/ Grey Arete, Glyder Fawr

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TobyA on 15 Apr 2018

Who has done Grey Arête (HVS 5a) on Glyder Fawr? My mate Tony and I, plus a visiting Finnish friend Jonas, had a great day out in Cwm Idwal yesterday, trying to do one of those enchainments. We zoomed up Tennis Shoe (HS 4b). Tony showed he hasn't forgotten completely how to climb 'classic' VS amongst his hard bouldering and sport by shooting up Original Route (VS 5a) in one pitch. Jonas ticked another top quality UK HVS doing Continuation Crack (HVS 5a), finally in some sun! Then we walked over and up to Grey Arete. Tony led P1, Jonas started up P2 but retreated after maybe 8 mtrs with no gear. Neither Tony or I fancied leading it, if steady Jonas didn't. Abbed off from the top of P1. The Ground Up book that we had with us doesn't make it sound as serious as Rockfax does and comments here in the logbooks really do emphasize that, but of course I only thought to look on my phone after Jonas had tried and come back to the belay. The belay at the top of P1 also isn't the most convincing, which adds to the general sense of terror.

Do people who have done it, still tremble at the memory? Or is it one of those ones that once you push on doesn't seem too bad?

I'm going to have to do the lower tiers again now, but this time I'll finish on the vdiff arete to the summit not the HVS!

Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I thought it was OK when you went for it but bold and pretty full on. Grey Slab was about two adjectival grades easier with microcams.

Martin Bennett - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Just had to comment on this as it reminds me of a time, long ago, when I still had "purple Patches" where I could climb with confidence and speed. We did the route, like you, as an element of an enchainment, on a  long August day in 1986 which went: Suicide Groove, Javelin Blade, Grey Arete, Hebenwi and ended with a happy walk down in the dark.

Incidentally I once saw "enchainment" mistakenly written as "enchantment". I think it ought to be adopted. That day was, for me, certainly enchanting, and never to be forgotten.

Thanks for the memory.

AlanLittle - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I did it as the end of a link-up day, and the only bit I remember being stressful was the sudden realisation that we were lying back enjoying the glorious sunset light at the top of Glyder Fawr without having thought to bring headtorches. Quick jog down ensued.

1987 is a while ago now though, so perhaps not surprising that I don't remember too much about the actual route(s)

alan moore - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

It's an amazing route. The first pitch has bold some bits and, your right, the second pitch is even bolder. But it's only 4c and there are a few tiny wires and blunt spikes where you can drape a sling or two (if they are nice furry slings that stick to the rock) The top pitch is a technical grade harder, but only for one move where the flake keels out over space for a few feet.

Im sure your not the first person on here to have found it overtly unprotected.....

wilkesley - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Did a similar enchainment many years ago, which started with Tennis Shoe Direct. With the gear I had at the time, this had very few runners. So, when we got up to Grey Arete, it didn't seem too bad. However, I agree it's not a route where you would contemplate falling off!

Frank the Husky - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I agree, much bolder and more dangerous than any of the guide suggest. Extremely good, but really scary.


capoap - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I can remember doing it mid 70's. As you can imagine no modern gear. The only time I have ever said to a 2nd "take your time and don't fall off" Great position but serious  and yes a remember it !!!! 

TobyA on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to all:

Great hearing of people who did 20, 30 or even 40 years back and still remember it clearly now. Obviously our impression was so different. 

I did even try going up the protection-free start of pitch 2, so can't say but do people think thst is 5a climbing? If so then HVS seems harsh. The belay isn't fantastic, and the leader would risk a maybe 20 mtr factor 2 fall onto that unconvincing belay. If it is 5a, then E1 5a seems logical.

And just after a winter of thinking that in comparison to the Lakes, Welsh mixed climbs are much better protected!

BTW if anyone gets up there soon, there is a very new sling with a maillon on it, backed up via cord to a large nut for crag swag!


TobyA on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

The Ground Up guide said the arete was less bold than Grey Slab. But have mini cams tamed it?

capoap - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Yes, well any cam really, we only had drilled out nuts and big boots, no fancy sticky rubber. Still we had more than Ron James & Pete Benson on the 1st ascent 

Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Yeah... didn't find GS at all bold on any VS like moves, even with some weeps. I thought very soft, HS soft or even maybe S soft on Yorkshire grit. It does seem to be a bit 'marmite'.. a mate of mine, Alex Thompson, says on the logbooks that felt it was tough and he's a better slab climber these days than I.

