Steve's Amphitheatre Buttress Page

Phil (waving) and Kate on the superb pinnacle and arête near the top of the climb

Amphitheatre Buttress, Craig Yr Ysfa, Carneddau    1. August 1999

This superb classic was my second high mountain rock climb. It was first climbed by the Abraham brothers (GD and AP), D Leighton and JW Puttrell in 1905. I have my late father's old copy of George D. Abraham's "British Mountain Climbs", which includes this route!

It's graded V Diff, and consists of some seven main pitches, including some vegetated scrambling, over which we moved together, Alpine-style. With a total length of 960 feet (293m) it's one of the longest courses in the area.

I was in a rope of three, alternating leads with Steve "Blofeld" Currier, and with my daughter-in-law Caroline mid-rope. Another rope on the same route was led by my brother-in-law Dave, with Phil, who also led a pitch or two, and Kate mid-rope.

We had good conditions (though very hot and humid, threatening thunder later), and owing to a late start we had the route to ourselves.


The Amphitheatre, Craig Yr Ysfa: Amphitheatre Buttress on L, Amphitheatre Wall on R (that's enough Amphitheatres - Ed.)

Our party picking their way up the gully to the start of the route, after an awkward "walk-in" (down-climb!) from the col above the reservoir. Some of us had stashed sacks at the col, others (including me) carried everything down to the start, unsure of what we'd need, and then up the climb, to save having to descend the mountain in rock boots or do the down-climb again to retrieve redundant gear.

Guess who carried most of it : I later worked out that I'd hauled about 13kg up damn' thing.

Looking down on our second rope party at the top of the second pitch(?): Dave, Phil (behind boulder) and Kate. I'm not sure whether we divided the route strictly according to the guide book, as belay stances were chosen more for the availability of space and gear placement than for distance climbed.

Apart from an awkward squeeze round a block right near the start, where my rucksack got stuck and I had to retreat temporarily, the only really tricky passage was at the crux, where the route moves right onto the outside of the ridge, with a spectacularly exposed couple of moves on highly polished rock. Luckily, it was Blofeld's lead on that pitch.

Shamelessly clipping a passage from Tony Buckley's excellent trip report from the day before:

"It's always a good feeling to stand, in control, with a large drop directly beneath your heels and you get a good opportunity to do it here. If that's your thing. This is one of the reasons I love mountain routes".

This photo shows two of Dave's friends climbing on Pinnacle Wall (S), opposite. This was a logical continuation of Mur Y Niwl (VS) and justly popular that day. Something for another visit, perhaps?

Watching parties on these routes was ideal entertainment during idle periods, though since we were mostly leading through, there was little time to stand and stare.

My rope partners, Caroline and Steve "Blofeld" C, on the pinnacle just before the arête, the sun nicely emphasising the latter's radical grooming.

My digital camera got its knickers in a twist, and Blofeld's epic photos of my crossing of the arête were lost. Serves me right for posing. So much for technology, bring back the glass plates.

Looking down to the arête, with Phil and Kate on the pinnacle, preparing to pass the gendarme.

This is what the easier mountain routes are all about : superb, airy positions which you can reach in relative safety.

Caroline and Blofeld topped out, the former looking justifiably pleased after her first serious mountain route.

Note the black sky behind them: thunder was rumbling all afternoon, but luckily we managed to avoid the rain until we were well off the mountain. It fell on Carnedd Llewelyn, barely a kilometre away, so heavily that it caused an audible flow increase in the stream below us.

Looking down to the arête: Phil leading across, Dave belaying, Kate waiting. Blofeld had led us across in traditional Alpine style, with rope loops over the spiky arête and body belays front and rear (from me) for Caroline.

Sadly, Blofeld had left his tweed plus-fours in the car, and my pipe was buried deep in my rucksack. No jokes about rough shag, then.

The arête really wasn't as bad as it looked, though the exposure on the Amphitheatre side is quite interesting. We declined to try the even more traditional "à cheval" method (AKA anal flossing).

Kate topping out, sporting her new Petzl helmet purchased from Cotswold that very morning. Another great first effort, and an unusual birthday treat.

Beats a walk round Shakerley Mere, eh? (family joke, sorry).

Our gang! Kate, Dave, Phil and Cal looking relaxed in the evening sunshine at the top of Craig Yr Ysfa after the climb.

"Yeah, no worries, it was all there".

Special thanks to Dave and Steve C for leading us securely up this route, which is way below their grades, when they could have been having major epics with the other hard lads on the opposite wall.

Nice one, chaps.

Strolling back down the reservoir road: Judy, Blofeld and Kate, with Craig Yr Ysfa lost in the misty background as the storm closed in.
Tryfan and Llyn Ogwen, catching an artfully arranged patch of sunlight, from the reservoir road.

Time to visit the Bryn Tyrch for a long, slow pint (of lime and soda, obviously).


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