Memories of Wales – The 14 peaks – grand days out on the rock and ice.

After visiting Wales on a Golfing trip last week it got me thinking of my great days on the hills and climbing in Wales. It was the late 70’s I had just come from Scotland from up in the North and completed a Winter West to East Traverse of Scotland it was a hard three weeks. I was pretty fit when arriving in Wales in these days.

The Wessex

I was coming as the full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader of RAF Valley in Anglesey. It was a big change for me and my knowledge of Wales was limited to a few Summer rock climbing courses and my Mountain Leadership Assessment In Llanwryst. Yet I loved the place and learned so much in these early years.

My young Dog born in Wales and a great companion on the hills. Teallach

In these days 1978 there was a lot of Internal rivalry between RAF Teams and coming from Scotland it was a hard gig. The troops then did a lot more rock climbing in the South and thought we in Scotland were all big walkers on snowy hills.

RAF Valley MRT

My first early weekend was the classic 14 peaks a great day then as now. Very similar to the big Scottish hill days like the Mamores. The hard thing was I was given a rope to carry and I ditched that early on. Also coming down to the main road twice was not what I expected. That was where the physiology comes in especially after Tryfan. Yet it was a great day and to be met on Drum by the late Colin Pibworth RIP a famous name in RAF MRT was magical. The early start on the Friday night Crib Goch by night and then walking most of the day. It was a wonderful day. We did great things like the Annual Snowdon Bike Race over Crib Goch for Charity when most of the Rescue Teams got involved before Health and Safety. It was so competitive as well.

The Annual Bike Race over the Snowdon Horseshoe.

I am sure I was with Stan Owen a great hill runner at the time. I did this day fairly often as it was a such a classic.

On Crib Goch Dave Booth in action.

Most of the team had it in there list to do. I remember being tired but spent next day at Tremadoc with my mate Jock climbing Merlin Direct and a few other routes I was tired. Jock said “your a Welsh troop now so you have to learn to climb. “

Yet there were other great days the Rhinogs A few miles south, however, is a pair of wild and beautiful secret gems: The Rhinogs a classic day in anyone’s book. I loved the remoteness of this area and it became a favourite. We covered the Karrimor Mountain Marathon here it was a hard day as there were a few injuries at the time. I learned lots from that weekend.

The Classic Creag Dubh Wall – Tremadoc

I got some great climbing in as we had a board in the Mountains Rescue that was in theory a guide to some of the selected climbs . These were a great idea to make you get about the area. I did all the classics in Wales in the book Classic Rock. Most were done in big boots and a rucksack scary at the time. Looking back we did Main Wall in a snowstorm and had great days in the Pass. The Llanberris Pass was always special with the steepness and famed routes but so there were so many routes. Looking back on it every day was incredible Mountaineering. We would walk one day then climb the next when the Scrambles book in North Wales came out we did many of them it was a great way of getting to know these mountains.

Tryfan became a favourite even then on the polished classics . Grooved Arête was a favourite as were many of the climbs on this wonderful face. The Milestone a place of history was one we could grab a summer climb when we had the long nights. Wales had so many places to visit I always found Craig Yr Ysfa a classic place very Scottish in atmosphere. We climbed all over and had Gogarth on our Doorstep we even did the odd Exercise here with the Coastguards. Add to that having the Wessex helicopter at RAF Valley we had a wonderful relationship with the crews.

Wales was so compact the drive from Valley in Anglesey was short and there was so much time even to climb in the long summer nights. The old classics like Lockwoods Chimney became a tradition within the team done at night it could be classic.

We learned quickly and got involved in so many Rescues as we were on scene climbing when many happend. All the time I was learning and gaining knowledge of the area. There was a great social Scene as well and we met many of the top climbers and though most of us were climbing easier routes it was incredible to see what was being climbed.

Wales worth doing Rock just a few I can remember so many more. It is all easier routes but great fun.

Classic Rock !

I loved Wales never a great climber I was lucky to be in North Wales for 3 years as the Deputy Team Leader of RAF Valley MRT. I learned so much thanks to Wee Jock, Nige Hughes and Pete Kay we had some amazing days. I was also back on many RAF Summer Course two weeks climbing in Wales teaching rock climbing. A few pals have asked me to recommend some areas and my memory is poor I have not even touched the surface can you help and add or improve this please.

Everything is in Wales and usually an easy walk in, what a great change from Scotland and if the weather is poor you can usually find dry rock somewhere. The scrambling is also exceptional and a few on their day off after 6 days climbing on our Annual Summer Course did the 14 Peaks as it was called then. The cliffs in the popular areas can be busy but we climbed a lot in the evening or when the cliffs were quiet or away early. I loved it and must get back soon. We did lots of call -outs working with the local Teams and it was a place of lots of learning. Many crag call – outs that were complicated and at night but you learned quickly.

