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Snow and Ice in North Wales

A short article sent in by our Climbing Sec. Russ Jenkins, which shows that the B.E.C. still goes climbing - at least, it did last February

Around midnight on Friday, the 11th of February, we arrived at Helyg, the climbers hut in the Ogwen Valley.  The three of us, Kangy; his friend Mark James who is headmaster of Brockworth Comprehensive School near Gloucester, and the prospective liberal candidate for the Cabot Ward of Bristol, together with your Climbing Sec. had estimated that the second week in February was usually O.K. for snow and ice in Wales.

After breakfast the usual low cloud had drifted away and snow could be seen above the Heather Terrace in Tryfan.  Mark and I were both giving new boots a first outing and we set off for Tryfan, the base of which is about a mile and a half from Helyg, past William's Farm.  After a steady ascent to Heather Terrace (for the combined ages of the three of us amounted to well over a hundred years!) we could feel the cold from the snowdrifts.  We were on the shady North Face and so decided on North Buttress - a route of 750 feet to the summit ridge.  This was first climbed at Easter in 1899 by the famous O.G. Jones Abraham Pulterill.

The first patches were interesting as they were running with water, but eventually we were forced off the rock and had to kick steps up a sixty degree slope towards the summit. It then began to snow, and the exit ramp to Adam and Eve was like a skating rink. A pause in the lee of the two rock boulders for raisins and biscuits, and then we were off down.  We lost height rapidly by glissading a derriere using our cagoules as toboggans.  Down past the snow line we tramped, down Cwm Tryfan, past Williams Farm and back to Helyg and later to the pub.

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we crossed the A5 in the opposite direction and made for the Carneddau. Shunning the new tarmac strip up to the reservoir, we used the conventional route and we were soon up once again to the snow line.  After the now familiar and much sought after raisins, we began to slog up to the summit ridge between Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewelyn.

The weather closed in and the clouds descended and it began to snow.  We were soon kicking steps again, except that where my four stone lighter companions were only sinking down a foot with each step, I was going in about two foot six on occasions.  The weather improved after we got to the summit and the view made it all worthwhile. There was a cornice on the ridge and the views of Pen-yr-Oleu-Wen and Tryfan were superb.  We scrambled off from the ridge and skirted the lake on its other side and then back down the hillside to the hut to complete a round trip of about six miles.  My feet were sure glad of a rest!

Helyg is a male only hut and the rate is 50p a night.  The hut is well appointed, with a drying cupboard powered by a fan heater and the resident Hut Warden lives in a small room - or large cupboard - suspended (!) over the kitchen.