Friday, 15 January 2010

Bad News

Joe's Waterfall is melting fast, so we can assume so is Virgin Falls. RAC Corner is very wet now, so we can assume so is Craig-y-Llyn. And on Pen-Y-Fan, the lower sections of turf are no longer rock solid. Roads are turning to slush and the Beacons are turning brown.

It's a sad day for all of south wales.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Thaw Has Struck

Despite the fresh dump of snow and still cold temperature at night, it seems the thaw is starting to take it's toll. Things won't be climbable for much longer, so get out whilst you still can!

Just got this sent through by Matt Cope.

Popped up to RAC Corner this morning (only had a few hours and
couldn't risk the roads to Torpantau or similar). Lots of snow in
drifts but the A470 is clear. Quite a bit of snow overlying the ice,
but not enough to hide the fact that it's melting quickly. Lots of
running water and the right hand line on the bottom step is now rather
gripping at the top - with rock showing most of the way across.

It won't be climbable for long.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A470 Closed

The A470 is closed and blocked bewteen Merthyr and Brecon. Along with the closure of the road to Treherbert to Hirwaun road and the road to Virgin Falls, that takes the three main climbing areas out of action. Bad times.


The A470 is now re-open.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow and Driving Conditions


It's snowing. It has been since this afternoon and it's not letting up. There's a good 2 inches or so here and much more up in the valleys. The wind is also blowing a shed load of it around resulting in a lot of banking on the lee slopes, currently north. Reports have come in of accidents on roads to both Craig-y-Llyn and Torpantau and those roads now pretty much impassable, even by 4x4's although I can't confirm the accuracy of this. However, with this snow set to continue for the rest of the night, I'll be surprised if any of the main areas are easy to get to over the next couple days without chains. Snow is also beginning to turn to slush with the traffic on the main roads, and this appears to be freezing back down pretty rapidly, and will most likely lead to treacherous conditions in the morning. A470 it is.

Warmer Still

More melting going on on the pavements of cardiff today. But hopefully we'll get more cold temps tonight and a bit of freeze thaw. Action seems to have quietened down a bit, but that's most likely due to the majority of people being unfortunate enough at have work. I should stress, ice on the roads is turning to slush, but it's still pretty cold down here, and up in the valleys a bit higher and more windy, so with any luck the thawing days won't be as drastic there and will be just about enough to give some freeze thaw without too much damage on the ice falls.

I'm hoping to get out tonight to try reach torpantau again, but have yet to find a partner with a car, so we shall see. I just want to play with my leashless tools again, which you'll probably hear me banging on about quite a bit.

You'll imagine my surprise when just after i finished writing this, i looked out my window to see a full blown blizzard has started! All is not lost.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Conditons Update - 11/1/10

Well that was fun. *raises eyebrow*

Zack and I thought we'd trundle over to Craig-y-Llyn for an evenings climbing. Having never been there before and not having OS170, we expected it to be, at worst, challenging to find. After having spent 40 minutes trundling around in snow not nearly far enough west for the crag, we finally found our way to the top of the escaprment and the fence. There's been a fresh powder dump up there since yesterday with some tracks covered over, and also an awful lot of snow blown about by wind resulting in 15 minutes of fun filled metre deep powder swimming back up to the main ridge line. Anyways, we carried on regardless, now on top of the crag and looking for a way down, following recent climbers tracks. It was at this point that things got not so fun. Up until visibility had been poor and snow deep, making the going pretty tough, but between then and now, cloud had come in even more, and coupled with the darkness, visibility was down to a mere few metres - que me trying to find a way doing what was clearly not a way down, and grabbing hold of a tree to stop myself falling down the steep cliff below, not a lot of fun in the dark without crampons on at this point.

