Archive for the ‘north ridge’ Tag

Snowdon Horseshoe with The Hardman   21 comments

I’m behind again – just when I’d caught up as well. Back to the last weekend in March for a rare trip out to Snowdonia with The Hardman. He’s planning on a run over the Welsh 3’s and some of his friends haven’t done the narrow ridge of Crib Goch so he wanted a reconnaissance mission. I agreed to join him as the forecast looked like it might be a decent day and worth the 5 hours return trip in the car.

Things didn’t start well. TH wasn’t at the appointed spot we’d agreed to meet (a very handy lay-by that’s free to park and only a few hundred yards from where you have to pay £4). After 45 minutes he still hadn’t arrived and I was worried he might have had some car problems (or maybe just forgotten that the clocks went forward!).

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With no phone signal there was nothing I could do but set off and see what transpired. As I reached the start of the new path up to Pen y Pass from Pen y Gwryd there he was! He’d decided to completely ignore my well written instructions and paid to park. Ah well, times to set off and the increasingly good views soon had us back in tune with the day.

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The weather improved markedly, much more than expected such that by the time we started up the PYG Track there was abundant blue sky. On decent days the path is normally a long train of people but the gloomy start seemed to have kept the crowds at bay.

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The views down the Llanberis Pass and across to the Glyders were amazing.

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And of course Crib Goch looms large and dramatic in the view from here. East Ridge (our route) on the left, North Ridge on the right.

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Fine views across Llyn Llydaw and to Y Lliwedd from Bwlch y Moch.

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Onwards with the steep climb up to Crib Goch. A tough undertaking at the best of times but at Hardman pace even more so! The rocky spur halfway up gives some great, easy scrambling.

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The final section of the ridge pulls you up towards the summit.

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The summit is one of the few in England or Wales with a real sense of narrow exposure. This is looking down the North Ridge. I did this one a couple of years back. Harder and narrower than the East Ridge but its a real pain to get to.

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And the the highlight of the day, the narrow crest of the ridge. In my youth I was able to hop along the crest, mostly only a foot wide but in these less nimble days I prefer the handrail approach.

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It really is quite narrow and exposed and you’d have to head to Lochaber or Skye to find anything quite as challenging in the UK.

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Looking back from the final pinnacle.

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The Hardman on the short steep (and exposed scramble) over the final pinnacle.

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A brief stop for first lunch and onwards to the ridge of Crib y Ddysgl, not as narrow but with plenty of interesting scrambling moves of its own.

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Over the summit of Garnedd Ugain and on to to join the masses on the main Snowdon routes to the summit.

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Not as crowded as it can be, but still the usual comical mixture of under-equipped and unhappy people clearly surprised by just what a long climb it is and how cold it was up there. We didn’t linger and just walked straight over the top heading away from the crowds and towards the other half of the horseshoe (the full route enclosing the dramatic east corries of Snowdon).

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The distant views were a bit hazy and for most of the day we were under a cap of dark cloud. However it was localised and as the sun dropped into the western sky where clouds were less we had some extensive sunny spells and dramatic light effects. The route down to Bwlch Ciliau is still under improvement and the final section is very loose and unpleasant.

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As we reached the bottom the sun came out and we stopped for lunch number two.

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Y Lliwedd is a wonderful peak but its always quiet whenever I’ve done it no matter how busy Snowdon is. Probably its just too much extra effort for the main mob and possibly as its not over 3000 feet. Whatever the climb up its west ridge is a delight with lots of scrambling if you have the energy to seek it out.

Looking back to Crib Goch.

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And Snowdon.

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Watching you, watching Crib Goch.

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The ridge is not narrow but the views from the edge are magnificent and precipitous.

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And our two heroes on the final summit.

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Moel Siabod cast in sunshine in the distance.

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Just the matter of a long descent back to the car.

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And see final sunshine on the Glyders to finish an awesome day on one of the UK’s finest (if not its quietest) mountaineering routes.

