The next day we decide to do Tryfan by the North Ridge route, and we set out on yet another amazing day for weather. Tryfan is classed as a ‘Scramble’ which means that no matter how you approach the summit you are going to end up doing either some easy climbing or difficult climbing to reach the top. Not really one for those with issues with heights but damn it is fun getting to the top! Tryfan looks like the spine of a vast dinosaur from a distance and its name derives from ‘Tri Faen’ or the Three rocks. I also remember its shape pretty well as being a perpetual child it reminds me of one of my favourite dinosaurs (do not try and tell me you don’t have one if you grew up in the 80’s!) the Spinosaurus. We walk up past little Tryfan through the heather which is a total dick to walk through especially when the scratchy bits get stuck in your socks because it’s super uncomfortable, it also totally destroys hiking socks when you tray and pick it out. To our benefit nobody picks up any dirty bloodsucking ticks on our way through either. There are amazing sweeping views of the Ogwen Valley as we ascend and it’s not long before we get to something I had no idea was there which is a set of stone steps going up the back of the mountain.
As we start ascending towards the huge scrambly boulders that Tryfan is notorious for which are always they are loads of fun to climb up and we end up bumping into a group of two a girl and a dude who don’t really know where they are going who ask politely if they can join us. And why not, something about being in the outdoors makes everyone more friendly, if you’ve never been up a mountain before you’ll notice that people actually talk to each other.
Now people who don’t live in the UK (especially friendly Americans, Australians, Canadians and a whole host of different nationalities reading this might be going ‘hey they don’t say hi to each each other anyway?’ well no not really, and if you want an extreme example if you are ever here go and sit on the tube in London and watch everyone actively avoid being sociable, like if they make eye contact with each other they will be dragged out of the carriage by the police and you’ll soon understand exactly what I mean. But no, saying hello to people you don’t know is pretty rare in the UK especially in the cities. That is unless of course you are on top of a mountain, and I don’t know why but they seem to bring the best out in people. Anyway the two we’ve picked up are Hayley and her friend Dylan and we chat to them as we make our way up to the summit. They haven’t really got a clue where they are going which is fine because they seem pretty friendly. When we get a bit further up the terrain becomes a lot more technical and having been a bit starved of actual scrambling this trip I want to take the more difficult way up. So this bit is where we hit the issue, with this mountain it is as hard as you want to make it. If a route looks hard it probably is, if it looks sketchy it probably is. The guys who have joined us are beginners and Rich isn’t so confident but Andy is. I know Rich can navigate ok and I know in this kind of weather with a good forecast he should be fine, so he takes what they think is going to be an easier route with the new guys and me and Andy and Ben head up what we think is going to be bit more challenging. This was really the point I should have thought of the previous day and either sent Ben with Rich or just kept the group together
The climb for us pretty much starts immediately and within long we are high above part of the large boulder field up here and after we pass a few huge boulders hanging out into almost thin air, that we have to gently work our way around on our tip toes we hit a more technical slab of rock with what looks like a chute up it. I have to admit there’s a few moments where I’m controlling my breathing ‘woo sah’!. I realise at this point that I should have made sure I was leading because somehow Bens ended up leading again. Not only is he leading because I’ve been lazy and let him but he also isn’t quite ready for what he’s about to do, he starts up the rock chute and I’m thinking now we should have bought the ropes and metalwork for extra confidence. He begins to panic, which is highlighted by him getting really annoyed when I go to take a photo of him climbing for some reason, and takes a lot of time to compose himself before finally attempting the move at the top of the chute. I am wondering what’s come over him since the previous day below Idwal Staircase, this is way harder than that would have been.
If there’s any doubt, there is no doubt
“In the mountains there are only two grades: You can either do it, or you can’t.” – Rusty Baille
It’s clear he has proper shat himself on this, as he shouts down in a panicked and traumatised voice that neither me or Andy should attempt what he’s just done unless we are really really confident. You can hear the panic in it, like a goldfish thrown in a shark tank.It’s clear he has proper shat himself on this, as he shouts down in a panicked and traumatised voice that neither me or Andy should attempt what he’s just done unless we are really really confident. You can hear the panic in it, like a goldfish thrown in a shark tank. In fact at this moment Im looking up to make sure that there’s not a steady stream of wee making it down the rocks in our direction. I was confident about the ascent until he came out with that absolute diamond of a sentence, and this is not what me and Andy needed to hear at this point as whatever confidence we had is blown away like the seeds you get on the head of a dandelion. He’s gone and planted a seed of doubt in both our heads, and panic unfortunately is infectious. If you panic you become a danger to yourself and to others, and where before I’d have just started climbing up the rock face now I’m second guessing myself. I make a mental note that in future I need to ensure with groups I lead in future, that I don’t let others take over as leader. It’s my own fault really for giving up and letting him plow ahead navigating, he always seems happier with a map in his hand. I have learnt a useful lesson here though because he didn’t know his abilities well enough here and the same for back at Idwal. We can all be guilty of underestimating some climbs up until we are actually on the thing though and It does highlight I’m going to have to get better at learning peoples abilities for future groups. If I go first in future I’ll install confidence in the rest of the group and, well if I don’t I guess it a good job me and Andy carry first aid kits and an emergency beacon. On the plus side at least Ben followed through and got himself out of his scary situation so well done to him, however as for me and Andy we are now going up another route. Climbing that chute with dented confidence doesn’t seem like a wise idea right now, and there’s always next time. A few easier sections later and we arrive just below the summit, and see the familiar shapes of the Adam And Eve the two huge stones on the summit which are probably the most notable feature on the mountain. Apparently the story goes that Rev Peter Williams scared his friend William Bingley by deciding to jump the gap between the Adam and Eve Rocks. This was all the way back in 1798 and started a mounatineering tradition or leaping between the rocks. The thing that makes this super freaky though is having Tryfans several hundred feet drop of an East Face, at your back while you do it. I do some crazy things but honestly I’ve never fancied trying the ‘leap of faith’ as it’s known. And right now I still don’t fancy it because I can just see myself somehow messing it up, so I settle for the obligatory photo with Ben and Andy at the summit.
Now this is the the point things suddenly get fun, I get a text message from Richard saying that somehow they have got lost of their way to the summit. I text him back saying that if they retrace their steps to where we left them, we can down climb pretty easily and we can guide them the top. I’m regretting splitting the group now, and chalk that up to another ‘make sure I don’t do that on ML training or assessment’. Luckily after a few panic text messages Richard does lead his guys back to the place where we left them and they come up by a slightly different route through the rocks. It’s a bit of a baptism of fire for them all I can tell but they are pretty safe all the way up as I watch them. Rich is not impressed that we left them earlier even though he did agree to it , but luckily his sense of achievement and adrenaline buzz wins over how annoyed he is with us. Regardless I can tell it’s been a good workout for him because yet again he’s gone red as a viking looking radish. Hayley and Duncan are both ok too though I think Dylans ability to cope with heights might have been stretched to it’s limited today. After we all stop to get our breath grab a bite to eat and chat to the few other random people who have made it to the summit, I take over from Ben navigating and because my main priority is now getting us down I pull out the map and my GPS for speed. Unfortunately for any of the group who are a bit sketchy with heights there is one las section climbing down from the summit that you cannot avoid as far as I’m aware on any route, and that is the small section which forces you to climb down with little more than a meter between you and a drop straight down about 650m down the East Face. It’s pretty safe but actually quite scary to pass this section despite the fact that it pretty much last for about thirty seconds. That done we slowly hike our way back down off the mountain, round and back to the cars and say our farewells to Hayley and Dylan. What a day!