Friday, 14 June 2013

Hard Rock and Rescues on Cloggy

I had never climbed on Clogwyn Du'r Arddu otherwise known as Cloggy before, but had heard of its aura, it's walls stacked with climbing history, positioned high within the Welsh mountains. I'd seen lots of pictures online, in guides and magazines, you can't fail to notice it's dominance driving into Llanberis. After getting pretty scorched on the cliffs at Gogarth, Piers and I headed back into the mountains and an early night before the slog up the Snowdon path to reach the crag. The crag looked stunning and became even more impressive the closer we got. I was relieved to see the buttresses covered in shade as the sun moved round, no sun burn for me today.
The stunning Clogwyn Du'r Arddu
We skirted round Llyn Du'r Arddu to access the base of the West buttress, our route the classic Great Bow Combination from Hard Rock. From below the buttress looked huge, but broke down into 5 pitches. I set off on the first 45m pitch, climbing a brilliant cracked groove till the cracks end where a few bolder moves up a rib lead to good sized belay ledge. The rock was solid and quite rough, with bomber gear.
Piers arranging gear on Pitch 2
Piers continued up the rib above setting up a belay below the crux traverse to access the slabs above. I stepped up from the stance to place a high first runner then started the traverse along a break with poor feet, which was surprisingly pumpy with little protection in sight. I rocked up onto a ledge at the end of the break, placed a solid wire, and headed up to the belay above.

Now for Piers to second the pitch, who also had our rucksack of shoes and water to just walk off after the route. The traverse was just as bold for Piers to second as there was little gear for me to place on the lead. After the start a step up with small holds and smear enabled the break to be reached. I had a good view of Piers crossing to this point, I was careful not to pull the ropes too tight to pull him off the wall. These moves were pretty tough, and once all other sequences were ruled out Piers committed to the move. But then he was off! I thought he had made the move. The ropes went slack, as he pendulums across onto the wall below out of my view, swiftly followed by the shock as the ropes take the weight. I shouted down to him,  he was ok. Luckily able to climb the few metres of wall to regain the end of the traverse, took a minute and climbed up to me. He had skinned the knuckles and cut his knee, but was keen to continue after a quick tape up.

The end of the traverse on Pitch 3
Piers swiftly dispatched the fourth pitch up a cracked slab to an impressive exposed stance on the edge of the slab. I had noticed climbers across on the Eastern Terrace shouting in our direction as Piers climbed his pitch. As Piers set up his belay, he was talking to someone else, before shouting down to me: 'you're going to love this.'

We chatted about what was going on as I climbed the pitch. Turns out a team were stuck, or were unable to progress further on their route; Longland's Climb, a classic VS with a sting in it's tail, as described in the guide, an intimidating 4c pitch blocking access to the top of the climb. We were unable to reach Yohan and partner from our present position with a gully and a buttress blocking the way. We told Yohan we needed to complete our route then abseil down if we were to provide any assistance.

Looking back down Pitch 3
We completed our route, which was cracking. It had been a while since I'd climbed on the mountain rock of North Wales, and remembered how much I love it. However my mind was now focused on how best to help the stuck climbers. Trying to locate the top of a route from the top of a complex crag full of gullies and pinnacles is a right pain, especially seen as it was my first time at the cliff. Orientating the guidebook photo, to try and match up which way to head proved useful, as did climbers from the other buttress shouting directions to us.
Piers at the stance at the top of Pitch 4
We hunted down a large block to use as an anchor and I carefully started to abseil down the top section of a gully, ropes over my shoulder and paying close attention to where I place my feet, not wanting to dislodge any rocks onto the crag below. I moved down and around a corner shouting to the party beneath me. I located them, some 10m below the pinnacle I was now sat on. They sounded surprised that I was there, I guess it had been about an hour and a half since we first made contact with them. I was lucky that the rope was just long enough to reach down beneath me. I made a belay at my position to back up my abseil rope as Yohan tied into the other ends of my rope. I gave him a tight top rope up this tricky section of the route as his partner belayed him from below. He was so relieved to reach a ledge just below me, the previous few moves had been a battle for him. I kept him on a rope until he had placed 3 solid runners as he moved onto the easier climbing above. He definitely looked pretty shaky and then let on that this was only his fourth outdoor lead! Hats off to him for his enthusiasm but he was definitely out of his depth on this route, and obviously did not no how to sort himself out in this situation.