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I drew the route into my OS Map software. It told me there was over 6000 feet of ascent so I’m now rather unsure of any figures it comes up with. The the 10 miles distance seems about right though at least.

Thanks to TH for convincing me it was worth the drive.

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The Route More Trodden   10 comments

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The next day was a revelation. Gloomy dark clouds were replaced by clear blue skies and warm sunshine. Breakfast outside to start the day albeit later than I wanted

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Having finally fulfilled my promises to take TJS up Snowdon and Scafell Pike it was time to fulfil another promise and take him on one of the UK’s finest mountain walks. The circuit of Tryfan and the Glyders.

We were accompanied by TJS new special friend, the lovely E. 🙂

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The weather was looking worryingly similar to the previous day with bubbling clouds and it was already very warm when we set out from the car. The classic route up Tryfan is its North Ridge, a fine introduction to the art of scrambling for budding mountaineers. Its also good practice for the art of brutally steep climbs right at the start of a hike. Compensation provided by the superb views

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After the lung busting start you emerge onto the ridge and the fun begins. Its pretty much a hands on scramble right to the top. I was a little worried about how E might fare (and TJS for that matter) but she was a natural rock athlete. Many times I had to curb her enthusiasm for the harder options and stick to the well worn route which has more than enough steep pitches to keep everyone entertained

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I should have taken my small camera for some more action shots (my hefty DSLR has to be packed away on the steeper sections) but I got some pretty good shots

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Both TJS and E seemed to be loving the challenge of the scrambling and despite the BH weekend and sunny weather didn’t seem as busy as I expected

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As we’d climbed there had been a freshening breeze keeping us cool. This also seemed to have cleared the air and the darker clouds seemed to have vanished. The views were much more expansive and it was turning into a real cracker of day

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The final summit towers were just splendid in the warm sun. A great feeling to pull up on the warm rock. There is a sense of a real big mountain, almost alpine feel but with no real objective dangers with a little care. I’m a hell of a lot more cautious when I have the kids with me than when I’m on my own but they were equally cautious and responsible. It was almost a shame to arrive on the summit

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The main summit was crowded and E made an aborted attempted to climb onto Adam /Eve. I declined the offer having done that and the leap from one to other in my youth when I was leaner and fitter.

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We headed over to South Peak that was much quieter and sat down in the same spot me and THO had sat in a couple of months ago. Its a very nice grassy perch with a perfectly angled rock to recline against

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Time to move on and down the wider but no less rocky south ridge. TJS seemed to slow markedly and admitted having some discomfort in one of his toes. He seemed to be struggling so I asked if he wanted to go back down. To his credit he battled on, not wanting to spoil the day for the rest of us

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The classic route follows the North Ridge of Tryfan to ascend the Glyders via Bristly Ridge seen in the photo below. Its no harder than Tryfan but it is more exposed and feels a little more serious and committing. Being more circumspect and with TJS’s foot in mind, I suggested we leave it for another day although I wished we’d done it now as it was such a perfect day. Still, it will always be there

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We took the traversing path out to the ridge which is very fine in its own right and gives excellent views back to Tryfan and the eastern end of the Glyders

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As you approach the summit of Glyder Fach you get a splendid view of Bristly Ridge in profile

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The summit of Glyder Fach always makes me think that some almighty being has been building some huge edifice somewhere and dumped all the leftover bits on the summit. Its a huge area of piled boulders capped by the impressive Cantilever Stone that E obviously wanted to climb

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The perched rocks make for more fine scrambling but TJS was really struggling with his foot so we just avoided what we could and satisfied ourselves with the mighty views as the ever clearing weather just seemed to get better

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As you approach the summit of Glyder Fawr the view down Nant Ffrancon is one of classic glacial U-shaped valley

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The views of Snowdon were equally fine and my route from the day before perfectly outlined (follow the ridge in the shot below from right to left to the summit and then back across Crib Goch)

