Sunday, 24 July 2011

Amphitheatre Buttress.

Well, today we had plans of finally getting on the uber classic Amphitheatre Buttress on Craig Yr Ysfa.
This was very nearly scuppered by firstly taking the wrong turn in Tal-Y-Bont, costing us quite some time,  and then finding a bat in the middle of the road, (not the wooden piece of sports equipment bat!). Our furry friend unfortunately only had one wing for some reason, but we moved him of the road anyway, and took a couple of snaps!
Once we finally reached the parking spot, time was pressing on. We knew we had a big walk in, and the route itself is probably the longest route in Wales, (excluding girdles!) at 960ft, and then obviously we had to get back out.
On researching the route it became apparent that some parties have really struggled on AB before, and times of 8 and 9 hours to climb the route were popping up, even if it is only VDiff.
We reckoned we could still do it in a reasonable time, so we pressed on with the long slog towards the crag. On arrival and to my dismay, nobody was on the route! Even in the remote setting with the tedious approach, I would have bet my life someone would have beat us to it in today's sunshine.
Looking up at the first couple of pitches, Dan and I opted to simul-climb until we came to any difficulties where we may have wanted a belay.
I took the sharp end and set of up the initial slabs and continued for a couple of pitches. I found a couple of interesting moves in these pitches, so for any readers, don't let them put you off!
 Dan then led the pitches on the main pocketed slabs, which was brilliant climbing with fantastic exposure. I then switched and led the next couple of pitched which involved the un-noticeable crux. The moves lower down and the slabs Dan led all felt harder than this!
The route then becomes more of a easy scramble for the next couple of pitches until you hit the pinnacles on the knife edge ridge. We easily moved over these, and up to the final corner. This finishes the route of very well and again gives some interesting climbing.

Dan leading up the exposed slabs

The climb itself took us approx 1 1/2 hours, we obviously saved time by simul climbing and moving together. We were followed up by a team of 3 who seemed to be doing a lot of pitching, they hadnt moved too far by the time we had descended and got on with the walk out. This is where the times of 8 or 9 hours could happen if your all not moving quickly, don't forget, the guide book describes this as 9 pitches!
A quick sort out of the rack and rope and we were on our way back, looking for the path that drops back down to the way we walked in, at this point I wish we would have parked on the A5 and come up the tarmac road! We even chatted that you could easily cycle up there!
The slog out was hard, and from the top of the route back to the car park only took us another 1 1/2 hours, so we made up good time all in all.

                                         Dan doing a proper, 'aux cheval' on the pinnacle

To summarise, in my opinion, the route itself is very good, not excellent. The reason being, is that the climbing is far from sustained, and very broken at mid height. For me, this detracts from the quality of the route as a whole.
Saying that, the climbing itself is fantastic, very exposed pitches, which could feel serious to a VDiff leader, simply due to the setting and remoteness. Protection is pleantiful as expected and the holds are everywhere you would like one to be and the scenery is stunning, take a camera!
If you plan on pitching the whole route, do allow a FULL day, and although we didn't do the A5 approach, I would think its much better. The crag is much further than it initially looks when coming from the Tal-Y Bont approach.

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