The May Bank Holiday meet in North Wales often proves to be one of the more popular meets and 2022 was no exception with around 35 people signing up, 14 of whom took part in the Trad Training.
With Harry and Oli B now being RCI-qualified we were able to run the Beginner training in-house this year, whilst an external instructor was brought in to run the Intermediate training.
Ben and Vicky had been in the area for a couple of days already, and on the Friday they explored the lesser known crag of Carreg Bengam Bach on Yr Arddu, ticking off a couple of enjoyable single pitch routes – Hong (VS 4b) and Kong (VS 4b). They spotted a tougher route that looked good – Cathay Express (E1 5c), so dropped a bottom rope down it to try the moves. Both of them climbed it cleanly, so Ben worked out the gear before pulling the bottom rope down and going for the lead attempt. He led it cleanly on the first lead attempt and Vicky seconded it clean… good effort!
Of the new arrivals, Matt G was first on the scene at Capel Curig, getting there early enough to romp up and down Moel Siabod, a decent walk by all accounts and certainly one with good views.
The rest of the campers arrived Friday evening, some early enough to put their tents up in the last of the light, others erecting their weekend homes by headtorch.
The campsite owner advised filling up water bottles in the evening as the water pipe was known to freeze. Surely not in May – he was clearly exaggerating.
However, the campers awoke to frost on the ground. Perhaps not such an exaggeration after all! Luckily the water pipe had not frozen, and nor had the campers… though some had definitely had a much chillier night than they anticipated.
The trainees prepared to head off with an early start whilst the non-trainees started hunting around for walking and climbing buddies
The instructor arrived at the campsite to meet the Intermediate group and formulate a plan before heading off to refresh some core skills – notably gear placements on different rock types, building anchors, abseiling and top rope belaying. In the afternoon they went to some sea cliffs and climbed on top ropes, placing gear on a ghost rope as they went.
The Beginner group meanwhile headed up to Clogwyn Cyrau in the hills above the picturesque village Betws-y-Coed. Oli was the only one who had been here before, but was only semi-confident he knew where he was going as the easiest approach is not the one outlined in the guidebook. Having parked in the right place, they headed off and almost immediately got semi-lost. A short backtrack and hop over a fence got them back in the right direction and they eventually found the crag. It got everyone nice and warmed up, at least.
As this was the first time some of the group had climbed outdoors, Oli set up some bottom ropes whilst Harry gave an overview of gear essentials.
With the lines set up, everyone jumped on in rotation to get a feel for rock. Stepping things up, the group then moved to the top of the crag to convert the lines into top rope setups, introducing clove hitches to connect to anchors, equalisation and belaying from above. Once everyone had a go at this, they moved on to abseiling with two lines being set up and five people being fired down each of them in turn.
With some good daylight left and light rain not yet putting anyone off, the team elected to have a go at bottom roping the harder and longer routes along the front of the buttress, including an HVS 5a with a tricky crack to navigate, which several people managed to achieve.
Elsewhere David D, Daniel R, Nick K, Katherine, Alistair, and Christine grouped up and went off to Llanberis Pass. At the bottom of Dinas Cromlech, David decided straight up was the best approach and they charged through a mountain of scree… the same mountain of scree they were advised not to scramble up in the book (lol!). Sigh. After much struggle and Christine’s coffee falling out of her pack down a few metres and needing to climb down to retrieve it before going back up, they reached their final destinations where there were some beautiful multi-pitches to choose from.
Separating at the base of the crag, David, Daniel and Nick took on the not-to-be-underestimated Noah’s Warning (VS 5a), with David leading both pitches and Daniel and Nick Seconding. It’s steep, so fairly pumpy, but a great climb.
Katherine, Alistair and Christine decided to head up the Flying Buttress, a Top 50 VDiff and a wonderful outing. Katherine led it, belayed by Alistair, with some entertainment provided by Christine. Much faffing was had with the rope work and much comment was made about never having enough carabiners (is there ever?!). About 3/4 of the way through they met a pair of climbers who were very nice and patient, and they all had a good natter on the last belay platform. Finally, they finished the climb in weather threatening to pour and used the descent scramble path to return to their packs for a very late lunch. All in all, it was an enjoyable climb with plenty of gear and only one dodgy glassy section.
On the way back to their car, they discovered that the scree scramble was unnecessary and there was a fantastically clear winding path (to be fair, it was only clear from the top two thirds) to follow that didn’t involve traversing rock formations to get out of small scree-tight spots. Guess you learn!
Tom and Matt G had headed to Milestone Buttress where they took on a couple of classic multi-pitch routes – Direct Route (VDiff) and Pulpit Route (VDiff), although in both cases they decided to skip the infamously polished last pitches which are slippery at the best of times, abbing back down to more sensible ground in both cases.
Meanwhile Ben and Vicky had spent the day in the Dinorwig slate quarries outside Llamberis. They climbed in the Serengeti area, where Vicky led Seamstress (VS 4c) – continuing her run of a VS lead per day, impressive given she had led her first VS just a few weeks earlier! They also ticked off multiple sport routes, including the 3 pitch route 362 (6a) – a cool experience as multi-pitch sport routes are quite rare in the UK. The name of the route is a reference to the brutal reality of working in the quarries, however, being the number of quarrymen who died whilst working here.
