/ My second trip up Tryfan

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L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018

Hi there. I’ve just registered after going up Tryfan for the second time and thought I’d share my story. Hope that’s ok...


Let me start by saying that I’m a novice to this whole business, but had been to the top of Tryfan once before, just a week or so more than a year previous. My friend Rich likes to take on Tryfan for his birthday and has done it each of the last 8 years, and I joined him and around 10 others for the first time in Feb 2017.

That day it was snowing quite hard, and we walked/scrambled from the A5 layby around the East face before taking on the summit from the South.

I had no idea what I was getting into, having been sold on “a birthday hike” and amongst my mistakes included carrying a large pack full of bottled beer, some snacks and too many heavy clothes. I’d borrowed crampons and an ice axe from a friend which were nothing but ballast for the whole day.

My fitness isn’t great and to say I struggled is an understatement, having cramp in both thighs by the time I reached the boulder like ascent to the top, and for pretty much all of the way back down.

This time was different, but my capability and fitness wasn’t. I decided for lighter clothing, a small pack, zero bottles of beer and no ice axe/crampons so at least it was only going to be my own bulk I had to carry up to the top. That and the necessary fluids and sugary snacks to keep me going.

The weather was much better this year, with cloudless blue skies overhead as I drove in from the A55, through Bethesda and to the layby we agreed to meet in. The group was different too. Rich, Will (also a veteran of 7 prior attempts) and two others, Olly and Marc, who had never set foot on Tryfan before.

While Rich had ropes, harness, ice axe and crampons with him, the lack of recent snow and the clear looking day led to them staying in the back of the Defender they had driven up in, and we set off towards the North Ridge.

As we started to ascend quickly Marc felt the pace early – having made some of the mistakes I had made 12 months earlier, with too many layers of warm clothing causing quite a sweat.

I was surprised how much easier I was finding it this time around – it was more challenging but definitely less physically exerting as we quickly rose to through the first boulder section and reached the start of what really now felt like a mountain.

From there on, the next 2 hours were an absolute blast. Occasional snowy patches lay on the ground but it was mostly dry rock and we pulled ourselves up a few sections that made us feel pretty pleased with ourselves, looking back down on where we’d come from and recognising the steepness of the drop below. The view over the Ogwen Valley was a constant delight, and though some clouds had come in by now, they brought nothing more than a couple of minutes of light rain at a time.

We stopped for the occasional nibble on trail mix and jelly babies and a water break, each time with photo opportunities abound. None more impressive than the Cannon Stone.

From there on up, the conditions got markedly trickier with more snow and ice on the ground, but we were generally able to still cherry pick our routes upwards, clambering up with a little helping hand from one another as we went. The camaraderie was terrific and we were all thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

We passed the occasional climbers, mostly on their way back down, and asked a couple of them whether they’d made it to the top. Both sets had said no, the latter on the basis that “it was nothing you wouldn’t take on – on another day – they just decided not to this once”.

I have to say that gave me reason for pause, but we were happy with how we were going so far, and having reached what I would assume is the start of the North Tower we chose to press on. In truth, I was a bit nervy of how easy it would have been to descend the way we had gone up.

Having since read a few bits about the North Tower, it would seem that we should have backed our instincts to go straight up it. It looked more challenging than most of what we had done so far, but not a huge amount more challenging. Instead we decided to follow the visible tracks in the snow around to the East.

We did so carefully and patiently, and didn’t feel as exposed as we possibly were, until we reached the first snow filled gully upwards, and more reason for pause. Looking at it, I instinctively didn’t like it. A wrong move or a slip was going to be serious trouble, and a long way down. Myself and Will suggested we ought to turn back, and Olly was starting to echo our sentiments but there were good, clear, strong looking foot holes all the way up the gully in the hard icy snow, and Marc chose to forge on and test them out.

He said they were good, and he was going to press on. At that point, we had a choice – all of us together or split here, so Rich followed and then we agreed we’d all go.

I was exceptionally uncomfortable in that gully, as much due to the lack of any hand holds,  and we collectively wished the ice axe, harness and rope had not stayed in the car, but in truth the footing never felt anything other than sound. Other than not having the mental safety net of solid ground behind us it was easier than many sections we’d taken on, but that mental anguish was not pleasant and the collective sigh of relief as the last of us made it onto the rocks above made it clear that I wasn’t alone in feeling that way.

From there it was back to much of the same scrambling we had gone through previously, and while some of the drops below looked intimidating the scrambling was pretty straight forward.