I carefully climbed back up my ropes to reach Piers at my block belay. After stuffing gear into our bags it was time to make tracks and drive home. Walking out down the path I kept almost tripping over my feet as I was looking back around at the magnificent piece of rock behind me. Matching lines in the guide up with the features on the rock, I just wanted to climb more. I can't wait to go back again!

Cloggy - What a crag!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dreaming above the sea at Gogarth

I was counting down the days left at work, stoked to see the high pressure hanging around for my days off at the weekend. Back down to Wales again, it was becoming like a second home exploring places I'd never been over the previous couple months. This time though, we bypassed the mountains and headed straight to Holyhead and the sea cliffs at Gogarth. One route on my mind; A Dream of White Horses. I have wanted to do this route for so long, since first picking up a friends North Wales Rock, years before I'd even put a rock shoe on in Wales, let alone climbed at Gogarth.

Me seconding up the first pitch of 'Dream'
Everything had come together, the late evening light meant a quick scope of the crag. I was in total awe of the zawn, looking across to the cliff from the promontory, it looked really steep with few features, an almost blank piece of rock. Walking back to the van for an early night, I had butterfly's in my stomach, I'm pretty sure it was excitement rather than nervousness. Tomorrow I was going to climb Dream!
Piers leading off on the first pitch
We had a reasonably early start hoping to beat the weekend rush in top notch weather, and were the first team to abseil down to the base of the route. Abseiling down the cliff, the sheet of rock was revealing its secrets; it's slabby angle, flakes, cracks and holds covered the wall. We stopped at the right end of a ledge, the incoming tide covering the first few metres of the climb. Piers began on the first pitch, his first time on the sea cliffs, following a crackline of good gear and holds before moving across to the relative comfort of a stance. I followed, getting into the flow of the climbing having only done a few routes on the cliffs myself.

Me leading off on the second pitch
The second pitch followed no distinct features as I traversed directly across the slab, delicately moving between opposing side pulls and thin gear until I reached the main crack line of Wen running the height of the cliff. Without realising I had gained some height and had set up a belay slightly higher up. This wasn't a problem until Piers was about to set off onto the third pitch.
Piers happy to be across the bold start of Pitch 3
Piers cruising the rest of the third pitch
The third pitch followed a diagonal flake up the wall, but from our position the flake was about 4 metres away, meaning Piers had to make a higher traverse line to get back on route. It was a bold few moves, following small holds and poor feet, a sterling effort by Piers, who then cruised the rest of the pitch.
One more pitch to go. The long traverse around the curving wall above the arch in the zawn. The holds were positive and gear good as I made progress across the wall. I was concentrating really hard at getting the rope work spot on making sure Piers was protected when he followed the pitch. The climbing was never desperate and the exposure was ace, I managed a few glances down when moving my feet only to be distracted by sea kayakers paddling through the arch directly beneath me. I reached the end of the traverse followed by a short groove to complete the pitch and the Dream.

Me heading off on the traverse of the last pitch

Piers in a sea of rock on the fourth pitch
I was so pleased to have climbed the route after trying to fit it in last year with no luck. This time everything had come together. The climbing is really good, but it is the positions and situation that make it what it is.
After a quick break and a top up of sun cream we retrieved our abseil rope and relocated to the promontory on the front of the zawn, abseiling in Britomartis, another three star HVS, but a route of completely different character.

Piers seconding the first pitch of Britomartis with kayakers looking on
The tide was low as I climbed down from the belay ledge and traversed around the corner to gain access to the steep front face. An initial crack led to a groove surrounded by good holds up the face. The bottom felt desperate and the route felt a very different proposition to 'Dream' as the rock felt very soapy, I was forever chalking up my hands. The higher I got the less desperate the climbing which was good news for my arms as I reached a small stance above. Piers had an audience of sea kayakers who watched, took photos and were probably wondering what we were up to. I was glad to hear Piers was pumped as well once we squeezed onto our hanging belay. Another traverse and a small groove lead to the top and the end of another top route.

Squashed on the belay ledge of Britomartis
What a day, the heat was definitely getting to me now as we headed back to the van. Ice creams in Holyhead and back to the mountains.

Stunning day at the sea cliffs