Friday, 18 May 2012

Return to Gogarth...

The day started the night before for me, really. Mason had expressed his desire to do The Cad, meaning that Blue Peter was on the cards for me. All night I tried to sleep but could just feel my heart thumping in my chest as I imagined huge, gear-ripping lobs smashing me into the rocks below, I eventually got to sleep at about 4:30am and was awake by 7:30am. A half-eaten breakfast before packing and we were off on our way to the Holy Island and the adventure playground that is Gogarth. Luckily, we would first be swapping partners with some guy Al knew from Hull, meeting in Morrisons, I had a free round 2 with breakfast, and wolfed down a bacon buttie, thanks Martin. 

My partner for the morning was a vet called Andy, who weirdly had a son my age at Aber Uni. He said he was a bit rusty so wasn't keen for anything above 5b, as I had The Sind (E3 5c) in mind. Instead, we opted for The Savage, which gets given E2 5b, I was on rope-gun duty, so racked up and abbed in. The first pitch was ungraded, though the second got 5a it was tricky and not made easier by my partner's tight grip on the rope below me! After a bit of dustiness, I emerged into the light and bought Andy up. After a much less faff-free changeover than I envisaged, I stepped up into the 3-D funkiness that is Yellow Walls climbing. Expecting some sustained or bold 5b sequences I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of fairly well protected 5b moves into an enjoyable finish. As we had gone quick, I imagined we would have been quicker than Al and Martin, so to enable Andy some leading mileage, we headed over to the busiest crag at the Big G, Castell Helen. We abbed in and Andy set off up pitch 1 of Rap, a nice, juggy, VS 4c. Secretly, I hoped for Andy to take a while so Al would go and do something else with Martin and I would escape Blue Peter. 

No such luck, as I got to the belay, Al popped his head over the top and said he was keen to go to North Stack Wall. Suddenly, the dormant butterflies in my stomach took some cocaine or something and went absolutely mental. I carried on up to the top of the crag and Al asked what I was keen for...

"Errrr whatever you are mate, I'm easy", I replied.

"So North Stack Wall then?" Al said, a mischievous glint in his eye as he revelled in his desire to climb The Cad, E6 6a.

"Err yeah, ok, I'm totally shitting it, but go on then, you gotta be in it to win it, eh?" Said I, my heart thumping in my throat. 

So we headed over to North Stack, sorted the rack and walked in. On arriving, the wall was out of the sun and the tide was too far in for Al to do The Cad first, so it was down to me to kick the crush off. We went over to the top of the huge Parliament House Cave to scope it out with the guide and I tried to justify it as looking slabby, although this didn't work so well I did spot a small ledge at 3/4 height. Something to aim for then.

Racked up, I soon found myself at the bottom staring up at the dark, looming, undercut 40m wall. The start blasted straight up through an overhang to a peg. I got a couple of good wires in below but was fair pumped once I clipped the peg. Trying to compose and sort a sequence by the peg, the pump increased before I committed to a brilliant technical traverse on small edges and side-pulls, all the while the peg got further and further away. Now the real boldness kicked in, I fiddled in some uninspiring gear and began trying to shake the lactic from my forearms. More tricky moves followed until a slight easing, I continued to fiddle in gear that you most likely wouldn't hang your jacket on. 

Before I knew it, the ledge was looming above me, reaching up it wasn't as positive as expected but I surprised myself by just open-handing it, getting my feet up and crossing into a jug. As has happened before, the quality of the move and my feeling of executing it well despite my anxiety and fear kicked me into in enjoyment mode, and I whooped at the top of my voice, to signify my joy at being 30m up a vertical wall with little in the way of bomber gear to stop a fall...

I also sort of thought it would be all over by now, and that I'd get some bomber gear in. I managed to get some semi-good gear but not quite as good as expected, though now I found that all the good foot holds were in the wrong place! Some more tricky moves ensued, by-passing possible gear placements until it eased off a bit. Right at the end of the flake-crack I placed an absolutely bomber Rock 3 and knew it was in the bag! Proclaiming it's solid nature to the world, I clipped in and eye-balled the end of the route; the angle kicked back again, but I could see a line of brilliant jugs leading up the prow to the top, I set off, placing a cam (just in case) and romped up to the top, savouring the moment before pulling over and screaming at the top of my voice! After setting up a slightly dodgy belay I bought Al up.

Hansjorg Auer on the final juggy romp of Blue Peter, E4 5c.
(c) Hot Aches Productions, (cheekily nicked this off their facebook!)
Al got to the top, still had cold hands, and had stubbed his toe low down, I could imagine how cold he had got out of the sun and in the wind as I was cooling down fast and I was in the sun and had been physically active for the last 45mins or so. In addition to this, the tide was still not far enough out for Al to do The Cad, and by the time it was we would be cold and would only have time for the one route. Graciously, Al said he wouldn't make me second the Cad as he thought it would be an onsightable E6 for me in the future (gulp!) He racked up for 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but we stumbled across a bird ban sign. 

For a complete change, Al was at a loss as to what to do, I said I'd belay him on whatever, but lacking in inspiration, we headed home. I was sort of relieved as I felt pretty beat up from climbing Blue Peter in total control, with some real brutal bicep, forearm and calf ache. I have been buzzing ever since, I know I say this every time, but Blue Peter must be my hardest route to date, in which I had to draw upon all the skills I have developed throughout my climbing career: Boldness, confidence, pacing, efficient placement of gear and fitness/ability to deal with steep and sustained climbing. I am now mega psyched to gain the ability to climb the other test-piece routes on this wall, and am supremely inspired by The Cad most of all at the moment I think, so I best get better, fitter and bolder!

The Cad... One of the most inspirational E6 testpieces in the UK?
(c) Mike Miller
In case you haven't already guessed I'm pretty chuffed with myself  though am fully expecting to get spanked on an E1 next time I go climbing... Having got away with climbing a bold, solid E4 the climbing Gods will want repayment I imagine...

I also managed a quick evening's bouldering in the Ogwen valley, the highlight being Red Sky Wall which gets V5 now but I think it is closer to it's old V4 grade, I surprised myself by managing it first go. Here's a picture of Livingstone on it.

Red Sky Wall V4/5, Clogwyn y Tarw.
I have now finished university, having done my last exam (potentially ever!!!), I have had my first driving lesson and am soon to be heading to Pabbay and Mingulay, and I have a potential job for the winter... in short life is good and I feel well blessed by the Gods. Hope wherever you are, whatever you are doing, life is going your way too...

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