Monday, 8 August 2011

GREAT British Cragging: Part II

The next day we were up and out the door earlier than the previous two days and headed for Llanberis. We drove as far as we could up the road towards Snowdon, then shouldered our packs and yomped up to Clogwyn d'ur Arddu, or as it is more commonly known; Cloggy. A crag almost permanently in the shade due to it's Northern aspect, a visit there requires a hot day, however Cloggy also has a fairly long walk in up the track adjacent to the Snowdon Railway, which isn't so much fun in aforementioned heat. However, as long as you wear shorts and bring spare clothes it's fine. As you walk up to Snowdon, Cloggy sits, waiting, right in front of you, the East Buttress with the arete of The Axe jutting into the sky, the Great Wall smaller but more cunning and deadly with it's Indian Face watching you approach. Then there is the hulking mass of the West Buttress, looking as though it has been tipped over, revealing slabs and corners but also steepness too. This was where we headed; to do West Buttress Eliminate an Extreme Rock tick (my third of the week). At E3 5c, this was the E3 that last year was to break me into the grade proper, fortunately the weather was never good enough. I would have floundered on this last year for sure, the first pitch bold and tricky, the second pitch which was my lead - given 5b but it looks as though it has lost a large chunk of rock - solid 5c climbing above a ledge and an RP2. Then Walsh's Groove, the party-piece, only tech 5b but sustained and in this case wet, thankfully I now know how to jam, I would have struggled like hell on this last year, just jamming your body into the groove isn't enough! An absolutely brilliant route but after this I was more than ready to rest as I was totally knackered, both mentally and physically...

Thankfully the next day I had promised to meet Jess in Chester before heading to Capel Curig that evening. Jess and I spent a perfect day just chilling out on patches of grass together, messing around and just generally being silly before we had to spend the next month apart again. The day didn't last nearly long enough but before I knew it I was off back to North Wales and on my way Capel Curig. After a dinner consisting of; a chicken mayo sandwich, a banana, a chocolate flapjack and a bottle of Lilt, I was met by Davey Morse and we sped off South in the Chariot... it's last journey before being taken off the road... a sad time for us all.

The next morning dawned overcast and still with showers forecasted we set off in good spirits to Mother Carey's Kitchen. 1st route up was my lead to get us both warmed up ready for some meatier routes, I chose Rock Idol E1 5a, rumoured to be one of the best E1s in the country! Abbing down I looked across at a steep, hungry, wide crack, uh oh this could be harder than E1 I thought. Once I got down though, Dave explained that the route follows the crack but climbs on the right-hand wall... phew! As I pulled on I realised what the main difficulty of the route would be; the greasiness. This is a problem on all sea cliffs; moisture from the sea makes the rock wet, requiring a good bit of sun or a stiff breeze to dry it off, unfortunately today was very still, and it was overcast... luckily the holds are absolutely massive and there are two really good rests! A really good route, I had to run it out to prevent running out of draws but the run-outs are enjoyable on big holds and if you wanted you could take more gear and stitch the thing up! Definately recommended but one of the best E1s in Britain?? I'm not so sure... Next up Dave was keen for Star Gate E3 5c, despite the wet start and getting lost, Dave hung in there with endurance rival to Nigerian marathon runners and made it to the top. On second I found the fact that the route traversed over the sea and a fall would leave me in space with just one prussik (I leant one to Ballsford... chopper), I took a couple of hangs on some gear to keep the pump at a minimum. A brilliant route and an awesome effort by Dave. On account of the Grease and the big intimidating nature of the Kitchen - I never have liked cooking or washing up! - we busted out and onto St Govan's.

After a quick coke and a coffee to refuel we headed to the crag and Dave convinced me to get on Poisoned Arrow E3/4 6a. I racked up, we dropped in and watched some old dude cruise it on second! Up I went but as I moved into the crux sequence it became apparent that this was going to be a big ask. I got some kit in as high as I could and reversed back to the ledge at the beginning of the difficulties. Back up and I managed another move or two, got some more gear in but was already pumping out! This really knocked me mentally as I still had a good way to go before it eased and I was worried I wouldn't be able to even get the kit in. I fell/slumped, put some gear up higher and tried to make some more moves but fell again. I still felt knackered and Dave offered to have a go. A few falls later and he was at the top of the crag, luckily this route was alot straighter so I could just give it my all until I fell, perfect training. Even on second I still fell off a few times proving either I really was knackered or that I'm not even good enough to second Pembroke E4 at the moment. On getting to the top of the crag we agreed it was time to call it a day, you need to be climbing fit to do a lot of routes at Pembroke for sure. We went home and ate, A LOT but it was good wholesome food and it allowed me to feel semi-ok the next day.

Luckily the Friday was only going to be a short day, so we headed to Carreg-y-Barcud, a nice big slab next to the sea. Once again I was on lead first and I chose the Barcud classic Sinecure E1 5b to start. It was a nice, with good moves, though again maybe not as good as I expected but maybe that's because I associate quality with achievement... Next up Morsey fancied trying to finally lead Mean Feat, an E5 6a he has toproped a number of times over a number of years. After another top-rope session the lead was on and I abbed in. Looking a bit shakey, he got up to good gear, unfortunately getting into the crux he didn't feel secure so came down. He soloed out of the crag by an easy corner and I seconded out removing his gear. The climbing was great, thin, steep slab climbing with a lot of looong moves. After sorting the gear we left and I headed home.

An absolutely brilliant week of climbing, I did some amazing routes, both that I have wanted to experience for a while and a few I hadn't considered myself ready for. I think it helped me build a bit of fitness back up but also let me gauge my current standard, I feel like I am as bold and technical as I ever have been, but am slightly lacking the standard of fitness I had earlier in the year, and I can bloody well jam now! I know that the thing I need to work on most whilst I have less intense period of climbing during August is my fitness. Luckily South Devon has some cracking European style sport venues!


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