Wales is renowned for being wet. What did you think keeps the hills so green! I think the trick is to not let the rain get to you and to get out and make the most of the day reglardless of what the elements might throw at you. With this being said I have been back in Wales for a few weeks now and have only got up on the mountains a handful of times.
Parsons Nose variation of the Horseshoe
The north ridge of Crib Goch
Ally eying up Lliwedd
After running the marathon earlier in the summer I have been trying to keep up my running fitness along with combining running with scrambling to keeping my alpine agility skills. North Wales and Snowdonia is a great environment for practicing the art of alpine running. With narrow ridges like Crib Goch and more technical fast scramble found on Tryfan there is plenty of choice for all weather. Returning to Llanrug alone in mid July I had a week before my girlfriend arrived so I was determined to get some long solo days out in the mountains. My friend and ski/climbing partner Ally Hurst introduced me to the Snowdon Horseshoe in May and ever since has been reminding me that it can be done in under 2 hours. This is my goal for the summer. SO far I have had 3 attempts but all have been in wet weather. The first one being just under 3 hours then bringing it down to 2h20m. I am waiting for a nice dry few days and some fresh legs to go for my sub 2 hour attempt. I will keep you updated when this happens!
North Wales is also renowned for its amazing quality rock climbing. I have not climbed outdoors in Wales before as I only developed an interest in climbing when I spent my first summer in Chamonix 4 years ago. My friend and Trainee guide Dave Searle is also spending the summer in Wales in preparation for his first guides scheme test in September and has been showing me and my girlfriend around and teaching me how British people climb, without the need of fixed anchors and bolts!
Dave taking us up our first British climb, Milestone Butress
Practicing his short roping with Lauren
With the weather being rubbish most days in the LLanberis pass Dave took me out to the well know climbing mecca of Gogarth on Anglesey. Arriving to the top of the sea cliffs with 40mph winds tearing over the top was not the most welcoming but regardless of the conditions we were ready to climb some rock. The thought of abseiling into routes never crosses my mind when climbing in Chamonix as you usually abseil off after climbing something so it is usually the last thing in my mind. I am not a great fan of Abseiling at the best of times, let alone when you are going backwards off a blind cliff, towards the sea, with a 40mph wind whipping the rope around. Safely down at the belay with the strong waves crashing meters below we started up the face. The rock was superb and the climbing varied and nothing like I have climbed in the Alps. I was lost in the moment and completely forgot about the sea below. I was loving it!
Dave on the windy abseil
Dave leading the climb
Me, terrified, but loving it!
Moving around to the Gogarth crag after this I was excited to get another route in. Escaping the wind my nerves calmed and I started to enjoy myself even more.
Me seconding Gogarths Imitator
I am yet to lead my first Welsh climb but when the next sunny window arrives I will be straight out of the door with either my rack ready to get on some rock or my trainers to get a sub 2 hour horseshoe. The summer is far from over!…
After a week away in Corsica I was keen to get straight back out into the mountains. Seeing that Pete and Grant had skied the Tour Ronde North Face the day I arrived back and reported great snow I knew it was the time to go and bag this classic I had admired for years. The Tour Ronde is the first mountain I set my eyes on climbing on a summer trip to Chamonix 5 summers ago. When I climbed its north face for the first time in 2013 I was over the moon and have dreamt ever since of skiing it. I had already skied its east face, south face and the Gervasutti Couloir so the only face left was the North!
Heading towards the face
Me about to drop in
Heading towards it that morning with the intention of going solo I managed to convince my friend Ally Hurst to leave his group of four heading to the Diable and join me for some great snow. After he saw the face it didn’t take much convincing. We nervously crossed the big schrund on the Gerva and he stormed up the 350m couloir in 35 minutes. I was just behind with a chest infection, coughing my guts up in a time of 50 mins. Arriving back into the sun we took a look down the face. It still looked great, only 2 tracks and lots of good fresh snow to the sides. It was go time.
The hanging face
Ally on 1st rap
Ally on 2nd rap
Me on the lower face
Ally above the shcrund
A few more relaxing turns
Ally falling over with excitement
Me below the face
Ally looking back at our tracks
Dropping straight in and making controlled turns in the great snow felt amazing and I was so happy and content skiing this big and exposed face. Arriving at the abseil after 10 or 15 minutes we clipped in. Knowing that the exposed top face was the only thing playing in the back of our minds. Once on to the lower face after abseiling our worries were behind us and we could ski care free down and over the schrund. Arriving back at Montenvers just after 1pm we both had grins from ear to ear.
When Dave suggested this line I instantly became nervous. Even though I knew it was in good condition I had never skied anything this steep or this big before. With a toponeige grade of 5.4/5.5 E3 it is at the very upper end of skiable slopes. Known as one of the steepest sustained ice faces in the Alps it is not to be underestimated. I knew my ability could allow me to make turns on 50/55 degree slopes for short sections, usually cruxes on easier routes. This face would require me to make these controlled turns for over 700m of descent.
Camp to Camp Topo
The face as we saw it
Starting the high traverse to the line
The start of the skin track below the Col
Heading up the lookers left couloir
We could see tracks coming from the top and they looked good. With no signs of big sloughs coming down we headed up with light bags after stashing our gear just over the bergschrund. There was some evidence of a bootpack still there but we (Dave) mostly had to make a new one. Half way up the slope we were joined by a lone Frenchman Boris, who accompanied us to the top and enjoyed the descent with us. Near the top you make a traverse to the right and into the sun. Reaching the col my nerves were peaking and I knew what I had to do to get back down safely.
the slog continues
its a long way down
Dave powering up the Col
The high traverse
The view over the top
About to start the descent
The first 100m was east facing and had a slight sun crust but still skied well. After the traverse back to the shady face the snow improved and so did the skiing. Making powder turns on 50+ degree slopes was a great feeling. Being in control and at the same time feeling madly out of control due to the location of the skiing, surrounded by towering faces and steep ice slopes.
Dave setting off
Making bigger turns
Steep and exposed
Just hanging out
Getting low on the steeps
More and more turns
Dave above the schrund
Once we jumped the schrund it all sank in. A big fist bump and pat on the back and you could see our smiles from Argentiere. A short trip to retrieve our gear then a fun and fast descent to Argentiere and a quick drive to work. It is amazing how good snow can turn even the steepest line in to a fun day out, I have skied the cosmiques on crusty ice and I felt a lot more gripped! Thanks Dave for the fun day and for suggesting this truly superb line.