Here is a wee guide just my thoughts can you help by adding improving?

Ogwen Valley – has always been in my mind a place to learn and some grand mountaineering routes. Idwal Slabs classic climbing a great day to start a trip in Wales combination of routes is possible to climb to the top of the crag. This can be very busy but there are so many routes and great to get multi pitch routes in with a short walk in.  The routes on the slabs are classic Hope, Tennis shoe,  Lazarus, The Arete , Grey slab a tricky VS up high all classics and you can have a great day here, easy walk in and such fun place to be.  

Idwal Slabs Big Boots on many occasions.

Tryfan – Milestone Buttress and East Face Routes – Milestone Direct a short walk from the road, it has so many situations and a climb we did so often, many before the pub or in the evening before it got busy. Soap Gut another old classic rarely done is very classic and here are other routes here with plenty of history and some great fun. Many are in Classic Rock by Ken Wilson. On the East Face of Tryfan  there are more mountain routes that finish near the summit of Tryfan  –  Gashed Crag, First Pinnacle Rib and the lovely Grooved Arete  all fairly long routes average 500 feet with Grooved Arete at 700 feet. Also Munich Climb was another we did a bit harder .There are so many climbs all classic can be polished but again superb climbing.

Those who like the walk in Craig yr Ysfa in the Carneddau with Amphitheatre Buttress and Great Gully big 750 feet climbs, very Scottish in feel. 

The Llanberris Pass a place of pilgrimage for those who love rock. Here there are great classics again a bit steeper and more serious in my view and some great climbs.

Classic Rock recommends – Nea, Crackstone Rib Wrinkle, Flying Buttress and Spiral Stairs, The Cracks on Dinas Mot and of course the Classic Cenotaph Corner, others like Cemetery Gates and the modern wild lines are impressive. There are also many steady VS routes that get you into the feel of the place. Spectre was one or am I wrong? For a mountain route Main Wall on Cairn Las is excellent and a great mountaineering expedition. We had snow on one of our ascents.

The Slate Quarries – You will love this place, in Llanberris – Bus stop Quarry was our haunt in the past – Comes the Dervish and so many others so many fun days.

The Moelwyns – A place well used by RAF MRT for leading on good rock, Slick, Slack Kirkus all about 400 feet so many climbs usually quiet and a great place to get the leading and route finding in. My mate Alaister lives below the cliff you may meet him top man.

Tremadog – Love this crag usually great when the weather is poor a crag with a café heaven. To me One step in the Clouds, Creagh Dhu  Wall, Scratch, Christmas Curry, and  Striptease so many others a majestic place.   I spent so many happy days here and Eric Jones used to run the café.

Gogarth – Sea Cliffs Abseil descent and well worth just a look is awesome, we did some lowers and training on these cliffs in my RAF Valley days.  It the Classic Dream of white Horses and so much more Lighthouse Arete a great introduction to sea cliff climbing. There is also Holyhead Mountain a grand cliff nearby with many routes worth doing.

 Memory fade again can anyone recommend me a few more climbs? A few have already.

Comments -Pete Kay – Dream, Grim Wall, Cenotaph Corner

David Tomkins –   Striptease Tremadog , Cemetery gates , Direct on Dinas Mot

Main wall Cyrn Las severe

Crackstone rib is hard to beat. Steady climbing and great situations. Pass hasn’t seemed so busy recently as it was in 80s.

Phil Williams –  Bochlwyd Eliminate, King Bee Crack, Mean Feat!

Rhoscolywn – I climbed here a few times memory fade but great sea cliffs maybe someone will remind me of the routes to advise.

Pete Kay and me after a wet day in Idwal a few years ago.

So many other place apologises for missing them can you add please cannot find my Valley photos but the memories live on.

I have so many memories and lucky to have a mate Rusty who Guides in the area maybe I will get a few climbs with him before I get to old. Rusty Bale ?

Looking back it was a grand time I was back two years ago on a wet day on Idwal Slabs with Pete Kay and Rusty Bale, we had fun. In my years in Wales we had the best winter for years and that is another story we ice climbed everywhere all over Wales and I was so lucky. Add to that the great folk and the odd big call -out we even went to Ben Lui in Scotland for a Jaguar aircraft crash in winter. We were flown up by Hercules to Prestwick. These are other tales like the Bike race over the Snowdon Horseshoe for Charity and the Forest Fires that are worth telling at a later date?

Ben Lui Valley MRT

The Valley Team and Hercules on way home from Ben Lui Call out.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Charity, Equipment, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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