The Parson’s Nose/Clogwyn y Person Arête (Diff)
Rich Mayfield escapes the Bank Holiday crowds on an enjoyable and exposed route in the Llanberis Pass, North Wales.
I love climbing as much as the next man, but what I love even more is climbing in the sun. So leading a bunch of potential Army officers in North Wales in April, the very first thing I packed was my waterproofs. Which stayed in my bag all week, what I neglected to pack was my factor 50 sun screen. So, an usually hot Bank Holiday weekend and what we really wanted was a quiet, multi-pitch route of great character and quality. Perhaps a tall order, as the car park at Pen y Pass was bursting at the seams.
Small patches of snow slowly melted into the streams, which only hinted at the spectacular winter we’d just had; the sun was blazing, perhaps hinting at the summer we might have? As we walked up Cwm Glas Mawr from Blaen y Nant, boulderers grunted, deadpointed and shook their way up the boulders strewn about the valley. This was a welcome distraction from the walking which, although on a good path, is steep and a slog to Llyn Glas. Our route is in a remote cwm which deters some and this is, perhaps, part of its charm. The start is best reached from the lay-bys just down the Pass (A4085) from the Cromlech boulders. Cross the river over the stone bridge and walk up Cwm Glas Mawr to Cwm Glas.
The right-hand section of Cyrn Las, between the main cliff and the waterfall, gave us a short interesting scramble with the only difficult section being straight off the ground. Fine to solo and it nicely broke up the walk in. The high cirque of Cwm Glas is dramatic. But with all the gullies still filled with snow I had to remind myself this was Snowdon and not some great monster in the Alps. Rounded and grassed moraine dumps litter the valley floor. The most striking feature is our route which dominates the skyline on the left. This is the most continuous and highest crag and provides some atmospheric easier climbs and scrambles. So the rewards for the walk in are well worth the effort.
The Parson’s Nose can be by-passed by the Northern Gully which goes on to access the Clogwyn y Person Arête directly, but this surely misses the point and I have an aversion to gullies. From the start, The Parson’s Nose looks somewhat intimidating and shattered. But don't be put off, what appears to be shattered rock is actually shattered rock, but of a compact and solid nature. All the footholds seemed to be sloping so rock shoes will make this route feel more secure than big boots.
Once the ground was left the large flat and squared-edged holds appear in abundance and the belay was reached too soon. Trepidation can feed on the leader’s mind while belaying the second, because the ground above seemed to steepen alarmingly. But once again as the stance was left, holds appeared, the great thing was that it really felt more like a rock-climbing route than a scramble. So, we climbed the arête and belayed in a niche, which was a good secure place to take in the views. The groove and crack above had more opportunities for protection than the previous two pitches, which was good, because this is the hardest pitch and it felt very high and exposed.
At the next stance the route felt like it was never going to end and was just going to get even steeper. An unmistakable ledge system left the belay to the left, which was easy enough until arriving at a mantelshelf on almost vertical rock. This move did require some faith in footwork and finger strength but once feet were planted firmly on the handhold it was in the bag. An easy step left into a grassy gully led to the top of the Nose. Or if you haven’t scared yourself enough stay on the wall and climb it direct to the top.
The large flat area of the summit of the Nose was a great place to relax, but the Nose had a sting in its tail. To gain the Northern Gully you have 20 feet of vertical down climbing which is not too hard, and the step at the bottom is really easy if, like me, you’re six foot with long legs. Cunning route finding was now required on the Clogwyn y Person Arête to find the easiest line. But to be honest it wasn’t worth it, and if you try too hard you'll miss out on some great climbing.
It was all over too soon and a steep walk slowly led us back to the motorway of the northern side of The Snowdon Horseshoe, but you don't have to stay on it. The weather was so nice that we did and scrambled over Crib Goch then continued down the ridge back down to Cwm Glas Mawr. It seemed a fitting and just way to cap a memorable day in the Welsh hills. In conclusion, this classic Diff is situated very high on the northern slopes of Crib y Ddysgl and can offer a great alternative to doing Snowdon. It’s far from the madding crowds of a busy Bank Holiday weekend, the difficulties are short, well-spaced and interesting and the rock is mostly solid even though it appears somewhat fractured and loose from the start.
Photograph - Rich Mayfield takes a direct route on the second pitch of The Parson's Nose. This famous and popular route was one of the first climbed in Llanberis Pass by A H Stocker in 1884 - Photography by David Simmonite