After that we decided to be sensible, and with the worsening conditions, visibility, biting wind, and a little shaken from climbing back up on heather, we called it a day and decided it would be silly to carry on yomping around the top of a crag we didn't know in such poor visibility. On our detour down the hill prematurely we noticed a small stream in a gully with a rock step that was frozen and quite fat, indicating that despite todays warm temperatures, the routes in the area are most probably still nicely frozen. However as I say, there's been a lot of snow blown about, and if you stray of the tracks you're likely to find patches of week 2 inch crust above gop, interspersed with powder ponds. So the moral of that story? Go in daylight, or know where you're going. Stick to the obvious tracks. Don't try walking down into the darkness.

Anyway, you can guess what we did after this enjoyable walk in the snow, that's right, not wanting to waste an evening we shot back to RAC on the way to check how good a fight it was putting up against the settling thaw. The temperature at storey arms was, on the layer scale, effing cold, and RAC was fatter still, than the previous 3 times i've climbed it since wednesday, with the ice toughening up on the hole, and the belays improving. More snow blown about and a lot of loose powder covering some ankle breaking rocks on the way down, so be careful.

Now, on to the most important part of my post, my tools went leashless today. And my lord, I'm a convert already. Leashless is fantastic, and I spent most of the way up RAC hopping along pointlessly swapping tools and hands just to rub it in Zacks chokeheld wrists that I could. Win.

Followed by a large dominos pizza.

It was a good evening after all!


If you don't want to read all the round-a-bout waffly crap above, heres a short summary.

- Still there, still getting fatter, still getting stronger.
Snow- Windslab forming in small pockets, deceptively scoured and slippery patches, fresh powder covering ankle breaking rocks, and very deep on northerly and north easterly.
Temperatures- Cold again, hopefully bringing about some freeze thaw to consolidate the blown about cack on the hills at the moment.

The below has been sent to me by Mark Salter, and is an update on the weekend conditions at Virgin Falls

Hi Ryan.

We were out on Saturday in Blaencwm. Virgin Falls was in except the bottom short crux pitch. Although thinish in places and with water running behind in places there was plenty of ice for 8 of us to ascend. From the top we walked over to Polystyrene which was in similar conditions but climbable in its entirety. Again water was running behind and down the centre of both pitches but the climbing was good. Both routes about III or slightly harder depending on line chosen. Both routes could do with more freezing temperatures to fatten them up and fill in the blanks.

Virgin Falls

Virgin Falls



Is a Thaw on it's way?

An unwelcoming sign.

I just came back to cardiff, and on setting foot off the train, I was greeted with a very unwelcome sign. Throughout this cold spell, I have used as a method of gauging the a 'coldness', the amount of times I fall over on the pavement between town and my house. On some days last week, this was topping 5 times, + near misses. Now this isn't down to any lack of walking or balancing ability on my part, more-over, the fact that the streets of cardiff have for the last week been plastered in what can only be described as horizontal WI3. Anyway, stepping of the train today and walking home, I didn't fall over once. I didn't even come close. The pavements have reduced themselves to a slushy mush, and the puddles are melting. I hope this doesn't mean a big melt is coming quite so soon, I was hoping for a bit longer yet.

That being said, sat in my student house typing this, my housemates refuse to let me use the heating, and my breath is clearly visable in my room. I'm wearing my liner gloves, vapour rise, and photon hoody, and i'm still shivering. Maybe things won't be so bad after all.

Having just converted my tools to leashless, I'm going to attempt to find Craig-y-Llyn in the dark this evening, wish me luck.

On another note, Jeremy Cowen has kindly sent me this clear topo of the routes on the N.Face of Pen Y Fan. Taken on a nicer day than mine, and from closer up, it's a bit easier to make out the gullies. My topo far below gives a nice general view of where they are on the face relative to the other gullies, but this one is quite possibly more useful when on the face itself. Especially if, unlike me, that majority of your winter climbs are in daylight!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Joes Waterfall - 10/1/10

The following report is from Matt Moore of SWMC

A group of us from South Wale Mountaineering Club climbed Joe's Waterfall on the Black Mountain (Fan Brycheiniog) on Saturday and again on Sunday. Whilst water was trickling underneath the ice in places it was decent ice and will take screws. The lowest sections of the fall are good for a bit of ice bouldering. The main section on to the top of the ridge is about 15-20 meters in height of good solid ice. We felt that grade III (WI 3) was probably more realistic for this last section than the given II. However there are some good ledges on it on which to gain a rest. A set of nuts maybe useful for constructing a belay at the very top. We were able to make a decent top rope setup out of 2 nuts, 1 tricam, 1 screw, one sling round a block of ice and boulders and an abalokov thread.

