Archive for May, 2011

Gimme Shelter

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

After the apocalypse failed to show at the weekend we thought we might as well go bouldering. With no expectations of the gale blowing out, wild horses could not have dragged us to any exposed crags so we headed for the caley boulders. Me, Dave Shield, Astell and John Johnson spent a couple of happy hours on the boulders behind the Sugarloaf, which have a good range of problems. After sandpapering our fingertips on the Pancake, Yule Log and Angel Wall, me and Dave found some interesting looking stuff on some aretes, but you cant always get what you want and despite dynoing like Jumping Jack Flash we couldnt get no satisfaction. So we went back to join John and Astell on some balancy slabs, and there was much grunting, pinging and swearing until the fading light warned us that time wasnt on our side and it was all over now.

We're all Royalists now

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Just a week after Easter, and time for another 4-day weekend courtesy of the Windsors (God bless 'em). By popular request we were having a Spring meet in Wales – we usually go in the Autumn or winter when it's either raining or snowing, and there were lots of classic climbs and scrambles waiting for dry rock. The venue was the North London MC hut at Capel Curig – we've not been there before, but will definitely go again, an excellent little hut with good facilities, just lacking a drying room (but it never rains in North Wales so that's not a problem).

A few people arrived a day early, Simon & Debra making the most of the sunshine to do the Snowdon Horseshoe before the crowds arrived, Rob and Pete B making the least of the sunshine and spending a cold day ticking Classic Rock in the shade on Glyder Fach and Milestone Buttress.

On Friday, we found that nobody had remembered to pack any flags and bunting, so we were forced to head for the hills instead. Simon & Debra went for a walk up Cnicht; Angela walked up a few of the Carneddau; Rich and special guest star Jack began their long hard tick list with the two Suicide Wall routes at Idwal. Meanwhile the rest of us joined Rob in his Classic Rock tickathon and headed for Great Gully on Craig yr Ysfa.

This is the sort of route that makes for good pub stories and is generally enjoyed in hindsight if at all – 700 feet of vegetated gully, with a few chimney pitches, the sort of thing they used to do in the olde dayes when men had beards and women climbed in skirts. These routes are always graded VDiff.

Disappointingly, due to several weeks of dry weather, the moss and slime were notable mainly by their absence and we actually found ourselves liking some of it at the time. I wangled it so Dave D got to lead the infamous 'converging walls' chimney pitch (all classic gullies have one of those). He quickly saw sense and ran away, leaving Rob to save the day and huff and puff his way to the top. We all followed with varying degrees of grunt, as each person topped out they intoned the ritual phrase "VDiff my arse". The consensus seemed to be about VS but the original grade from 1910 is perhaps more suitable – "exceedingly difficult". After this the rest was relatively easy; even the Great Cave Pitch (all classic gullies have one of these as well) proved benign, despite my efforts to make it look desperate.

Rob now disappeared to a BMC Clubs Weekend leaving the rest of us free to do things that aren't in Classic Rock. Angela, Dave and Pete scrambled up Tryfan, Bristly Ridge, the Glyders, and Y Garn. Simon and Debra headed for Tryfan Bach to climb some Moderates, but due to regrading accidentally did three Diffs instead. Rich and Jack did a grand tour of the Dinorwig slate quarries where they climbed themselves into the ground notching up an impressive number of onsight E points each. Andrew and Karen walked up Cnicht.

Carmen and I chose the neglected West Face of Tryfan to avoid the easterly gales that were a feature of the weekend. We started with Columbyne (VDiff*), the crux of which was the wet scramble required to get to the start. The climb itself was a really good 5-pitch mountaineering route which managed to miss most of the heather, probably worth 2 stars. We'd planned to move on to a starred Severe next but the wind was somehow penetrating the mountain so opted for Flat Iron Ridge (Diff) instead. Owing to the omission of the phrase "traverse 30 feet leftwards" from the guidebook, we ended up doing a new route which after much thought I've christened "Flat Iron Ridge Direct". It's about Severe (so we might as well have done the good route instead) and was undoubtedly climbed 100 years ago by men in nailed boots. Finally we moved together up Notch Arete (Mod *), a fine rediscovery which must surely deserve at least 2 stars (it was highly praised in early guidebooks and then ignored for decades, presumably as it was deemed too easy to be any good). Although not as steep or continuous as the popular East face, Tryfan's west side is well worth a visit – and is guaranteed no queues.