Rich was now leading again and his words back to us as he worked over a crest and temporarily out of sight were music to our ears. “I can see a safe way down, lads…” were his first… “But I can also see a safe way to the top!”.

We were almost there!

As each of us made that last scramble to the summit, with Adam and Eve in sight, we enjoyed a handshake, a hug, a smile and a laugh. We’d done it. What a feeling.

In all, it took us close to 3.5 hours to get up there, but that was so much longer than it could have. We never hurried, we stopped regularly for new facebook profile pictures, to take in the view, and a snack. But man did we feel a sense of achievement when we were there.

Rich took the Adam and Eve jump, while the rest of us stayed grounded.

After a few more photos and some food we set off back down the South Ridge through the boulders, sliding on our backs down the gentle gullies like excitable children, and then worked our way around to the West and then back down towards the A5, our cars and the knowledge we would soon enjoy a very well earned beer.

I can’t help but think we were foolish to take on some of what we did without more genuine expertise in the group, but at the same time it was so much more enjoyable than the first time that I’m glad we did.

As Olly said in the pub later – to too much nervous laughter “there were a couple of times when I thought one, some or all of us were going to die today!”.

A few beers, a takeaway curry and an evening chatting and laughing with the locals and an early night later, I set back off to drive home to Yorkshire feeling bloody pleased with myself and my body telling me I’d worked for it!

That’s what a weekend is supposed to be like.

eroica64 - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Tsk, tsk, baaad boys - You really should have taken ropes, harness, ice axe and crampons.  

Mal Grey - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

You had fun, and you learnt stuff. Nicely related, the enthusiasm shining through. That should motivate you for future trips, and learning the "how to" stuff to be safe. 


L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to eroica64:

I think we realised that by the time it was too late, and I’m sure next time they’ll make it out of the Land Rover!!

L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to Mal Grey:

Absolutely. I’m not sure how much chance I’ll get to practice between now and next year, but I’ll be reading up and watching some vids of how it should be done, and reading on these forums too I reckon.

benp1 - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Enjoyed the read, thanks

would enough of you have known what to do with ropes etc for them to have been of use?

L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Thanks Ben.

i wouldn’t, but the lads that have been 7 or 8 times do, I think. And I don’t know if it translates but one of the first time guys is a skydive enthusiast (probably why he was bold enough to go straight up the gully!!) so he might have had an idea or two.


to be honest having read what I’ve read since I think we should have just attacked the North Tower. It looked daunting when it’s in front of you but most comments I found yesterday suggest it’s not so bad.

Dave the Rave on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

You chatted and laughed with the locals? Are you sure?

L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to Dave the Rave:

I’m not always sure we were laughing at the same thing as they were, but generally yes!!

we stayed in the bunk house over the pub so the bar staff and the landlady were particularly friendly with us.

Dave the Rave on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

> I’m not always sure we were laughing at the same thing as they were, but generally yes!!


> we stayed in the bunk house over the pub so the bar staff and the landlady were particularly friendly with us.

I bet!

I don’t think I’ve ever gone up the North Tower if it’s the bit I’m thinking of, but skirt around to the left of a large head wall and pick up a gully sloping upwards east to west with a large chockstone. Was that the way you went?

L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to Dave the Rave:

Sounds about right. We followed to the left because there were already boot prints in the snow.

Dave the Rave on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

> Sounds about right. We followed to the left because there were already boot prints in the snow.


L OnceAYearRob - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to Dave the Rave:

Haha, something like that.

CurlyStevo - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Sounds like you had a great day but personally I like to look back on times like this and think what I would do different next time. Whilst the ropes and harness may have been overkill (depending on your skill level and the conditions) the crampons and ice axe weren't. Count your self lucky and next time don't venture in to the snow line unequipped unless you are sure you won't face anything but unsnowy ground or soft snow, and be prepared to turn back and learn to use the equipment. Remember winter conditions vary significantly at the same time of year and are not at all consistent.

They say the cat has nine lives but I wouldn't count on every cat getting all 9.

That said we've all done stupid stuff and enjoyed it. I did an ascent of the north face of pen y fan in summer un roped, which is mud, loose turf and quite steep and found it quite funny. It was semi unintentional as we were walking anyway and just fancied checking out the ground to see what it would be like in winter (when the frozen turf would be much safer). In reality I was probably quite close to serous injury, at one point I had to stab sharp rocks in to the mud to stop me slipping any further down a gully and over a boulder, and still it was more funny than stupidly dangerous. Great memory but no I wouldn't do it again. We figured it was a relatively unknown discipline vegaling  but with some mudeling involvded. Since looked it up online and several others have done it, but none would recommend! 