There is a closed down pub near the start and you can park in the car park on the left side of the road (A4067). The main road is totally passable. It's about a 20 minute walk from there to the bottom of the route.'

Matt Moore


Sounds quite doable, will have to try get there this week.

Grid references and details can be found here:

WI4 in South Wales

Adrian Berry has been pottering around South Wales this weekend sending a few WI4s with Audrey Seguy. They've been up Ogmore Valley Falls which he reports as being in acceptable condition, hopefully set to improve. He's also been active over on Craig-Y-Llyn, sending Weeping Wall, another WI4. Looking like good lines, think I'll head to Craig-Y-Llyn tomorrow and report back. Photos and words below, much thanks to Adrian.



We'd driven over from London on Friday night and parked at what we thought was the lay-by for 'RAC Falls'. On Saturday morning, only after getting fully kitted-up did realised that we were in the wrong place - so got back in the van and drove down the road to the proper parking area. It was obvious where the route was, and just one other party was on it. Another party turned up as we were gearing up at the base, they took the left side of the falls, and we took the right side which was a bit of a wake-up call - quite steep. We walked-off after about 50m as the remainder didn't look so good.

Having got down by ten, we drove over to Craig-y-Llyn. We got a bit lost trying to find the right descent, after stepping over the fence (and not following the directions) we walked for about twenty minutes to the end of the crag, where a party were descending, we followed them down, then walked for at least twenty minutes back the other way - past routes that looked great, but had lots of people on them or waiting for them. Eventually we got tired of trudging though the snow and resolved that we'd climb whatever ice fall we cam across next. This turned out to be Weeping Wall (WI4) and a party, led by Gary Lewis, was in place as we arrived. The route was good - though a bit sporty as the ice ran out some way before the cliff did - and I'd already watched on of Gary's seconds take a fall - so it obviously wasn't going to be a picnic. In the end all went smoothly - though I was glad to find an old peg in place to protect the top as I'd never done any mixed climbing before - though the mix in this case involved grass rather than rock.


After a later start we headed off towards Virgin Falls - though missed a turning and ended up driving up Ogmore Valley - the road we were on was officially closed, but we had chains - and how bad could it be? Well, it was fine as a steady stream of traffic proved. On the way we spotted a good-looking ice-fall just a the side of the road - I didn't know what it was, which made it all the more interesting. A good, though short pitch of grade 4 was followed by a shorter, easier pitch. Afterwards we worked out that this was Ogmore Valley Falls (WI4).

Audrey Seguy climbing the the top of the second pitch of Ogmore
Valley Falls WI4.

Ogmore Valley Falls WI4

Audrey Seguy climbing snow-covered grass at the top of Weeping
Wall WI4, Craig-y-Llyn, Brecon Beacons.

Detailed Torpantau Report - 10/1/10

Here's a detailed report on Torpantau including info on the approach and driving conditions, thanks to Sam Leach.


Hey man,

Had a great day out at Torpantau falls today. Both roads from Merthyr to Pontsticill are clear, plowed but perhaps not salted. We parked at the turn off for Dolygaer, where the plowing seemed to stop and our little car could continue no further! We walked up the road thereafter, two 4wds made it to the roadhead, but it seems less than wise, unless you have chains. Skiing would seem to be the best method of approach, the road or verges would be skiable from where we parked right up to the falls. More snow was falling through the day, about 1cm, and as we left the weather seemed to be closing in, perhaps there will be more snow overnight.

