Mountain Scrambling with Rohan

Below are a few written accounts about what happened when eight people met each other for the first time and went for a ‘scramble’ in the hills together. The activity aside, it shows how such a great variety of people, who didn’t know each other found friendship, even if only for one day, by applying for a place on a Rohan day out. I hope you enjoy reading their accounts!

Dan – To tell the truth, I didn’t really know what I was in for on Rohan’s Scrambling Day – the words ‘mountain’ and ‘professional guide’ were enough to tempt me.

But now I know: Scrambling is rock climbing without the fuss and shiny metalwork. Scrambling is some of the best fun you can have in the rain (well, in our climate, anyway). Scrambling uses muscles I didn’t know I had, but on Monday morning I knew they were there and they were shouting.

And scrambling is the kind of fun you had as a child climbing trees, only it’s for grown ups.

As we started out on Tryfan in Snowdonia, Stu and Lee took us carefully through the techniques we needed to stay safe on the mountain – reading maps, planning a route, making decisions on the rocks to stand on and the ones that can’t be trusted. As a reminder of the need for care, a bright yellow rescue helicopter hovered overhead searching for a party that had got into trouble.

Then we split into two groups: one to take the ridge, one to climb a gully – a cleft in the side of the mountain. I was in that group. Moving steadily, step-by-step, rock-by-rock inside the mountain is deeply satisfying: it’s a combination of mental puzzle and physical challenge.

Reaching the summit was good, but not as great a personal satisfaction as getting to the top of the gully. And now I know how to abseil two ways – painful and more painful.

I loved it and I want to do it all again. Best wishes.

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Robert Kletz – What is it about the Ogwen Valley that attracts the rain? We left Conwy in fine weather but by the time we reached the Ogwen Valley, it was raining. We climbed out of the valley up Tryfan and the weather was fine. We returned to the valley at the end of the day and it was raining. We drove back to Conwy and the weather was fine. OK, that’s enough about the weather; what was the day like otherwise?

Whichever way you look at Tryfan, it’s a steep mountain. Not having done a lot of fell walking in recent years, I was a bit apprehensive that I would be unable to keep up with the rest of the party. However, Stu and Lee were clearly used to leading disparate groups and they set an entirely appropriate pace. I soon had a sweat on and was puffing and panting but for the most part I kept up with everyone else.

When Stu and Lee decided to go separate ways and take four people each, I volunteered to join Lee’s more technical route. This proved to be an excellent choice. Not only was it tremendous fun but very educational. With hindsight some of the things Lee told us, were blindingly obvious and yet I’d never really thought about them before. For instance, wet rocks tend to be slippery, so put your feet in cracks, ridges, etc in the rock, where there’s more grip.

Lee provided us all with helmets, because you never know who (or what) is above you and about to dislodge loose stones. He also showed us basic rope techniques for securing both oneself and one’s climbing partner. When life-lining someone up a steep slope, make sure you are well belayed to the mountain, otherwise if that person falls, you both end up in a sticky mess at the bottom. Some even quite substantial rocks can be loose; if you tie onto one of those and your partner falls, the rock joins the sticky mess!

The ropes are typically 25m or 30m long. Another good tip Lee gave us was that both partners should tie onto the rope, before the lead person starts climbing. Otherwise the leader might go too far and leave the partner to watch the end of the rope disappearing out of reach!

We climbed up one of the gullies in the East Face of Tryfan, taking turns to lead and follow. Lee always managed to position himself, to give useful advice on how to tackle some of the more difficult bits. He pointed out good foot- and handholds and sometimes suggested that an alternative route through the rocks might be easier or safer. It had long since stopped raining but just as we came out onto the North Ridge, the sun came out but cloud filled the gully. For a few seconds we were able to see Brocken Spectres.

After a quick scramble up the last bit of the North Ridge, we reached the summit for a welcome bite to eat and to wait for Stu’s party. Afterwards we all set off together down towards Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal. Part way down, though, Lee invited those of us who had been with him in the morning, to practise abseiling. Once again we had to find suitable rocks as anchors; there’s not much point in taking the rock down the mountainside with you! We then tried both the classic abseil and the South African variant. None of us had previously come across the latter but it was remarkably simple and effective. We then followed the main path back down to Idwal Cottage and its welcome tea shop.

Did I enjoy the day? Not half! Would I do it again? Definitely, if Rohan will let me come on another one, although they may prefer to let other people share the fun on future days. Did I learn anything? Yes, lots. I’ve already given some examples of the advice Lee gave us throughout the day but I learned something else as well: don’t show Stu or Lee that you’ve got space in your rucksack, or they’ll persuade you to carry ropes, helmets, karabiners and anything else that they can’t be bothered to carry themselves!