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The summit of Glyder Fawr is a mass of tors and rock piles. The view from the summit presenting the two faces of the ridge, grassy to the west, rocky to the east

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I’d decided that that descending via the path into Cwm Idwal was a better bet. TJS found the steep scree descent from the summit a tough one but you are reward with a visit to one of the UK finest spots seen here from the top of the Devils Kitchen. Under a blue sky and with vegetation still dressed in spring green next to deep blue water its a wonderful place

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From below the surrounding towers of rock add a majesty unequalled outside some of the wilder parts of Scotland

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The Idwal Slabs are a mecca for climbers and there were several people on its crags even at the late hour

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Only downside is its proximity to the A5 (about a 15 minute walk) so its always busy but it’s huge and away from the main path you can always find a quiet corner. Its a wonderful spot

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I’d left the other two behind so I could walk back to collect the car. The short off piste trip cuts a huge corner and affords a classic view of Tryfan with the North Ridge in profile on the left

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The walk back along the road was a pleasure despite the traffic with the sky now almost completely cloud free and a deep shade of blue

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I collected the waifs and strays and headed back to the campsite. We dined  on a truly excellent BBQ, washed down with ice cold beers,  amongst the happy convivial family atmosphere of the campsite where its seemed everyone was doing the same and waft of sizzling meat and wisps of smoke spread across the site

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An appropriate point to mention the fantastic Rynys Farm Campsite. A real find. Some of the campsites in Snowdonia can be a little rowdy and overcrowded. Carol, the lovely owner has this one just perfect. Set amongst rolling fields in the forest above Betws-y-Coed they don’t pack the tents in and even though it was full there was plenty of space. Facilities were perfect, simple but clean with lovely touches like spare BBQ’s and kitchen stuff for anything you forgot. Best of all Carol promotes a friendly family feel that’s irresistible. Its a treat to pitch up somewhere the owners main focus is making sure everyone has a great time rather than just a commercial exercise. And of course a view to die for as well.

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We watched the sun set to end a high quality day indeed

The Route Less Trodden   14 comments

Bank Holiday Weekend and a family trip to Snowdonia. I arrived a day early so had the Saturday to myself. Weather forecast was for a sunny day with “occasional” showers in the afternoon so I was up early and parked up just after eight.

I had route planned around Snowdon but even at this early hour spaces were at a premium. If you are ever planning a Snowdon walk from near Pen-y-Pass I have a few tips. Don’t bother trying to park at Pen-y-Pass itself. Your chances of finding a space are pretty much zero and even if you did its a whopping £10 a day! Much better to park down at Pen-y-Gwryd especially now that there is a rather nice path back up to Pen-y-Pass rather than the scary walk back up the busy road. They charge you now to park in the lay-bys here (£4 a day) however if you walk towards Capel Curig a few hundred yards, and into the Local Authority next door, the lay-bys are completely free – all for the sake of an extra 5-10 minutes walk. Don’t ever say my blog isn’t informative 🙂

Anyway the gloomy conditions of earlier were replaced by extending patches of blue sky and sunshine

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The new path up to Pen-y-Pass is rather nice and a huge improvement over the road option. That is until you emerge into the rowdy chaos that is the car park and join the hundreds of other people looking to attempt the summit. The views were some compensation and it was exceedingly warm even at this early hour

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The path was a constant stream of people some of whom were already struggling within 30 minutes of leaving the car park. I don’t think they have any idea that even from the high start its a pretty long and tough trek to the summit. I had other ideas though and was planning a route taking in Crib Goch by its little used North Ridge. Its the one on the right in the photo below (the ridge on the left is the more common East Ridge)

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My guide book said there is a cairned path that leaves the PYG Track but I never found it. As soon as you branch off you are instantly in a different world of peace and quiet in amongst the wild hollows of Cwm Beudy Mawr. I was alone, save for the traffic in the Llanberis Pass far below me. It’s a very rough route that traverses this wild corrie, across the top of Dinas Mot and up towards Cwm Uchaf below Crib Goch. There were only a smattering of sheep tracks and no sign of the promised path. It was hot and humid and hard work but the rewards when reaching Cwm Uchaf were worthwhile

