Tuesday, 24 May 2016

David Gainor

David Gainor. Four syllables. One for each of the basic elements of the universe. This is not an accident.

Who, or indeed what, is David Gainor? This question has baffled historians throughout the ages, and we are no closer to the answers even now. Millennia of speculation. Rumours and whispers. So little is known about this enigmatic figure, this god-like being. Arguments rage as to whether he even exists, ever has existed at all. Maybe we will never know for sure. This might well be for the best, for how could our pathetic human minds ever comprehend something so much greater than ourselves? Can a mere mortal truly understand David Gainor? We peer through a tiny keyhole into a smoky room, snatch glimpses of what lies beyond. To see the full picture would surely destroy us all. Even the slightest view can shatter the most brilliant individuals. Why do you think Einstein is dead?

David Gainor is everything. He is our hopes, our fears. Our dreams and our nightmares. He is all that ever was, is, can be, yet he is also nothing at all. A manifestation of infinite possibility. The terrible vacuum of space unknown. David Gainor can make a calculator divide by zero. David Gainor is the true subject of the song 'the Hokey Cokey'. He wrote it as a gift to Mozart, who immediately died aged only 35 as a result of this exposure. Wracked with guilt, he replaced the words 'David Gainor' with 'Hokey Cokey' to hide its true, terrible meaning. 

There are no definite facts concerning David Gainor. How could there be? But ancient records show that several key events almost certainly took place. It is thought that sometime around the ninth millennium he led a doomed expedition to the endless craters of the dark side of the moon. And there, in that blasted, airless landscape, was the sole survivor of an incident so horrific that even he never spoke of it. The wolves know. They howl, not at the moon, but at what is waiting there. Please watch over us, David Gainor. Keep our children safe.

David Gainor also may well have been instrumental in the peace negotiations between the human race and the mutant clones, just as the war between them seemed ready to tear the universe apart. Study the photos. That blurry figure, barely visible behind Overlord Trump. Face in shadow, perhaps a smile playing around the mouth. Who is it? Could it be David Gainor? Was David Gainor behind the grassy knoll? Yet he can be seen in the Bayeux Tapestry. The Turin shroud nothing more than a testament to his awkward grunge phase. And finally, the most bewildering of all, David Gainor is almost certainly the backing dancer fourth from the right during Boney M's performance of 'Daddy Cool' on Top of the Pops, in 1977.

Supposed eyewitness accounts claim he owned at least three chequered shirts. If not four. But equally, others will argue his skin itself was chequered, hence why he would never appear to be wearing anything else. David Gainor, a chameleon perhaps? Changing his skin to suit, nay lead, the fashion trends of each passing age. 

None of this can even begin to explain how David Gainor ascended to heights previously thought reserved only for the gods themselves. How does a mere man gain mythic status; become the founder of all myth itself even? The earliest scriptures we posses seem to refer to a being very like him at the time of the first creation. The Bible even states that David Gainor witnessed God himself design the human appendix, and was heard to say "Well that's a load of fucking bollocks, isn't it?" And atheists are stumped as to why connecting the random blemishes found on the fossils of dinosaurs will always, without fail, produce a rough image of the face of David Gainor.

How? Why? Nobody can say. He never explained himself, nor left behind any writing. But is it really only a coincidence that the phrase “All the great artistic statements humankind has ever produced” contains within it the letters that make up the name 'David Gainor'?

But one thing is for certain. Even without evidence, in the face of overwhelming contradiction, we believe in David Gainor. We believe.

Thank you.

Monday, 16 May 2016

North Wales

I'm shitting myself. There's this sloping foothold up and left of me, I need to stand up on it but there's nothing to hold onto while I do it. My fingers are so cold I can't feel them at all. Can't tell if the bloody things are gripping the rock or about to slip off. The ropes arcs away from me, curving up to Staples on a hanging belay, one runner between us. So if I fall off this move, which feels pretty fucking likely, I'll be taking a big old pendulum swing and end up somewhere beneath him. Probably all bashed up and bleeding. All in all bit of a problem really.

