Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Routing and ridging in Snowdonia

With Adam's ML assessment in a few weeks and having just booked my MIA training, we headed down to Wales for a bit of a navigation refresher. The weather was looking unsettled with low cloud and showers forecast, perfect for our aims. Of course the rack and ropes were chucked into the van as well.

Adam testing his trousers on the Cannon
Low cloud covered the upper sections of the Tryfan, as the North Ridge loomed above, we picked our way up the ridge keeping as direct as possible. The cloud lifted as we climbed higher and enveloped us on the summit with a quick step across Adam and Eve, we descended in a heavy shower to the col and bottom of Bristly Ridge.

Adam jumping onto Eve
A wet and eerie scramble followed, weaving through the pinnacles of the ridge with cloud blowing around us. It was Adams first experiences of Welsh scrambling and rather than continuing across the popular Glyders, we headed East to Y Foel Goch pacing and timing legs across the boggy undulating ground.

Leading the way up Bristly Ridge
Following a swift walk along the valley to up the energy levels at the van, we swapped our map and compass for rack and ropes. We made short work up the Direct Route of Milestone Buttress requiring precise footwork on the glassy holds. A beauty sunset and red sky over Llyn Ogwen was promising sunshine the following day.

Sunset over Llyn Ogwen
It was quite like the previous evening had predicted, but the blanket cloud base at 600m was perfect for us, as long as it didn't rain. A buffeting wind made walking strenuous as we approached the top of Pen Yr Ole Wen. We headed across the Carneddau, Adam hoping to catch a glimpse of the ponies, however the 10m visibility had different ideas. Bearings, timing and pacing were the order of the day as we covered ground to Carnedd Llewelyn, Yr Elen and Foel Grach. The conditions were spot on for us, the rain held off and the only moisture was from walking in the clouds all day. No ponies for us though, the nearest we got was several piles of poo.
Descending off Carnedd Llewelyn
We awoke to a blue sky and sunshine after a few beers at Plas-y-Brenin and a top lecture from Adam Harmer on his paddling trip to Peru. Achey knees and sun lead us to the conclusion that little learning would take place in the hills in comparison to the previous day. So back to Ogwen, and the hordes on Idwal Slabs. Adam had only done 2 multipitch climbs before, but cruised up the pitches of Tennis Shoe, as we finished the 6 pitch route a couple hours later. The sun was beginning to come round onto the slabs and my skin was feeling it, it's always sunny on a dodgy forecast when I forget to take sun cream. We were lucky not having to queue as we continued up the popular Lazurus with a brilliant second pitch to top off a cracking few days in the mountains again. I better leave my sun cream at home more often.

Setting off on Pitch 5 of Tennis Shoe
Me leading off in the reflection of Adam's glasses
Adam following up Pitch 4 of Tennis Shoe

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Slate and sun in North Wales

A week had passed since my grit bouldering and my fingertips had just about recovered before a quick trip to North Wales. The forecast was looking kind to us, however the wet weather before the trip meant decisions were already made for us, our best chance of dry rock on the Monday was in the Llanberis slate quarries.
Me on 'Looning the tube'.
I had only visited the quarries on few previous trips, and the maze of paths, tunnels and levels mean I still find locating areas and routes pretty tricky. Luckily I had Matty with me, who had spent 5 days climbing in the quarries  last summer, so was the perfect guide for the day. The quarries have an airy feel to them, the old steel structures and dilapidated miners huts, a previous hive of industry have now left huge holes in the ground, and endless spoils of slate which eventually blend into the mountains of Snowdonia.

We headed to Australia towards the top of the quarries, with a couple of routes up there on Matty's slate ticklist. A dark sky threatened above but it was the gusting wind trying to push us of balance on the delicate slab climbing. Matty headed off first climbing 'Looning the tube' in good style and little faff, despite being one of his first leads of the year. I quickly followed, enjoying the moves across the to the chain away from the safety of a single bolt, before heading up the groove to the top
Matty on 'Goose Creature'

Adjacent to 'Looning the tube', a pair of bolts indicated the only gear up a blanker looking slab with thin edges leading a route, 'Goose Creature' up the slab. I thought I'd give it a go, as the unprotected 7m up to the first bolt looked straightforward and it's really safe once you get there. The climbing went smoothly, clipping the first and second bolts in quick succession, I was stumped at the crux moves past the second bolt. After several goes of trying the moves in various positions, most felt insecure and off balance, I found the sequence for me via a big rock over and two finger edge, allowing a thin edge to be reached. Slightly easier climbing followed but with no more gear, composure was needed for a fluttery top out.
Me on 'Goose Creature'

With the crags in the pass still wet we headed round to Tremadog, out the mountains, dries quick and will soak up any sunshine that's going. We got sunshine in abundance, strong rays and light breeze meant the factor 50 was definitely going on. As it was Matty's first trip to Tremadog, Christmas Curry was the first route of the day. I quickly linked the first two pitches, leaving Matty to enjoy the quality top pitch out of the trees and into the sunshine.

Me starting up the main pitch of Christmas Curry
We followed up with the classic One Step in the Clouds. This route is deserving of its classic status, as it meanders up the impressive Vector buttress providing brilliant positions. The exposure was ace as I stepped across the hanging slab with the buttress dropping away into the trees beneath.

The sun continued to beam onto the rock as I climbed out of the trees on the first pitch of Shadrach, another classic, with a thrutchy chimney to begin with and gain the slab above. A class second pitch followed with a precarious step of a pedestal providing the crux unlocking the upper section of the route.     
Matty seconding the first pitch of Shadrach
Unfortunately the trip was cut short as Matty didn't feel too good, obviously couldn't hack van life. Definitely wasn't my cooking that's for sure and I guess the crags aren't going anywhere so I will be back soon for sure.