Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Monday 28 December 2009

Tuesday 22 December 2009 – A Great British Ridge Walk – Number 3 – Y Garn’s North-East Ridge descending via The Devil’s Kitchen

An easy route from Bill Birkett’s book - ‘Great British Ridge Walks’ provided the inspiration for today’s trip to snowy Wales, triggered by messages from The Pie Man about his Snowdonian ridge walking ambitions. 

I’d forgotten all about the planned walk with Alastair until he called on Monday evening:

“About tomorrow’s walk.  I’m afraid I can’t make it.”

‘Hmmm’ I thought.  ‘The conditions may be interesting, should I go anyway?’

“Why don’t you go anyway?” announced Sue.

No destination had been planned, and I needed to be home before
4 pm, but page 17 of Bill’s book provided a suitable answer, with a walk of only 8-9 km, ascent of around 730 metres, and timing estimated at 4 hours.

So the following morning I brushed the sleep from my eyes, optimistically shoved crampons and ice axe on board, and headed off down the M56. Chester was reached by the time I realised I’d brought no money.  I’d have to drive slowly to preserve fuel, and miss out on a mug of tea at Ogwen Cottage, but my main concern was the state of my low reserves of screen wash, without which driving would be a little difficult!

Anyway, I pressed on and by 9.30 I was staring at this view of the rift directly above Ogwen Cottage.

Quarry Canyon

The slatey shaley rock from this ‘Quarry Canyon’ was taken many years ago for use as a whetstone material for sharpening steel, and on warmer days school children can be found here, learning the rudiments of rock climbing.

It was a delight to hear the creak of fresh snow under my boots.

Above the steps the path flattens out for a while, heading towards a ladder stile that leads to this gentle slope on the approaches to the north east ridge of Y Garn.

Looking back from the approach to Y Garn's NE ridge

Llyn Ogwen comes into view far below, with Lynn Idwal nearby to the left as you ascend.  The going in just a few inches of freshly blown snow was easy.

Soon the steeper slopes of the north east ridge made for slower progress, especially as frequent stops were needed to admire the views.  Around 700 metres the snow was firm enough for crampons to be of benefit, so on they went, for the first time this winter.  I think it was the first time I’d attached them to the leaky old Asolo Fugitives (no chance of a leak in today’s temperatures – the boots were worn for comfort) and they worked perfectly on this walk.

First crampons of the winter

Here’s the view from this spot, which was just below the cloud base.

Looking down from the NE ridge of Y Garn

Then it was a case of sticking to the rocky crest in order to avoid drifted snow on the snow laden route of the normal path.  The views came and went, and whilst there were patches of blue sky there was a fresh breeze which made it hard to distinguish between the swirling cloud and the spindrift.

At the 947 metre summit, the spindrift prevailed…

The summit of Y Garn, 947 metres, was in cloud

A pleasant descent started beside the cliffs of Y Garn’s eastern face before turning SSE to emerge from the clag above a familiar looking stile.  Despite there being a few people out today, the fresh dry snow and the mountain breeze conspired to eliminate any sense of a track until The Devil’s Kitchen was reached, revealing a well trodden but very slippery thoroughfare. 

Climbers were playing on the sheets of ice that were draped across the entire Cwm.

Ice climbers in Cwm Idwal

I kept the crampons on until below 500 metres, where I stopped for lunch – and their removal – in a calm spot with this fine view across Llyn Idwal to Pen yr Ole Wen.

Llyn Idwal with Pen yr Ole Wen beyond

Following the path below Idwal Slabs, on the east side of Llyn Idwal, there were good, if monochromatic, views of the slabs, and of Tryfan as it slowly crept into view, draped in cloud.

Below Llyn Idwal family parties frolicked in the winter conditions, this chap rather foolishly showing off by wearing shorts.  I was later to hear of men in t-shirts and jeans having been rescued from the nearby slopes of Snowdon.

Man in shorts above Ogwen Cottage

By the time I’d reached the shores of Llyn Ogwen, Tryfan had freed itself from its shield of cloud.

Tryfan from Llyn Ogwen

I’d enjoyed a very leisurely outing in lovely winter conditions (Trekking Britain – you set off in the wrong direction!) and was back at the car well within 4 hours, and back home, after another easy journey, by 3.30, managing somehow to avoid the gridlock in Altrincham caused by the day’s fresh snow.

I took 24 photos, which can be viewed in a slide show here.

Here’s the route – 9 km, 730 metres ascent, in under 4 hours.

Today's route, about 9 km, 730 metres ascent, in 4 hours


_ said...

Nice pics Martin, and what looks like a fun day. Rescues (most unnecessary by the sounds of it) continue. Grough's article sums it up — it's beyond me why anyone would head off into snow- and ice- covered mountains at this time of year without basics like an axe, crampons and a torch. Oh well...

Mike Knipe said...

....never been quoted as a source of inspiration before.


Who's that eejit in the shorts anyway? And why bother with shorts? What sort of hard man wears cosy shorts?

Phreerunner said...

Mike - I suppose I had to credit you with something after dishing out abuse for your failure to see the equinox in as planned! Won't do it again. Promise.

Jamie Bassnett said...

Saw a man and woman get off a Manchester bound tram at Timperley station today that looked like yourself and a lady with a blue Mountain Equipment jacket on? I was on an Alty bound tram going the other way about 5:55pm

Phreerunner said...

Well spotted!
We'll have to keep an eye open for other bloggers as we pass Silverdale Station at 9.30 in the morning!