Thursday, March 29, 2018

Zero Waste Microadventure- Scrambling in North Wales

I am a big fan of preparation and planning trips, no matter how small, especially when there are risks involved. But sometimes, life gets in a way and you get to 9 pm the night before and not only you haven’t packed, but you are unsure where your map and compass is and whether you actually have an OS map of that area at all. It is so easy at this stage to just sack it off and stay at home. But sometimes, these unplanned adventures turn out to be the best.
Me and my adventure pal Natalya had a weekend booked in the diary for months. The vague idea was Wales as I have never walked around there before and it has some amazing scrambling routes. We have both been busy so unlike us, we had no concrete plans. We didn’t set off to Wales in the car until 9:30am on Saturday and we had made a conscious decision to stop apologising to each other profusely about our lack of commitment. Instead, we embraced the fact that we could do exactly what we wanted at that moment, weather, our ability and experience dependent. By 10:30am we had a plan, and by 1 pm we set off towards one of the most scenic of scrambles in the UK, a path leading to Snowdon- Crib Goch. 

                                   Crib Goch- a knife-edge arete 

If you have been following my blog, you would have probably got the sense that 2018 for me is all about pushing my limits and challenging my fears. The next thing on my list of things that I wanted to tackle was scrambling. As I have been climbing for 3 years now, I am getting more and more comfortable with climbing outside. If we isolate scrambling as a movement on the rock, it is not difficult, if you spend a few days a week training either indoors or outdoors where you do a lot of harder moves all the time. It is much more of a challenge if you are a walker, trying to up your game. The thing with scrambling is that it is similar to trad climbing in the mental game aspect. Yes, the climbing might be (relatively speaking) easy, but the consequences might be great as depending on where you are, one slip can mean a nasty fall with potentially fatal consequences. And that is something that is playing up in your mind as you are reaching for the next hold. Combine that with being outside in beautiful and often exposed places and you have a recipe for an exhilarating day out. And you guessed it, that is exactly why I wanted to do it- because I found it  scary. 


                    Scrambling shoes - I found them really helpful for sleek movement on rock 

We didn’t need any ropes or special equipment for this type of scrambling, just a focused head game and a few deep breaths! One thing that I have found useful was wearing approach shoes which are perfect for scrambling as they give you a good feeling on the rock. There are people going up there with trainers which is madness so make sure that you have shoes with grippy soles. I bought mine second hand off ebay and I was glad to have them whilst scrambling.  The usual waterproofs and warm clothes are also essential. If this is your first time, a guidebook would be useful. Natalya was the guide here as she has done this twice before. We had an OS map, compass and a view ranger for the rest of the walk. 

Zero Waste Food

           My lunch essentials are really useful even in the hills 

No matter how busy I am, I will always make time to plan that what I do day to day is Zero Waste as much as possible. So before I have even packed my OS map, I sorted all of my food for the weekend. I took breakfast, lunch and snacks as well as tea for both days. I opted for an omelette for breakfast as it tastes just as good cold and some full-on picnic spread which would not look out of place anywhere in France- cheese and cured meats and a pork pie. I am a big fan of preparing food for the first evening and just heating it up when I get there which saves a lot of a faff. So we had some homemade chilli which was stored in the big airtight stainless steel tin. I took my loose tea and a strainer and filled my flask on Saturday morning, because who goes walking without a flask?!? For snacks, I took some nuts and seeds with some chocolate raisins through it. Everything came from my Zero waste shopping and there was nothing wrapped in plastic. Instead, I used all of my usual stainless steel lunch essentials as well as cotton bags. As we were leaving our big packs in the car, the weight did not matter.

      No need to buy a plastic bottle when you can reuse your stainless steel bottle for many years to come

We had a stove as we thought that we will be camping but we ended up staying in a bunkhouse which had a microwave, making our lives easier for a change. I took into account my compostable waste as well. I planned to use my airtight box afterwards to store used tea leaves as well as any fruit peels so that I can compost them at home. This way I should produce no trash at all. 

The route 

                          You have to earn a view like this

As I have never been up Snowdon, we thought, what better way to get to the top than to go via Crib Goch? It is definitely the most fun way to get there! It is a grade 1 scramble (there are grades 1-3) so it is a great introduction in terms of easy terrain but the exposure makes it a lot more adventurous. The ridge leading up towards Snowdon is very, very narrow in places with drops on either side of the ridge. When the rock is wet, it gets slippy and so great caution is needed. To get to it, you need to turn right off the well-trodden Pyg Track. As soon as you do that you are greeted with interesting rock formations which give you a bit of an idea of what is to come.