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Its a stunning spot. Crib Goch and Crib y Ddysgl tower above, Llanberis nestles beneath. This was one of the spots we’d hoped to camp on the aborted Easter trip a couple of months ago. I can now confirm that its perfect if you can find a dry pitch (it was pretty soggy). I found a large flat rock to sunbathe on and catch my breath

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I’d also wanted to look at the lake of Llyn Glas but I ended up far above it as its decidedly hard to find. It has a small island and someone was camped on it

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Getting onto the North Ridge involves a short tedious pull up a loose scree slope very reminiscent of Tenerife. The North Ridge is much narrower than the common East Ridge and actually pretty exposed in places. However having it all to myself made the extra effort to reach it all the more worthwhile

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On reaching the summit the views across Snowdonia were mighty fine although dark clouds were beginning to build

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Photos never quite do justice to just how narrow and exposed the main the ridge of Crib Goch actually is. I’ve done it many times and whilst technically its very easy with only a few places needing hands, you do need a head for heights. Several people turned back while I sat and took in the views, all bearing the look of people who hadn’t expected this sort of thing

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I enjoyed the scrambling and was quickly onto the less narrow but equally rocky and scrambly ridge of Crib y Ddysgl. However rain was now in the air and by the time I reached its summit it was heavy enough for waterproofs. Having said that, such was the humidity I was dripping wet with sweat anyway.

You are suddenly transported back into chaos as you reach the point where four of the main routes up Snowdon converge. There is little point walking the extra ten minutes to the summit to share a summit I’ve done many times, with no view and with five hundred strangers so I headed down. I passed through hundreds of people on the way up. Most were poorly equipped and most looked decidedly unhappy at the turn of weather. As I descended I came out of the cloud and the sun came out. Glaslyn looked like an ideal spot for a stop

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I found a quiet spot on the far side of the lake away from the crowds and lazed in the sunshine for an hour enjoying my lunch and a brew. Snowdon eventually peeped from its cap of cloud and suddenly all was very fine indeed

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Then I headed down and and everything went pear-shaped. It started to rain, light drizzle at first but within a few minutes it was a heavy downpour that lasted the best part of an hour until I squelched back into Pen-y-Pass car park. I was completely soaked through although I suppose one heavy shower, albeit an hour long classifies as “occasional”.

The sun came out on the way back to the car and I was pretty done in by the time I reached it. Not surprising as I’d done 11 miles and fair amount of ascent

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I was still soggy enough to need plastic bags on the seats to drive back to the campsite!

Then another “occasional” shower. Well cloud-burst would be more accurate. The A5 became a river as I drove past the Swallow Falls. For around ten minutes it all went dark and was like the end of world. Back at the campsite it wasn’t as bad but it rained pretty incessantly until around 8pm. In contrast to the heat and humidity of the morning, I was now cold enough to need the heater on in the camper.

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The rest of the family turned up later in the evening, their arrival seemingly forcing the rain to stop. The day finished with some fetching views across the campsite and we hoped for better weather the rest of the weekend

The Backpacking Trip That Wasn’t   8 comments

Easter has always been backpacking time for me the past few years. Me and THO, and more recently TJS, have headed up to Scotland for a full weekend of wild camping fun and games. We’ve had some sensational weather and that had to end sooner or later.

This year for a variety of reasons of work commitments and stupid timings of Easter and School Holidays, Scotland wasn’t really an option. We had therefore hatched a plan to backpack our way through Snowdonia and pick up all the Welsh 3000’s.

After an overnight in the very fine Oakfield House B&B (and an equally fine meal in the Royal Oak Hotel) we were ready.

