With David Gainor, things are possible...
After being variously mangled and terrified at Tremadog Cam and I felt well prepared for a hard day climbing in Llanberis pass. We settled on Clogwyn y Grochan, an accessible but intimidating crag that I'd never climbed on before and was very psyched to check it out.
Cam leading pitch 2 of Nea
After getting started on an easy route called Nea we abseiled back to the deck and jumped on the Phantom Rib, VS. I led the first pitch up some parallel cracks which was a right awkward bugger. Just before the belay ledge was a pair of trees which I swung around on monkey style for a laugh, no doubt tempting fate to tear the fucking things from the crag and send me hurtling down with them.
This guy can't climb!
The anchor was built out of several small wires, something the guidebook said was essential for the next pitch. But this didn't matter because it was Cam's lead anyway. He stepped out bravely onto a thin, crimpy arete, microwires popping out of flared seams, feet sketching on polished smears to eventually reach the next belay. I found it pretty hard going on second and was glad to be on the blunt end. The third pitch was not without it's interest either; I found myself on a small ledge utterly stumped by a short groove above me, which, surprise surprise, succumbed to a good old fashioned footless grovel. Who knew?
Cam on the sketchy crux of Phantom Rib
Much more relaxed with a rope above you
There was one more VS listed in our guidebook, called Brant, which also had a direct start that was a bit harder. We weren't sure which to go for, but in the end there was another team on the direct, so we settled for the easier version. I led the first pitch, up to a big niche then traversing leftward across a steep wall on huge jugs. Great fun.
Getting photo-bombed on Brant
Cam was up next, finding himself faced with a disconcerting bum-slide into the base of a thrutchy groove then back across to belay pretty much right above where he started and not a whole lot higher. I must've found my grovelling mojo by this point because it all felt rather easy. We then abbed off some tat because the next pitch looked like a big pile of wank.
Spectre goes up here. Somewhere
We had enough time for one more big one, and settled on a mega-classic HVS, Spectre. There was a team on it already so we chilled out at the base of the crag, drinking whiskey and psyching ourselves up. All three pitches looked to have their own difficulties, so we decided that Cam would lead the shorter, sharper first and third pitches, leaving me with the big one in the middle.
Getting psyched for the big one
As the team above set off from the first belay we began. Cam led up a tricky thin crack, back-footing off very polished edges, finger jamming, to reach easier ground leading to the belay. Supposedly the easiest pitch of the route but it was still pretty tough for a few moves.
I grabbed the rack and bridged up a steep groove toward a capping overhang. It was much easier than it looked and the gear was bomber. A couple of pulls led me to a small ledge and an old peg. From here I had to traverse leftward on small holds, somewhat comitting, to quickly reach an awkward rest on a super exposed perch. The gear wasn't ideal, I went for the last tricky moves; pockets, a mono, into a short hanging groove leading onto a massive slab and the next belay. Above the crux awaited, the infamous 'Harding Slot'. Basically a wide, overhanging chimney crack that you just knew was going to be a complete arse. And it was. Sort of.
Your lead mate...
Cam contemplates the overhanging off-width horror that awaits
The Harding Slot
Bridge out wide, shuffle up, reach the gear, arm wedge, quick breather and go. I smeared my feet high and swung into an all or nothing layback off the edge of the crack. I scuttled upwards, skidding all over the place. One last heave, burrowing deeper, and I found myself almost disappointed to reach a hands-off rest in the notch. Is that bloody well it? I thought. Very unusual for me, normally I'd sell my soul for 'easier-than-expected-bomber-gear-lovely-rest' style climbing. And that's just while I'm grovelling and pleading my way up VDiff chimneys.
I chucked a cam in and a couple of easy fist jams saw me to a massive ledge and the belay. Cam smashed it on second, and we abseiled off rather than repeat the last pitch of Nea to the very top. Although I expected more from the 'Harding Slot' given its reputation, I was hugely psyched to do the route, which ultimately had been fantastic climbing from start to finish. Good times. Can't wait to get back there...
Incredibly manly pose of triumph