Easter? This was North Wales

The start of Crib Goch

We somehow managed to squeeze in more than just the one season – climbing season that is. From an alpine-like Crib Goch, Ladies Gully and Idwal Stream, we hit the coast for some bouldering at Port Ysgo and on the way home, a trad route and some sport at Penmaen Head.

Truth - Port Ysgo

Idwal Stream

 

The weekend couldn’t have been improved on to be honest. Those who were there happened upon calm winds, blue skies above and a warm sun. Mountain Rescue were busy due to people being unprepared in one way or another for the high reaches, a shame, as they could have been out enjoying the conditions themselves. NLMC had a big turnout and lots was done, just how it should be.

Chris on Chris' Corner

Liz at Penmaen Head

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I fell off…

Finally fulfilled a dream the other week and found myself wandering up Trinity Face, you know, the big hideous pile of rubble that masquerades as a cliff face on Snowdon – every winter, when it freezes up and gets a coating of snow, it somehow garners an attraction that’s not there in summer. The snow working somewhat like beer goggles I guess.

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It had been a cracking weekend, tootling up along Seargent’s Gully with Liz and George and after a solo up some Grade II pitches of ice we’d headed up Parsley Fern past an unseen dead badger that had it’s ten minutes of fame in the next few days.

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Megan joined us on the Sunday for the trip into the Snowdon massive and she and Liz headed off to our right – George and I having decided that RH Trinity was our goal for the day. We’d never climbed together before and whilst I’ve soloed bits of Grade IV, neither of us had led a III – we were slightly excited. Beaten to the start by a rope of three, we hung around on the belay for a while and enjoyed some stunning views. I managed to slip off the crux due to my frozen gloves having less grip than discarded chewing gum and George found the ropes slightly short for the next pitch, which necessitated a hurried belay as I had to strip mine and move on up after him. We had a decent climb, it all went well enough and hopefully there’ll be more routes like that in the future. Of interest to some may be the fact that my Black Diamond spinner leash caught my fall and just on the one strand too.

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I had a bit of an epic as we headed over Crib Goch – dehydrated over the weekend, I kept getting incredibly dizzy and irritated. It took a few hours to get down and pretty much wasted me out for a few days. I was sick all that night and when I finally went to the docs three days later, it turned out I had blood pressure of 84/55. No wonder I was slightly light headed. A good lesson learnt for me, as I quite often push the boat on matters of food and drink. George was a star and I need to apologise for being grumpy up high.

An unexpected weekend after me thinking my winter season was over. Grand, just grand.

Back in the game.

A busy winter that started with the hot aches on Wen Zawn one cold November’s day. It was nice to get on my first E2 and feel comfortable, with just a fall when my hands had gone so numb that I couldn’t feel the rock.

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Aladdin’s Mirror Direct was dispatched by Chiz in lean conditions before a trip to the west coast of Scotland for new year. A play on some Torridan sandstone cliffs resulted in my best ‘lead’ to date – a HS 4c solo.

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Only last weekend, a trip to Wales for winter fun appeared without warning and some classics were ticked but for me, a dream was fulfilled. Trinity Face has loomed large on many a walk and I finally wandered up there with George. Our first climb together and Right Hand Trinity was negotiated without drama… well, I fell on the crux.

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Winter is coming…

No foreign trips this winter, unless crossing the borders of both Scotland and Wales count but I’m starting to get just a little excited. This was me last January, nearing the top of an 800m climb up Biguinoussene, the top here being part of an existing route but it was an amazing day, the best of last winter.

 

The lad I climbed with that day has just won UCT Sportsperson of the Year over in South Africa – Joe’s a top geezer and the award is well deserved, he’s seriously pushing the boundaries of trad climbing and   this link shows you some of what he managed during their summer.