And then the weather intervened, well eventually. The forecast for Friday was good but for the rest of the weekend was awful, heavy rain and high winds for almost the whole time. It was due to hit overnight so we amended the plan to take full advantage of Friday with a day walk, booked into a cheap Travelodge (very lucky to find a room last minute) for Friday night and would re-assess the weather on Saturday morning.

Friday was indeed a cracker and the round of Tryfan and the Glyders seemed appropriate. THO hadn’t been up here for many years and was keen to rekindle some old memories. It was cold down by Llyn Ogwen but the conditions were clear, sunny with abundant blue skies and cloud hugging the summits ready to clear

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The North ridge of Tryfan is one of the classic scrambles in the UK and I’ve climbed it many times. I never tire of its wonderful climb although I do tire of the first thousand feet straight up from the road. Still, the views were magnificent

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As soon as we reached the warmth of sun it was time to bask on the rocks

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Once up on the ridge the scrambling is great fun without ever being too exposed or difficult with a choice of routes. If you going to build a mountain around which to practice that art of scrambling it would be Tryfan

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As you climb higher the ridge gets narrower allowing you to get a real feel of being on a a major rock peak but without any real objective dangers

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The early start meant that this very popular peak wasn’t too crowded for a Bank Holiday Friday. We left the leap from Adam to Eve to the younger generation, preferring the quiet solitude and warmth of a sheltered terrace on the south peak. I could have stayed there all day and very nearly did. The clouds billowing over the Glyders ridge gave a very atmospheric feel

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In my younger days, the classic North ridge was followed by the even more impressive Bristly Ridge up onto Glyder Fach. What Tryfan had taught me was that my ageing limbs are not quite as agile as they once were and I was feeling stiff and not really up to the job of another thousand feet of scrambling. We settled for the alternative of a wander to Llyn Caseg Fraith, to check it out for wild camping potential.

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Its a splendid route and the views across to the rock of Tryfan’s east as it unfolded were very fine

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There were indeed some fine spots to camp, albeit a little exposed, as long as you stay away from the shore of the lake which was astoundingly boggy. The view with the triple buttress of Tryfan above the foreground of the lake is a classic, made even better by the frozen snow in the water

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We took a very circuitous route to take in a host of small tors and rocky points on the slopes of Glyder Fach. As every lump and bump in the Lake District is now a “Birkett’ we felt there needed to be a Welsh equivalent. After much deliberation we decided on the “Oggies”. We bagged several.

After the obligatory photo pose on the Cantilever and a scramble to the summit of Glyder Fach (much harder than I remember) we headed off around to the highest point on Glyder Fawr

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Intermittent cloud and bright sunshine made it very fetching

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We took the very sensible decision to go around rather then over/through the Castle of the Winds (an scramble of equal challenge and tedium I seem to recall) and along the edge of the massive cliffs of Glyder Fawr

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The view down the classic glacial valley of Nant Ffrancon never fails to impress

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After a brief summit snack we opted for the Y Gribin ridge as a way down. Again, I’d forgotten how steep and how loose it was and didn’t really enjoy it all that much. My painful right foot didn’t help much. We should have gone down past the Devils Kitchen and Cwm Ideal, a much better route now they’ve improved the path

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Once down by the Llyn Bochlwyd (or Llyn Australia as I prefer to call it) I got my mojo back in the late evening sun. The look of the clouds told us bad weather was coming but we were glad we’d had a top notch day on one of Britain’s finest mountain circuits

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And I’m afraid that was it for the weekend. We celebrated a cracking day with a fine curry in Bangor and retired to the luxury of the Travelodge on the A55.

We awoke to the expected rain and stayed in bed as long as our check out time allowed. Over breakfast in the Little Chef next door we checked the forecast which seemed to have got worse. It didn’t seem to be raining too hard so we did consider hanging around to see if it improved. As we put away various versions of greasy fried meat the heavens opened and we watched as the trees bent and the rain bounced alarmingly off the picnic tables outside. Wild camping for 2-3 days in a wind blown deluge didn’t seem very appealing so we called it quits and went home.

