Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crib Goch

Gwen and I went for an quick walk up Snowdon this afternoon. We walked up Crib Goch, over onto Crib y Ddysgl, up onto Snowdon and back down the Pyg Track.

It was quite wintery up there with lots of unconsolidated powder snow, rhyme, hoar and a small amount of ice. However most of the turf is unfrozen because it is insulated by snow.

Looking down at Reade's Route (which isn't turf dependent) it looks in nick, but anything turfy probably needs a few days.

We wore crampons on Crib Goch, you didn't need them but we felt it was safer with them on.

Reade's Route Today.
Gwen scrambling on Crib Goch.
Me on the summit of Snowdon.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Lectures that run from 4 to 6 on a Friday night are never going to popular. I was less than impress when my lecture announced that she wouldn't be stopping for a break at 5, because she feared none of us would return. I lasted 'til about 4:40 before discreetly leaving with the word's family crisis on the tip of my tongue if she challenged. I jumped into Livingstone's car and we drove to meet Ollie before heading north.

Lads on tour: Livingstone, Moneypenny, Ollie and me.
Ollie and James psyched in the car park
We met Moneypenny at Preston station and kept north to the Lakes, where we called in at my mum's for haggis, neaps and tatties (Thanks Mum!). Here we checked the forecasts and decided Lochnagar would be the best bet. By the time we made the decision it was almost midnight so we decided to have a couple of hours sleep before driving through the night. Up at 2:15 I had a very strong coffee before settling down for the first long stint. Three hours of the World Service later, at Perth, Livingstone took over and we pulled into the car park at Glen Muick just before 8.

When the weather is this good it is hard not to enjoy winter climbing!

The crag.
Livers with a crucial part of the modern mixed rack...

It was beautiful day, windless with clear blue skies, which more than made up for our lake of sleep.  Inane banter made short work of the walk in. Tom and I decided to head for the classic Parallel Buttress, whilst James and Ollie went for a gander at Polythemus Gully. (They found it to be out of condition and did Moonshadow instead.)

Livingstone seconding Pitch 1 of Parallel Buttress.
Tom leading the steep mixed chimney on Parallel Buttress Pitch 2.
Ollie and James on Moonshaddow. The three other climbers are just below the Crux of Shadow Buttress B.
Livingstone high on Parallel Buttress.
Livingstone leading the awkward crux tower on very thin hooks. 

Our climb was brilliant with lots frozen turf, good runs, and the occasional helpful bit of ice or neve. 6 pitches latter and I was belayed beneath the tricky looking crux tower. Livingstone struggled a bit, but eventually managed to negotiate his way through on delicate hooks. I attempted to follow suit, but to no avail, I dangled around on the ropes a bit before working it out. One pitch of easy snow and I was on the top. We coiled our ropes and down climbed the Black Spout, grabbed our sacks and headed back the car.

If the weather was always this good you'd never bother doing anything else!
Me in the Visitor Centre Doss - no spoon but a peg will do!
 We dossed the night in the nature reserve (cheers for cooking Moneypenny) before an early bed. The next morning we headed back to the crag and made a team send of Shadow Buttress B, which was great fun and straightforward apart from an intimidating mixed step in the middle. Livingstone made a slight cock up and dropped his camera half way up the route. He headed back down at the end of the day and amazingly found it!

The walk in on day 2.
Livingstone on Pitch 1 of Shadow Buttress B.
James was cold so Livingstone gave him hug...

Livers on the intimidating crux of Shadow Buttress B.
We made the long drive back to the Lakes, where we were greeted by large portions of sausage and mash. (thanks again Mum!) Up at 5 after another short nights sleep I managed to stumble into morning lectures bleary eyed and fueled by caffeine!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trees, mud and the first rock of 2012

Untypically North Wales has been blessed with gorgeous weather over the last couple of weeks. Typically I've been stuck inside cramming for exams, whilst everyone else was scarring themselves silly at South Stack.

Exams over Gwen and I headed to Tremadog in search of dry rock. I'm a pretty big fan of Tremadog and have spent more time there since living in Bangor than perhaps any other crag. I suppose this is for a number of reasons, but mainly because the rock is excellent, great fun to climb on and normally offers bomber gear.

Pulling up beneath the Vector Buttress the crag was a little wetter than I'd hoped.  We both descided that it would be good to blow the cobwebs off by revisiting some old favorites. We headed for Merlin Direct first. Gwen lead the easy bottom pitch and I led the top, which offers brilliant well protected climbing, on good holds, with a tricky reach to top out. HVS heaven.

Gwen at the top of Merlin Direct.
The Fang next. I lead the burly first pitch and Gwen cruised the bold and technical top pitch. I've done the Fang a number of times now and still find it tricky, it's certainally no push over at the grade.

