Saturday, March 31, 2012

Iron Crag

Thursday was another scorcher. Duncan and I got up early and set off hitching to the Lakes. We got a sweet lift with trucker from Bangor to Queensferry. The guy was good craic and gave us both a Stella from his fridge - Hero. After a while stood at Queensferry we got a lift to Lymm Services. The hitchers grave yard. We were there for 2.5 hours with no joy so ended up getting a taxi to Warrington Bank Quay and a train to Penrith. I've ended up bailing from Lymm on a few occasions, if anyone has any tips or a pair of trade plates I can borrow they'd be much appreciated.

Iron Crag - left hand buttress
In the ideal world we'd have headed to Scafell on Friday, but we had other stuff to do as well so headed for Iron Crag. This single pitch venue, 40 minutes walk up an idyllic valley near Thirlmere is probably the best crag in the Lakes not in the select guide. The left hand buttress is a perfect for those operating at E1 to E4, the middle buttress is unfortunately choss and the right hand crag is reserved strictly for wads with a brace of three star routes from E5 to E9.

I first climbed at Iron Crag with Pete Hill last year. We did a cool E1 Granolthic Groove followed by Marshall Law, which has a steep short first pitch then a long second pitch that traverse a crack, very reminiscent of Atlantis, True Moments Freebird. 

The second time I visited I climbed with Luke Hunt we climbed Steel Band an excellent E2 that runs parallel with Marshall Law. Luke then lead Marble Staircase (E4 5c), which I managed to second by the skin of my teeth.

On the third occasion, again with Luke, we raced up to the right hand crag after an afternoon on Swirl Crag. Luke racked up and went for it up the stunning overhanging groove of Western Union (E6 6c f7c). He gave it a really good effort before taking a long fall when his foot slipped. A superb effort and definitely one of the most impressive pieces of climbing I've witnessed.

Dunc chilling out in the sunshine on the walk in.
Keen for some stress free single pitching Duncan and I headed up, in the sunshine even the long slog up the scree slope didn't seem too bad. Dunc set off up Solidarity another ** E1 that climbs a groove to the right before joining Granolithic Groove. The route was a bit dusty and the climbing felt good value for the grade.

DC low down on Solidarity.
I've been wanting to climb Hiddenite (E2 5c) for a while. It is one of the best lines on the crag following a steep wall on the right hand side. I'd heard it was hard for the grade with a bold start so after racking up I set off nervously. Thankfully the bold start was easy, gear and more easy climbing up a groove lead to the meat of the pitch. After fannying around, sorting out runners and climbing up and down I psyched up set off up the wall. The climbing was excellent on positive edges I got two reasonable runners followed by a good cam. The overhang loomed above. I girded my loins once more and climbed trickily up to the good holds on the overhang. The climbing was strenuous so I continued past fiddly gear to jugs above. Pumping now I desperately fiddled a wire behind some crystals, shock out and pushed on, well aware that I was dangerously close to taking some big airtime. I clawed my way over the top psyched and chuffed.

Hiddenite - Dunc pulling through the groove there was no way I was stopping to fiddle in gear there!
Dunc shaking out on goof holds above the overhang.
Duncan then had a go at Amabalite (E4 6a) he climbed the tricky looking start groove. He then had to commit to a mantelshelf onto a small ledge with the gear well below his feet and no sign of the next runner. Unfortunately, the little hero managed to convinced himself that the gear wasn't good so came down. I abseiled down to retrieve the gear and there is a good runner a couple of moves above the ledge and I don't reckon the gear Dunc was convinced was going to rip is too bad either. Get on it!

Duncan climbing up the tricky initial groove on his attempt of Amabalite.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the summer time...

The last 6 days having been hot, scorchingly so for March. I finished my assignment on Friday and headed to Lligwy beach for a barbeque to celebrate Duncan's and Burdy's birthday.

The assembled cast of heroes and choppers on Lligwy beach.
My mum came down for the weekend so we spend saturday bumbling around the slate quarries looking at the 'industrial archeology'. Nikki and I nipped to the summit of Elidir Fawr, which is very majestic with great views of the Glyders and down Ogwen.

On Sunday the clocks went forward (Hurray!) and I went cragging in the Pass with Mark Reeves who I'd bumped into a few times before but had never climbed with. I wasn't too fussed about what we climbed but mentioned I hadn't done Overlapping Wall, so we headed to the Wastad.

Mark Reeves on the first pitch of Overlapping Wall.
Me pulling through the crux on Overlapping Wall. Photo: Mark Reeves.
I'd done the first pitch of Overlapping Wall a few years previously but it got dark before I got a chance to do the main pitch. Mark had done the route many times previously so was happy for me to lead the crux. I climbed up to the overlap got a couple of runners in and tentatively went up and down a couple of times before committing to the bold and quite pumpy crux sequence. Thankfully the climbing is in balance and a good nut appeared before too long. Another tricky sequence followed and then it was pleasant romping to the top.

Next came Elidor which Mark recommended as more of the same. Again I got the crux pitch, which involved another pull over an overlap on funky holds, perhaps not quite as tricky as Overlapping Wall.