Lesley – As a hill walker with over 300 miles under my belt in the last few weeks, but a total novice at scrambling, I hoped I would be up to the challenge, especially when one of the other participants arrived sporting climbing breeches. The other participants were friendly and interesting to talk to coming from different parts of the country and various backgrounds. I was surprised that most of them seemed to have done climbing or scrambling before, but I need not have worried. Stu and Lee were friendly, welcoming and professional and it was soon obvious they were experienced at leading mixed ability groups. They provided a challenging day’s activity and it has left me keen to do either more scrambles or have a go at some climbing. A helicopter rescue was happening on Tryfan as we ascended, which was a salutary reminder not to get complacent. Even the wet weather couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm and the perfect end to a great day was a pint in the pub.

Thank you so much Rohan for giving an old lady the opportunity to try something new, with support from highly qualified instructors and a great big thank you to Stu and Lee for a fantastic day in Snowdonia and cheers for the drink! Thanks again

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Charles Robert – I’ve spent over 40 years walking round mountains and in particular North Wales. But there’s the frustration. I’ve been to most of the tops, walked the valleys, taken the main routes and some interesting alternatives but it’s those routes that require hands on that have in the most part eluded me. Here was the perfect opportunity – Rohan’s introduction to scrambling. It was the perfect day for scrambling, not too hot or windy, neither raining for long or bone dry. Swirling mists added atmosphere and nearing the top of Tryfan sufficient sunshine to give us a pretty good broken spectre, nice one!

Yes Tryfan that most wonderful of mountains – Stu and Lee had made a good choice. Right from the road we were able to start picking our way up the ever increasing gradient. With brief stops for guidance and information we gained knowledge as well as height. Setting the map, use of compass, foot placement, distinctive features of the landscape, safe techniques for use in the hills. All good stuff. Our route traversed the east side of the mountain to a point marked by a giant boulder just passed a huge gully. Identifying the correct start of the route was another good learning point. It was time to get technical. The key was getting the basics right. A safe knot, a tie round the waist, good foot placement keeping three points of contact, keeping steps short to avoid over balancing, what to do if a rock is dislodged, route choice, there was plenty to remember but Lee very carefully explained each point and demonstrated what to do. We were doing well so Lee introduced some basic ropework. ABC – easy to remember – anchor, belay, climber. The route up little gully looked very steep but on closer inspection the holds were very good and with Lee’s encouragement we’d soon done the first pitch. Lee had made a point of stating that in scrambling you cant afford to fall off and in this gully that would most definitely have been a really bad idea, nevertheless I was really enjoying this and when after a few more pitches we reached the comparatively easy North gully I was itching for some more adventure. North gully might have been easy but Lee explained its real dangers, principally dislodged rocks from above so with care we made our way to the top.

In short this was an excellent day, well done Rohan for sponsoring this activity and a big thankyou to Stu and Lee for making it so enjoyable. More of these please Rohan it’s a great idea.

Hope to go climbing with you in the near future. Regards


Scrambling on Tryfan – Every so often I need a new challenge, so when Rohan offered a one day Scrambling course, it was an ideal opportunity to try something completely different, outside my normal comfort zone. I have done some hill walking in the UK and the USA, but nothing in Snowdonia. I had not done anything of any severity on rock before, and it is always best to do something like this as part of a group for companionship, safety, and encouragement.

On the day we all gathered at the Rohan shop in Conwy, to meet our two mountain guides, Stu and Lee, and to find out what we had let ourselves in for, as none of us was sure what the severity of the chosen climb  would be. It was a very easy, friendly atmosphere, everybody was definitely up for a challenge. One topic of discussions during the day was who owned the oldest piece of Rohan clothing. Most of us were having trouble wearing them out.

The weather conspired to put us off, as we started the approach to Tryfan in drizzle.

I was lucky enough to be offered the use of a Rohan Pinnacle Jacket to try out for the day.

I had looked at these when they first came out, so was very keen to see how it performed.

The jacket is very light, and is more snugly tailored than the Gore-tex jackets I have used for walking and skiing. It was also very easy to move in, over some of the rock obstacles we tackled later in the day. I had the chance to give it a good test during the course of the day, as the weather changed form drizzle on the approach, to dry with occasional sunshine on the climb, to persistent and sometimes heavy rain on the descent.

The approach was very much what I would expect when hillwalking, but we soon started to get into rock formations, that called for a bit more effort. After ascending for a while we stopped and split into two groups, now Stu and Lee had an insight into how we were each coping. The drizzle also very helpfully stopped at this point. One group would tackle the North Ridge route, the other a steeper ascent up a gully to the summit. Stu talked us through orientating ourselves on the mountain with a map and compass in case the weather closed in at any point. I was part of the group to climb the North Ridge with Julie, Leslie and Paul, with Stu as our guide. As we ascended the rock formations became more difficult. It was not possible to see the summit or a clear route. We started scrambling through areas I would not have considered entering without a guide. A pleasantly surprise was that it was much less physically demanding, than it can be when hillwalking on steep slopes, and you gain altitude so quickly.

