Wild Wales Pt.3 By Josh Peck

Tryffan

Overnight I stayed in the Pen-y-Pass hostel, and amazingly comfortably and welcoming YHA (No I was not paid by them to say that!) but after a few too many pints and a decent fish and chips I was out like a light. For the second day I had planned to do The North face of Tryffan, a very challenging and steep scramble up what I like to refer as “the dragons back”. Another early start, I arrived fresh and alert at the base at 7am. All Packed and ready to go, a quick drink and I was of, walking around kilometer to the start point taking in the scenery and weather as I go. From the start Tryffan plays its tricks on you, hiding the route, loose rocks and black ice where all immediate problems I faced. An initial path of stepping-stones and cut grooves guide you up the initial 250metres, but just like Snowdons ridge line the path quickly faded into thin air. Those feeling of isolation and worry slowly start creeping into your mind, the fear of something going wrong and being left for dead are all to real when you are the only sign of life on the mountain.  Pushing on, I am forever stopping to re-asses my route. Unlike most other climbs there is no clear and defined route up Tryffans north ridge, instead several routes follow several different directions. The most frustrating feeling if following a defined route and loosing it, blindly pushing on believing to be on the right course only to have it disappear under your feet. Looking down you can see each of the individual trails, each of course being easier than the route I decided to take. I always work on a rule of 3 summits when climbing, the first you climb is always blind, and from here there are another 2 you have to traverse. Reaching the first summit I scour the plateau for any signs of footprints. No such luck, im the first and only guy up here today and possibly this week so going to have to take it extra careful. As the clouds begin to roll in the temperature begins to drop, and the slush at my feet begins to give way to a hard layer of ice underneath. Passing Cannon rock I reach the second plateau and straight ahead the nose of the north ridge juts out in front of me. An intimidating mass of Granite boulders and sheet ice, there is only one way up and I’m going to have to get over this.

IMG_2648

Strapping on my crampons and pulling out my ice axe, I began to hack away at the ice in front of my to get a good footing, progress has ground to a halt but better to be safe than sorry. 1 hour later and I have managed to carve out a reasonable path up the ridge, complete with a few bum-clenching moments. But at last my hard work pays of, and I can see how the ground is beginning to steadily level out revealing the summits greatest prize, the Twin sisters. Two giant rectangular blocks of stone sit at the highest point at Tryffan, and look as though someone has driven a wedge between to separate them. They say for good luck your meant to climb and jump the gap between them, but in these conditions id rather make my own luck.

IMG_4093

Orientating my compass and quickly checking my map, I aim for the second lower summit, I have no plans on conquering this, but now I need a way of this mountain, iv got what I came for.  Sheet snow covering everything, descending becomes just as arduous as the climb its self. The risk of falling through a snow covered gap or twisting my ankle is all to real, its no good getting all the way up here to fuck up on the way down!

IMG_4094

Passing the south summit on my left I drop out of the cloud line. With the view opening up, I look back up behind me to see the summit I have just conquered, a feeling of great pride overwhelms me as this has been on my list for years, but no time to stop and rest I have to get down and get home! For another 40 minutes I keep descending over the far side of mountain, watching each footstep to ensure I don’t slide and take a tumble. As I progress the ground steadily becomes smoother and the rocks begin to dwindle in size and my pace begins to quicken. Finally down into bristly ridge I remove my crampons and stuff them in my bag, a quick photo opportunity and now there is nothing but a nice clearly defined, stone path taking me down to the carpark, surrounded on all sides by wales finest mountains!

 

Wild Wales Pt.2 – By Josh Peck

The Climb

As I set off on the initial stage, memories of previous climbs come flooding back, and with every corner I turn a new view, each bringing back its own set of distinct memories.  But as the path begins to steepen and the steps get larger, I can feel how my initial desire to stave of the cold has caught up with me, and god’s most uncomfortable microclimate is developing beneath my shell.  If you’ve never heard of it before there are two types of people that exercise, the hot and the cold runners. Cold runners like warm climates; they’re drawn to them. Being nature’s natural iceboxes, they are forever dammed to a life of multiple jumpers, cold feet and hot beverages. We hot runners however live a life of polar opposites, being able to keep warm in the coldest of environments. They can normally be spotted in marathons or other sporting events wearing nothing more than a pair of short shorts, dripping sweat and staving of the cold with our natural ability to radiate heat (not to be mistaken for ego runners).