Many MMCers descended on the Tyn-y-Coed pub to get some nourishment in the dry. Things had taken a decided turn for the damper and the campsite was no place for sitting around admiring the scenery. Eventually, through force of numbers, they managed to wholly take over the games room and as the beer consumption rose, things got competitive – first on the pool table, then on the dartboard as well.
Some fairly strict rules were announced, though not necessarily adhered to or enforced. One thing was agreed, though – everyone got better as the night went on, a phenomenon explained by this graph :
A wet Saturday evening continued into a wet Sunday morning, so a slightly later start was agreed and after a more leisurely breakfast the Beginner group headed to Lion Rock just outside Llamberis, a great location for training and with a lovely view of the lake (and Snowdon on a clearer day).
The order of the day was gear placement, so the team spread out along the bottom of the crag placing and critiquing nuts, hexes and cams. They then moved to the top of the crag where the teams recapped on the top rope setup, now on gear they themselves placed, equalised and attached to.
After lunch, more bottom ropes were set up but now with the climbers placing gear as they climbed in mock-leading style, and after swapping over the next person to climb removed the gear, in mock-seconding style. This proved to be a great way to get loads of mileage in and a good learning experience.
The Intermediate group had no such desire for a slow start and headed off early to make the most of their time with the instructor, concentrating on skills given the weather did not lend itself to climbing anything particularly interesting. They started with bottom rope rigging before moving onto more advanced fare such as tying off a belay plate, hauling (with and without climber assistance) and ascending a rope – like insurance, good things to have if you need them, but you kind of hope you never have to! They also looked at guide mode belay set ups and using an Italian hitch in place of a belay device.
As Sunday was a bit of a wash-out day, almost all the climbers not training opted for some indoor climbing to avoid the damp and showers. Some headed off directly from the campsite and the others from a nice hot breakfast in town. Despite being indoors, the Beacon Centre turned out to be fantastic – both in height and routes. Everyone warmed up bouldering then either top-roped (Ifrah and Christine) or lead climbed for the rest of the session (Alex, James, Fernando, Daniel R, Satish, Nick K, Katherine, and Alistair). Ifrah got in some fantastic climbs and finished her first 6A+ and 6B routes on the tallest walls she’s ever climbed. Top marks!
After lunch Alistair, Christine, Katherine, Daniel R, and Nick K had had enough and went to Betws-y-Coed for some sight-seeing, winter gear shopping, and mint-sauce hunting. The only successful buyer was Christine, who not only found a suitable outdoor seat-mat for herself, but also located Welsh mint-sauce for a trainee who had been lamenting the lack of mint-sauce the previous evening.
Others were not so deterred by the weather, however.
Ben and Vicky had scoured the guidebook and identified The Hyll Drem Girdle (HVS 5a) – a multi-pitch route, the first three pitches of which would remain dry whatever the weather. It is an old Joe Brown route at Carreg Hyll-Drem which proved to be an excellent choice in quite an intimidating position, with overhangs above and thin hanging slabs below over another overhang… the guidebook description that in places it was ‘more harrowing to second than to lead’ accurately described the experience of seconding the down-climb sections of the route (they alternated leads, so both got to experience this).
Elsewhere Tom went solo and headed up Nor’ Nor’ Buttress Variant on Tryfan’s East Face, an exciting Grade 3 scramble, and once up to the North Ridge following that to the summit.
Evening meals at the campsite were no more alluring than the previous evening, so a contingent not lucky enough to get into Tyn-y-Coed this time had a no-expense-spared meal at the Bryn Tyrch Inn instead. The diners were not necessarily aware of this until the bill came, which was a little higher than expected.
Oli B, Martina, Matthjis, Fabrizio, Oscar, Tim, Tom and Daniel R headed to Pant Ifan and the Upper Tier of Tremadog, where those on the Beginner course could start to put their skills into immediate action and others could just get some good mileage in.
Oli B led Martina and Matthjis up Bulging Wall (HS 4a), Central Arete (S) and MTN (S 4a) – their first time seconding.
Tom led Mistook (VS 4c) which had a tricky top section. Tim and Oscar in turn led Central Staircase (VDiff). Daniel R and Oscar also led Bulging Wall.
Whilst Fabrizio put in a stellar effort to lead Quatre Fois Direct (VS 4c) – his first ever trad lead, a strong start!
Another fairly big contingent comprising Alex, Louise, Dan K, Rachel, Fernando and possibly others headed off to Tryfan Fach (Little Tryfan) to lay siege to the iconic slab, apparently climbing it every which way – up, down, left, right… some with ropes and gear, others not!
AG, Rose, and Christine decided to go to Ogwen to meander around Cwm Idwal, with a stop at Idwal Slabs to admire the climbers, discuss the routes and ogle at the amount of seepage from the previous day’s rain. They then returned to the cafe for lunch before picking Daniel R up for the long journey home.
More went down than is mentioned in this report, but all-in-all it was another highly successful meet!