Strangely, when he won the award, the 800m route we pottered up seemed to get more attention. Big hills eh? Far more dramatic in pictures? Needless to say, I had a chuckle to myself as what I consider perhaps the best mountain day I’ve ever had compares not a whit to Joe’ trad adventures. I’ve been reflecting on what an amazing year it’s been since I heard he’d won the award and I’m pretty confident that it’s been the most amazing of my life. The route we took is in red and the green line is our descent route, a D+ in the upper part. I’m hoping for some similar adventures this year but a little closer to home.

 

Turn that heating up and let the winter come!

Attitude, approach and effort.

Three words stolen from a UKC article, written by Dave MacLeod some five years back.

On Friday evening I managed to pull, swing, hook and push my way up a V3 boulder problem for the first time at Pinnacle. I came away full of beans, really chuffed with the accomplishment and thankful for the great bunch of climbers who had offered advice, compliments and criticism in equal measure and shouted encouragement when needed.

It wasn’t a hard problem in the end, I guess once you can do them they never are but Dave Mac’s three key words drove me to the finish line. Dale told me a few months back to work on small crimps and this was easy enough at the time on the 15deg boulder wall – lots of options for movement and it was going well until… a reset. I looked around and the 30deg panel had the right holds moving across it down low on a V3, way beyond my level but I was happy to practice getting sideways.

Now, I struggle with V2 problems and when I started hanging from the lowest of the V3 holds, I wasn’t managing half of the V1s, including the one on the same panel that had massive jugs. As such, I didn’t ever dare to imagine that the V3 would be doable for me before the room was reset. After a couple of weeks I had the bottom sequence quite neat and decided to make a slap for the hideous looking three tiered terminator of a hold that held residence above a volume, a volume that looked likely to bash a man where it hurts. It felt awful, I felt weak and it was apparent that I needed to be able to pull up with my right arm better, then hold that position for a split second.

Approach.

I went away and worked on what was needed for me to be able to make the big lunge upwards. I did some 4x4s, got on the fingerboard and held the holds with my elbows at 90deg and it was about this time that I managed my first ever pull-up! An overhand one from what I’ve been reading this evening. A few days later and I managed five, next evening I managed to touch the hold before dropping to the floor. A few times. Finally I held it but I was out of balance and couldn’t hold on long enough to sort my feet. Back to the fingerboard after a session on the wall and work the fingers till I couldn’t hold on any longer. This approach to a problem was new for me, normally I’d have just kept trying the problem but that hasn’t been getting me anywhere.

Effort

On Monday evening, everyone mentioned how tired I looked. I’d worked all day after a couple of hours sleep and a working weekend but Alex (the route setter at Pinnacle) had mentioned that day, that the boulder room would be reset on the 11th Nov. If I wanted to do the V3, I had to get my butt in gear and engage effort unlike before. Tired or not, it was time to apply myself and by the end of the evening I was managing to hold the three tiered terminator but it felt fragile and I was out of balance. Tom offered some advice and showed me a way to get to it that he said “looks unlikely, it does work tho”. I had one go and whilst it did feel better for me, I was far too pumped and tired by that point to pursue it.

Approach

Tuesday, I rested after work and ate well. I even went to bed early enough to get some decent sleep. Err, not true as it happens and I went to my lad’s to help him with his decorating till 10pm but when I finally made home, it was decent grub and sleep. Diet and rest is a major part of any training program and this V3 deserved some respect. Wednesday evening I decided to try it just twice using Tom’s tactic and it felt good. My left foot was already in the right position before I even made a grab for ‘that’ hold and I stood for a while just looking at the final three holds for the first time, picturing where my feet would have to be to make use of them properly. I then walked away and tried some other stuff, the reason being that my mind that evening was firmly with my daughter many miles away. I rested properly on Thursday evening, a night out with Tony, a decent curry and just two pints of lager. I was on a mission.