IMG_4154

I am of the later party, and whilst this is fantastic for keeping out the elements, if I overcompensate it catches up with me very quickly. Jumping behind a large rock I dropped my pack and quickly pulled of the fleece, INSTANT relief! Cramming it into the top of my pack, I watched at how the steam rose of it, instantly evaporating into nothing. If it’s this cold at the base heaven knows what it going to be like at the top. Pushing on things where so much nicer, in my new found comfort I made good time getting up and over the first small crest, thus easing me nicely round onto the main trail. For the last few steps up this initial stage you can see how with every footstep the view opens up, and the Snowdon horseshoe presents itself in all its Glory. When the weather holds on a good day, straight ahead you can see the waves of the Irish sea lapping onto shore, and as your eyes follow right, cresting up above are the east and west summits of Y Lliwedd. Then with a shallow and low curve separating them, your eye is drawn to the central summit, Snowdon itself.  No time to sit and admire the view though, its cold, light is short and I have a mountain to climb. 

 

 

The Main Event

As it twists and turns up and under Crib Goch, the Pyg track slowly climb’s up the right flank of Snowdon, and along its rocky and wet path, it slowly reveals some of the best views available in the horseshoe. With each pause take to gain my breath and recover my legs, I can see the final destination edging its way forever closer, every now and again peering through the cloud breaks calling me on. Moving quickly over the terrain I’m actually making goodtime. One of the greatest fears about being up in the mountains is being caught out in the dark, especially when you aren’t prepared for it, and this Is a mistake I can guarantee you will only make once. With this fear in mind I make it a priority to start and summit early, taking my time to enjoy the scenery on the way back down. Hitting the snowline about an hour and a half after I started, I can feel the excitement building in me, after all this is the whole reason I’m here!

IMG_4173.jpeg

 

As those first footsteps connect with the snow, those rising feelings of pain and ache are instantly replaced with joy and excitement. The childishly joyful feelings of leaving fresh footprints and my own trail have never left me, even as a grown adult. The downside to snow however is that things start to become that little bit more dangerous.  Ask any mountain rescuer or local climbers and they will all tell you that the most dangerous part of Snowdon is the final zigzag up the Pyg track. The path reaches a point where it can no longer follow its steady climb, and so for the final few hundred meters, the path sharply backtracks itself steeply up the mountainside.

IMG_4126

At the top of the zigzag standing proudly on the ridge of the mountain, a huge 3 metre slate pillar presents itself, a reassuring marker in these conditions. With no shelter or windbreaks and immersed in the clouds, the temperature now drops to -15. Sheet ice crystals 5cm long have formed over every available surface and I can feel the freeze run through my jacket. I know from here on there is no decent shelter, and the higher I go it will only get worse. Throwing on my fleece and fresh gloves, I wrap up tightly to keep in the remaining warmth as I orientate my compass for Garnedd Ugain.  It can be a very intimidating experience when your visibility drops to 10ft, and when there is no one else to be found it only exaggerates that feeling. Trusting and understating your equipment is one of the most vital and crucial elements to mountaineering, getting it wrong is a very real risk of death

IMG_4214

I made my first and last error in these moments. Even though I had orientated my compass and new the direction, I still trusted and believed in my eyesight. I began to follow what I thought was a clear and defined trail up to the peak, grave mistake. After around ten minutes of hiking, the path faded into nothing, and with the snow and ice building up all over it only made conditions even worse. Fortunately in these situations you can still use logic, after all I’m climbing a peak so if I’m heading up, I have to be going in the right direction! Turning back and heading up the mound I had been traversing, I realized I had taken a wider route than was necessary and within a few minutes I could see the summit I was searching for.  A cracked and heavily weathered trig point, I could see damage years of exposure to these elements have caused, but no time to admire Snowdon still calls. Descending back down I head south keeping the ridge and the slate pillar to my left as a I pass. On a clear day can watch how the gulls silently rise from the valley below up over your heads, riding on the thermals.

IMG_4151

Connecting up with the Railway line it’s a straight run from here up to the summit. Stepping in the tracks of others, I keep my head down to shut out the wind and push on.  For this trip I had been wearing my soft-shell (semi breathable and showerproof jacket) and now having been on the summit for an extended period, I could see how my sweat evaporation was beginning to freeze to the outside of my clothing. At the top of Snowdon sits a quaint little café, connected to a railway line, thus allowing the less abled and exhausted a comfortable and relaxing experience of getting up, and enjoying the views. Closed in winter, the café had long been boarded up and buried in ice and snow, another reminder at how powerful the elements are up here.  Overall I probably only spent 10 minutes up on the summit, an obligatory selfie and quick snack, I could feel the warmth slipping away from me. From the summit heading down is just as straightforward as heading up. Follow the railway down until you reach the slate pillar, and its time to turn.

