Keep your friends close (and your enemies closer)
Trouble with climbing classic routes on weekends is every other tosser has the same idea. So you either have to queue behind the usual bumbling incompetents, or get up stupid early to be first. We want to do a couple routes on the east face of Tryfan then head over into Cwm Idwal for some soloing. Still pissed off with him, I make Staples carry the rope and the rack, storming up the path fast as I can. There's already 2 guys in front, I'm certain they'll be heading to the same route as us, but I know we can overtake them. Well I can anyway. I catch them on the Heather Terrace, have a quick chat, they offer us first dibs on Grooved Arete.
Fantastic. Except Staples is nowhere to be seen. I can't really demand to go in front but make them wait for my fat mate to wheeze his way up the mountain. Don't worry fellas. He'll only be a few more hours. It's the weight of his tits, you see.
Nah, fuck it, we can do Pinnacle Ridge instead. Staples finally catches me up looking absolutely bollocksed out his mind. Now he's as pissed off with me as I am with him. Great start to the trip. I grudgingly agree to take the rope for the last 5 minutes or so, and we wander up to the start of the route. I sort the gear out, Staples sits with his head in his hands, gasping for air. We're ready to smash this goddamn mountain. The climbing is piss, we sprint up in 3 long pitches, solo the last bit, and soon reach the summit of Tryfan. Quick jump between the Adam and Eve stones then we stomp back down the south ridge and to the Heather Terrace once more.
By some miracle Grooved Arete is not that busy. We tie into a short rope and move together up the first 4 pitches. But suddenly the skies are darkening. Spots of rain. Clouds rolling in like bouncers to break up the fun. We're at the bottom of the crux pitch, a sort of grooved arete (who knew?), what do we do now?
"Fuck it" I say. "Let's keep moving together."
So we commit to the harder climbing and immediately it starts pissing it down. The already polished holds now have all the friction of soap. We skid and curse our way up, grovelling towards a beckoning ledge below the famous Knight's Slab. Here we decide to pitch the rest of the route, and after more lovely wet climbing we reach the top again.
Seconding the Knight's Slab in the pissing rain
We trudge back to the car and try to get our gear dry on the heater. We drive to Pete's and have a massive greasy fry up. Can't be arsed with soloing wet routes now. Instead we lay-by it somewhere and I get halfway drunk on beer and whisky. Staples has to stay sober because tomorrow's plan is Gogarth and we want to get there this evening.
Back through the desolate Jeremy Kyle academy that is Holyhead. Back for a rematch with A Dream of White Horses.
Looking back down the corner pitch of Pel
We've learnt our lesson from the retreat 2 weeks ago. This time we will wait 'til the afternoon sun hits the zawn. So we spend the morning ambling up Castel Helen, linking the first pitch of Pel with the second pitch of Rap. Once I get my pipe cleaner arms warmed up it all feels rather easy, I'm confident we won't get buggered up the arse this time.
Staples jollying up Rap
We hike over to Wen Zawn. There's already a couple teams on the route but we're not really in a hurry. We wait for a safe gap to abseil past them and reach the very bottom of the slab. The weather is warm and sunny, no wind at all, the sea gently rippling beneath our feet. Perfect conditions. I was freezing my tits off last time.
The sweeping monstrosity of the Dream slab
Leading up the corner of pitch 1
The first pitch has a few tricky moves but nothing too bad. I reach a pinnacle to belay on and bring up Staples. Here we wait an hour or so while the guys in front move on. We watch someone making the famous traverse of the final pitch, it looks outrageous. Completely ridiculous. I have no idea how you're supposed to climb this overhanging wall at an easy grade. Eventually the next belay is clear, and Staples leads off, traversing to the big crack in the middle of the slab. Hanging belay. The ropes come tight. It's my turn.
This is the bit I backed off from last time. I'm nervous as I edge towards the hard move, but anger takes over, a quick skip of the feet on a tiny edge, lunge and slap, I've done it before I even realise it. Well that that fucking piss wasn't it? What the fuck was wrong with me last time, stupid prat. I apologise to Staples for being a massive fanny and we wait a bit longer for the blokes in front. Then it's my lead again, and I haul my way up a rising flake line, getting surprisingly pumped in the process. I'm sweating like a bitch in the heat and my hands slip off the holds as my feet windmill below me. Eventually I reach the apex of the flake, and begin a wobbly down climb on what looks like rubble to the next belay. The big pitch lies waiting before us.
You mean we have to climb across there?!?
And the void awaits below...
Staples does a great job on lead. He climbs steadily, not hanging around, placing enough runners so I'm vaguely protected as well. This pitch is notorious, an absolute MUST NOT FALL job. I've heard horror stories of people lobbing off into space, swinging across the zawn, dangling helpless with no way back onto the rock. Where are my prussiks? Shit, they're in the car. Oh shitting fuck. Reaching down with a sense of inevitable dread to unthread the laces of their rock shoes...
Staples halfway across the Dream traverse, exit groove just out of sight
Soon enough he clears the final hard section, ambles up the final groove and pulls in the ropes. I'm not going to lie, I'm shitting myself.
I DON'T WANT TO GO THERE
I start shuffling my way along, reach the first hard bit, a swinging downclimb around a hanging fin. I lurch outwards, grasping at the holds, manage to pull myself back into balance and keep going. I focus on moving steadily, trying not to think about the consequences of a fall. But for all this gibbering the climbing is actually really easy, on your feet the whole way. That's what makes the pitch such a masterpiece, the impossible revealed to be possible with every further step. Finally I hand traverse a rail to the easy slab before the groove and I let myself relax, enjoy the exposure. As I top out and we shake hands the sun falls beyond the horizon way out to sea.
Staples is relieved to find a good runner 'protecting' the nails hard crux move
Guess what, Staples is going to lead it, thank god for that. He reaches the base of the corner and is appalled to find the only gear at knee height, and therefore will do nothing to prevent him smashing back into the ledge should he fuck up the desperate, polished moves. What joy. He fumbles around but understandably doesn't want to commit to the ankle wrecker. I point out that at least the gear will stop his broken body from tumbling all the way back to the road. However this inspirational talk does not seem to help.
"You want to try it mate?"
"Nah you can do this champ, you got it."
"I can't, you have a go."
"Just give it one more try buddy"
"Seriously, I can't-"
"JUST GIVE IT ONE MORE FUCKING TRY."
Eventually Staples takes the sensible cowards option, puts a sling stirrup on the runner, steps up and just about reaches the first half-decent hold. A quick thrash up and he reaches a massive flake and some useful gear. The rest of the pitch is not much easier, an endless series of 'hugging a fridge' moves leading to an awkward and shiny as hell final crack.
Thank god that's over...
Embrace the rock boyo
I follow up by the skin of my teeth, desperately bridging on chuff all to reach the flake. I find the rest of it nails as well, much harder than anything on Dream. We abseil down a manky gully and stagger back to the car. Beer. Where's the fucking beer? We debate doing another route but we're both knackered and don't want to get stuck in all the bank holiday traffic. Instead we cook up enough pasta and meatballs and cheese to kill every fat cunt in Italy and begin driving home. Happy days.