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North Wales: A Climbing Diary

Ambassador Kish spent the summer of 2021 climbing around North Wales, here he writes his experiences and top moments of the trip. If you’ve never been, or the grey days of January have got you glum – here are some wonderful sunny pictures and ideas to get you psyched for warm weather again.

words by Kishan Vekaria

If you want to seek adventure, North Wales seems like the perfect playground.

Big mountains, boulders, and plenty of lakes to have a dip in! It’s slowly becoming a tradition amongst my close circle of climbing friends to head out there every summer for a week or so, to enjoy all the variety that this place has to offer.  

Lakes

The entire trip, we were caught out in blazing sun, so it was a case of finding somewhere shady to climb with a lake nearby to swim in before driving back to the accommodation. These are the swim escapes we discovered*

 *check access and rights. Wild swim at your own risk

Llyn Idwal

Approach: 20 mins

Temp: warm (this was the height of summer…guys)

Mud height: ankle deep

A short walk away from Ogwen cottage and very conveniently located to crags. Feels a like a beach on the middle of a mountain

Llynnau Mymbyr

Approach: 5 mins

Temp: warmest

Mud height: knee deep

Behind Plas y Brenin, this is very accessible and surprising very quiet (although the mud depth may be the reason for this). People pay good money for mud baths – here’s a free one. Definitely don’t put your head underneath the water.

Llyn Padarn

Approach: 5 mins

Temp: coolest,

Mud height: non existent

Approaching from the Fachwen side of the lake. Crystal clear, cool and refreshing. Since we were staying up the road it made sense for us to head here nearly every evening. Apologies, I don’t have a picture of this one but here’s a picture of me sitting on the wall overlooking it.

Places we stayed

We had this tiny cottage booked on the outskirts of Llanberis.This cottage is ultimate in the definition of basic. There’s bunkbeds and a kitchen, but no mains water supply. We had to boil the drinking water and insert pound coins into a meter to get electricity. Luckily we had only decided to stay here for the weekend; the heat wave and lack of rain meant that we ran out water on the third day in. 

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The second place we managed to stay is apparently known by the locals as the Beverly Hills of Llanberis, Fachwen. Owned by the family of a friend, this is an old slate miners hut with boulders in the back garden. Mad, I know! Although the amount of moss covering them could be compared to a Persian carpet. The proximity to the lake proved ideal for an evening swim on most nights. 

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Dinas Mott

A big shield of rock in the middle of the Llanberis pass that gets shade when the rest of the valley is in the sun. Often busy and plenty of variety in climbing grades. We climbed Direct Route (VS) and (for someone who is casual summer trad climber) it went swimmingly well without a hitch. A nice easy trad day out. I think we started climbing at 10am and got down by 2pm. This meant we had time to drive back into Llanberis to get ice cream. Win!


Cloggy (Clogwyn Du’r Arddu) 

The reputation of this place is no joke. Seriously don’t go here unless you’re a competent trad climber. I’m not really scared of heights, but the exposure and style of climbing is tough to say the least. It had been recommended as the place to go if you want to avoid the sun, but the two-hour walk-in was reason enough to put it off for the first half of the trip. After reading the guidebook and checking UKC reviews the night before, we opted to go up Great-Bow combination (HVS) after someone called it a great introduction to Cloggy.

We got up early to avoid walking up there in the hottest parts of the day. It was a good idea as well, because I don’t think we got back down the mountain until 9pm! Halfway up the approach is a little hut called Halfway House. Someone in the group offered to buy us Skittles for the journey up, which became a lifeline for climbing fuel at the belay stances. I could write an entire blog about our mini epic up this route. Overall, it was an amazing day full of laughs and type two fun. I wish I had taken up a jumper at one point though – that was a mistake. 


Slate Quarries

The slate is a little beacon of Sport Climbing close to Llanberis. However, heading there in the heat is a bad idea. We were originally told that the multipitch climbs in the Twll Mawr section would be in the shade. When we got there, however, they were in the blazing sun, and black rock gets hot! So, we spent the morning trying to find some shady rock, but that proved very challenging. We ended up going to the California section, through some tunnels that provide pretty pictures. After doing only one 6a route which seemed possible in the conditions we decided to head back to the house and head out bouldering on some stuff later that evening. 

