Fat ice or thin pickings? Take the guesswork out of winter conditions and help protect fragile habitats with the Cwm Idwal Winter Climbing Information Project. In this exciting development, you can view live conditions information right here on the BMC website and this winter the project has been extended to include live information from Clogwyn Du as well as the Devil's Kitchen.
Most winter climbers are now very aware of the need to minimise the impact of their activity on sensitive and fragile habitats. But some of the best cliffs for winter climbing support rare and vulnerable mountain plants which can be easily damaged if they aren’t ‘insulated’ by a good cover of snow or ice. Many of the newer and hardest routes rely on well frozen turf -which is easily damaged if not fully frozen.
To minimise damage to these plants and to prevent possible restrictions on climbing here it’s vital that climbing is only undertaken when the conditions are right: with well-frozen turf, good build-up of ice, and/or everything is nicely covered by a thick layer of frozen snow.
To help climbers decide whether conditions are good enough to climb as well as to protect the vegetation, the BMC have teamed up with Natural Resources Wales, the National Trust and Snowdonia National Park to pilot a groundbreaking live winter conditions information service for Cwm Idwal: the Cwm Idwal Winter Climbing Information Project.
Our newest live winter conditions are now available from Great End crag in the Lake District. Check from your couch now!
More about winter climbing and conservation
The Cwm Idwal Winter Climbing Information Project is a joint project funded by the BMC’s Access & Conservation Trust and Natural Resources Wales to provide climbers with live detailed temperature and conditions information directly from the foot of the Devils’ Appendix at the back of Cwm Idwal!
Following on from last year's pilot project, a second sensor has now been placed at the foot of Clogwyn Du, giving live temperature information and updates on the state of the turf at 850m. Clogwyn Du is one of the very first winter crags to come into condition in Wales and contains some of the most popular and also the hardest mixed routes in the UK. However some of the routes climb directly through some extremely fragile habitats that contain nationally rare and legally protected plants. Using the live temperature information service will hopefully ensure climbers only climb these routes when they truly are in condition, avoiding the need or demand for formal restrictions.
WATCH: Approaching and starting the climb on BMC TV
The cliffs here are renowned as providing some of the best and most accessible pure ice climbing in Wales but are also the very same place where some of the rarest and most fragile mountain and alpine vegetation is found growing in the UK. Cwm Idwal was designated the first National Nature Reserve in Wales, way back in 1954, partly on the basis of the rare plants and flowers (such as the Snowdon Lily) that grow on these faces.
To minimise damage to these plants and to prevent possible restrictions on climbing here it’s vital that climbing is only undertaken when the conditions are right….i.e. well frozen turf, good build-up of ice, and/or everything is nicely covered by a thick layer of frozen snow.
In reality, we don’t yet know whether climbing activities damage the rare flora on these cliffs, but the potential for damage is considerable, particularly if climbing is carried out on unfrozen turf or even with poor technique or badly maintained ice- climbing tools. Due to the very high level of protection given to these plants and associated habitats, conservation bodies are legally obliged to assess and monitor their condition, together with all activities that have the potential to cause damage. This includes winter climbing and, if damage is found, then control and restrictions may result.
To avoid a situation where formal restrictions could be imposed, this project aims to give climbers a bit more information on how to decide if something is in condition or not and therefore minimise the potential for damage.
How does it work?
Late in December 2013, a remote temperature sensing station was discreetly installed on a rock bluff below the cliffs of the Devils’ Kitchen in Cwm Idwal. This will generate live data and record not only the air temperature but also the temperature of the turf at 5cm and the ground at 15 and 30 cm.
WATCH: How to belay on winter climbs on BMC TV
This information is then sent by radio signal to an internet feed at Ogwen cottage and then to the BMC website. The intention is that climbers will be able to use this information to gauge if conditions are really suitable for winter climbing in the Cwm, so avoiding the situation where people may make the long drive or effort to get to Cwm Idwal and possibly then be tempted to attempt routes which are not in condition and thus potentially causing damage to the vegetation
If you visit Cwm Idwal please post the actual conditions found (and the time/date) on the comments section. This will help us to modify or improve the equipment in the future if necessary.
If successful, this project could also be used at other cliffs with similarly sensitive flora elsewhere in Snowdonia and the rest of the UK.
DOWNLOAD: our free White Guide
Download the free North Wales White Guide
This collaborative production by the BMC, Snowdonia Active, the Countryside Council for Wales and Ground Up Productions is packed with information on best practice and how to minimise your impact when climbing in winter.
Information is also available for the Lake District.
WATCH: Winter Climbing, Conditions Apply on BMC TV
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