The falls above the carpark on Nant Bwrefwr seem to be coming in - water is still running pretty hard, but with much ice on the edges, perhaps it could be climbed now, but rather you than me... It'd be pretty thin.

The going round into Cerrig Edmwt (and back down Craig y Fan Ddu) is pretty unpleasant: partially consolidated snow and some slab over long grass, almost supporting your weight, but never actually doing it!

The falls themselves are in good nick, the lowest step is running a bit, but still easily climbable. The main pitch is great, good thick ice, plenty thick enough for screws, I even got a 22cm screw in at the belay. There's some water running behind the ice, but not much and it reduces as you climb up. It looks like 4 or 5 parties climbed it at the weekend, though there was only one other party a fair distance behind us. At the top of the main steep section, the ice is stunning - sculpted bulges and icicles, giving a nice boulder problem. There are a couple of water pools, but mostly things are frozen solid. We thought about going across to Pen y Fan, but the soft snow and low visibility put us off.

There's a lot of ice smears on road cuttings below Merthyr, including one rather large one, but I don't know where it was, as I'd just woken up! Somewhere between Merthyr and Bristol...!

Hope this helps and you get out soon.



Weekend round up - 9th/10th Jan

Well it's been a busy weekend. Reports are coming in of ascents far and wide, and with baltic conditions on pen-y-fan, seems a lot of people have been heading to craig-y-llyn and further west to joe's waterfall. I myself got stuck inside without partner or transport yesterday, and today i'm back home in malvern watching Oceans 13 and eating copious amounts of pizza for my girlfriends birthday, but I shall be back out in the hills tomorrow for some more evening ascents. At least I can give you all a good round up of conditions.

Ascents have been made of most of the lines on craig-y-llyn, Joes Waterfall, Virgin Falls, RAC corner, and Torpantau. Although there's still not a lot of news flying around about road access off the main routes. You'll see from my report that Torpantau was very tricky to get to the other day but apparently it's been climbed this weekend. I'm going to try get back there tomorrow, failing that it'll be an evening at craig-y-llyn for me.

Virgin Falls is apparently formed for the final two pitches in reasonable condition, although a little thin in places and the first pitch is still quite wet. There are reports of a possible second route in Blaencwm coming into condition, rumored to be polystyrene.

Joe's waterfall over on Camarthan Fan still has water running behind but is climbable and fat enough for screws, and has seen more than one ascent this weekend, with roads to the pub accessible and a short walk in. Belays consist of nuts.

Where the Stripes Meet, a roadside fall at Cwm Clydach still has a way to go till it forms, reported by Steve Fry this morning. See photo below. It's forming from the bottom up by the looks of things and still needs more water flowing down before it'll be climbable.

RAC Corner Still has water running behind but is getting fatter every day. Still a fair bit of snow shortening the top pitch but the pitches lower down give some interesting opportunities for steep water ice problems, with the best line still being the pillar of the first pitch on the right hand side.

On another note, snowboarding conditions on the northern cwms of The Beacons seems to be a popular past time at present, with a number of people out enjoying the powder.

With cold conditions set to continue well into this next week, it's unlikely there will be much consolidation on the snow routes on the north face of Pen-Y-Fan but if you don't mind breaking through the thin crust, and a bit of powder swimming, then it's sure to provide some entertainment. The most popular lines up still appear to be Central Gully, with more ice formed on the steps this time round than there was in september, and Central Rib, providing some interesting lines through the rock bands. Although be aware, as although the Brecon Beacons aren't a renowned avalanche spot, there are apparently pockets of wind slab forming in the lee, and with this being deposited on top of a more consolidated layer left from christmas, and the cold temperatures, there is chance that it could slip.

Thanks for these reports go to my friends, climbing partners, other contributors to this blog, and the masses of UKC. Please, still keen for more people to get involved emailing in reports and making this work, so if you have anything for me, you can contact me through UKC where my username is Tipsy.