Attitude

In the end, it was a matter of just going for the last holds and forgetting about the fall risk. I fell. It went and Tom, who was there watching, said it looked comfortable and in control. It was but only because I’d put in the effort, sorted my approach and had a change of attitude. No longer was I looking at the problem and dismissing it as too hard – I’d spent most of the afternoon shopping for trousers, a bow tie and some evening style for the NLMC dinner, yet, I’d been psyching myself up for nailing ‘that damned V3’ as it had become known. ‘The hold’ wasn’t an issue. On my first go past it, I’d gotten scared due to faffing around with my feet and dropped off the panel. Sort the attitude, up again and go for the hold. Second go and oops, too far and I grabbed the hold too far left and off I peeled. Next go I held it but got scared, feet again. Then I managed to cross my right hand over my left and there was only the last hold to go, my arms pumped and I dropped down.

Coffee

Rest a while, chat to Stuart who was in the boulder room for his first ever indoor climb and watch some geezer playing on a V8. Straight up to the top I went, focused on the final hold and went for it… I made it and instantly peeled off! Hahaha. Funny as it was, I was gutted but everyone was encouraging as usual. So I rested a while, longer this time and watched Tom, who’d come in to work on the V8 I’d just seen blitzed.

When the V3 went down, only Tom and the chap who’d done the V8 were there but the small words of encouragement to “sort feet” and “go on” were enough to get me to the top and in control. It felt good.

Dave MacLeod had a point – Attitude, approach and effort.

First Impressions – Evolv Bandit SC and Gogarth

The parents are visiting for the weekend but since the seventies, Saturday evening for them has always been about TV talent shows – New Faces, Opportunity Knocks, Stars in Their Eyes and this evening it’s Strictly and X-Factor. My TV set has never been so abused. I’ve had to look away, despite all the glamorous ladies in gorgeous dresses.

The La Sportiva beginners shoe that I’ve been climbing in this year finally procured a hole in it’s rand, courtesy of the roughly textured paint at the Pinnacle climbing centre, 4×4 training and my flawFUL footwork. A quick scout around the centre and it quickly became apparent that the Bandits are popular, both in the bouldering room and on the competition wall. Nothing’s easy however and I fall between sizes stocked and have to wait a couple of days for Simon’s next delivery. Pinnacle are an Evolv Performance Specialist centre and whilst the Shamen may suit Sharma, I’ve a feeling that the Bandits are more than good enough for the climbing I do.

A couple of boulder problems and it was obvious that they fit – pain. Being maybe 20mm smaller than the Sportivas, my toes are always going to feel cramped. I was liking the stable platform mind, edging felt way easier and in my mind I was dreaming of slate routes again. A few NLMC members were off to the cottage for what looked like a decent weekend weatherwise and I ask Dale if he fancies coming along for a bit of trad. Now Dale climbs way harder than me, even when he had a broken leg last year and he’s been big wall climbing in Yosemite – he’s also seen my poor attempts at Pinnacle. We’ll make a great team obviously. The others decide to head to the Pass with it’s history and mountain routes whilst Dale and I, Team Northampton, head to Gogarth, ignoring possible rain forecasts in return for seacliffs and quartzite. Anglesey isn’t new to me, I’ve climbed on Holyhead Mountain more than once and I actually like the rock, however sea cliff climbing would be new to me. I’d once abbed down to the start of Commando Ridge at Bosigran with my lad but he got nervous and we scrambled back up.

My turn to be nervous as Dale fixed the abseil rope and I stuck the velcro down on the new Bandits. ‘Man, they hurt’ and then it was my turn to follow Dale over the edge. The nerves washed away as the sea came nearer and the odd splashes of rain we’d felt in the car park disappear along with the cliff top. This was Gogarth South Stack and the first climb was to be Lighthouse Arete VS 4c – Dale asked if I wanted to lead the first pitch, a traverse of Severe grade but having never seen a traverse pitched properly, I felt I might learn more from seconding. Soon we were stood at the top, drinking water and having a few bites to eat and I was enjoying Gogarth. Atlantis was next, or rather the first pitch and this was a whole step up in climbing trad for me. HVS 5a, a corner that was vertical and the sea was coming in, utterly oblivious to my existence and it added a touch of spice to the climb. Dale had made it to about halfway and someone decided to abb down the route, no dramas, they couldn’t see him from their position and a few shouts and gestures soon sorted the situation. My turn. I was glad of the Bandits, the footholds seemed small, as did the holds. I had disco leg. A word with myself, sort the foot position and it was gone, crisis over. At the belay ledge I breathed deeply and felt like I’d actually climbed properly for the first time, in control and never wondering what the hell was I doing there. At that moment nothing else mattered, just me, my new shoes, a new climbing partner in Dale and of course the star of the show… Gogarth.