Probably only funny and a good memory as we didn't really fully understand or willingly commit to the risks until it was too late, a bit like your trip. For reference it looks like this and we went up the right hand / central side of the main peak

Post edited at 00:12
L OnceAYearRob - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

A pretty fair response Steve, and wow that looks a challenge.

Howard J - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Snow can linger in the gullies even when the tops appear to be clear.  I once found myself in a similar situation on Tryfan - I had an axe but most of the party did not.   Fortunately with the gear we had we were able to cut steps and get everyone across safely.

The important thing is that you've learned lessons from both these ascents and your next one will be even better.

L OnceAYearRob - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to Howard J:

Absolutely, Howard. 

We’re already planning next year and are thinking of going up the other ridge to the south of tryfan (the name escapes me) afterwards and I’ve read it’s steeper and tricker (in Winter at least) so will be a bit more precautionary in terms of gear I reckon.

mysterion on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Sounds like Bristly Ridge grade II 2/3, definitely a step up from a grade I gully on Tryfan

Bristly Ridge (II)

Trickier in summer too, pretty much like the far-north tower you avoided

Post edited at 17:20
CurlyStevo - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

I suggest you get a bit of experience of scrambling or climbing over the summer, also that you learn the basics of the rope work. I wouldn't go soloing a grade II in winter if you have almost no other experience of climbing in summer or winter.

L OnceAYearRob - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I’ve emailed a local climbing centre asking what sort of course they’d recommend to get me ready for next year.

the lads I go with live down south so I’m assuming a wall/centre led course will help me.

what would you guys recommend. Both available time and cost limitations apply, as well as not being very fit!!

Duncan Bourne - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Sounds like you had a good day out. But I will echo Steve re: ice axes and crampons. Better to carry and not use stuff than find you need it. For Tryfan in the conditions you describe I would take a walking axe and flexable walkers crampons, at the very least I would take a pair of micro crampons or spikes (the great thing about these is that they are light and with no straps to do up you can take them on and off really quickly, if you come across a frozen stream say). Things can be different on top than down in the valley Light rain low down below can become snow higher up. Clothing wise having layers you can take on and off easily is good, warm gloves, good footwear (obviously). If there is snow about and it is sunny sunglasses will come in pretty handy to avoid snowglare.

slab_happy on 21 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Are you committed to only climbing once a year, or might you be interested in doing it a bit more? *g* It sounds like the bug may have bitten ...

In terms of preparation, it depends a lot on what type of climbing most appeals to you. Maybe worth a look at Plas-y-Brenin's scrambling or Welsh winter courses (if you've already got some hillwalking experience)?

Post edited at 08:27
L OnceAYearRob - on 21 Feb 2018
In reply to slab_happy:

Thanks! ????????

I may we’ll have the bug - I’m struggling to stop thinking back to last weekend - but I’ve got to be realistic. I just don’t have the free time to go over the top and unless someone drives me to do it - like an annual birthday pilgrimage for instance - I can see me not getting out.

ive been in touch with a climbing centre local to me so I’ll see what they come back with for ideas, but those courses you linked look great  - the Winter skills one especially.

thanks again.

slab_happy on 21 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

If you're starting completely from scratch, an indoor climbing centre will be able to get you set up with some basic skills, like how to put on a harness, tie in, belay, etc..

It'll also be a way to see if you enjoy the pure physical movement aspect of climbing, or if it's all about being in the mountains for you.

I'd presume you'll need to go outside to learn how to use ice axes and crampons, though.

Even if trips to Wales are a rare event, there are probably much more local and convenient things you can do that might help "feed the rat", and build your skills in the rest of the year.

That might be hillwalking and summer scrambling. Or you might find you enjoy climbing per se even if it's not on a mountain, in which case there's indoor wall climbing and outdoor rock climbing.

There are lots of different aspects to climbing, so have an explore and see what calls to you!

L OnceAYearRob - on 16:21 Wed
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

My friend Rich has edited the go pro footage from our scramble and his video has brought back all the smiles again as I watched it on the train this morning...


Simon Caldwell - on 16:34 Wed
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Stupid and irresponsible.

