Monday, 17 October 2016

Sentries’ Ridge

“Sentries’ Ridge is certainly more serious than many Moderate or Difficult climbs, and can only sensibly be recommended to competent mountaineers.” (1)

“Craig y Bera does offer good views and interesting features to those able to cope with the capricious nature of the rock, which can be loose on both large and small scales.” (2)

“An ability to judge rock quality is more important than technical expertise.” (3)

“The huge screes below the cliffs indicate clearly enough the loose and fragile nature of these unfrequented rocks.” (4)

Over the years I have come across a number of references to Sentries’ Ridge on Mynydd Mawr but although most of them extol the adventure of this big-mountain route, all of them make specific note of the lack of quality of the rock.  And with good reason.

Following the track through the Beddgelert forest, we easily reached the open hillside and walked up Mynydd Mawr’s east ridge to the treeline before traversing to the start of the route at the bottom of Craig y Bera.  We donned harnesses and helmets and started the ridge up the faint path through the heather.  As the heather gave way to rock and incline to verticality, I called for a rope.  We split into three teams of two and made our way up, placing gear when a good placement presented itself, which wasn’t often.

Walk-in to Craig y Bera

We bypassed a pinnacle on the left – this was the route’s crux – and although the moves were straightforward, the exposure was significant and the consequences of a fall serious.  For the length of the route the rock definitely lived down to its reputation.  Huw Gilbert’s blog about the route adds some drama to the dangers of loose rock !

I read a few guidebooks to research the route before I stepped foot on it and there was no consensus about its grade, with opinions ranging from a grade 2 scramble, through 3 and 3S to a Diff rock climb !

Snowdon & Yr Aran from Sentries' Ridge

The good weather highlighted the vista – from Snowdon and Yr Aran to the full length of the Nantlle ridge and seawards to the Rivals.  At the top of the ridge we decided on a fast-and-light dash to the top of Mynydd Mawr, stashing the rucksacks in the heather.  The good views got better summit and even the summit of Tryfan could be seen over the col between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr.

Nantlle ridge from Sentries' Ridge

On a sunny bank holiday weekend we had manged to have an adventurous route to ourselves and basked in the smug self-congratulation on avoiding the inevitable bank holiday crowds on Snowdon, just over four miles away.

For anyone considering the ridge, harnesses and helmets are a must, but there is no need for rock shoes – stiff boots will serve you well.  Some big slings and a selection of nuts will be adequate for protection, but we thought that 2 or 3 mid-sized cams would have helped.  And take a rope of a decent length; 25 metres isn’t enough – consider something at least 40 metres long and it will keep the belays to a minimum.

(1)        quoted from     “The Ridges of England Wales and Ireland”
            author              Dan Bailey
            publisher         Cicerone Press (2009)

(2)        quoted from     “Cwm Silyn & Cwellyn”
            authors            Paul Jenkinson & Bob Wightman
            publisher         The Climbers’ Club (2003)

(3)        quoted from     “Scrambles in Snowdonia”
            author              Steve Ashton
            publisher         Cicerone Press (2010)

(4)        quoted from     “Scrambles & Easy Climbs in Snowdonia”
            authors            Jon Sparks, Tom Hutton, Jerry Rawson
            publisher         Grey Stone Books (2005)