IMG_4192

The constant roar of wind up on the ridge to the peace and tranquility of the sheltered horseshoe is such a stark difference. The sigh of relief as I finally drop down out of the wind, that feeling of such warmth and peace. Heading back down the zigzag I used my ice axe to cut out deeper steps to stand in. One mistake here and it’s a 500ft drop to realize how badly I fucked up. Taking it steady I made good time getting down, dropping down out of the cloud line I could instantly feel the warmth as I leave the snow and ice behind me. Retracing my steps I followed the track about halfway, stopping just as it splits into two. Still frozen and covered in thick ice, I laid down my pack and pulled of my shell. I judged it would be another hour before I got back to the car and I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. A quick bite on a (now frozen) Cliff bar and cramming my fleece and spare kit into my rucksack I set of for the final leg of my journey back down to the car.

IMG_4121

 

 

 

 

Wild Wales Pt.1 – By Josh Peck

They say that you really find out who you are when you are in your lowest moments. When you are tired, hungry, aching and in pain your true character will emerge along with all of your fears, happiness, confidence and your doubts, and as I sit here wrapped in 5 layers for warmth and inhaling my pint, I certainly know mine.

IMG_4044

It didn’t take me long to pack, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now so routine takes over. Long gone are the days where I would cram every piece of outdoor clothing I owned into the back of my car for fear of being caught out by the most unusual of circumstances. “But what if…” was a regular thought process for taking a spare “thingamajig” and a “whatchamacallit” with no reason other than I might be caught short for the most absurd reason. Now its more militaristic, one of them, one of those, and ill just have to brass it out if it goes wrong.

At 3am the alarm goes of and without hesitation I’m up, this has been in the planning for weeks and as the day approached iv been getting more and more  restless. Everything was already laid out, the car was packed and food all prepared. All I had to do get dressed, head downstairs and prepare some breakfast. That had already been decided the night before, for this I was going all out by adding Nutela to the porridge, Breakfast of kings!

The 4 hour drive up to Snowdonia it altogether relatively mundane, and unless you have an interest in week old road kill and motorway service stations there REALLY isn’t much to say about the initial three hours. The final leg onto the A5 however is a whole other kettle of fish. I have driven halfway around the world and over entire continents, and I can tell you the road from Oswestry to Bets-y-Coed is still one of my favourite. Snaking its way around the north welsh countryside the scenery is some of the most awe inspiring and breathtaking Britain has to offer. There’s much to say about this, but we’ll come back to it another time…

 

IMG_4049

For this climb I’d chosen the Pyg track, its beautiful, relatively straightforward and iv done it so many times that these days it almost seem obligatory  (not that I’m complaining). I arrived at Pen-Y-Pass 7:30 Sharp and stumped up a tenner for parking – This being my only grumble for the whole trip. From the confines of my nice warm and cozy car, the outside world seems so peaceful and calm, you can just watch the world guy by and be left completely untouched. That however all became a distant memory the second my door opened. Almost as soon as id pulled the door handle back,  the wind got underneath ripping it from my hands. Swinging wide open I faced a chilling and icy breeze, the type that seeps under all your layers, sucking away at those last elements of comfort. Having still been relatively groggy by this point this was an unpleasant wakeup call.

One of the great advantages of Backpacking Australia and living in a van is you learn to make the most of every available space. So when it comes to getting changed sat upright with a steering wheel pressed in your face, most people would laugh at even considering it. But when the temperature outside is hovering just above zero and the sleet is starting to belt down this suddenly becomes a very appealing option. After about 10 minutes of faffing around in the car I’m set. The bags packed, everything’s where it should be and cramming some nibbles and a map in my pocket as I set off. High winds, sleet, snow and mountains – these are the days I live for.

 

Meet the blogging team! Josh Peck

Josh comes to our blogging team with a huge wealth of travel experience. We are really excited to have him on board!
Josh kicked off his travels by buying a van off a llama trader and converted it into camper van to take with him around the length of breadth of Australia. He also is a keen surfer and spent a good portion of his trip experiencing the Australian waves.
From there he spent 6 months in South East Asia including Singapore, China, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam
Josh also does quite a bit of charity fundraising including the Nijmegen Marches in Holland, climbing Mont Blanc/Aguile De Midi and also is planning to partake in a marathon this year.
We can’t wait to hear more about his travels!