Today saw the restrictions on travel lifted here in Wales, together with the mountains and car parks being opened across the Snowdonia National Park.
Huw and I met in the Ogwen Valley at 9:00am and headed up in the drizzle to the Heather Terrace on Tryfan. The car parks at that time were not busy but they did fill up as the morning went on. The National Park Authority are providing updates on their website and social media about the status of the car parks here: https://www.snowdonia.gov.wales/authority/coronavirus/car-park-vacancies
We kicked off with Bastow Gully Buttress (2) and used the opportunity to review how we manage clients on this type of terrain with the use of the rope. Social distancing is easy enough to maintain and judicious use of hand gel means that it’s easy enough to manage the risk posed by the use of communal equipment such as the rope and the gear placed by the leader.
We joined the upper section of the North Ridge of Tryfan and talked about the management of clients on this type of scrambling terrain (grade 1). Traditionally we would use spotting, coaching and route finding as the primary means of looking after people but spotting simply doesn’t work with social distancing in place.
As Mountaineering Instructors we have the skillset to use a rope in place of spotting and this works well with 1 client, or two from the same household. Managing a group of people would be slow and cumbersome! (The law in Wales precludes that at the moment anyway, since we are limited to two households meeting up).
From the summit we descended Little & North Gullies, back onto the Heather Terrace. It was noticeable just how overgrown the gullies have become, as have the paths in general. The lack of traffic will also mean that the loose rock that will have built up over the winter months will still be sat waiting to be dislodged so a bit of care is required in choosing handholds and footholds.
We then headed up Pinnacle Ridge Route (3+) which allowed us to play around with the difference in working on more technical terrain with a bit more pitching. Social distancing is still easy enough to maintain when you know the routes and can make sure you use belays that have the required space on them. Being local is a big advantage here! The more technical the climbing gets the more equipment is used and so the hand gel applications become more frequent but it all works.
It was bloody brilliant to be out! We have both been incredibly lucky with where we live throughout the last few months but nonetheless it felt special to be back on Tryfan. The clouds gradually lifted and we got to see the Park laid out before us in all of its green finery. The joy of movement and the feeling of rock under bare hands is something I won’t take for granted again. Whoop, whoop!