Gwen reaching the belay at the top of the Fang Pitch 1.
The final route of the day was the easiest on paper but definitely felt the hardest. Striptease an interesting VS 5a up a gully/chimney that allegedly stays dry in all but horizontal rain. It wasn't raining but being winter it had been and there was quite a lot of seepage as a result. This didn't cause too much of a problem until the final roof, which is well protected by a calcined thread. Unfortunately this also the hold. It was was very, very slippery and like holding onto a anti-chalk. After a few heave-hoes I was over the roof and belaying Gwen up.

 At the top.
We had talked about doing One Step to finish the day, but by this point it was almost dark and being soft I wasn't particularly psyched. Just as we drove off it started to rain so I guess we made the right decision.

In other news I acquired a new camera the other day through some dodgy deal. I haven't had much luck with cameras. I either drop them, they get nicked or I buy half broken ones off ebay due to my moronic inability to read. Anyway my new camera is a second hand Nikon and it seems to be in full working order. I'm pretty pleased with this photo of the Menai Bridge I snapped on my way home.

The best bit of architecture in North Wales.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Caingorms with Livingstone

Instead of partying until still o'clock in the morning on New Years Eve Tom and I drove up from the Lakes to Aviemore and were asleep in a tent by ten thirty.

We got up bright and early and walked into Coire an t'Sneachda. Lots of snow had been stripped out by the thaw and it felt way less wintery than when I was up before Christmas. We started up Stirling Bomber. I lead the first introductory pitch and Livingstone powered his way up the main groove, which was well protected with good hooks. We then wandered down, grabbed our sacks and started up Belhaven.

Tom starting up pitch 2 of Stirling Bomber.
Me in Stirling Bomber.

I led the middle pitch, which had a tricky start (Tom fell off seconding!) but was pretty easy otherwise. Tom then started up the main corner. He took his time but seemed to be cruising. Thankfully he didn't get too spooked when I took him off belay mid crux - I'm sure I heard him shout safe. The cold must have been getting to him. He topped out just before dark.

Tom starting pitch 2 of Belhaven.
Tom about to be taken off belay on Pitch 2 of Belhaven!
I seconded the pitch by head torch and popped off towards the top when a hook ripped. We quickly paked up our and headed down the fiacalli. The wind blasting us all the way back to the car.

That evening we decided to use Tom's car as a heath robinson drying room. This worked brilliantly until the car stopped working. Luckily Tom had AA cover and we got the car fixed the next day. Unfortunatelt by the time it was fixed there was no time to go climbing, so we spent the rest of the day sat by a fire in a gear shop in Aviemore, reading guidebook and buy nothing.

The next day the weather was awful with 120mph winds forecast so we decided that heading up into the hills wasn't sensible and spent most of the day reading old climbing magazines (I mean revising) in Mill Cottage.
Tom on tricky variation start to Yukon Jack Pitch 2.
Weather and avalanche forecast were still rubbish the next day so we decided that Mess o Pottage was the safest bet. I lead off up Yukon Jack a IV 5 that is graded for the ice. There was no ice and it felt a notch harder. The climbing was fun and thankfully sheltered by a corner. I got to a good ledge at about thirty metres and brought Tom up. The climbing above looked steep, tricky and not grade IV! Livingstone heaved his way through with relative ease and then scampered up easy group out of sight. Eventually the rope ran out and went tight. Apprehensively I set off, thankfully Tom kept me really tight.  I committed to two torques and was trying to step across to easy ground. The next thing I knew both tools had ripped and I was on my back on the belay ledge several metres below. I guess that's why you climb with a sack on in winter! I managed to get second by sneakily hooking a krab.

By the time I got to the belay the weather was even worse. So we escaped up the Haston Line and got blown across the Plateau and back to the car.

On Thursday we headed into Coire an Lochain with no set plan. Fresh snow fall, white out and inept navigation made finding the crag quite tricky. Thankfully we bumped into Pete and Malcolm and Dave and Dave on the walk in, who were able to show us the way to the crag.

Dave Almond starting up Big Daddy.
We geared up and chatted about various routes, but decided to do Inventive because of the super grim windy weather that was funneling us up the crag. Tom started up the Vent and spent and age trying to mount the chock stone, while powder collapsed around him. We sacked that off and headed for Ventilator, which the guidebook suggests as alternative start to the Inventive if the Vent chock stone is unclimbable. By this point the weather was truly horrible and we opted to just get blown up the route to relative calm of the Plateau. 

Tom after being blown up Ventilator.
Back at the car we decided to drive back to the Lakes as the forecast for Friday was warm and wild. On Friday we headed back to Bangor via four hours of power at White Goods - the best shit crag in ever!