The land that time forgot

Nearing the end of our trip we were pretty exhausted from long walks in and no days of rest from climbing. So, it was very much a case of we went wherever anyone suggested. We read about a quarry with boulders in the shade, but we would need to lower our bouldering pads down into “The Land that Time Forgot”. Then walk down around with the help of some fixed ropes and descend down an in-situ ladder then walk into a huge tunnel with a tiny outlet into the quarry, where our pads awaited.



Boulders

Creigiau’r Garth, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Fachwen, Y Clegyr

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Craig yr Undeb, Yellow Wall

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Milestone Buttress Boulders

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That concludes the highlights of the trip! Thanks for reading. Until next time… 


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Zoe goes places: Nepal

Yak soap and icy socks, spending Christmas dirtbag style.


I took the opportunity to travel to a country where 90% of the people are Hindus, where Christmas is not celebrated en masse, as a way to escape the western frivolities that I find somewhat claustrophobic. I saw myself high up in the snowy Himalayas on the Annapurna Circuit of Nepal, a 160-230km trek to altitudes of >5000m and with picturesque views of the Annapurna Sanctuary. I would find solace in the serenity of the mountains, perhaps with a fire and a good book. 


Yac Donalds – with ‘a side of happiness’

I avoided the throngs of people doing last minute shopping, instead trekking for up to 8 hours/day through jungle then alpine landscapes towards the Thorong La pass (see what I did there? ‘THRONGS’ of people… ‘THORONG La’….). 

I joined forces with two other ‘strays’, flew down a slope on a make-shift sled with a local family, played ghost football on the most picturesquely located football pitch and had a Happy Meal at Yak-Donalds.

I could be walking in a t-shirt under the sun, but the temperature plummeted in shade or after sunset. Teahouse rooms are mostly bare stone with the bathroom often having no glass in the window gap… and I had a 3-season sleeping bag with a minimum temperature of 0 degrees…

While folk at home would be receiving new socks, I was washing my 3-day-old pair in icy water and yak soap (that I also used for my hair), hoping they would not freeze overnight like the taps would. We filled our filter bottles from waterfalls along the trail, once they thawed of course, in true trekking style. 

So much snow had fallen in the blizzards that we passed multiple trekkers forced to turn back. We stubbornly pushed on, and the trail rewarded us with a white winter wonderland that was basically our own.


On days with clouds, the mountains were draped with a grey pashmina and trees appeared silhouetted as if calligraphied with jet black ink.

When the clouds cleared, blue skies emphasised sharp ridge-lines of the Annapurna range that rose in stark contrast to fluffy blankets of snow. Not an elf in sight. 


Nine days in, after sleeping in all my layers and (very fake) down jacket at 4900m, we started the final push for Thorong La as a fine team of seven. It was 5am, a clear sky and a -25 degree chill. 

Ascent on the Annapurna circuit. Creating our own path.

The ascent was TOUGH, man. It took all my strength to keep going. ‘I’m never doing this again’. Then, as the prayer flags welcomed our arrival to 5416m and we stood amidst mountains, a tear was shed. ‘Thank god that’s over’. We celebrated, I took note of my slightly frostbitten purple nose, and ate the best Kit Kat Chunky of my life. ‘I can’t wait for the next time’.  Unfortunately, the next time might have to wait.

Thorang-la Pass – we did it!

The immense descend that followed rendered me to walking with the aid of two poles as crutches. On the 23rd, after trekking a painful further 25km, despite hiking the full 180km, I had accepted defeat on the planned additional 100km and was on a twelve hour bus ride back to Pokhara.


The bus was forced to a halt by no less than four landslides, and I don’t know how the Nepalis can sit on their seats so calmly because I don’t think I made contact with mine for more than ten seconds at a time, my head smashing against the ceiling and windows on multiple occasions. 

My saving grace was that the hostel had put together a potluck style dinner for the 24th (big up to Kiwi Backpackers). There was no gift exchange and complete strangers became close friends within hours. On Christmas Day, I mostly read on the rooftop with a spectacular view of the sacred Machhapuchhare (Fishtail) Mountain and revelled in the simple tranquility. The only reminder of the ‘special date’ came from the messages I exchanged with loved ones old and new around the world. I don’t think I’ve heard Bublé once this year. 

Christmas away from home with new friends and amazing adventures,

Also, my Indian visa just got granted so that’s kind of cool.

Hampi 2020, coming at ya. 

Follow her journey on Instagram – @zoallin

Make your own journey – find out about trekking in Nepal