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!


GREAT British Cragging: Part I

No sooner was I back from Squamish but I was off to sunny West Penwith, Cornwall, with Jess, Mark, Tom and Flo (Not her again!). A quick overnight stop at mine and we arrived at Sennen!

Some brilliant routes were done; Monday Face VS 4c, Hayloft VS 4c - brilliant varied climbing finished by a good ol' thrutch, and The Arete VS 4b and oh-so-juggy. Next up after a rainy start was Carn Barra, a crag that had caught my eye a while ago with the sustained Glass Arete. Keen to test my fitness and climbing ability were up to scratch on the opposite style to crack climbing, I abbed down and jumped on! The greasy start immediately turned the pump on as did the fact I couldn't reach a good wire placement... I made do with what I could and got onto the arete proper. After a few moves up I was still feeling a bit up-tight and intimidated. All of a sudden a double-slap move up the arete smacked me in the face and a smile spread from cheek to cheek! What a move! Feeling a bit more in the groove I moved up between good rests and gear. Eventually I found myself at the wide break below the final arete section... after placing a load of kit I set about trying to work out the moves eventually just managing a stiff pull out and into a beautiful layback... I still had it E3!! Looking back it was soft for E3 but fairly sustained, more so than I would expect to get on an E2 without being able to slot in gear whenever I wanted, whereas on Glass Arete although there was plenty of gear, you had to leave it behind on some sections and forge on to the next piece. A low in the grade E3 but what does it matter, the climbing is superb! The rest of the day was spent seconding mark on a VS and HS.

Next up was Bosigran, me and Jess headed down to do Ding a VS carving straight up through an overhang and grooves in 2 pitches. I completely lose sight of where I am going once I finish the first pitch and end up belaying two thirds through the second! Still a nice little bit of climbing and totally possible to do in a one-er if you look after your ropes. After lazing around on a ledge in the sun by the sea we headed up to Anvil Chorus another VS 4c with a meaty 3rd pitch up a layback corner followed by an awesome traverse and grovel onto a ledge! Anvil Chorus is a brilliant top-end VS that has a good amount of variation between its pitches... a must do! On our final day, we headed to Chair Ladder and South Face Direct, yet another VS 4c. A team ascent was made by Mark, Jess and myself. SFD is a brilliant route and had some lovely jams ;-)

Heading back to Devon, Jess and I spent much of the rest of the week and a half lazing around eating chocolate, though two trips to the beach were made, and I managed to get a couple of cheeky wall sessions in! Eventually it was time for Jess to go home, so selflessly, I escorted her home and jumped onto a train for North Wales!!

The first day of the trip was designed to break me down and fully prevent me from climbing anything hard for the rest of the trip... A crack team of Yorkshire crushers (Steve Ramsden and Billy Lawrence) recruited me for a boulder sesh at Angel Bay on the Little Orme. Having never been there the offer was snapped up and a late start was planned! First we got lost, then we arrived... HEAVILY dissapointed, however dear reader this is a lesson for you: never judge a bouldering area by its cover and first few problems. We decided that warming up on a slightly highball set of V2s would be agreeable, and adding to this a V3 we found the problems were alright but nothing to rave about... Aha Letterbox Wall, Al said this was good and he only likes good problems! However it turned out to be either rediculously easy using the block to start on with hands or desperate if you sat on it! We moved on to Ren-Arete the V5 next to it, Steve crushed it, but me and Billy found it a little bit more tricky... I found that to do one of the moves my feet had to leave the block and I wasn't strong enough to do it footless and not good enough to get a heel on... Balls! Steve turned his attention to The Limpet, a highball V6 around the corner while Billy rested... this looked more my style! Crimpy wall climbing! Or not... being a midget thwarted me once again, however this is not an excuse but not only was I too midget-ey, I was also too weak! Billy managed to get Ren-Arete and then almost The Limpet too... The boy is strong!

After laughing at some sea kayakers stacking it onto the beach, we moved on to Chaos Emerald Crack the thrutchiest boulder problem I have ever undertaken. The perfectly smooth rock was formed into an overhanging layback flake with a high top-out. Every muscle was required to keep the pressure from your feet constant as you moved your hands higher and higher. Every one seemed to have a different method each time, I almost got up it before the other two but slapped to nothing and plummeted back to earth! However I knew the sequence now and after Billy and Steve dispatched it I went for glory and tussled my way upwards! After failing miserably on a V4 arete with no feet, that was flashed by Billy and Steve, I was all but ready to go. Steve did a nice looking problem called Pocket Wall, V4 again, but this one had feet and small crimpy, pockety holds! Having seen Steve do all the moves I managed to pull a flash out the bag! We were all feeling it by now, and wanting to remain (relatively) fresh for the rest of the week, I took my boots off and chilled whilst Billy and Steve had a last couple of goes.

Once again, the day dawned bright and warm, after another chilled start Max, Chris, Mason and I headed off to Cwm Idwal, and up to the Suicide Walls area. Mason had a new line cleaned and chalked and was hungry for the send, despite not feeling overly psyched for anything up there, I still hadn't done Suicide Wall Route 1 yet, which is a fairly historic line as it was climbed in 1945!! This was an incredible achievement at the time as at E2 5c it has technical moves on it, and is bold even with modern protection, but to climb it in '45 would have been exceptionally bold.... RESPECT! The ascent went without too much drama, I didn't place any gear up to the mid-height ledge to allow Mason a top-rope on the crux of his new route. Then the top section wasn't too bad and there were runners here and there. I abbed down and Mason began cleaning the rest of the line and practising the crux a few more times. Once on the ground he racked up, tied on and set off, placing the first runner he committed to the crux and floated his way up to the mid-height ledge. Suddenly, it began to rain, luckily it never got too heavy and then stopped after a while, allowing Mason to climb the top half of his route, having seen the holds but not practised the moves, he was surprised at the amenity of this climbing. Boom! A new route, Decomposed E6 6b, it really is excellent on second I found the bottom crux tricky but do-able with some info from Alex. The top wall fully blew me away, absolutely amazing climbing, with technical moves but regular good holds and feet to allow you to chill out and savour the movement.

Abbing back down we had time for one route, and my lead, with Chris and Max going for Suicide Groove, E1 I was left with Capital Punishment E3 5c or nothing... but, I was scared knowing full well that everyone on UKC had voted E4 for this one, coupled with Suicide Wall's lack of good gear. I got on with it and soon found myself with a good micro-wire and the first run-out beckoning. All I could think about was getting too far and falling off, but with Mason's encouragement I moved up the first slab with an irreversible move to get stood on a good finger-ledge. After a few more tricky moves, I was at a good hold and fiddling in 2 RPs. Not 100% confident they would hold I moved up into the crux, finding it difficult I stepped back down and tried to re-assess the moves. "Nope, only one way to do it matey, you've gotta stretch and pray that hold is good", 'OK, right come on then Dunc turn it on' going for it I went for the hold, heart in mouth, "Phew it's good enough!" As the world rushes back, I quickly clip the threads and take a deep breath. Next up was the best part of the route lovely juggy pockets up a vertical wall. The rest of the route went without drama and I topped out with a woop of joy! Without a doubt my hardest route this year, and probably harder than the two E4s I did last year, certainly more dangerous on the hard bits...