Half Day Hills – Part One

Half day hills

Part One – Y Garn

Y Garn's East Ridge from the upper reaches of the Devil's Kitchen path

Juggs en route for the East Ridge...Y Garn looms above

The forecast told of a cold and sunny weekend in Eryri but I would be stuck in Peterborough dreaming about the mountains. I would be moody, irritable and best left well alone. I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that folk were not banging down my door requesting that we escape the city to immerse ourselves in glorious hill country. I had even tried banging down theirs but to no avail. “What is the matter with these people”? I was ranting again…”The weather is going to be wonderful, and what are they doing? Christmas shopping, spending time with their families, working and heaven knows what else. It’s about time they got their priorities right.”

I was despondent and when the phone rang I almost didn’t answer it. It was Juggs. “Hello mate, my gig tomorrow night has been cancelled so do you fancy getting some climbing done in the Peak on Sunday”? It would be better than nothing but I had other ideas, “I think we can do better than that Juggs, why don’t we get an early start in the morning and head up to Wales”? There was a moment’s hesitation and then the words I longed to hear filled my ears, “Cool, I’ll come and pick you up now. You can sleep here and we’ll set off first thing”. I wouldn’t even have to gather my kit as it is permanently packed in readiness for such last minute forays. Game on.

Come the morning the dank and uninspiring gloom of an East Anglian dawn was soon forgotten as a perfect orb of fire chased us westwards. The A5 followed the M54 via the M6 and A14 until finally in one great sweep the mountains of Eryri formed a sublime horizon. I was home again and hiraeth was but a memory. “What shall we do” asked Juggs. I thought for a few seconds. We needed a short day and I had a hankering to tread new ground and enjoy a fresh challenge. “I know just the thing” I replied, “We’ll have a bash at Y Garn’s East Ridge. It’s only grade 2 so we can solo it quickly and hang around for the sunset”. Juggs grinned, “I just love it when a plan comes together”.

In the Ogwen Valley we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes. All our old friends crowded around the shallow llyn and called us to their company. Alas a man cannot be in two places at one time so we acknowledged receipt of their salutation and hastily made for the gash above ‘Oggy’ tea shack, soon emerging into the boggy environs of Idwal.

The author on the introductory rib with Pen yr Ole Wen beyond

We quickly made for the heathery rib which leads to the East Ridge proper. There we found a series of rock steps providing steep and tenuous climbing interrupted by insecure vegetations. As the rib lost its identity we paused awhile, for our ascent so far had been a breathless race to gain altitude and make up for time lost on the four hour drive. Crag girt cwmoedd abounded, but one object held my gaze; Pen yr Ole Wen asserting its power as the shattered cornerstone of the Ogwen scene.

Our objective lay closer to hand though and looked every inch a challenge to savour. A grand protuberance of stone; daunting and alluring all at once and instilling in us that feeling known only to mountaineers…what will we find on that prehistoric tower of corrugated loveliness? We were about to find out.

Contemplating the East Ridge

A direct assault on the nose looked too difficult for us to tackle unroped so we explored a gully which split the buttress in two. A clear line of weakness led us up and then left on creaking holds before dumping us on the crest of the ridge. A cold and ferocious wind tore into us but we dared not cling too keenly onto abundant jug handles for 9 out of 10 were waiting in readiness to part company with the mountain thus finding a new resting place in Cwm Idwal. Theirs would be a trajectory we had no wish to emulate.

High above Llyn Idwal on the east Ridge of Y Garn

Upwards, the going was airy, the spaciousness intoxicating though sadly it couldn’t last, oh how we had wished it could. The excitement was spent but the joy undiminished as we trogged to the summit of Y Garn in light spectacular and colour rich. There were soaring, squawking corvus and swirling vapour and Brocken Spectres enough to make two city dwellers thrill in gladness.

Spontaneity, brotherhood and adventure had once again provided a much needed balm to country boys sadly feted to an urban upbringing but they, or should I say we had been blessed to discover our true selves in the mountains. And that evening, we sat atop The Eminence waiting to absorb the last hues of the day and the nourishment they give. It had been a half day hill with a full day ambience, and tomorrow would bring more of the same. Mynyddoedd Eryri am byth.

Reaching easy ground

Juggs 'trogging' up to the summit of Y Garn

Descending to Llyn y Cwn

The last hues of the day

2 Responses to “Half Day Hills – Part One”

  1. 1 gareth higgins December 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    great story and pictures nick.superb pictures.

    • 2 andy dann December 17, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      a fine opuscule that eminently summons up the freedom of the mountains! i do so envy your adventures at times when the daily problems of life intrude and prevent the things we really wish to be doing

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