Worth the wait
Left Hand Trinity – Snowdon
Looking back on the last few months it has been a good winter; in fact it has been the finest I have ever known. So many wonderful days spent with friends on my beloved Welsh mountains has kept me in a state of seemingly perpetual happiness and should my last outing prove to be my final winter climb of the season I shall be more than satisfied for it is the one I have been waiting for all year. What can be better than climbing the north face of the highest mountain in the land in winter raiment? Ok, Snowdon is no Mont Blanc but then I am no Reinhold Messner so it perfectly matches both my ambition and ability. But before I tell you about my day on the big one we need to get up to date…there’s been a few good days since my last report from Cwm Cneifion.
The end of February saw me join ‘Team Sorebottom’ for a cracking little climb on the Carneddau. We chose Broad Gully in Cwm Lloer followed by a grand round on the tops in glorious weather. The following day Nobz and I had an enjoyable bimble on Y Garn’s A Gully and that brought the month to a close.
In March after a brief thaw the conditions came good again and young Jamie Weaver joined ‘Team Desperate’ for an introduction to winter climbing. We returned to Y Garn for solo ascents of B and Banana Gullies respectively. The boy did exceptionally well and was hungry for more the next day which brings us to the main course for this entry…Left Hand Trinity.
Last year I had climbed Central Trinity in the clag and while I found it a good route and enjoyed the satisfaction of topping out near the summit of Snowdon I hadn’t been lucky enough to experience the full alpine-esque ambience that I knew the face could provide. This time it would be different.
A ridge of high pressure had parked itself over the principality and brought about the perfect day for winter mountaineering with crisp air and cloudless blue skies. At Pen y Pass we couldn’t believe our luck and stormed up the miners track awaiting our first sighting of Yr Wyddfa. We were not disappointed. Cwm Dyli was a magnificent vision of mountain perfection and I felt a huge swell of pride for this was Jamie’s first weekend in the Welsh Highlands of Eryri. He was impressed but who wouldn’t be? Yr Wyddfa reflected as in a mirror on the surface of Llyn Teryn, Y Lliwedd’s north wall resplendent, Crib Goch high above and later the realisation of Llynau Llydaw and Glaslyn, glacial remnants and jewels in one of Britain’s greatest mountain sanctuaries. Not even the ubiquitous hoards can rob this place of its grandeur.
Onwards we went and the towering presence of Yr Wyddfa became evermore powerful until at last we gained the Pyg Track and surveyed tiny climbers making their way up to ‘The Spider’ snowfield. I’ve seen the Trinity Face day and night, dawn and dusk and in every season but never had I seen it looking so beautiful and alluring. Maybe at other times I had fumbled in her cwm like a teenage lothario in his novitiate but this day I would at last consummate my love for the mountain leaving her in no doubt as to my enduring ardour.
We geared up in full view of passing walkers who made no secret of their admiration and at times horror that we would be climbing that huge white lump of “ghastly terror”. Surely they understood that we don’t come to the mountains to die but to live in nothing less than full measure. I once looked upon the armoured nutters of winter with similar incredulity but experience and ambition is a great cocktail for he or she who longs to know the mountains intimately for twelve months of every year.
Leaving behind the crowds we toiled up to the Spider where various teams were embarking on their chosen climbs. Central and Right Hand Trinity were full of activity but strangely our course, ‘Left Hand’ was bereft of suitors and so with our rope still languishing in Jamie’s sack we got cracking.
Once in the shade of the North Face the snow hardened and we entered the gully daggering upwards. Soon we were at ‘The Fly’ and enjoyed some brief exposure until our way narrowed down once more to a snow shoot which offered effective blinkers. At intervals we came upon large stances excavated by roped parties and on them we rested our screaming calves, imbibing of the glorious spectacle above, below and to each side. We knew that soon the upper snowfield would arrive ushering in the climax of our climb but so taken were we of the game thus far we were keen to prolong the pleasure until it became impossible to contain ourselves any longer.
The steepening of a bulge signalled our departure from the gully and out onto the roof-like expanse of the upper snowfield. Whereas in the confines of our gully I had felt safe and completely in control I now experienced the strange sensation of being on the edge of everything with the realisation that I now had to concentrate very intently on every move I made. The snow became powdery making the climbing an awkward and nervy affair. The nevé had given way to icing and my adrenal glands worked overtime as I took in the exposure and apparent insecurity of my position high above a frozen llyn.
I moved slowly and deliberately in the steps of Jamie and Desperate which disintegrated alarmingly under my boots and pulled hopefully on my axes praying that they would hold. They did. I looked over to the summit ridge where walkers stood and watched our progress. At Bwlch Glas too a group congregated and knowing as I do how the face looks from that particular vantage point I could only conclude that they thought us mad men. Like never before I so wanted to be in two places at once.
Before long a cry came from above. Desperate had gained the summit closely followed by Jamie and then it was my turn. The final moves were made on a steep step of crusty ice and I hauled myself up emerging ten feet away from the very top of the highest mountain in the land of bards. That moment put a seal on my winter season; a season that has seen me rejoice in many memorable climbs with my brothers of the hills. We who tread the high places are blessed in ways that those who know not the joys of mountaineering can never imagine. As I write this I wonder if my winter is over for another year and if that must be then so be it, for come the spring I will be introducing another to our salubrious hills…farewell Welsh winter, roll on spring.