Old Holborn next the first route I ever did as a Bangor Student. I can vividly remember struggling through the crux, an innocent fresher, desperate to impress and Burdy in his blue Ron Hills seconding up still pissed. Mark's never done it. I lead the first pitch, which goes well until I get lost. A few minutes of faffing and I'm back on track and at the belay. Mark cruises the pitch and soon it's my turn I cock up the crux and end up swinging on the rope. The top pitch is tricky, more bold 5a rather than the straightforward 4c the guide suggests, thankfully it doesn't require too much thought. I'm keen for a route on the Mot to hide from the heat, but Mark's feet are killing so we call it a day.

Nikki is on nights this week and decides that climbing is more fun than sleeping so we headed to Ogwen to enjoy the sunshine. We swung leads up the super classic Grooved Arete on Tryfan, which was brilliant and lived up to the hype. The Knight's Move pitch is especially good. At the top we leaped from Adam and Eve before heading back to the car.

The East Face of Tryfan
Nikki leading Grooved Arete.
Nikki high up on the route.
Nikki, Adam and Eve.
That even I climbed Wrinkle on the Wastad with my Mum (who doesn't climb) and her husband Ian (who does). It was good fun and Mum did really well.

Mum and Ian on Wrinkle.
On Tuesday we headed to Lliwedd and climbed the Classic Rock tick Avalanche, Red Wall, Longland's Continuation. It was good fun and felt very alpine. It was so hot that the crag was bone dry (rare at any time of year and unheard of in March) and we climbed in tee shirts. The last pitch is a cracking little slab that tops out right on the summit.

Lliwedd - Dark and Gloomy
Nikki climbing towards the sunshine.
Tall Mark and I got up early and headed to Cloggy today. We were first at the crag and it was bone dry (well as dry as it ever is). Jelly Roll was the order of the day. I tried to persuade Mark to lead the Drainpipe Crack as I'd lead it before and hadn't enjoyed, but he'd seconded it before and also hadn't enjoyed it, so I dutifully set off. I wasn't as bad as I remembered, quite leg pumpy with lots of face holds. Thankfully you don't need to use the damp crack. Mark lead the second pitch, which continues up the crack before stepping left and traversing across the top of Indian Face. This pitch is steeper than it looks and I found it tricky to second, a notch up from the Drainpipe Crack.

Cloggy in the early morning light.
Mark Freestone seconding the Drainpipe Crack.
Mark leading Jelly Roll Pitch 2 with the Indian Face only metres away.
Mark leading Jelly Roll Pitch 2.
Konrad Doyle leading the Drainpipe Crack.
I was now stood above Great Wall looking up at the steep imposing groove above. After some dithering I got some good runners in and bridged my way up the groove. The climbing was sustained, but thankfully the holds and the gear were both good and plentiful. After a welcome respite at half height it was more of the same followed by a series of final powerful moves into the finishing chimney. The exposure looking down the groove at Indian Face was jaw dropping. One of the best routes I have ever done.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

El Chorro, Gilbratar, Tremadog and Banned Goodnesss...

Nikki and I have just come back from a week in El Chorro. We did some cool routes, but neither of us were particularly psyched. It was nice to get away from the UK for a week and be in the sunshine.

The best routes I did on the trip were Asfalto at El Torcal and Tinto de Verano at Frontalas.

Me leading the excellent Asfalto.
We also did the King's Walkway, which was quite sketchy but good entertainment.

Nikki on the start of the King's Walkway.

Nikki going back through the railway tunnels after the walkway.
The Olive Branch, apparently the place to be, was fully booked so we ended up Staying at Finca La Campa. It wasn't too great to be honest. We paid extra for a double room, which was tiny with no natural light. The vibe was pretty bad too - the other guest were a group of Germans who enjoyed standing around topless and applying suncream to each other...

By the end of the week we both needed a change of scene so we head to Gibraltar. I'd not been Gibraltar before and it was pretty cool; warm and sunny with lots of friendly people. Perhaps Brits would be as patriotic if our weather was as good? We headed up the rock on the cable car to the check out the Macaques (not apes!), which were quite entertaining.

Visiting relatives in Gibraltar.
Did I mention I had a shop in Gibraltar...
I didn't know it was alcohol free beer honest...
Back in the Wales Dunc, Ollie, Livingstone, Harry and I had a cool evening causing mayhem and jumping off the bridge. It was pretty exciting when Dunc snapped the rope!

Duncan looking psyched to back almost back on the bridge having just snapped the static.

Remember kids ropes aren't strong even if you have a negative mass, you can snap them if you know how...
Livingstone proving to us all that he is better than us!
After three hours sleep Ollie and I got up and drove to Tremadog. I sandbagged Ollie into leading a wet Barbarian. He cruised it and I promptly fell off seconding.

