Every summer, the Ski Club’s sister holiday brand, Mountain Tracks, runs a series of climbing weekends in Snowdonia, training and preparing climbers to tackle more serious challenges such as the famous shape of the Matterhorn or the infamous shadow of the Eiger. Fresh off a June edition of these two-day mini-adventures, Mountain Tracks client Will Oliver passed on his experience of exploring right here in the UK.
Returning home from a really great experience in Wales this weekend, I was once again struck by the amazing places to visit in the UK without the need for air travel. I left Wales wishing I had a full week there with the sandy beaches, blue water, and famous Snowdonia National Park with countless activities, including the world’s longest zip-wire, a man-made surf park, paintballing, and so much more!
We spent the weekend rock climbing in the Ogwen Valley and Llamberis Pass as part of Mountain Tracks’ Matterhorn and Eiger Training Weekends. This really was an incredible experience, made all the more brilliant by the knowledge we were in the safe hands of one of 80 IMFGA guides in the UK. Our guide, Philip Dowthwaite, took us straight to the places he knew would be a great experience for us. In the Ogwen Valley, we were led up 600ft over several pitches, each one carefully selected to ensure it suited our ability but also to push us to help develop our technique and confidence.
Starting on the Tennis Shoe climb on the Idwel Slabs, we then progressed up the continuation wall to the Javelin Gully and Lazarus Wall. This latter pitch is defined in the guidebooks as a great climb for those looking to continue up the wall “eager for more challenges. It is, however, no pushover”! Along the way, we stopped for a sandwich and some rope lessons to sharpen our skills.
Form the top of our climb, we changed into our trail shoes and had a scramble down the side using a rope for support, again picking up new skills along the way. To round off Saturday, we had a challenging climb on the real Tennis Shoe Route, before abseiling down, back to our starting point.
Day 2 started in the Llanberis Pass, where we met Philip for another full day of climbing. Sunday consisted of climbs on both the Crackstone Ribs (4A, 54m) and the Wrinkle (VD, 71m). The Crackstone Rib was first climbed in 1935, and it was inspiring to see how incredible wall was achieved almost 100 years ago without modern-day equipment. Here we topped out with a challenging polished travers out onto an exposed ledge – this really got the heartrate going, but was worth the effort! Some stunning photographs and great climbing above truly made the traverse worthwhile.
A selection of some of the myriad of scrambling and climbing routes in and around Snowdon. Click here to open the map in full and use filters to see the incredible selection of bouldering and climbing locations available in the area.
After eight hours on Saturday and four more on Sunday morning, we took a lunch break on the ridge, complemented by stunning views across the entire region. Here, the guide provided some more knowledgeable advice on equipment, this time focussing on the carabiners, cams and three different types of nuts we used over the weekend.
Last be not least we climbed the Wrinkle (VD, 71m), now fully dialled in and really perfecting our climbing, we followed our guide up the wall for three pitches, belaying for him before he tied off and returned the favour to allow us to join him. The final pitch on the Wrinkle was perhaps my favourite climb of the whole weekend!
I would like to say a big thank you to our guide Philip Dowthwaite for making this weekend so memorable We learned so much from a truly knowledgeable guide, leading us safely on three completely different climbs. Philip’s 40 years’ experience guiding and safety checking equipment really shone through and gave us huge confidence when we were clinging to the side of huge sheer walls.
I would also like to thank Patryk Szymanski at Mountain Tracks HQ for booking us in for the weekend; Patryk’s first-hand knowledge of the adventure made for an easy booking process and he was able to answer any questions there and then to help set us up for a well organised weekend. We thoroughly enjoyed the guided experience provided by Mountain Tracks, especially over an instructional lesson that we would have received elsewhere.