Abbing back down from the halfway belay ledge to do the first pitch of Northwest Passage, I leant out to abb down and realised someone was getting onto the top of the rope – the cliff was getting busier and it was wise to keep your eye on the ball. Down I went, up Dale went and I followed. It was about now that I realised I may have struggled with the climbing if I’d have been using my old shoes, as they were too soft and flexible to grip to the, at times, tiny edges I was trusting my feet on. The Evolvs are meant to be a fairly comfortable shoe in Bandit style and whilst they were causing more pain than I was used to, the gains to be had more than made up for any discomfort. The red matched the zips on my trousers, style to outstrip Westwood.

We sat on the belay ledge holding conversations with randoms and Gogarth captured my heart. I used to surf a few years back, and spent more than a while playing on a jetski and following a motorboat on a ski or two. Water meant a lot to me in those days and here I was, waves crashing, sun shining, chatting climbing. Content? Never more so. I did wonder how little old me, the young lad from Oldham who dreamt of being an astronaut and climbing Everest had ended up here. Content I was. My feet however were not. Ouch.

I watched a climber head out on an E2 traverse, sketchy it looked and Dale said he fancied climbing that one day as he’d not been on that route. Quickly, now the climber had moved off, we set the belay up and Dale lead cleanly across and then up the E1 5b pitch of NW Passage. Now, I’ve been on and followed on E1 before but this was vertical and had a bit of a traverse, in other words it wasn’t a soft touch with me not being the stongest of climbers. In my head I repeated over and over to myself ‘trust the feet and climb with them’. Some of the gear took an age and an effort to remove, DMM offsets are not a second’s best friends. but I never sat on the rope, pulled on the gear, slipped or felt out of my depth. The hand traverse was dispatched without fear and tiny foot placements felt as secure as a step. Thank you Evolv, my new Bandits cut the mustard.

Dale was happy enough, happy with the weather, the climbing and me I guess. Enough to ask if I fancied seconding the E2 and whilst I knew I was climbing well enough, we’d climbed maybe 180m of mostly vertical quartzite and I was pushing my limits, not knackered yet but I couldn’t be far off. The offer was declined but it won’t be forgotten. We wandered round to have a look at Dream of White Horses, a classic climb if ever there was and it looked every bit a 3* route.

My Bandits? They’re still a torture instrument but are wearing well at the wall despite my shoddy footwork and even tho I’ve had the Sportivas resoled, I won’t be going backwards. More on the Evolvs as the time passes.

Time to sit down…

It’s been a crazy few weeks since the alpine trip, three months as it happens and whilst in my head it’s been ‘climb, climb, climb’ – the reality has been far more varied and there’s been more than a couple of walking weekends. A trip down the Thames accompanied by Twisted Tim and some progressive beats added some culture, drunkenness and a headache worthy of altitude.

 

Far too many weekends away, busy evenings, we all know what that’s like and I just needed to regroup, to spend some time at home, to catch up with chores and reflect on what’s been a most amazing year so far. There’s lots to tell and I’ll get round to it soon – Gogarth, Edale, Llanberis and I’ll finally tell my thoughts on the Hitec boots I received back in February as they’ve been abused a fair bit now. I’ll enjoy casting my mind back and tapping the keys… it’s been a grand summer.