Cwm Idwal: Welsh winter goes live

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 10/12/2014

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.

CHECK NOW: live winter conditions in Cwm Idwal

Our newest live winter conditions are now available from Great End crag in the Lake District. Check from your couch now!

CHECK NOW: live winter conditions in the Lakes

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

HELP:

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:


Go BIG this season

This summer, get 25% off all annual multi-trip European Alpine & Ski policies*. Time to book another adventure.

Years of experience

We've been insuring adventurers like you for over 30 years. That's why all of our policies come with:

  • 24-hour emergency assistance helpline
  • £10 million emergency medical cover
  • £100,000 search, rescue and recovery cover
  • £10,000 personal accident cover
  • £5,000 cancellation cover
  • £2,500 baggage cover
  • No age loading until you're 70

WATCH: BMC Insurance: built for the #mountains on BMC TV

Want to know more? READ: 5 reasons why you need BMC Travel Insurance

*Policy details: Discount is valid on all annual multi-trip European Alpine & Ski cover up to age 69. Offer ends 31 October 2017.


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 29533 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Freeze forecast: live Lake District winter conditions monitoring
2
Freeze forecast: live Lake District winter conditions monitoring

Exciting news for Lake District winter climbers: a brand new system to transmit live winter conditions has just been installed on Great End, one of the Lake District’s most reliable and well-known winter crags.
Read more »

ACT help fund wheelchair friendly footpath
1
ACT help fund wheelchair friendly footpath

More than 50 people with disabilities were "amazed at what they could do" recently thanks to a new path in the Yorkshire Dales partly funded by the BMC's Access and Conservation Trust.
Read more »

BMC Access & Conservation Trust
1
BMC Access & Conservation Trust

The BMC's Access and Conservation Trust (ACT) funds projects to protect our cliffs and mountains.
Read more »

Post a Comment
Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
6
1) Anonymous User
03/12/2014
is it just me or is the 'live link' broken at the moment?

If so, any idea when it might be back up and running?

Cheers

Danny
11/12/2014
Great that it is up and running Elfyn and Barbara! Rgds, NK
3) Anonymous
15/12/2014
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
4) Anonymous User
21/12/2014
Gwefan defnyddiol ar gyfer gwarchod y cynefinoedd prin artic alpaidd yn Eryri, da iawn. Siomedig iawn bod hwn ddim ar gael yn ddwyieithog. Wrth gwrs mae yna gymdeithas o ddringwyr Cymraeg allan ar y creigiau yna, ond tydi'r iaith Gymraeg byth yn cael chawarae teg yn y sector awyr agored, hyd ynoed yn Eryri! Esiampl arall o bolisi wrth Gymraeg y BMC a Chyfoeth Naturiol Cymru? Dafydd.
5) Anonymous User
28/12/2014
Lost a bit of temperature data over the last few days as the Internet link was playing up.
Back up now :)

Turf not yet frozen, even though it's nice and white up there!
6) Anonymous User
30/01/2015
Could somebody change the colour of one of the sensors on the line chart, please? The 650m and 850m lines are very similar shades of blue/turquoise. It's like going to a climbing wall that they deliberately put yellow and orange routes next to each other! I don't have colour blindness but not helpful if the 2 lines cross over. I know it doesn't happen often but there may be a chance of temperature inversion.

RELATED ARTICLES

Freeze forecast: live Lake District winter conditions monitoring
2

Exciting news for Lake District winter climbers: a brand new system to transmit live winter conditions has just been installed on Great End, one of the Lake District’s most reliable and well-known winter crags.
Read more »

ACT help fund wheelchair friendly footpath
1

More than 50 people with disabilities were "amazed at what they could do" recently thanks to a new path in the Yorkshire Dales partly funded by the BMC's Access and Conservation Trust.
Read more »

BMC Access & Conservation Trust
1

The BMC's Access and Conservation Trust (ACT) funds projects to protect our cliffs and mountains.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £15.72.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »