Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Knockin On Heathers Door

It was this time last year that I first discovered North Wales in its prime. For some reason I was totally blown away by it, I think my expectations were oddly low. We spent some early spring days wandering round the Pass, Ogwen and the coast, everything to do. Throughout the rest of the Summer a few more fleeting visits were made, steadily moving through the rights of passage. Kind Wad, Positron, Lord...

Sunset off Holyhead

A perfect forecast guaranteed a return last weekend. There wasn't a cloud in the sky on Saturday or Monday and Sunday wasn't bad either! On the Saturday we trudged up to Cwm Glas Bach, a shady crag on the "dark" side of the Pass. Oh the sense of superiority as you look across the valley at the inferior Grochan, busy with people, the sun causing the already frictionless rock to turn into a sweaty nightmare. However, this smug state of mind lasted the mere five minutes it took for the warmth from the walk in to wear off, the "light" side suddenly looking rather appealing. After a brief (arm waving) warm-up I racked up to try a route I'd been meaning to try all last summer and had conveniently avoided. Pretty Girls Make Graves follows a steep crackline, there's loads of kit but that's not the issue! I find it really pumpy to get the kit in, climbing above a blind wire that I'm pretty sure is shit. After fighting really hard and resting for ages halfway up I commit to a sequence knowing its wrong and promptly fall off. I thought I'd stopped doing stupid things like this but obviously not, maybe that will be the last time, but I doubt it. Second time up I engage both brain and brawn (ha) and it goes fine, still pumpy, but fine. After an ab and strip a freezing Oli races up it, looking only slightly jaded, surprising given his efforts the previous day!

Golden Rhoscolyn

The forecast for Sunday looked a bit chilly for the mountains and therefore it was a choice between Gogarth and the slightly more friendly Rhoscolyn. Rhossy was chosen on that basis and the first route lived up to this mantra. The classic E5 Warpath was ace, loads of good kit and a nice level of flashpump! The second however did not as Jack headed up Godzilla, an intimidating cornerline with some holds not long for this world. In hot, greasy connies it was a good lead (nice one maaattte) and on the top we decide to chill out, shamefully lazy behaviour. Though this laziness is perhaps negated by....


The weekend wouldn't have been complete without a trip to Gogarth. The tides were perfect for a chilled start and it was middayish by the time the first route had been climbed, Katy throwing an entire rack into The Strand on Upper Tier. After some lunch, Main Cliff was calling. Dinosaur seemed a good bet being the next in line on the "Main Cliff E5" hitlist. There was also a good breeze blowing, surely that would eradicate some of the smeggy sea grease. I reach melting point under the overlap. Halfway up the pitch having already used an entire chalkbag in 15m climbing, there is no sign of the wind that chilled me belaying on Upper Tier. Resting is reducing the pump but also my hands to pulp and with barely any chalk left already it seems important that moves are made soon. Wild moves using greasy jams and typically unhelpful fins lead me leftwards round the overlap, puffing away in a way that only trad can make you. Once round the overlap you're on E1 terrain. But the rope drag is awful and the pump totally unshakeable. Reaching the belay is a huge relief, the 4c moves below feeling pretty touch and go.
The Grease!

The second pitch, which I thought would be E1, not sure why, actually turns out to be a pretty hairy, loose E2/3 which Katy negotiates with minimal puffing. The top pitch is the usual Gogarth topout, treading carefully on beardy footholds and pulling as lightly as possible on grim blocks. Anyone who has climbed at Gogarth will know its a bit more "interesting" at the top than other sea cliff areas such as Pembroke or the Burren. You don't just pull over the top to find a bomber stake with your lunch and extra jackets nearby. Nope. Instead there is a wee section of bushwhacking up a fairly gradual, heather-covered slope. If you've climbed the routes below that lead to this point its a given that you'd be fine on this terrain. At least you'd think so. Perhaps not. Definitely not. Long story short after a certain tradlord backed off said Grade 1 scramble it was left to me to do some soul searching, embrace the heather and summon up the courage to walk (!) up the bank above. Ridiculous... We eventually topped out at 8.30, having aimed for an early finish...

Death heather!

Those were three amazing days out, hopefully the first of many. I cant wait to get back!

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