The GA moves on pitch 2 felt easy for 5a to me, but the easiest sequence took a bit of figuring out;  I did get some small psychological pro in.  I didn't think the mantel was that bad but you wouldn't want to fall off there.

Post edited at 18:22
AlanLittle - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

I clearly found Grey Slab underwhelming, since my first edition Paul Williams guide has two of the three stars crossed out and "inferior to Grey Arete" written next to it.

Coel Hellier - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> . . . do people think thst is 5a climbing? If so then HVS seems harsh.

As I recall it's stiff HVS, and that pitch is overall top-end HVS (some of the votes give E1, which is plausible).

The really run-out stuff on the first half of the pitch is really only 4b/4c-ish.  It's also at an easy-ish angle where you can stand around and work it out, and you're not actually going to fall off it are you?  Not with sticky rubber on dry rock.

I thought the second half of the pitch was technically harder.  You earn the tick by the top!

Mick Ward - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

E1, 4c/5a.


Martin Bagshaw - on 15 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Not too bad if you push on, but it was bolder than I bargained for, especially with the resoled 'wellies' I was wearing at the time. Was a good day out.

Hardonicus - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

High in the grade and very spooky start to the second pitch with crux moves and a sizeable factor 2 fall onto what can only be described as an OK belay. The climbing is of course 'steady' but not as positive as you would expect at the grade given the seriousness.

I only seconded that pitch but it felt serious at the belay - certainly one that sticks in the mind and I've done my fair share of dodgy stuff...

Classic E0.

Post edited at 10:12
In reply to TobyA:

Agree with your assessment. I think Mark Reeves felt it was bold in his description, but when I did it with my son I found it much bolder than expected. It is a bit of a fall factor 2 nightmare, however luckily I think few people take the actual fall. I have beefed up that description for our next edition.

Magnificent link-up though especially if you continue all the way to the summit of Glydr Fawr and back down the Devil's Kitchen.



Michael Hood - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to wilkesley:

> started with Tennis Shoe Direct. With the gear I had at the time, this had very few runners.

I'm not convinced that modern gear would get you much more. I seem to remember that the rock was very compact until you got out of the scoop onto the slab proper.

Rob892 on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I've had similar conversations about this route, when we actually got to the top of Continuation Crack we bottled it though. It looked like an amazing route in a great location, but the logbook comments make it sound terrifying!

In reply to TobyA:

I'm with you all the way here. When I did it I had a good few grades in hand, but still thought it was wildly bold - not to mention extremely dangerous - for the the grade. I was using the Ground Up guide too, which does say it's 'delicate and bold', but considering the seriousness of the situation I don't think this message could really be repeated enough. F**k knows what would happen if you fell?!?

I also think the levels of horror experienced are coupled with the fact that you're expecting an easier pitch. This is supposedly the easier of the two, with the arete above being the crux. I remember standing at that belay looking up at where it was supposed to go, then looking down to re-read the guidebook description several times before accepting the reality that it actually went up there!

Still, as you allude to - it's not one I'm going to forget anytime soon...

Mick Ward - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

We had a discussion about this route a few years ago, on here. Back then, I was the resident wimp, getting firmly told off. Admittedly I had a sac, full of rubbish, shit shoes and a crap attitude, engendered by grades in hand. Had to wake up and focus!  Am glad to see that the comments this time generally stress that this is a very serious route indeed.


Deadeye - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Did it about 10 years ago and found it ok.  The belay over on the right at the end of pitch 1 isn't above suspicion though so I was very very determined not to fluff it!

jon_gill1 - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

We did this enchainment last year and thought it was very serious indeed,added to by the fact it was almost dark whilst we on the belay stance! 

We climbed as a three and my friend Rosie led the first pitch of GA but couldn’t make a convincing belay,so I climbed up on second and made quite a good belay off to the right by 3-4 meters. Then John came up and led pitch 2 leaving us worryingly watching him with sweaty palms (us that is) delicately teater on up,thankfully without falling off! 


