Amphitheatre Buttress, best VD route in North Wales? It’s a tag that several routes in Snowdonia could claim I reckon and one that would be hard to agree on, but this has to be up there.
Years ago I met someone on a really wet day who wanted to be guided up a mountain route and sitting in a warm cafe I managed to talk myself into Amphitheatre Buttress for some reason! I do look back now and wonder what I was thinking, these days I’d be going scrambling, but even on the walk in with the wind blowing I was still ‘well up for it’….bizarrely another team were hot on our heels. Having survived, we arrived at the top soaked, keen to get back to the cafe, but both elated at the experience. I remember him telling me it was the hardest thing he had ever climbed, probably the hardest waterfall I’d ever climbed too!
Any mountain route at that grade has to be seen as an adventure, heading onto this type of climb without a little extra in the tank could detract from the journey, your focus will be on just surviving and this route deserves more than that. First climbed in 1905, it must have been one of those lines that was sought after by everyone! The first time I climbed this I was blown away, it’s atmospheric and it’s full of surprises, just the walk in (I prefer the Cwm Eigiau way) is pretty cool, looking up at the cliffs it’s hard to imagine where the route goes.
From this direction, it’s a lovely long gentle walk in, taking you past the old quarry workings and up the final step slope to the base of the route. It’s not hard to find, there’s a whooping great big gully next to it with another fine crag with some classic routes on it part way up. If you spot other climbing parties on your walk in then there’s a high probability that you’ve all got the same objective in mind. Any long mountaineering route is best enjoyed on your own, which is becoming a harder thing to do these days I reckon, so leave early or go late and keep those fingers & pinkies crossed! My calendar kind of just merges into work days and days off, at times I couldn’t even tell you if it was a weekend or a Bank Holiday, I once strolled into here with some folk, it appeared to be a 'via ferrata’ of multi coloured rope from the base to the summit. With Easter approaching this year it’s one of those weekends to avoid these types of routes - unlike me all those years ago where it turned into a true gladiator style of ascent!
The first slab is a nice warm up for the higher pitches, there’s a cheeky little step around with some decent exposure on it that always makes me chuckle and then when the top part reveals itself, it’s hard not to want to run down and do it all again. To stand on top of the last gendarme is like choosing to jump Adam and Eve - dead simple until you put it several hundred feet up a cliff face. Big holds take you access the narrow spine of rock behind this and the final wall hides the glorious views across the Glyderau and beyond, you might even surprise a mountain walker or 2!
Wander round the cliff a little and if there’s anyone following the route, you can get this incredible view of what you’ve just climbed and then bask in the sunshine and enjoy the moment - I mean who does it in the rain!