One of my 40 before 40 challenges, listed HERE
Adam and Eve, the two iconic stones that make up the true summit of Tryfan in North Wales’ Snowdonia mountain range, have long been a favourite of the more adventurous mountaineer. Legend has it that any hardy hiker brave enough to leap from one to the other receives the freedom of Tryfan. I’m not sure what I’d do with the freedom of Tryfan but I set out to earn it anyway…
The walk is a demanding one from the start, with no chance to find your legs before you start climbing straight from the roadside of the A5 at Llyn Ogwen. Initially steep steps worked in to the hillside in tight turns, the climb soon reaches a level traverse of the mountain were decisions need to be made. The prescribed wisdom is to stay as central as possible on the North Ridge and climb, needless to say, I didn’t. I was climbing with Greg who liked the look of the long line of scramblers making there way up a thin crack in the rock face, but the more I watched the more I realised that long legs and rangy arms would serve you well on this section, neither of which I possess! We weren’t alone on the mountain (far from it in fact) and a confident voice proclaimed a less crowded and less demanding route to the left…so I followed him and his two friends. Our journey left continued leftwards, and even though we were gaining height slowly I was conscious of the nagging advice of the masses at the back of my mind. I fooled myself that actually, given the sheer scale of the mountain, even our long diversion was still relatively central all things considered. I was wrong.
We eventually turned up the face of the mountain and started climbing in earnest. There was something resembling a path but it would often peter out to nothingness, only for one of us to find something that looked path-like a few metres away. We toiled on, gaining height gradually, until reaching a point where it seemed we’d climbed ourselves in to a dead end. A few minutes of clambering around horribly exposed rock outcrops and peering in to long drops all around us and we were starting to think retreat was the only option.
Greg to the rescue! Having followed the masses and stayed central to the North face as suggested he’d reached the summit and sat waiting. Getting bored of that he’d found his way off the back of the mountain and down to where we were waiting, albeit the other side of a very thin gap between rocks with an overhang and 1,000 foot drop. As cruxes go this one was a beauty, but with lots of contortion and passing of bags and poles we managed to all squeeze through on to the last reaches of a different gully and Greg led us to the summit from there. I have to say, even if we had committed to the crux and got beyond that ourselves we would have been unlikely to find the summit for some time. It was only thanks to Greg approaching it from above and seeing the obvious line that a route was possible at all, from below there were several impenetrable rock faces to be overcome.
With the summit safely made it was time for sarnies and Star Bar, a chat with some of the many other climbers there that day and to watch people toying with the step between Adam and Eve. If you read about it online you’ll learn that the stride needed to clear the gap is a mere four feet. What is harder to imagine is that on one side is a short drop to a boulder field and guaranteed broken bones and the other is a fall of several seconds to certain death. It is also hard to picture the space for landing and take off, both roughly a square meter, on an angle and uneven. If it sounds like I’m making excuses, maybe that’s because I am. I didn’t take the leap.
Once I was able to see the challenge I realised that even climbing on to the stones would be a struggle, but then to make the leap would be a feat of athleticism, balance and bravery I just didn’t feel capable of. However, I wasn’t disappointed. I was sat on top of one of the greatest mountains in the UK, having scrambled and climbed up there via a very testing route and had done so comfortably and without fear. I realised that while the challenge may have been to jump between the two summit stones actually the achievement and pleasure was in getting there, in the journey to be in a position to make the leap. I didn’t need to cover that last 1.5 metres in order to have achieved something special that day.
In our usual way we came down via an unmarked route, taking the shortest line between two points which involved reverse scrambling, leaping over bogs and plenty of “I think it’s just over there…”. All in all a truly magnificent day in the mountains.
When I got home I measured out the distance between Adam and Eve in my hallway and attempted to leap it. I made it, just, with millimetres to spare but plenty of carpet to cushion my fall if I had come up short. In hindsight I think I was wise, but I’ve been practicing my leaping and landing since then and one day I will go back…