We decided, after some badgering by me, to summit and come back down devils kitchen. However we managed to get very disorientated and merrily set off in what seems like the complete opposite direction! Pretty soon we were completely lost and decided that we had to head towards the road where we could see car headlights every so often.

After some time we found ourselves by a large pool of water, sadly not the right one! We were very lost! By the time we got close to the road we were exhausted! Just meters away from reaching it I disappeared into a 3foot deep bog and got covered in stinking water and mud! 


We popped out onto onto the road only to discover that we had some how made it to the pen-y-gruyd pub!

the long walk and drive back to the midlands in nothing but a wet pair of boxers was one I shan’t forget in a very long time! 

TobyA on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to jon_gill1:

That sounds fairly epic. We really wanted to summit, it being Jonas's first visit to the UK for climbing so it seemed the 'proper British mountain day' thing to do so we intended to scramble up the ridge above GA to the top and come down Devil's Kitchen. The evening was splendid by that point, but after abbing off GA we couldn't muster the energy to try and race the sunset up the Vdiff, Central Arête (VD) I think it is, so instead slogged directly down from GA back to the path past the slabs (loose and not pleasant).

I actually climbed Idwal Stream a few weeks back during the Beast from the East weekend. I had never descended the Kitchen path before, and we had already climbed Nameless Stream in the morning before deciding to risk doing Idwal Stream in the afternoon before dark. In retrospect it was superb, we must have climbed 5 or 6 hundred metres of pure water ice that saturday, but it did mean we arrived at the top of Idwal stream in cloud knowing we had maybe 45 minutes before it got proper dark, and that there were some big cliffs below us! I got the map and compass out (and brought the OS maps up with GPS on my phone!) and did some micro nav be proud of, to get us to the top of the path down through Devil's Kitchen and down to the main path before it got completely dark. All surprisingly serious feeling considering how close to the road you really are!

TobyA on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

My friend Tony also has many grades in hand too, but when I made a suggestion along the lines of he would cruise it, he pointed out it didn't have any bolts in it so perhaps he wouldn't. Lolz. Fair enough I felt!

Glad to hear plenty of people far more competent than us found it rather intimidating!

DannyC on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I thought it was incredible. One of the best bits of climbing I've done in Wales, in fact. 

BUT I completely agree that it's terrifying. It was many years ago, and HVS was near the top of my grade I guess, but I can still remember an upside-down micro-cam 'protecting' a crux slab move and wondering whether I'd bitten off more than I could chew. It's a relief to see someone else found it tough to be honest! 

Wonderful route, but E1, for me - or a HVS with a big red flag and daggers over it.


In reply to TobyA:

It is pretty ballsy that pitch, I remember it vividly which is why I mentioned the lack of gear in the RF guide, not got one to hand as my batter copy is in the van. It was a nice day so wasn't stood around getting cold and no damp rock. Which would only add to the sense of peril.

Glad you survived.

Dave Garnett - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Having done the other Grey routes recently (spicy for their grades too, I thought) this was high on my to do list. I was attracted by the apparent presence of a crack on the crux pitch but that doesn’t seem to be the issue!  Maybe I’ll wait until later in the year when I have some mileage under my belt...


TobyA on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

If you need a trusty second, I'd be up for it!

What did you think of Grey Slab? The Ground Up guide says specifically that GA is less bold than GS, so GS must be pretty bold at least in sections!  But then again I guess it's all dependent on the tech grade. There were some bits on Tennis Shoe that were more run out, but the climbing is rather easy by that point.

chris wyatt - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Hi Toby.  I've done it once and that was enough.  Its seared in my memory forever


JamieH - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I have a photo of the description taken from Ron James' first ascents logbook. For pitch 2 it simply reads......

2. 60ft. Up the middle of the pock marked wall until a move left leads to a small rock stance. Chockstone belay.

After climbing it in May 2016, I mentioned to Ron that I'd enjoyed it and this was his response......

"Glad you liked Grey Arête. I was pleased with it for J.M.Edwards had failed on it years earlier! I repeated it with Peter Benson in 2003 and the crux was still hard!"
Their repeat, 44 years after the first ascent, was to celebrate Peter's retirement.
Dave Garnett - on 17 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> What did you think of Grey Slab? The Ground Up guide says specifically that GA is less bold than GS, so GS must be pretty bold at least in sections!  But then again I guess it's all dependent on the tech grade. 

