Friday, 20 December 2013

Mountains, slate and sea, just December in North Wales

     At the moment my Scottish winter plans seem to be going everywhere but Scotland at the moment. The recent warm weather meant a major thaw of any snow North of the border, and with a week off meant that winter mountaineering was off the drawing board. We decided to head down to North Wales, to make the most of the huge variety of crags on offer. After a rain the previous day, we headed to the quick drying slate quarries near Llanberis. I’ve done quite a few routes in different areas of the quarries, but the recent Llanberis Slate guidebook has endless routes in newly developed areas.
Piers nearing the top of Equinox
The Sidings of Australia, Llanberis slate
     We started in the popular roadside Bus Stop Quarry, which provided a good introduction to slate for Adam and Piers. There is a good mixture of trad and newer sport routes coupled with a good grade range to please all. The wind was gusting, and the rock was cold to the touch, with numb fingers being the order of the day. After a few routes we headed deeper into the quarries, to the upper sections of Australia in search of shelter. We climbed till the sun was setting and it was becoming to chilly on the digits, it is December after all.

4th Pitch of Gambit Climb, Clogwyn y Ddysgl
Enjoying mountain cragging in Deember
     I was a bit apprehensive before setting of the next day, after planning to head high into Upper Cwm Glas, with Gambit climb on Clogwyn y Ddysgl. At the docs a couple weeks, I was told I had tendinitis of the patella in both knees. Just what I need before a busy winter. They were both strapped up pretty good and the poles were out from the car, as we picked a path through the boulders are we headed higher up the cwm. Gambit climb was brilliant, perfect big boot route and even though I went a little off route on the second pitch, the best climbing was higher on pitch four and five anyway. Good belay ledges and gear, meant I could concentrate on Adam and Piers following up. We reached the top of the route on the upper section of Parsons Arete a 2/3 scramble which we then descended back down to the base of the crag. A steak pie and choc digestives later, we headed back to the car just as the dark set in.
Adam at Castle Inn Quarry
Here comes the wind, clip quick.
     Waking to a drizzly morning in Llanberis, we discussed our options whilst looking at the forecasts, opting for the North coast, and Castle Inn Quarry. I’d ever climbed at any of the crags along the North coast, and it was really good. I still couldn’t quite get my head around bolt clipping in Wales in December. The grey clouds and rain were approaching from the south, as we watched the blanket of grey getting near, it always seemed to stop just before us. The high winds made the climbing feel insure, like being on a winter route in Scotland, waiting for the gusts to ease before making the next move. It was to be last days climbing as the rain and wind set in for the next few days and trips to Pete’s Eats and the Beacon filled the time. Heres hoping for the snow coming soon though, I’m starting to get a twitch.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Great Wolfrey, a crag lost on the moors

     I’ve always been keen on exploring new crags, and although Great Wolfrey is located close to where I used to live in Pateley Bridge, its isolation and hefty walk in always meant I overlooked and flicked past it in the guide. The new YMC Gritstone Guide has again provided the motivation, thanks to cracking pictures and topos, and describes the crag as the most ‘out there’ crag in Yorkshire. They’re certainly right there, as the nearby Grimwith Reservoir is out of view and nearby landmark of Simon’s Seat is blocked from view as it nestles a top the moor. 
We can finally see the crag - Great Wolfrey
     Jack and Bob were keen for an early start as we donned the pads, the approach passed quickly, taking about an hour until the crag came into view. The friction was top notch, and the rock was similar to Slipstones, a nice silver and finely grained. It was quite scritty to touch, making even the most positive footholds precarious.
Jack climbing the layback crack of Autumn Gold, VS.
Me on Moon Madness E1 6b

     We started at the left end of the crag which at only 6m in height felt plenty high enough, getting used to committing to the rock. A good laybacking VS crack was followed by a couple of routes either side of an arete, which provided brilliant climbing and required some thought  finding footholds, as for once on grit, smearing was pretty much out the question. 

