After plenty of seacliff action, the call of the mountains beckoned, and with the extended dry spell and warmer temperatures, James’s enthusiasm was the final piece of the jigsaw – we were off for a couple of days in Snowdonia!
First stop was Craig Yr Ysfa, best known for the classic ridge route of Amphitheatre Buttress. The Amphitheatre in question hides a magnificent wall, Mur y Niwl, and that was our objective. It’s a fairly tedious plod up the paved road from the parking in the Ogwen valley, but this soon gives way to a well-made path skirting the right hand side of the Llyn and up to the obvious col.
From here, you head left up the ridge towards the summit of Bwlch Eryl Farchog and soon arrive at the top of the buttress route and a view over the abyss of the Amphitheatre down to your chosen crag – a sweaty hour and a quarter. The views of Mur y Niwl and Pinnacle Wall above it are impressive and it’s worth spending a bit of time here to pick out the lines of interest and especially to spot the most useful abseil lines – or would be if the whole thing wasn’t buried in cloud!
You might be surprised by the mention of abseiling, but this is the trick to a productive and pleasant day hereabouts. A 45m rap from the obvious spike at the top of the wall gives access to the commodious Bilberry Ledge, and another of 50m (from spiky flakes halfway along the ledge) lands you pretty much at the start of the routes Mur y Niwl and Aura. (there’s a rap station with fixed tat and a crab at the far left / gully side of the ledge, but this leaves you with a bit of a damp scramble at the end.)
The view from the foot of the crag is pretty intimidating, with the cunning line of Mur y Niwl finding a VS path through Extreme territory on the right hand side
and Aura blasting straight upwards
We started with the former, and can confirm its outstanding quality (struggling to think of a better mountain VS) and considerable exposure and difficulty. Both members of the party should have a bit in hand at the grade, due to the traversing nature of the line.
Here’s James enjoying the crux traverse at the end of pitch 2 (described as 4 pitches, we linked 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 without too much bother)
… and stepping into the monstrous exposure at the start of pitch 3
A quick zip down the ab line and it’s straight back on the rock for Aura – a stiffer proposition at E2 5b, but not by as much as the grade difference would suggest. It seemed pretty steady, with just one trickier section heading right to gain the main crackline. Stupendous nonetheless.
From here you need to do a route on Pinnacle Wall (or face a grim gully!) to summit and reunite yourself with your gear. The eponymous Severe would be a logical continuation to Mur y Niwl, but to do justice to Aura it made sense to finish up Pinnaclissima, E2 5c. James bridged and laybacked the tricky lower corner with aplomb,
despite the dampness, and then stormed up the widening crack above. Great top-out
… and views of Tryfan and the Ogwen valley on the way down.
A fine mountain day!