Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mountain cragging - a.k.a: Why employment is overrated...

On Monday 3rd June I handed in my final assignment and finished my degree at Bangor University. After four years in at university I am now out in the real world. On one hand I have had a brilliant time at university. I met some amazing people, climbed more routes at Tremadog and Gogarth than I care to remember and have been on some very cool trips. On the other hand I hated it: the boring lectures, the pointless academia and all the other bullshit that went with it.

The previous weekend I was down in Norfolk at a family 'do'. I spent the weekend trying to avoid getting asked my two least favorite questions - "What do you want to do and have you been applying for any jobs?" - and coming up with a convincing answer when I did. "I don't" doesn't seam to rub with my relatives. I think I might start telling them I'm a tax lawyer or something equally mundane.

Unusually for the exam period the weather hadn't been playing ball. For most of May, instead of the usual, and immensely frustrating, wall-to-wall sunshine it rained. Even better as soon as exams ended the summer arrived. Nikki picked me up and we drove down to Mid Wales for a night in a B&B to celebrate the end of my academic career.

The next morning we got up early and headed to Craig Cowarch. This is a slightly dirty crag, home of the Classic Rock tick Wil-o-the-Whisp. Sadly Mid Wales was left out of the otherwise excellent North Wales Rock and with no modern guide book the place is seldom visited. This is a real shame as it is a truly stunning location and the climbing is pretty good too. Hopefully its' inclusion in the new Rockfax guide book, will mean more folk venture down there. We climbed Doom, a three star VS, which had been recommend to me. The climb was superb, four sustained, bold and really quite difficult pitches. Nikki did really well seconding it and by the top of the route had gotten her climbing mojo back. The once well worn descent path is now overgrown and quite spicy so we took the scenic route back to the bags. It was too hot to climb so we spent the rest of the day at the beach.

Nikki walking up to Craig Cowarch
Pulling over the roof on Doom Pitch 2.
The next day I got up early and headed up to Cloggy with my old friend Luke Hunt. I hadn't seen Luke for a couple of years and it was great to catch up and go climbing. We started with the Boldest with the Direct Finish which I was pleased to second free, eyes on stalks, as I made the crux step left to the belay. This was followed by the intimidating and excellent Cloggy Corner. Even in its' current bone dry state it felt a notch harder than Emulator on the Main Cliff, definitely an HVS that thinks it's E1. Luke then had a look at Purr-spire Direct, but wasn't psyched by the irreplaceable, thirty year old, fixed gear. Instead he decided to do Great Wall. Even seconding this peerless route in the evening sunshine is a magic expirence. After scrambling off we headed down to the llyn to bivi for the night.

Looking sporting a strong route beneath the crag.
Luke nearing the top of Cloggy Corner.
Great Wall at Sunset - is there a better climbing expirence in the UK?
The next morning I awoke aching and despite the stunning view wasn't that psyched. Luke had split a tip and we were both keen to for a quick easy route. After faffing around we headed up to the crag and began sorting the gear. We were quickly joined by Mason and Lee, who told us to stop faffing around and do the West Buttress Eliminate, a long hold ambition of mine. So we did and it was utterly superb. I was really chuffed to lead pitch two. Luke had work in Glasgow at 8am the next day so we headed back down. I quickly nipped out to do Direct Route on the Milestone Buttress with Clare that evening. Amusingly the rescued became the rescuers and we helped unjam a poor chaps stuck leg!
Not a bad view to wake up to!
Me leading West Buttress Eliminate pitch two.
George Ullrich nearing the top of Shaft of a Dead Man.
I had work in the Lakes at the weekend. James and I headed up to the Lakes on Friday morning and managed to squeeze in a quick route on Pavey Ark. We did Astra, which was as good as I'd hoped. I was pretty happy to lead the crux, which was pretty bold but thankfully well protected where it counts.
A beautiful excited by a beautiful crag.
Jimmy seconding Astra pitch 2.
Wicket W Warrick psyched to find the hidden finger jug at the top of Astra's crux.
After a productive weekend we drove round to Wasdale on Monday morning, with the plan of biving up at Scafell. We slogged up to find the crag in stellar condition. We stashed our kit at Hollow Stones and headed up. Choosing the route wasn't difficult: Saxon. The route of the crag and another longstanding route on my never ending tick list. Unfortuantley James wanted the crux, but I was happy to lead to the first and third pitches, which whilst not quite as brilliant as the crux were still superb. We finished the day with an ascent of the super classic Central Buttress, which was only tarnished by the loss of my Blue Alien in the Great Flake. Back at the Hollow Stones the midges were unrelenting and without a tent we sacked off biving and headed home.

Me towards the top of Saxon's crux crack.
Fingesr climbing the top pitch of Saxon.
Me on the Great Flake - climbing this in 1913 must have been mental!

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