Still, one fine day is better than none

North Ridge Agility Pro Trousers Review   Leave a comment

Those nice people at GO Outdoors sent me through a pair of North Ridge Agility Pro Trousers to review so here’s my thoughts.

A fairly standard pair of soft-shell walking trousers and first impressions were good. Manufacturing quality was excellent. Well shaped with a lighter material around the knee for easier stretching.  The waistband is also comfortable with a softer more cushioned feel and a sturdy belt and fixing. I’ve noticed with a few trousers that I’ve bought that the belt is thin and can cut into you. It’s also almost completely enclosed that holds the trousers up well although this also has some disadvantages which I’ll come to later.

There are two side pockets but these are unzipped. I was about to say that this could be a disadvantage in wet weather but seeing as I rarely do the zips up on my other trousers and never get water in that way I doubt it’s a real issue. There is a zipped back pocket but personal preference is for one on the side – I often use that to hold my compact camera or phone if it’s not raining. I rarely use rear pockets as – ahem – there isn’t much in them when my ample behind is also in that space. 🙂

The leg has a zipped section at the foot to fit over gaiters or larger boots. All the zips have a good solid, well made feel. I have a real dislike for trousers that sag, leaving that cold gap between shirt and waist so I like trousers either with braces or some loops to attach them to. These trousers (and most makes to be fair) don’t have these but you can usually fit them around the belt. Except here as the aforementioned enclosed belt precludes that

In terms of comfort well these are a big win. I have to say they are the most comfortable walking trousers I’ve ever worn with a soft feel. Some other non-lined trousers can be a bit harsh, almost abrasive but these are like a second skin.

Now onto the most important outdoor criteria, wind resistance, durability and waterproofing. I always try to be fair with my reviews setting my comments in the context of the manufacturers claims and the price point. RRP for these is about £70 but they are much cheaper in most instances. That places them firmly in the mid-range end. However in use when compared to the description the performance does not quite live up to expectations. They are described as wind and water “resistant” so what was the problem

I gave these a thorough work-out on a very windy and wet 1 hour walk on the coast of mid-Wales. The wind seemed to go straight through them and worse they were in no way water resistant. The water pretty much came straight through with no evidence of any beading of water at all. I’ve since washed them in waterproofing solution that has improved this a little. After an hour they were completely sodden with water running down my legs and into my socks which were also sodden. Whilst for less than £50 you can’t expect great things, the fact that they failed so badly even to keep a minimum amount of water out was very disappointing. End result is I’m reluctant to wear them when there is a threat of heavy rain. I did try them out in less heavy rain but they still gave me no water protection at all. Their light weight also means I’d wear a thermal layer beneath them in cold winter conditions although again to be fair they don’t claim to be 4 season.

In terms of durability I’ve worn them maybe a dozen times and they still look like new so good marks there. However due to their lightweight construction I am a little sceptical about the terms “active technical use” and “rigours of scrambling” but to be fair in terms of durability they haven’t let me down yet.

Pros

Comfort, Well Made, Light Weight

Cons

Poor water resistance, poor wind proofing, no braces or attaching loops

In summary if they could just improve the water resistance (or play down the claims a little) these would be an excellent 3 season soft-shell trouser and I plan on using them alot more over the coming months (the fact that this has been the wettest winter on record has meant I haven’t used them as much as  I’d like). Considering the price I would have been giving these a 5 star rating had they been at least moderately rain resistant. However in light of that one aspect I’d have to drop this down to only 3 stars.

Thanks to GO Outdoors for giving me a pair to try out. I didn’t include any photos as there are some on the website and to be honest most walking trousers especially blacks ones aren’t exactly Hollywood. You can check them out for yourself on the Go Outdoors page and their full range of walking trousers are in the web links below:

http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/north-ridge-agility-pro-pant-p206624

http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/mens/clothing/legwear/walking-trousers

Posted March 23, 2014 by surfnslide in Gear, Reviews

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