Steve Pardoe's Pinnacle Rib Page
First Pinnacle Rib, Central Buttress, East Face, Tryfan
8. May 1999

First Pinnacle Rib was my first high mountain rock climb. Depending on which guide book you read, it's graded Difficult or Very Difficult, and consists of some six main pitches, with a total length of 535 or 600+ feet. Its remarkably pure line starts at the Heather Terrace, and finishes right by the 917 metre high summit of Tryfan, near the famous monoliths of Adam and Eve. In the poor conditions we had, it probably rates about a grade higher.

The text section below was first published on the uk.rec.climbing newsgroup. Warning: in the tradition of hard climbing (well, it was hard for me), the report contains some taboo language.

For some much earlier (and a few more recent) Tryfan pictures, click here.

Steve on belay, First Pinnacle Rib
Don't try this at home. Clipping two quick-draws together like this is not recommended. Thanks to Al Downie for spotting it!

My own private crux

We're on a huge stance at the foot of the last big pitch of First Pinnacle Rib, central buttress, East face of Tryfan. It's pouring with rain, and the rock is as greasy as a truck-stop cafe counter, so we're climbing in our mountain boots.  Water is dripping off everything, helmet, hands, beard. 

If this harness wasn't so tight, it'd be dripping off my balls.

It's getting late, we've already climbed over four hundred feet above the Heather Terrace.  I've done more than I ever thought I could, I'm cold, tired, and scared, and now it's time for the crux pitch.  No question of bailing out: I daren't tell my brother-in-law David, who's leading the climb, but I don't think I could abseil down all that.

There are three of us, I'm in the middle, and to save time the end men are leading through.  Richard's out of sight at the top of a zigzag.  Dave, who is tail-end Charlie on this pitch, says "go".  A tug on the rope.  Check knots, off belay, walk a couple of paces to the face and wait.  Rope tightens again.  "Climbing!", I shout, as if anyone could hear me in this wind.

The pitch starts with a curving crack on the belly of the buttress, like an appendix scar.  There's nothing for my right hand: the rock's dimpled with a million little scoops, but every one has a fringe of mossy, licheny choss. It's running with water, and has all the frictional qualities of a sintered bronze bearing.  Left arm braced on the crack, get a toe in.  Teeter, rise.

Rain lashes my face.  As the rope moves, the first two pieces of gear come clattering down towards me. 

Oh well, saves taking them out. 

Clip to my gear loop.  There's one piece left at the top of the crack, where the route joins a long ramp off to the right.  If that comes out now, it's a pendulum to God knows where.  Better not tweak it, better not to know.

Get a grip. 

Get a few moves under me, and it feels do-able.

In my dreams.

There's still nothing for my right hand, so it's all balance on the shiny left edge of the crack.  Wind's plucking me like a bass guitar, drawing crazy arcs with the two half-ropes behind me.  Soaking wet, fluffy old ropes, they seem to weigh more than I do.  Beyond the crack, there's a convex slab off into a gully. Don't want to go in there.

Another move up.  Still nothing, but the crack is getting steeper, so I've just got to pull on my right arm now.  What's this, a tiny flake? 

Flake my arse, more like an After-Eight Mint.

Nasty sharp top, but it's all there is. Fingers curled like a karate fist, nails to the rock, wrist ditto.  Transfer some weight to the right at last, brace left leg. 

This is going to hurt.  Lean, pull, pull, dammit! 

My fingers are so cold that I don't feel pain.  Vibrams shudder and jam. 

For fuck's sake.

I look up, there's a little groove just above my left hand now, a hand span out of reach.  Lock off right arm. 

Pull, pull or die.

I stretch up left, and get a finger in, two, three.  First joints,  second joints, that'll have to do.  Hang, rest, blaspheme.  Look around, but not down.  Another stretch up on the right, it's fantastic, I can do this now.

As I rise up towards the pro, the gear floats out and and greets me with a soft thud against the knots on my harness. 

Bugger.

I still need that, and so will Dave.  Can't reach to get it back in.

Wait, here's a little spike, a few feet away at two o'clock.  Can I get a sling on it? 

Try, try and fail again.  In this wind, I might as well be tossing candy floss at the moon. 

Think.

If I fall now, it's going to be bad, but I grow Angel's wings, take both hands off, and weight the sling with a krab. It flicks over the flake first time.

Quick, quick, quick-draw.  Clip.....   and clip.  As the gate snaps shut, it's the best feeling in the world.


First Pinnacle Rib (digital photo on a later visit) Richard and Dave at the start. The letters "FPR" are scratched on the rock Dave leading up into the gloom
Tryfan from the North East. The Heather Terrace runs diagonally across the face.

Sorry these last three pictures (scans from prints) are so poor.


Here's another mini-epic from Slack on Clogwyn Yr Oen
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