Wen Zawn looking ominous in the early morning gloom

So what's going on? Well, we did the drive up stupid late, as usual, and arrived in Anglesey at 4 in the morning. Then had beer. And after 2 hours of useless sleep we woke up, grabbed bags, and bounded towards Wen Zawn like puppies chasing a ball. Nevermind that the sun was hours away from warming up this particular cliff. Nevermind that an icy wind was howling in from the sea. Oh no, fuck all that, Dream of White Horses was down there, and we stupid twats just couldn't wait to get on it. 

Staples abbing in

Belay at the high tide ledges

Abseiling in we realised the bottom was still piss wet, so we reluctantly decided to start from the high tide ledges and climb straight to the second belay. Staples led. I hung there, slowly feeding out rope, absolutely freezing my tits off. Doubts creeping into my mind. At long last the ropes came tight and it was my turn...which brings us right back to where we started....

Staples leading

Me about to heroically sack the route on second

"I'm not fucking doing it!" I shriek at Staples. I climb back and forth, back and forth, but with my numb hands I can't figure out the move. The abseil rope dangles to my right - our escape route. 

"Nah sod this mate" 

I start traversing back to the rope, putting all the runners back in to protect Staples. Excuses already forming in my mind;

It's freezing cold...
I can't feel my hands...
It's the first route of the trip...
I fell over while I was pissed a few days ago and my knee's still fucked...
The route only gets more serious, better to pull the plug now...

Looking up the escape line!

Back at the static I belay Staples across and we prussik back up to the top of the cliff. The dream is dead. I slink off, tail between my legs, feeling ashamed of myself. How long have I wanted to do this route? And now I've ruined it by throwing myself at it like a beer goggled drunk at a fat lass. Staples gives me all the piss-taking and abuse I deserve. I think about how it's a shit route I never wanted to do anyway, not fooling myself in the slightest.

Me leading pitch one of Lighthouse Arete

Staples on the crux pitch

Still, it's early days, we've only just got here. Staples is reluctant to abseil into another sea cliff with this quivering mess of a climbing partner, but I persuade him as long as it's in the sun and no traversing I'll be fine. So we wander over to Castell Helen and jolly up Lighthouse Arete. The long drive and sleepless night finally take their toll. We head back to Llanberis Pass and bed down in the Cromlech layby.

Pitch one of Dives/Better Things on the Cromlech

Staples disappearing into the finishing corner

Next day the weather is beautiful, and we trudge up the knackering path to the Cromlech to climb a couple of VS classics. I find myself leading up the wide crack of Sabre Cut, blindly poking wires into flared seams, wishing we had more than one big cam. Eventually I can't take it any more, I place the daddy dragon about halfway up, desperately run it out to the top. Silly sod Staples has an even harder time on second after somehow managing to boot one of his climbing shoes off the belay ledge. 

Fun moves on Sabre Cut

Me at the top of the 'orrible wide crack pitch

"Don't worry mate, as long as you can smear on tiny edges with your left foot you'll be fine!" I yell down, as he grovels and skids all over the place.


And so on. After that we swing round to a quiet little crag called Clogwyn y Wenallt, drink some more beer, and climb a mega fun route called Oxine. The first pitch is a shit traverse but it's all about the second one on massive holds up this outrageous head wall. Staples leads. There's a hard move to gain the first jug, so rather than tech his way up he simply launches himself into a one handed hero dyno. It might've even looked impressive if he hadn't kicked out the crucial gear placement on the way. Still, he manages to slap his way up to the top, kicking out another runner because why the fuck not?

On second I hang one handed off massive flakes, unnecessary heel hook above my head, chalking up, vaguely hoping there are girls watching from the campsite below. If any of them were impressed they didn't come tell me as we walked back to the car again.

Barbie, beers and whisky in the Cromlech layby, good times

Awesome sunset in the Pass

(For some reason we didn't take anymore photos beyond this point. So instead I will treat you to a load of stupid pictures of myself. You're welcome.)

