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Crib Goch Winter
by yokehead » Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:50 pm
Hewitts included on this walk: Crib Goch, Crib y Ddysgl
Date walked: 09/02/2009
Distance: 10.8 km
Ascent: 873m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Managed to get a half price b&b deal at the Royal Victoria hotel in Llanberis, travelled up on the Sunday afternoon so was able to make an early start from the Pen y pass car park on Monday. Only a couple of people were around at 8am, the car park was still snow and ice covered from the snow dump the week before so the initial challenge was to avoid getting the car stuck! There was low cloud as I started out but this soon began to lift giving my first view of the climb to the start of the Crib Goch ridge. The snow wasn’t deep so I was able to make fast progress on the Pyg track and was pleased with my time of 40 mins to Bwlch y Moch. Here you get your first sight of the horseshoe and of Llyn Llydaw. It’s also the place to decide whether to continue on the Pyg track or to go for Crib Goch.
Crib Goch had always been my goal for today if possible; the cloud continued to lift and there wasn’t much wind so I decided to go for it. There is a path to start, I followed this up and it began to get steeper, I got the ice axe out. Just below the crags I met a guy coming down, he’d camped for the night after having done some climbs. We had a chat, inevitably we got round to talking about the recent fatalities on Snowdon and whether people were properly equipped to be out in winter conditions. No easy answer to this question though, is there?
I put crampons on and then instead of tackling the crags head on I traversed to the right onto the east face and went up the snow slopes. This was superb, I was able to get a great rhythm going with front points and axe on snow that was firm. About halfway up there was a strange noise, I thought it was the wind but it turned out to be graupel snow that was collecting and flowing like water down the slope, over the small ledges. There wasn’t much of it and this didn’t last for long. As I got higher I started to angle back across to the left and regained the east ridge fairly near to the top, from here it was an easy walk in snow. I reached the top and there was my first view of the west ridge. The cloud had completely lifted above the tops but was giving weird lighting, and there was no wind at all. Nothing like the photos I’d seen, since all of my research showed only summer conditions with no snow of course. My reaction was wow, bu**er me, what have I let myself in for! This somehow looked much different to what I’d expected!
I savoured the views for a while and took a few photos, and then started out along the ridge, a little wary at first I must admit. The width of the ridge varies between about 30cm and 1 metre, the drop to the right is almost vertical and the slope to the left is around 45 degrees. I quickly found out that luckily I’m fine with the narrow parts and the drop. I’d also been fine on Tryfan North Ridge last year, however the sense of exposure on Crib Goch is much greater than on Tryfan – they are both judged to be a grade 1 scramble (summer) from a technical point but this doesn’t take into account the exposure element.
I kept to the crest of the ridge, enjoying myself, but after a little while came to a place that stopped me in my tracks. There was a short section where the crest had narrowed further and was particularly uneven such that it couldn’t be walked on directly, there was the usual drop on the right but now there was also a near vertical drop on the left as well, a couple of metres down before the slope began below it. I just stood there, for some reason it was as if I was frozen. I looked back, although retreating wasn’t in my mind. I looked down at the problem and felt blank. Way down in Cwm Uchaf on the right two guys were preparing for a snow gully climb and although I’m sure they couldn’t see me I felt that I didn’t want them to observe my indecision. I must have stayed like that for 20 minutes, all the time standing on the crest that was at its narrowest here. I looked at going back a bit and contouring lower, the snow showed up a path where this had obviously been done before but I wanted to stay on the crest. I did feel a bit nervous but my situation above the drops wasn’t bothering me, it was just the indecision.
I finally snapped out of it. Ice axe away, onto the sack. Hold on to the crest, slide feet down the left of the ridge and find the small footholds. Shuffle along like this with crampon points scraping on the rock. Totally secure, absolutely no problem and great fun. What was all the fuss about? I now began to feel really good and was enjoying the situation more and more. When the ridge widened to 1 metre it felt like a motorway! At the highest point on the ridge a rocky spur coming in on the left reduces the slope to about 30 degrees, amazing how this markedly reduces the feeling of exposure. A helicopter had been around all morning, lower down, now it flew overhead and hovered above Snowdon. Can they see me I thought? I was alone on Crib Goch but from time to time I could see people on the summit of Snowdon.
More of the same to negotiate, heading downhill to the first pinnacle. Romping along now, feeling right at home and revelling in it all, you just need a bit of time to get used to it I think. The ridge is only about 200m long to the highest point with another 100m down to the first pinnacle and another 200m over the pinnacles – half a km in all, not much distance but straight in your face from the start! The pinnacles were frost covered and handholds were stacked with snow so I took the easy way out and contoured below the crest whilst still staying as high as I could.
The first two pinnacles were easy enough, there was a bit more work to do at the third but snow helped since I was able to easily front point down a gully a little way, bypass the steepest section and work up to a place still high on the pinnacle. Round to the west of the pinnacle and the descent to Bwlch Coch is below you, an easy scramble down.
Some say that’s it all over – no it’s not there’s more fun to come! It is another 1km from Bwlch Coch to the Crib y Ddysgl trig point so you’ve still got plenty more distance to cover. From the bwlch, first there’s ‘the fin’ (my name), a rocky outcrop that’s not difficult and again I kept to the crest in the snow conditions although I think the summer path goes around it.
A gentle slope (snow covered for me, with a tiny cornice) leads to the Crib y Ddysgl buttress. I stopped to pick out an ascent line, this worked out really well and was straightforward, just a little bit of care needed at the top where I was being pushed back from my holds a bit.
After this there’s more knife-edge ridge to follow, but now there’s a slope on both sides instead of a drop so exposure isn’t so great, however not a time to relax yet! The final bit of fun came where there is a small notch in the ridge. Straight ahead were ice-covered rocks and it wasn’t possible to turn these on the left. On the right there was a very steep gully. I reached down into the gully and cut a good size step into the snow with my axe, stepping into this I was then able to climb the top part of the gully with just 2 or 3 steps, to the right of the rocks. Nice job, lovely to do! The cloud now came in so no more views, I soon reached the trig point then to be on the safe side followed a compass bearing down to meet the Llanberis path. For a while there were whiteout conditions where dips and bumps in the ground couldn’t be made out.
I walked to the stone that marks the top of the Pyg track then moved down a bit and stopped by the railway track for a good food and drink break. Just here there was plenty of ice about, covered by a thin layer of snow so crampons were essential. I chatted to the few people that were about, all well equipped. I decided not to go to the summit of Snowdon, I judged that the cloud wasn’t going to clear so thought I would save the summit for a clear day when I can also do Crib Goch again. After my great time on Crib Goch I decided that Snowdon deserved better of me than a visit in the clag! My descent was on the Pyg track, on the zig zags at the top about 15cm depth of snow with ice underneath, then I cut down to the Miners track for a longer walk out. A great day and plenty of experience gained once again. I want to return soon to take another look in more detail, and to go over the pinnacles.
For a real good look at what the ridge is like in summer, see this excellent You Tube video that covers from the start of the ridge in the east, to the first pinnacle, in 5 minutes. Makes it look real easy!
Mountain (Semi)Coward - this may help you to decide about the ridge!
by GarryH » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:34 pm
- Posts: 285
- Joined: Oct 6, 2008
I guess many more of my climbing friends climbing ropes will be cut in half and then wasted before I finally pluck up courage!
- mountain coward
by susanmyatt » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:37 pm
by canisp » Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:44 pm
by maddjock » Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:47 am
including the vid is a nice touch too..
- Hill Bagger
- Posts: 428
- Joined: Jul 7, 2008
- Location: Inverness-ish
by Nige R » Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:29 pm
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