At intervals we stopped to get our bearings, rest, and and ensure we kept the group together. This was also an excuse to take lots of photo’s. Stu demonstrated some basic rope belay techniques, including trying the rope into a figure of eight and using it as a rescue sling for carrying someone. In this case Leslie got to demonstrate the principle.

I would not have dreamed of going up some of the rock gullies and crevices we were safely climbing by myself. What is possible was quite an eye opener..

At one point we reached a large standing stone called the Canon that juts out at an angle from the side of the mountain. I tried walking out along the stone , but did not feel secure, so left it to Stu and Leslie to go and enjoy the view. There were some fabulous views when we stopped, but when you are scrambling your concentration becomes very focused on the few feet of rock you are immediately in contact with. The top sections became steeper and we rigged a belay on a couple of occasions to ensure no one slipped. We climbed quite close together on occasions, to be ready to give assistance should anyone slip. As we approached the summit the rock structures became ever more more complex, we hauled ourselves over a rock bridge at one point, before a straightforward ascent to the summit, where the other group were already waiting for us.

We just had enough time to rest and admire the views from the summit before the weather closed in again. Starting the descent down the South Ridge, over large boulders in drizzle.

Not as difficult as the ascent, but you still needed to pick your way carefully, and without experienced  guidance, it was again not clear where the best route lay. Most of the descent was along rock strewn paths, that almost formed stairs in places, in ever heavier rain. I arrived back at the car park with worn out legs muscles, but completely dry and warm, thanks to the Pinnacle jacket. Even my boots had survived some very heavy drenching’s. The hot chocolate from the cafe at the bottom was very welcome. All arrived back very much intact.

I am writing this five days after the climb, and am still on a “high”. I absolutely loved the experience, and want to do it again. Thank you Rohan, Stu and Lee for this insight.


Jo – Thanks very much to you both for planning a fun day out in Snowdonia -it’s almost 10 years since I was last there and it reminded me how lucky I am to live reasonably near to such a beautiful place, how much I’d missed being out and about in the hills and how refreshed I feel when I am back at work (at the beginning of the week at least!).

I’m going to the Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan soon so I will definitely take my own map -yes I have one from my last trip to that area, although it is in Russian- and a compass, you never know I might even be inclined to use them.

Thanks again to the both of you and to Rohan for arranging the day. Best wishes.

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Paul – A Grand Day Out. Having just completed my first “serious” trip into the mountains with the UK 3 peaks challenge, I had managed to complete this in well under 21 hours but felt that I had missed some stunning scenery.
Completing Scafell Pike in the early hours and total darkness only served to bolster my opinion.  So, when I returned home after the challenge I spotted an email, from Rohan, which included a competition for some sort of outdoor activity in Snowdonia, what an opportunity, a chance to return to, hopefully, see some of the scenery I thought I had missed.
I’m Paul, and I don’t win competitions, or at least didn’t. Returning from my office one evening my other half, Jo, said there was a message from Andrea Henderson on the answer machine. Two minutes after listen to the message, the initial joy of the announcement “you have won a place in
Rohan’s introduction to scrambling event,” led to a sense of trepidation. What have I let myself in for? After all through virtually the whole of my 3 peaks adventure the nearest I had got to experiencing altitude was passing through a couple of snow fields on Ben Nevis and seeing one of those cornices that people keep warning me not to stand on. For the majority of that trip planet
earth was shrouded in mist and clouds.

Fortunately the weather on the 31st of July 2010 worked in our favour. While the first hour of our scramble was in light rain, the weather broke and it remained dry until our decent from the summit of Tryfan, some 3000 feet above sea level.  For this novice, in the space of a day and with the guidance of our instructors & guides Stu & Lee, I was transformed from a hill walker to a fully fledged
mountaineer. I have to admit it will take a few more trips to gain the confidence that some of our party exhibited, especially negotiating a pike with not much to “hang on to” and a drop of 150 feet at my back. Still, we all made it up and back without incident.
During the ascent the presence of the mountain rescue teams and their helicopter, was a little disconcerting especially when we passed the spot where some unfortunate soul had “taken a knock.” Still there was also a measure of reassurance knowing they were there should we need them.
I have been an England athletics endurance coach for some 10 years and have to confess that I have  learned so much during the course of a few hours with Stu & Lee that shall be able to take some of those skills and methods back to my own area of expertise within my club.
I now know that I have got a “head for heights” or least I can cope with them and this trip will sow the seed for more adventures in the mountains and also to my local Rohan shop in Taunton. This really proved an invaluable event and life experience for me, thanks to everyone at Rohan for their generosity and especially for the guidance from Stu & Lee for seeing our teams through the event safely.

Mountain Scrambling with Rohan – Picture Gallery

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