Day three, off into the Moelwyn Hills to find a crag called Carreg Alltrem. It takes us ages because our guidebook description is completely useless; something like drive up the road, park your car, walk to the crag. Eventually an old boy shouts directions from his house, and off we go, bouncing up a forest road towards the cliff. Here we climb another steep classic, Lavaredo. Staples has the easier pitch this time, a nicely sustained bridging groove, while I get the ridiculously overhanging prow that leads to the top.

David Gainor

Clearly I'm still hopelessly fat and scared, because it's utterly desperate. I climb a series of spikes, wedging slings behind them, to reach the top of a pinnacle below the steep wall. A really long stretch sees me bug eyed with terror inching my fingers over a beckoning hold. From this super pumpy position a rather unhelpful finger edge leads out into space, only a dubious promise of better holds above.

And here we go again, up and down, up and down, I tell Staples I can't do it, I say I'll just have another look. Eventually I can't handle the self hatred anymore, I launch myself outwards, feet dangling in the air, traversing the finger rail. High foot, step through, slapping at shit holds, somehow missing the huge jug right in front of me. I gibber into a position of balance and hang there panting and slobbering as I place about nineteen runners into various cracks and breaks. 

Fortunately the holds are massive to the top, and I just about manage to haul my way up, arms wilting, to collapse face first on top and lie there dribbling for awhile before belaying Staples. What a great route!

David Gainor

We then head back into the Ogwen Valley. It's a sunny weekend so of course every bugger and his dog is up here. Cars are packed in everywhere. We squeeze into a layby, unsure of what to climb. I don't want to get stuck in a queue anywhere. So we kind of settle on wandering into Idwal Slab and seeing what's free. However an ill-advised short cut leads not to the crag but a bog, and as we wade across I suddenly go in up to my shins and I'm fucking soaking.

Well that does it. I immediately throw a massive hissy fit.


"Well why did you say you were OK with it back at the car then?" says Staples, reasonably.



He storms off one way, me the other. I soon calm down and run after him. We shout at each other a bit more before finally agreeing to carry on with the plan. I tie my socks to my bag in the futile hope they will dry and squelch my way into the Cwm. Here we shoot up the classic route Hope in about 20 minutes then carry on up the walls above the slab in another 3 pitches. The evening sun lights up the mountains all around us, the lake blue and shimmering below. It's actually really fucking good, I'm glad we did bother in the end.

David Gainor

Afterwards, by way of apology, I get the beers in and we get drunk in the layby. Washing down buds with swigs of Talisker. It still feels wrong drinking a single malt straight out the bottle.

David Gainor

Last day. We wake up exhausted. Last nights drunken plan was to keep climbing hard in the Pass, but that's not going to happen. Instead we drive south towards a peak called Cadar Idris, where there's a classic ridge you can climb up the north face. It will be cool to finish off on something easy but big on a proper mountain.

Once again we struggle to find the car park, but soon enough we're plodding wearily up a track, skirting across moorland to a hidden lake in a basin below the face. From here we thrash our way up scree to the bottom of the route. In an effort to go light we are carrying no backpacks, just a harness with a water bottle and rock shoes clipped to it, mars bars stuffed into pockets. No rope either, which means we're soloing this pig. Whether Staples likes it or not.

David Gainor

It's lovely easy climbing up big holds and blocky terrain, only the slightly dodgy rock quality keeps me alert, rather than just cranking on anything and plummeting to the bottom again. 4 pitches up the initial buttress then we reach the crest of the ridge itself. Easy but spectacular climbing up walls and pinnacles. I love soloing. Before long the angle eases off, and we change back into trainers and hike up to the summit itself. It's a clear sunny day. Mountains and hills everywhere, the ocean out west, sweeping moorland in between. After a rest and a bite to eat we amble back down to the car. The whole trip takes three and a half hours. After twatting my knee the other week I'm relieved there's been no long term effect. 

One last beer, then it's time for the long drive home. It never gets any easier leaving.