Safe climbing everyone!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Craig - Y - Llyn

Sounds like Craig y Llyn might be in. Weeping Wall was climbed today by Adrian Berry, reporting reasonable conditions and queues for routes. More details and photos to follow soon hopefully.

Videos of PYF and RAC

There's some videos from pen y fan, and from RAC corner here, curtosy of Alex T from UKC, and both climbed yesterday. 8/1/10


Pen-Y-Fan - 9/1/10

Sounds like it was a busy day out on this hills today, as can be expected with this current weather. Snowboarders, climbers, dog walkers, and kids with sledges out in force.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of anyone to climb with and the aforementioned frustrating lack of transport, I didn't get out today and instead sat around indoors miserable for most of the day. Can't make it out tomorrow either, but hopefully can work something out for Monday, I quite fancy trying to get to torpauntau again after last nights fail.

Anyway, I digress.

Steve Fry has kindly sent through this report of the conditions on Pen-Y-Fan this morning.


So, having decided that Central Gully was going to be the objective of the day and having never been on the NE Face of Pen-y-Fan before I woke up with great excitement this morning. However no sooner had the 5am alarm gone off (I needed to be back for lunch!), I checked my phone to see my partner had gone down with food poisoning overnight.

Not to be deterred, and I have to say I enjoy soloing, I jumped in the car and headed to Storey Arms. -5 at the car park and I was away up the tourist path by 6.30am. Having left the car park under a starry sky it wasn't long before that turned into thick mist and a strong North Easterly wind. Got to the summit at 7.45am and the first challenge was going to be finding the North Ridge as visibility was now down to 20m. Navigation skills served me well and soon I was traversing onto the face, and decided to go for Central Rib. Thankfully the shelter of the Cwm now meant ther was no
wind at all, bizarre!

Snow conditions on the rib were as expected, a hard crust about an inch thick on top with then powder underneath, on top of generally frozen turf. The rib gives continuous enjoyment and basically you can make it as hard or as easy as you want dependent on what line you take through the rock bands. Highlight of the route is unquestionably the last 50 metres when you're picking your way through the headwall giving the route a real alpine ridge climb feel.

Topped out at about 11am to be greeted by hoards of skiers, snowboarders, and fellow winter climbers gearing up on the summit.

Route is probably worth its one star in the guidebook, but unquestionably needs the snow to firm up a bit more for it to be in top condition.
Here's hoping!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Fresh Snow

Did I mention there was fresh snow falling tonight at Storey Arms?

Torpantau Fail! RAC Win :)

Well. That was an eventful evening.

Left Cardiff about 6PM on route to Torpantau, stopping by trefforest to pick up Josh. Things were going great until we took the wrong turning and ended up at the reservoirs due to water damage on my OS map.

Anyways, that was all okay in the end, we turned round and went back (I won't mention the nearly skidding sideways into a verge). Then we got down the right hand road to Torpantau and lo and behold, shortly after the bridge, the hill is unpassable. Road is caked in a thick layer of ice below the snow and you'd need snow chains to get through. We had a 4x4 and couldn't manage it. Que sliding quite fast and unnervingly towards the drop below us and our very skilled driver just about managing to dodge it.

To cut a long story about a number of failed attempts to get up this hill involving snow shovels and gear ratios short, we admitted defeat. I'd be very impressed if anyone without a tractor or snow chains manage to get through.

So, the alternative. After our eventful hour long detour of an epic without even having left the car, we went over to RAC instead. Josh and Adam had never climbed it before so I thought i'd show them and at least get something done. I was pleasantly surprised! The bottom pillar is still looking good and all in all we got about 3 pitches done of good ice. There is just about enough ice for short runner screws and just about enough ice/frozen turf for belays. It's gotten noticeably fatter since last night.

Top pitch was great fun, little near vertical boulder problem with a rocky top out.

Ice is still brittle on the top layer, but more plastic underneath, you do need short screws though. Temps were about -8 when we were there tonight (12am) so hopefully it'll freeze up some more.

