Roughly a year ago we went to Scotland to do a winter skills training, for me would be the second one, first one for Pata. After the mention training, the winter pretty much passed away and we have been craving winter and snow since.
Things a settling down in life and we have had to slow down in our adventures, but we couldn’t let the whole winter going pass without to put the crampones on, so we planned going to Wales to see Pata’s family and do some winter walks.
Weather had been hard for the last week (perfect for snow lovers) and we were expecting tones of snow and really ice conditions. Pata’s commitments with family plus still dragging some injuries, limited her possibilities to just one walk, but I was suffering badly from cold turkey and soon started to research easy winter climbs in Wales. Despite I have done some winter climbs, my experience is pretty poor, plus being on my own, it all mean that I needed to aim for a very easy one, and after soon research Banana gully soon seemed to be the best option.
The ideal place to start the walk is the car park at Pont Pen-y-benglog on the A5 at the west end of the Llyn Ogwen lake as the path begins literally meters from the car park. It also has a nice toilet and a cafe, the down side is that you need to pay to park there £5. I forgot my wallet at home and had to drive 2min east to the nearest lay-by to park. I didn’t know at the time, but on my return I found out that just outside of the pay car park, you can park the car on the payment at both sides of the road, in fact some people even left the car on the road.
From the lay-by took me 8 minutes to walk back to the carpark where the route begins just on the left of the cafe to south east. The path soon turns 90 degrees right heading straight to the lower lake for around 500m .
On the day of this walk the path to the lower lake was very slippery due to ice, watch out for it
Once at the lake, you have to cross the little river and then follow the direction of the shore of the lake for just under 1km. Although here is where the uphill starts, it isn’t very steep yet. This section was covered with snow and you could see marks on the snow from crampons, but unless it is very icy, it is doable without them.
At this point you should be at around 500m height and here is where the proper ascend kicks off, it was also the point where I put my crampons on. The terrain additionally to the steepness, also becomes rocky.
The hard part of the ascend is just 300m till you reach the plateau where the two upper lakes are. You should aim to keep them on your right hand side and straight after the second one the gully commence on your right.
The lower bit of the gully was full of snow to in some places waist height, so stick to the edges was a must for me to avoid physical wear as the gully is 280m long. The visibility on the day was good at the beginning and slowly deteriorated as I gained altitud, but the route was pretty clear al the way to the top.
Near the top, the snow was a lot harder than at the bottom which felt really nice after a strenuous ascend on deep soft snow. I found a little cornice at the top, but nothing to worry about.
Scotland has a very good avalanches website, but I’m not aware that Wales has something similar, therefore monitor the weather the days before the day you are planning to climb to have an idea of how the snow might be.
At the top of the gully you’ll meet the path coming towards Y Garn, just follow a couple of cairns till you get to the summit.
From the summit the first part of the way down is fairly simple, you can workout a bearing towards Llyn y Cwn as the route goes straight to it. Bear in mind that you will need to cross a fence on your way.
At the lake is where you will find probably the hardest bit for navigation as the path goes down the mountain through a narrow, steep and rocky route that you only can access from a particular point.
After crossing that particular point you can see the first lake you left behind in the morning and the track although it is still tricky and crampons are a must, it is clear and easy to identify. On your way down you will walk pass some beautiful and dangerous waterfalls of ice. Massive pieces of ice fall off when the ice is melting so look up when you are close to any of them.
Once at the lake just undo the way you came up in the morning to reach the more than likely very busy car park.
Although it is not a very long route, but the very slow progress makes it longer than it should time wise. It took me just under 5h to complete it. It is an easy route although in poor visibility conditions the navigation on the way down can be compromised and with soft deep snow, the gully can really be hard work.