     Jack eyed up the right arete of the same block, although it didn’t seem to be in the guide, it looked like good moves. On closer inspection the first few moves linked well but there are a lack of apparent footholds to unlock the upper section. After a slap up the arete and a left sidepull, a high left foot and hooked toe allowed a poor crimp high on the face to be gained. I stalled a few times on the upper section which gained a slopey shelf and positive crimp before a bit of a lunge on poor feet reached a welcomed good hold and easier moves to the top. Bob f6b+. It probably has been climbed before but we can’t find any record anywhere.
Jack on the first ascent?? of Bob f6b+
Reaching the welcome jug at the top of Bob f6b+
     Moving along the crag, some of the problems have slightly poorer landings and get higher. There are some brilliant walls and aretes around 9m in height that look like they have brilliant climbing on them and surprisingly good landings in some cases. These routes stretch up to E4-6, and would definitely be worth going back for when I can climb a bit harder. There are also some cracking blocks below the main edge with some great problems and slopey finishes onto heather covered tops.
Me on the Heather Top boulder
     I can’t recommend the crag enough, the quality of the grit is top, different to the nearby coarseness of the Barden Fell crags. The walk in isn’t as bad as you’d think and if you want to get away from the crowds, Great Wolfrey is definitely the place to go, chances are you’ll be the only people there. Revel in its solitude and mystery whilst admiring all the quality lines there that will inspire you to go back for more.

Jack and Bob watch on as I near the top of The Flakes f6a 
Jack on Summer of 76 - HVS 5b
Jack up the nice moves of The Flakes f6a

Friday, 6 December 2013

Crack out the tools, its winter all year round at The Works

     It’s getting to that time of year again, the temperature has started dropping then rising, but the ding of the thermometer in the car when it hits 4 degrees and the snowflake appearing, funnily seems to get the heart going. By this point last year  I’d had my first trip up to Scotland, 3 routes under my belt and already planning the next trip. However this year has been a bit of a false start, my first trip coincided with nice warm weather and stripped crags. I made the trip across to the Lakes, to sample the dry tooling at The Works. I had never done any dry tooling before, and only just started getting the hang of mixed climbing last season.
Winter must be coming, the snowflakes there.
      I’d seen lots of pictures of the routes at The Works and read through Paddy Cave’s Blog (Mountain Circles) which provided more info and topo guides. Great work Paddy and Co sorting the place out! On first appearance the routes look pretty logical and with a few of the starting routes only being 9 metres in length, how hard could they be? I was to be proved so wrong!
Piers stretched out on Time and a Half
     We set up a top rope on the first route, Time and a Half, which in my opinoin provided the crux within the first few metres, using slots to gain a natural crack to reach the lower off. After a bit of a false start getting of the deck, I managed to scrape and hook my way to the lower off first go. The steep undercut beginnings needed high feet near head moves, for me anyway, with a dead weights of boots and crampons a bit of a change from rock boots. It was so much more intense than I could have imagined it to be, it looked so easy. Left axe, right axe, foot up, left axe....It was a complete all body workout, I felt knackered after one lap. 
After the start moves on Double Time
     After a good lead on Time and a Half, we moved onto the the next route along, Double Time. Once again the start felt really hard, match an axe, pull up and foot on and reach the next hook which felt miles. The hooks all felt shallower and more precarious, and after sorting the start, I became stuck at match followed by a long reach. Each time I reached up, I became to high on the hook and pop! It kept popping, time and time again. I managed to sort a bit of a plan by matching the axe and griping it over the head, like I was daggering it, meaning the pressure was straight through the pick. Until it popped like that as well, but I was sure that was the best way for me. 
Moving high on the match and...

     I talked through the route, where each axe would go to work it out so the hammer was in the popping slot, no way I wanted an adze popping towards the face! I lead went really good, well as well as it could of, there was a bit of foot slipping, stalling at the popping move and absolutely desperate top moves with completely boxed arms. I was so tired, after 9m, but its all good training ey? Bring on the white stuff now, I’ll certainly be back to the works though, beats the wall any day.

Lead time on Double Time
Past the popping move, Double Time to the top!