Here's some photos showing the pillar and ice conditions on the main short pitches. It's perfectly solo-able, we just decided to rope up as Josh is new to the sport and Adam is rusty :)

Virgin Falls - 7/1/10

2 Friends of mine from Cardiff Uni Mountaineering Club went to check out Virgin Falls last night and reported back the following...

First pitch wasn't formed. Pitch 2 and 3 were very thin but just about climbable. Being a wuss I stuck to the edge and climbed a half turf half ice line, not wanting to trust my life to the steeper stuff in the middle. Duncan did likewise. Good little adventure but wouldn't really recommend it in current state.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

RAC Corner - 7/1/10

Been up tonight, as planned, and climbed RAC corner with Zack. There was a report earlier on UKC saying it was fat and taking screws and runners, and that report came today. I don't know if there's been some mass warming since them but it's certainly not fat. It's definitely climbable, yes, but the ice is too thin and brittle in most places to take runners. It will take the odd short screw here and there but not much. Ice is also quite wet with a lot of water running behind the whole way up.

The first section is great fun, there's a nice short vertical ice pillar formed on the right hand side which we climbed and reckon would go at somewhere around IV, if a little short. Definitely the best part of the whole climb. Great fun though. The ice on it is very delicate though and even with hooking, there was a surface layer peeling away, so be gentle! It isn't really good enough ice to take screws, it's also a very uneven surface. Could perhaps hammer a bulldog in but it would probably do more damage than good. It was basically a solo with one insignificant screw for a mental aid about a metre off the floor. For those fancying something a little easier, it's easy to bypass this pillar on the left on a more ledgy and gentle line.

The top section has been reduced to a short boulder problem by snow drift.

Second large step is good fun too, ice is quite slabby and more plastic on this one but there's still a fair bit of water running behind, and a dinner plating surface layer.

A lot of the climb is snow covered, and at the top of the two main steps described here, there's little by way of belays. The pillar step has some ice thick enough for a 13cm screw, and a relatively fat but very wet pillar to sling. The second step has nothing aside from frozen turf to hammer your axes in to. There may be some rock belays around, but I didn't fancy digging through the foot or so of powder on top to find them.

Approach and descent wise, the path is nicely beaten down now, although if you stray off this there's a good foot or so of powder, more in places, and some buried rocks to watch out for. Tonight we also observed (albeit quite small scale at the moment) the presence of hoar frost crystals on the surface, on top of a crust forming about an inch thick at the moment. So although the beacons aren't a notorious avalanche spot, if we get another dump, take care out there and don't be complacent.

Along the top if you traverse the ridge, there are some inconspicuous patches of scoured snow and semi formed neve which need to be watched out for if not wearing crampons.

The small solo gully line to the right has been blocked by tree fall and is also completely buried in snow, with the sound of running water beneath so no good.

To summarize, brittle and wet with a lot of water running behind but well bound to the rock, but climbable. Mostly a solo. Be delicate, make use of hooks, and leave some ice for everyone else.

Torpantau 7/1/10

Tim Jones has kindly sent through the following report and photos from Torpantau today. Sounds good. I'm heading up to check it out tomorrow, and will update then.


Climbed Torpantau today with Wayne Penzer it's in good nick from bottom to
top and the main pitch is in excellent nick.

Roads are tricky and you definitely need 4wd to reach the car park. Walk
in was tough it looks like someone had been in yesterday and we widened
their furrow so it should be easier now.


Looking nice and fat, if a little snow covered. Still, hit delicately people, and save some for the rest of us!


Unintentional ice skating on my road in Cardiff this morning was not much fun with a hangover on my way to a lecutre, however it bodes well for tonights climb. It's very cold here at the moment and my house mates refuse to let me use the heating. Heading to RAC tonight and possibly some other places also, so will report back. Temperatures were recorded to -12.5 last night so i'm optimistic!

Pen-Y-Fan photos and topo

Photos showing conditions on pen-y-fan in december, and with a topo of the recorded routes on the north face can be found here: