two summit pillars, Adam and Eve… Except he did it at the mercy of unpredictable 90mph gusts! Flashback to schoolboy mischief mode, and I felt I ought to at least sit on one of the pillars… which is exactly what I did! No jumping for me in gale force winds… I am no longer 18, and smoking a pipe whilst jumping between summit pillars at 917m in a hurricane has yet to be added to my repertoire!

I was glad I’d climbed up that last monolith, though it was sooo windy and gusting at crazy speeds when I reached its flat top. To give you an idea, imagine how it would feel if some invisible person in front of you suddenly shoved you backwards without warning… you get my drift?! So I simply sat on the one pillar – Adam – and smoked my pipe, mentally tipping my hat to the clever folk who invented modern day windproof, or in this case hurricane-proof lighters!

It was a really enjoyable day, and with any luck I will be back in Snowdonia sometime in November for another caper with my crazy, yet expert ML, climber and school buddy from 3 decades ago. Next time he has threatened promised to take me wild camping and night naving around Snowdonia for a few days/nights, in preparation for my own Mountain Leader assessment which I hope to take in spring 2018… If I survive that long! 🙂

Thanks for reading…

This post was edited by the lovely Jennifer Lyon whose travel blog can be found by clicking here.

Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…