Brings back fond memories of what I used to get up to at your sort of age ;-)


Billhook - on 19:12 Wed
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Carrying/taking beer up mountains?????   

Just imagine what would have been said had you or your mates needed rescue.


teh_mark on 19:21 Wed
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

I'm going to join in the chorus of people congratulating you for what sounds like a fun day out, but warning of the dangers of not being fully prepared in winter conditions. A few years after I graduated an entire group of students from my former university had to be airlifted off a hill in Scotland due to one member being unprepared, and an unwillingness to stop and turn back before they climbed themselves into a predicament they couldn't escape from.

L OnceAYearRob - on 22:00 Wed
In reply to Billhook:

The beer was the previous year, and in readiness for a “hike”. It was a poor decision, but also with that said it was a poor decision due to the weight more than anything else. In truth we went up the easy route so my fitness was the only real danger.

martinturner - on 07:55 Thu
In reply to Billhook:

> Carrying/taking beer up mountains?????   

> Just imagine what would have been said had you or your mates needed rescue.

They probably would have said ‘Hi, you ok? Let’s get off this mountain hey’ 

i think you’re mistaking them for old School Headmasters! They’re people too yano

teh_mark on 12:11 Thu
In reply to martinturner:

I think he means in the Daily Mail and on UKC...

Sophie G. - on 14:22 Thu
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

I'm glad you weren't hurt.

One suggestion: bum-sliding is fine, provided you can control it. But on hard snow in winter, you won't control it without an ice-axe.

DerwentDiluted - on 15:32 Thu
In reply to Billhook:

> Carrying/taking beer up mountains?????   

> Just imagine what would have been said had you or your mates needed rescue.

Something along the lines of 'yes please' I expect.

Billhook - on 15:53 Thu
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Judging by the number of dislikes I got for criticising beer being taken into the hills, this perhaps explains the discarded beer cans/bottles i see littering the hills and countryside. 

L OnceAYearRob - on 17:54 Thu
In reply to Sophie G.:

We were only ever doing it in short bursts where it was pretty shallow gradient, so all was good, but yes, I’m sure there’s plenty of places that wouldn’t be a good idea!

L OnceAYearRob - on 13:21 Fri
In reply to Billhook:

"taking beer" is absolutely not the same as "leaving empty cans and bottles", Bill.

Criticize the decision to take beer up a mountain for a whole range of reasons if you like, but jumping to the conclusion based on nothing that it equates to littering is unrequired.

Billhook - on 20:32 Fri
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

I didn't say taking beer was the same.  I was simply wondering why my original comment got so many dislikes = my comment was restricted to taking beer into the mountains/hills etc.  In that post I made no inference that you were in anyway responsible for littering.

Pay Attention - on 21:03 Fri
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Are there plans afoot for a sequel?  


teh_mark on 21:09 Fri
In reply to Billhook:

I'd say it got so many dislikes because there's nothing intrinsically wrong with taking a few beers into the hills with you. It's personal choice eh? If people enjoy their beer, whisky, weed, whatever responsibly, I don't see why it's anyone else's business to criticise.

Post edited at 21:10
davidalcock - on 01:39 Sat
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Lovely piece. And a bizarre coincidence - I wrote an account of some 2000 Tryfan tomfoolery last month, probably while you were having your own epic.

L OnceAYearRob - on 07:16 Sat
In reply to Billhook:

Fair point. You didn’t, apologies.

L OnceAYearRob - on 07:18 Sat
In reply to davidalcock:

That was a lot of fun to read, thanks.

a lot of the climbing lingo went over my head, and you sound like a real little shit growing up, but it was definitely a good read.

L OnceAYearRob - on 07:21 Sat
In reply to Pay Attention:

> Are there plans afoot for a sequel?  

At the very least we’ll be doing it for his birthday again next year, but hopefully we’ll get out somewhere in the summer or autumn too.

whether I write about it will probably depend on whether I feel as exhilarated (ie put myself in a position where I could die!)

tripehound - on 10:50 Sat
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

A good reason for not taking alcohol into the hills, is that it dilates peripheral blood vessels, causing a rapid loss of body heat, with the resultant raised risk of hypothermia in poor conditions. Having said that I am partial to the occasional tot when bivvying or bothying.

davidalcock - on 14:58 Sat
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Thanks. Epics are epics, or not. Often a matter of perception. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed your account, and the strange consonances between yours and mine.

P.S. I wasn't that bad a kid - I just had problem-parents. :D

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