                       A little taster of what is to come on Crib Goch

When you get to the start of Crib Goch and you are not feeling it, you can downclimb at this point and turn back. But if you keep going, you will be rewarded with some stunning views of Snowdon. Take a deep breath, steady yourself and take the first step towards it. You are committed now! If you change your mind, there is not much you can do, just turn back or keep going.

                               Walking into the mist towards adventure...

It was so much fun walking on the narrow ridge, sometimes getting on all fours, remembering the basic rule of climbing which is 3 points of contacts at all times. The exposure made it so exciting! We started off surrounded by mist and as by magic, within a few minutes, the clouds parted, leaving us with some incredible views. If you struggle with heights, it might be worth not looking down. 

The biggest challenge is actually route finding. You can easily stray to a harder terrain but as Natalya has done it before (she run up there as part of a race!!!) we were fairly on track, as she navigated the route with confidence.

                         Nat taking it to the next level 

I really enjoyed that focus and the almost instinctive movement on the rock. There is something so joyous and satisfying about scrambling. I went out trad climbing the day before where I got challenged physically and mentally on a route and so this felt within my comfort zone and I could enjoy what I love about climbing the most – the movement on the rock.

Sharing adventures with your buddies is a good recipe for happiness 

We finished the route on a high, and joined the Pyg track to the top of Snowdon and back down in a horseshoe walk, bagging some more scrambling on the way on Y Lliwedd. I have been eying Llyn Llydaw lake since the start of the walk and as the sun was setting, we managed to get a quick dip overlooking Crib Goch and Snowdon. Natalya has since become a wild swimming convert! 

What a finish to the day. But don't take my word for it when I say how good it was. Go and do it! 

As we were deciding on the next day plans, the bunkhouse owner where we were staying mentioned a fossilised beach over at Carnedd y Filiast which apparently has a really interesting scramble on it. There are other famous places in North Wales for scrambling like Tryfan but we were both intrigued by this unusual sounding place. We set of the next day, not quite sure where this place was or what it looked like but after some steep ascent, we were rewarded by what essentially looks like a wavy sea in solid form. The rock had ripples from where this used to be a beach. Now we are talking! 

                      One of the two less intimidating slopes                            

With very few handholds, you have to really rely on your feet, keep your heels down to ensure the biggest contact with the rock and just keep your head screwed on, as if you trip, it is a long way down. It was slab scrambling at its best, any steeper and you would need gear for safety. 

                                   Slab scrambling at its best 

It was so different from the day before but the similarity was in the joy of movement again and trying to control the mind and just focusing on nothing else but feeling relaxed and free.

        All jokes aside, when it is necessary, the Game Face is on 

Once again we did a circular walk and topped it off with some more dipping. This time there was no lake, just a stream big enough to lay down and immerse. Nat said that it felt almost cheeky to dip there and we wondered whether that particular spot has seen any naked walkers before? I looked so inviting, I am pretty sure that it has.

           Cheeky dipping spot to finish off the excellent weekend 

I produced exactly zero rubbish the whole weekend. I wasted no food either which means that I have packed just right and exactly what I needed. My Zero Waste essentials are proving even more versatile and I am starting to get sleeker in terms of preparation and packing for adventures. It goes to show that adventure doesn’t have to have the plastic stamp attached to it! I have also picked up some trash as I was walking, there were plastic bottles up Crib Goch and top of Snowdon as well as random bits of rubbish on the path.

 If there was a competition for the best lunch on the hills, I would probably win:)  

Considering that we had no plans the day before, this microadventure turned out to be just amazing. We have both challenged ourselves and spent some good time together, chatting all day until we sorted the world and we both felt like we have reset ourselves. Did I find it as scary as I thought? In places, it was definitely scary and you need to be careful and do things within your abilities but I can tell you that it was a lot worse in my head before I set off. It makes me wonder, how many things do I not do in life because I have the wrong perception of it? Yes, some things are dangerous and have a risk attached to it but often we inflate it in our minds. I was expecting crippling fear and vertigo the whole way and instead, I found all of that but on a much, much smaller and manageable scale and a huge rush of joy and a childlike appreciation for such a basic instinct- to climb some rocks. I am a convert.


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