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Avoiding the crowds at Easter

Easter is a busy time at most holiday and tourist destinations. Snowdonia is no exception. We set out to avoid the masses in search of solitude and avoid the problems associated with large numbers of people in one place (car parking/bottle necks on paths/popular crags etc.).

Friday: Climbing near Ffestiniog

Stunning views out to the sea from near Ffestiniog

Stunning views out to the sea from the crag near Ffestiniog

We left Wolverhampton before lunch on Good Friday and after a few hours driving on the back route (avoiding the A5) we arrived at a small crag near Ffestiniog. Its a small crag with a 5 min walk in. As it was late afternoon only a few teams we still out and a minibus left as we arrived. Its an easy crag, popular with instructors, so it was great place to take Monika and her Brother, Peter, for his first experience on rock.

We climbed a few routes and even managed to get Peter to abseil down the crag, another first! We headed to the hut to unload and enjoy the sunset before lighting the fire.

Saturday: Needle’s Eye Arête

The needle's eye

The needle’s eye

Saturday morning was spent procrastinating and scouring the guide books about what to do. Eventually we decided to head to the Ogwen valley and climb Needle’s eye arête on Foel Goch. It’s given a Mod/scramble 3 grade but Hamish had told me that it’s a Diff. You can make it as hard or easy as you want.

The walk in was a killer, it was steep from the road and went up forever. Luckily there was a slightly easier but flatter alternative. It was almost as steep and involved contouring around the mountain. We had parked on the old road and only saw a group of DofE students on the road. Our route was so obscure it was bound the be deserted, leaving the three of us in peace.

After a long hard slog we reached the bottom of the route. It was a cloudless day, but the crag was only partly in the sun and the wind was strong so it was cold up here. We found a sunny ledge and geared up. As soon as I could, I was off, trying to move enough to keep warm in the shade. The first 50m rope length was soon over and mainly involved grabbing grass and heather with one bit of protection low down. I regretted putting my rock shoes on for the slippy grass. The second pitch was the same as the first. I opted for the grassy gully at this point, rather than the exposed arête for speed. We had a long way to go and it was exceptionally cold!

Pitch 3 brought us onto the arête and finally into the sun. The afternoon sun warmed us a little but the wind did its best to keep us cold. Actually climbing on rock now, I found the Needle’s eye and took a moment to take in the view. The climbing was good, easy but exposed, high up on a ridge. After half a rope length the rock steepened and I saw a grassy saddle off to the right in sunlight, a good belay ledge. I headed over there and managed to reach rock with my finger tips to create a belay point, a full 50 rope length.

Moving as a trio up the three pitches had taken a while despite moving as quick as we could using few gear placements and both seconds climbing together. We were cold and the biting wind had taken its toll. Easy ground up the gully continued above us and the arête continued along its exposed side (later Hamish said there are some good pitches above our third pitch), but we were cold, numb feet and cold hands. It was also getting late in the afternoon so the gully was the only sensible option. We scrambled off the route and into the sun for a picnic sheltering from the wind.

Sunday: Beddgelert Forest

Easy day in Beddgelert forest

Easy day in Beddgelert forest

Sunday brought a change of weather, overcast with strong winds. We had to head home and had considered Cnicht, but decided it was far to windy. We stopped just south of Rhyd Ddu and had a meander around Beddgelert forest.

It was easy walking along a forest track for most of the way but it was pleasant to be in the shelter of the trees with the wind blowing high above us. We payed a quick visit to the welsh highland railway to admire the trains before heading back home to the Midlands.

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