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Thread: Winter climbing routes?

  1. #1
    Widdler
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    Hey guys, this is only my 2nd winter on crampons and I was hoping for some route suggestions in Snowdonia (possibly the Lakes).

    First trip out was last Feb on Helvellyn, both ridges, high winds and waist deep in places but no difficulties beyond huge spindrift. 2nd was Y Gribin in Ogwen with little snow but lots of ice, very tricky as couldn't rely on hand holds -- repeated a few weekends back and breezed up.

    Past week I have done the Snowdon Horseshoe (great sense of accomplishment, superb route) and the Llech ddu Spur. Both were ticked off without incident but for now the latter feels at the top of my grade -- any harder and I probably won't enjoy it!

    Are the are any other routes that form part of a good walk that people would recommend around Llech ddu Spur's difficulty? Thanks.

    P.S, currently using starter/walking crampons and axe, will replace if necessary and climbing solo.

  2. #2
    Initiate
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    If you are using something like microspikes the N Ridge of Tryfan, Bristly Ridge and Ddaer Ddu (Moel Siabod) ridge would probably be OK. If you want to climb gullies I would definitely recommend "proper" crampons. Also climbing with two axes feels much more secure on steep snow slopes. Seniors Ridge, above Idwal Slabs is about the same standard as Y Gribin.

    Grade I/II gullies include Central Trinity (Snowdon), Banana Gully (Y Garn), Parsley Fern (Snowdon). One potential problem with gullies can be the presence of a large cornice at the top. This can sometimes a short steep difficult section and avalanche danger when it thaws.

    If we get a really hard freeze the stream to the right of Idwal Slabs is a good and not difficult intro to climbing on water ice.

  3. #3
    Ultra King Peter Clinch's Avatar
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    Also climbing with two axes feels much more secure on steep snow slopes

    OTOH it sometimes encourages sloppy technique, particularly over-use of front pointing where you can flat-foot it, so you only have two points in rather than 8 or 10 when you take a step, and your calves get to do more than their fair share. Also, if youdo lose it then self arrest while holding two axes will be a whole lot more "interesting" than if you just have the one... Single axe technique is more flexible (you can use it as a brace, hook or staff) on moderate ground where traversing is involved and worth practising.

    A grade I should usually only need a single axe, grade II there often be places you're significantly better off with two. For low grades with twin axes one shortish general purpose mountaineering axe with a curver pick allied with something more technical for when you're using two is a versatile combination. Technical climbing axes are little use for general support on steep (as opposed to very steep) ground and their self arrest performance is significantly worse than a general purpose axe.

    Pete.

  4. #4
    Initiate
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    Also technical axes are generally poor for self arrests. The pick just slices through the snow with little braking effect. Years ago I decided to try and brush up my self arrest technique using a Chacal and found it almost impossible to stop once I had gained any speed.

    Edit: I suggest you keep an eye on the UKC Snowdonia conditions thread. Conditions look marginal for gullies ATM.

  5. #5
    Widdler
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    Thanks, appreciate the replies. @geekinthesticks, I'm using Grivel Monte Rosa crampons, microspikes would not have coped on the Llech ddu Spur! There were 2 other groups on the ridge (me in the middle) and they all had technical axes and helmets -- seems that they were just being very cautious but it made me think at the time.

    Ddaer Ddu lumped in with Bristly? Thinking through the North Ridge I can't see any obstacles but Bristly is somewhat daunting; I'm anticipating iced rock so holds would be reduced in both Sinister/Dexter -- I'd love to but (at least psychologically) I think that I'm out of my depth there.

    Senior's is a none event in summer, be interesting to see if winter adds anything and the gully/chimney start to the left of Idwal Slabs could make for a good round descending Gribin.

    Thanks for the suggestions and for now I'll be sticking with my current axe, cheers.

    Tom.

  6. #6
    Ultra King Peter Clinch's Avatar
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    There were 2 other groups on the ridge (me in the middle) and they all had technical axes and helmets -- seems that they were just being very cautious but it made me think at the time.

    Probably just using their standard climbing kit. Technical axes are designed for steep ice (where they make life a lot easier), but they're actually something of a liability for general support on mixed ground covered in snow.

    Helmets are very much de-rigeur for winter climbing, and that makes a lot of sense: the lead will be above, hacking away at ice, much of which will fall down straight towards the second. They make a fair bit of sense walking too, because conditions underfoot will be slippy, and crampons over rocks actually improve your chances of tripping quite a bit. And there's still a fair chance of being bombarded by stuff from above as snow melts or other people move above you.

    Years ago did a day of winter training of Uni MC noobs up at Cairngorm. A pal of mine had worn his helmet all day, and took it off for the last trog down to the ski area day lodge. He slipped on a piste, banged his head on a rock, in to shock-induced hypothermia and spent several days at Raigmore Hospital... That's not "you really ought to wear a helmet", but you should realise accidents are morelikelyinwinter.

    Pete.

  7. #7
    Widdler
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    @Peter, thanks for that, I can see that on busy routes a helmet makes a lot of sense. Scrambling/climbing solo I've never had an issue with falling detritus but you can certainly go arse-over-tit on 'simple' terrain -- we've all had lucky slips I should imagine.

    Fancy a crack at East Wall Gully now, continuation onto Y Gribin or Seniors should make a fun ascent with options once up. Any votes for Gribin on Snowdon? Done in summer and whilst easy, it's in a great position -- quiet too.


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