I didn’t lead the wet final pitch but it was pretty run out. The top of Grey Rib has a scary move to reach the second stance too - another gearless pitch with the potential for a big factor 2 fall onto a mediocre belay.


TobyA on 19 Apr 2018
In reply to all:

Good thread! Cheers all. Good to see this route slowed down plenty of better climbers than us. This might be the first multipitch I've backed off after grinding to a halt. Obviously I do to many well protected routes!

Chris Sansum - on 19 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

My climbing partner started calling down to me about how he had a wife and kids a third of the way up the second pitch! Definitely character-building stuff...

Offwidth - on 19 Apr 2018
In reply to Chris Sansum:

Lets not get too carried away. I led this as a cautious older climber and there are hundreds of bold Yorkshire VS climbs that I won't try as they terrify me and scarier routes still in Northumberland.  I've pretty sure I've backed off or cheated on HS in most of the big name climbing regions of the UK. As someone said above, definitive bold E0.

Matt Podd - on 19 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

If you think that's scary, don't try Grey wall. It was a rite of passage route for us climbers liviving in Bethesda in the 90's. Good to see it's E4 now.

Post edited at 21:26
TobyA on 20 Apr 2018
In reply to Matt Podd:

What grade did it get Mat? Above my pay grade fortunately anyway!

jcw on 21 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

Just looked up diary entry 24.10.65 Fine but cold. With Ron all in boots and rucksacks. Girdle of East Wall Idwal Slabs, Original Route with direct start on Holly Tree Wall, the Upper Staircase on Continuation Wall, Grey Slab on Glyder Fawr... Total 900' of good severe standard - an enjoyable day. Ron a bit tired from three rescues previous day and myself with lingering cold.

Next day was my first visit to Cloggy:Great Slab and Pedestal Crack. We were the only people there. 

Post edited at 12:27
alexm198 - on 21 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I did exactly the same link-up in 2016. Tennis Shoe, Direct Route, Continuation Crack and Grey Arete. Great day out, but I digress. 

I remember Grey Arete being searingly bold. It was my partner’s lead but he retreated about 10m up the pitch, much to my amusement. Needless to say, I wasn’t amused for long after I got on the sharp end! Most of the first pitch was a solo, with a small section of the first pitch where a purple cam out right might have kept you off the deck. The first belay was relatively shite, but not abysmal. But, as you say, on the second pitch the leader risks a ~25m factor two onto that belay before you get gear in the crack. 

Interestingly I don’t remember being too terrified, but I was going well at the time and have always found bold climbing my strong(ish) suit. I do remember thinking that the rockfax description is dangerously inadequate and could get an unsuspecting HVS leader or—worse—an aspiring VS leader in very deep water indeed. I’m glad to hear that it’s getting beefed up for the next edition of the guidebook!

Andrew Popp - on 25 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I soloed it so I can't comment on what it feels like to lead, but in its favour the climbing really is steady and the rock is excellent. 

Sean Kelly - on 25 Apr 2018
In reply to TobyA:

I led Grey Slab and thought the upper slab pitch unprotected and quite bold for a VS. I had just sauntered up the first pitch of Tennis Shoe Direct (the groove pitch) and although very bold it was dryer than Grey Slab which was streaming. I wasn't too impressed with the belay either. A friend was doing Grey Arete and it looked a much better climb. I'd like to try then both again on a nice warm sunny day.

Martin Hore - on 25 Apr 2018
In reply to Mick Ward:

> We had a discussion about this route a few years ago, on here. 

This is it:

It was my post and I agree with E1 4c for the second pitch. 




Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2018
In reply to Martin Hore:

I've changed my mind a bit as I've given up (after years of arguing) on expecting climbers to carry microcams and RPs on HVS. It's a choice that I always make but seemingly most others disagree. Hence very bold top end HVS (ie E0) is now my view but still noticably easier than 3PS (by the proper straight up finish). The 4b way takes more exploration than most will bother with. I still don't think there is anything like a 5a move on the route.

Also reminded by that post there is a bolder more direct line on Grey Slab, that explains some of the wide differences in views.

Post edited at 19:53

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