Wednesday, 30 April 2014

North Wales

We rocked up at the Cromlech lay-by in Llanberis pass around 1am, put the tent up, and I found I'd forgotten my sleeping bag. Fantastic. After a cold night huddling under towels and half of Dan's unzipped bag, we got up early, ate some unheated beans straight out the tin, and drove round to the Ogwen valley and the base of Tryfan. The weather was looking very promising. Eventually we reached the Heather Terrace at the base of the East face, and started up a route called Gashed Crag. We climbed in mountain boots, placing little in the way of runners and utilising alpine (ie shite) belays. There was a horrible, polished chimney halfway up that provided the crux, which I sort of fell into and upwards, then some pretty cool, exposed moves on a ridge just below the top.

We got down quickly and made our way to Capel Curig for the start of the work training course Dan and I had come up for. Over the next few days we had a bit of a laugh, got drunk, did some table wrestling, and even managed to learn a fair bit about climbing as well.

Afterwards we were left with a hire car and a whole day to kill in Llanberis pass, and more importantly the forecast was good. So we slogged up to Dinas Cromlech bright and early, with the intention of warming up on something easy then smashing out one of the harder classics. I'd never been up there before and was super keen to see it up close. The crag was actually a whole lot less imposing than I expected. Dan and I made short work of a fun VDiff called Flying Buttress, but it was still cold and windy, the forecasted sun nowhere to be seen. Everytime I took my gloves off my hands went numb, so it was fairly apparent we weren't going to be doing anything hard. Instead we descended to the lay-by and caught up with Joe, another guy from the course. He'd being working the insanely difficult boulder problem Jerry's Roof, and we hung out and spotted him on the problem for a while.

The holds were so bad I got pumped just looking at them...

What to do next though? The wind was whistling through the pass, it was too cold to get psyched for harder climbing but neither of us wanted to fart around on easy stuff either. So after another tin of beans we left the pass and headed for the more sheltered slate quarries. We decided to go to Bus Stop Quarry, which was right next to the car park and had some nice-looking mid grade trad lines to play on. First up was a HVS called Solstice, which followed an obvious line of flakes all the way to the top. Seeing as this was slate they were all incredibly suspect and made wonderful hollow noises when I tested them. And of course all the gear was behind them. So I was fairly nervous as I climbed, placing as many runners as I could and trying not to pull on anything. This all went out the window on the crux though - footless grovel for a jug, frantic slapping to get stood up on it before I lobbed off, which probably would've brought the whole route down on top of me. The rest was much steadier, and Dan did a great job seconding his first HVS.

There was only one route to go for after that; the classic of the crag, an E1 called Fool's Gold. It had a very hard but well protected crux, and after dithering at the bottom and making all kinds of excuses I thought 'fuck it' and had a go. Easy climbing up to a comfortable niche sadly gave me too much time to faff about placing gear and get intimidated by what was to come. Finally, fortified by about 17 bombproof wires, I went for the crux. Move right around a small roof, gain a crack system. Nothing for the feet whatsoever. I smeared into a layaway off fingerlocks, grabbed a loose flattie, swung my left foot almost level with my head. Sliding around all over the place I lunged for a jug, just caught it as my feet pinged off the polished nothingness. It was so good I hung one handed for a moment in celebration before mantleshelfing onto it and getting some more gear in.

But the climbing was still pretty sustained all the way to the top, and there were several tricky moves and lots of hand and foot jamming. Fortunately the gear was perfect. One particularly awkward section where I shamefully resorted to an alpine knee, and it was in the bag, no wait, this bit actually looks quite hard, there we go, hang on, watch me here, etc etc, you get my drift. Finally I got to the top, really psyched. Dan once again had to push himself into a new grade, climbing the crux clean first attempt, which was super impressive. We then finished off an awesome day with a burger in Pete's, before reluctantly driving back home again.

I fucking love North Wales.