Sunday. Sunny again, so no excuses for a rest. This time it was Simon & Debra's turn for Tryfan North Ridge/Bristly Ridge, while Andrew and Karen walked up Moel Siabod. Pete and Dave headed for Idwal where they did Charity, Lazarus Gully, Groove Above, Hope, and Lazarus. Rich and Jack went home via Gogarth for some more hard classics. And Carmen and I went for a look at Carreg Alltrem and the VS classics of Lightning Visit and Lavaredo. I was feeling a bit rubbish so bagged the easy pitches, which I made look hard. Carmen did the hard pitch of Lightning Visit, which she made look easy. We combined to wimp out of the hard 2nd pitch of Lavaredo, running away up the Severe slab of original Route instead. We'll be back to do it properly some day! Since it wasn't yet dark, we drove to Ogwen where we finished the day with Milestone Buttress Direct, which was polished to a sheen when I last did it in the 1990s, and is now even shinier. Still a classic though.

Next day Rob had finished with his course so he dragged Pete off to do some more Classic Rock ticking on the east face of Tryfan, where they tried but narrowly failed to be blown off the mountain by the gale force winds while climbing a couple of the classic ridge routes. Dave, Carmen and I went to Idwal, where we took advantage of the dry conditions to do Subwall Climb (HS 4b) which is normally dripping wet. I led the second (crux) pitch, which mostly involved standing around for hours reading the guidebook trying to work out where the route went while not thinking too much about my only runner, 10m below. A good MVS 4a. We finished up Faith West Finish which apparently is rarely climbed, though this hasn't always been the case judging by the polish.

It was now 3pm and we were due to meet the others at the hut at 5, so we decided that they'd be late anyway so there was time for another 5 pitch route. Faith (VDiff **) gave Dave the full set after his ascents of Hope and Charity the day before. An excellent route, nowhere hard but everywhere bold, surely worth 3 stars – and made even better by having the whole of Idwal Slabs to ourselves, everyone else having run off to sit in traffic jams.

A fantastic long weekend courtesy of the Royal Family. Next year the free holiday is due to the Diamond Jubilee. Is it too much to hope that Harry gets hitched in 2013? If you're reading this, Your Highness, sometime towards the end of May would be ideal…

More photos here.
Debra's photos here.

Easter 2011

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

After a few weeks of constant sunshine, a rainy blip was forecast to coincide with our Easter trip to Torridon, so a few of us decided to break the long drive up to camp near Glen Lyon on Thursday night and do some Munro bagging the next day. The group of 4 to the north of the glen was chosen, and turned out to be a short easy day, despite adding on all the Tops as well (as I missed them out on my previous visit and am a sad completist – not sure what everyone else's excuse is!). Map here.

Arriving at the Ling Hut later that evening the weather was still kind. But the next morning, it wasn't, with strong winds and persistent light rain. It seemed brighter towards the coast though, so we all headed for Alligin Shuas, near Diabaig. A pleasant walk round the coast included some bouldering from Rob and some rock-pool-gazing from Carmen and Debra, with signs of (probably) an otter's holt by the sea. We'd thought about including a grade 3 scramble at Diabaig, but had left the guidebook in the hut and weren't sure where it went. I had a play on the rocks right of the crag, which weren't the described scramble but quite fun anyway, before catching the others up on the way through the complex landscape of the route back (would make a good location for a mountain marathon!). Map here.

The next day the rain was heavier and more persistent. But by mid afternoon it seemed to be easing off slightly, so Peter, Rob, Carmen and I set off for Ben Alligin, and were rewarded by a lovely dry afternoon/evening. I've done Ben Alligin several times before but it never fails to impress. Map.

Monday was drive-home day, so of course the sun came out. Despite the long drive ahead, most of us opted for a day's climbing. Carmen and I headed for the south face of Sgurr a'Chaorachain, a massive 5 minute walk from the road, where we climbed Bumbly One (HS 4a) – some good climbing in 4 pitches but lots of scrambling too, worthwhile but not a patch on Sword of Gideon on the next buttress (which we climbed last year). We were finished by 2.30 so managed to get home at a reasonable hour.

Which is more than can be said for Peri, Peter and Rob, who went for a look at the Cioch Nose. This classic VDiff (now Severe) was part of Rob's quest to tick the whole of Classic Rock, and after being rained off with Luke last year he was keen for a rematch. After getting slightly lost on the walk in, and taking much longer than expected on the finishing scramble, they eventually got back to York at around 3am!

Even though the weather wasn't the best we've had, it was far from the worst too. The Ling Hut has had a generator installed since our last visit in 2004, so you no longer have to pump water by hand – luxury! There are still no showers (or hot water), but there are public showers available in Torridon village if required (we made do with the cold stream outside the hut!). Hopefully it won't be another 7 years before we go back.

Lots more photos here.
Debra's pictures here.