Snowdonia November 2019 – My first trad experience

I recently managed to get out for a weekend trip to Snowdonia with a friend of mine to get in a bit of a winter hike up Snowdon and also get my first experience of trad climbing in what can only be described as typically Welsh weather!


I managed to get a half day Friday afternoon so we could get over to Snowdonia at a reasonable time, but we were staying in a bunk at Bryn Tyrch farmhouse Capel Curig so reasonable meant time for a visit to the pub, not setup a tent. So after a hot meal and a quick look around the various outdoor shops in Betws y Coed we went back to the no-frills accomodation (heating being a frill). Note – This is a pretty good place to stay if all you want is a basic bunk with walls, roof and a toilet block.

Next morning after a quick breakfast at Moel Siabod cafe next door we headed out to Pen-y-pass to start our trip up Snowdon via the Pyg track. Conditions were what you would expect, wet, windy and grey, so visibility was poor and there wasn’t much scope for any photos, however I was testing my DJI Osmo Action (see video below) which meant I had something to come away with. The week up to this weekend there had been snow followed by mild days with sub zero nights, which meant the top 200m of ascent had lots of ice. With crampons on it was easy going, but without it was certainly not, and there were plenty of people on all-fours looking terrified – not something I’d want to experience. So after a brief stop at the top for a photo with zero visibility we headed back down the  miners track and were back in time to head out for a short climb.

After switching out the ice/snow gear for  climbing gear we headed over to Tryfan Fach where we found a nice short pitch to a good ledge. Now I only started climbing this year in April (~8 months ago) and have only ever climbed indoor at my local gym (auto-belay), so outdoor, in the wet, fading light and removing gear as I went was a new experience. Fortunately my friend is very experienced so I was in good hands, none the less a short practice pitch was welcome and a chance to put into practice the things I’d been practicing in my garden the nights before (knots/belay technique). Then back for a drink at Plas-y-Brenin (national outdoor centre).

The next day we then decided to head back to Tryfan Fach for some more climbing, we had considered Idwal Slabs, but I was ill the entire night and I wasn’t sure how long I’d last. Fortunately a combination of the cold air, adrenaline and energy gels meant I soon picked up. After looking at some of the book routes, we decided to head up the Tryfan Fach Arete route, which being right on the left hand edge of the slab made it feel more exposed and a bit more fun. It was certainly a different feeling to the indoor climbing I’d been used to, cold/numb feet, wet hands, slippery rock and carrying my backpack all made everything a bit more challenging. It was just the right level of difficulty to get me outside my comfort zone. I’m sure in the dry it’s a totally different experience, but in the wet I didn’t have the same confidence in my feet I was used to, which made it all the more satisfying once at the top.

Once at the top we then booted up and carried on up onto the Tryfan Fach scramble which takes you to the summit. There was a nice couple of scrambles that were again made all the more interesting by the wet and greasy conditions. Still not much of a view, but worth heading up there, and it leads to an easy hike back down to the car.

Overall despite the classic Snowdonia weather it was a great weekend, and getting my first experience of trad climbing was good fun. One thing’s for sure, with the right gear and preparation, bad weather is certainly no excuse for not getting out and enjoying the outdoors.

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