Burrow cruising a wet Barbarian.
We then wandered over to Falcon. I've been wanting to do this for ages and have been putting it off for nearly as long. The bottom was wet and I nearly fagged out. After a fair amount of faffing on the allegedly loose (is it really?) bottom section I was committed to the crux. The climbing is sustained, excellent, absorbing and technical in the first half. The top section is pretty tricky too, it follows a crack that doesn't relent until right at the top. I had to properly try on this route and was chuffed to pieces on the top. It is far and away the best E1 at Tremadog and one of the best E1 pitches in North Wales. Cheers for belaying me for so long Ollie.

After lectures the next morning Polly and I headed to Craig Y Forwyn for more banned goodness. We abseiled in and climbed Route 66 a great, but slightly over grown, VS. I then had a go at Mojo the classic E1 of the crag. I did the difficult start moves and reached the first break. I got a small cam in, but I wasn't too inspired. I tried to fiddle in more gear, but got progressively more pumped and then lowered off.

PH on an abseiling masterclass...
We then climbed Fido's Redemption, which I had had a complete mare on last year. I don't know what I was on that day because I cruised it this time. As I reached the belay a posh voice traveled up from the caravan site: "CLIMBERS! YOU ARE TRESPASSING!" Thankfully Polly saved the day by apologizing profusely in her best school girl voice and he left us alone.

Polly leading the awesome top pitch of Fido's Redemption.
We then finished that day with some extreme abseiling to retrieve my gear from Mojo... 

By the end of the day Polly had progressed to extreme abseiling jiggery pokery...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Slate, Tremadog and Craig y Forwyn

February has been pretty wet in North Wales. Thankfully towards the end of the month the sun started to come out.

Livingstone and I had a great afternoon on the Slate. I fannyed around Fools Gold before backing off. (This seems to be my boogie routes... I've fallen off it once and backed off it twice!) Livingstone then dispatched it in style and followed without issue, proving that I am indeed a fanny.

Livingstone walking up Fools Gold in the sunshine.
Tom then had a go on his project Beltane. He gave it a really good go getting to the penultimate clip on his first go this session. He tried it again, but his skin was too sore from crimping on bugger all.

Livingstone dispatching the dyno move on Beltane.

Red pointing blues...
Fooked skin...
We then headed down to Vivian for the East Face link up. I lead Mental Lentals and then followed Tom up the other routes to the bottom of Dervish Slab. Tom quickly dispatched Last Tango but by this point it was nearly dark. Neither of us had head torches so Tom abseiled off and stripped the gear.

On Sunday Ollie and I headed to Tremadog in search of esoteric gems. I really enjoy the climbing at Tremadog mainly because I know how to climb there. After finding most Pant Ifan wet and not being man enough to get on Falcon we headed to Craig Y Castell, intent on staying 'til dark and in search of esoteric gems.

Ollie on the enjoyable approach pitch to Pryderi/Pwyll
We had a great day out doing six routes. All of which get at least ** in the new guide book, are clean, unpolished (apart from Craig Du Wall) and well worth seeking out. We started with Pryderi which was good fun and only just E1. Ollie then led Pwyll an excellent pitch. A committing, bold sequence up a crystally slab followed by a steep well protected wall. Tricky for E2 and I imagine good practice for Silly Arete.

Myself low down on the main pitch of Pryderi
Ollie above the scary crux on Pwyll.
I then lead Gestiana which was really good, with sustained climbing and quite spaced gear. Ollie then did Blas Y Cynfyd which offered quite bold climbing on immaculate rough rock.

See between the trees: me leading Gestiana.
We then did the super classic Craig Du Wall followed by running up Mensor in the half light. According to my guidebook I'd done Mensor in 2004 with my Dad, but I have absolutely no recollection of this. Anyway it is an excellent pitch. One of the best VS pitches at Tremagdog I've done, with quite improbable climbing at the grade.

We then drove to Llanberis and had a rowdy evening in the heights to celebrate Ballford's twenty third birthday. 

Amazingly on Monday morning I didn't have a hangover so Mason and I headed to Craig Y Forwyn. We abseiled into the banned end of the crag. Al led off up the Snake (E2) dispatching it seemingly without issue. Seconding I realised three things: trad limestone E2 is hard, Mason is very, very good at rock climbing and the guy who owns Craig Y Forwyn is unbelievably selfish. It is a fantastic crag and it is a real shame that it is banned. However every cloud has a silver lining and at least it isn't as polished as Stoney Middleton!

Al Mason leading pitch one of the Snake. Sangfroid Direct takes the groove to the left.
After a couple of rests to remove runners I was the belay pretty pumped. Thankfully Al way happy to lead the top pitch, which offered brilliant technical climbing, which I managed to second clean.

Al leading the technical second pitch of the Snake.
We abseiled back down and I set of Sangfroid. Unfortunately when I committed to the flack crack the cans of larger in my belly from the night before started to swirl around. This caused me to nearly throw up. Tail between my legs I lowered off and Al finished up Sangfroid Direct, which steeps right into a second crack leading into the top of the Snake. An excellent pitch.

Nikki and I are off to El Chorro for a week tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get loads of mileage in a come back fit and psyched for the trad season!