North Wales Trad Climbing

Making the first ascent of Unlocked. Photo- Chas Muskett

Making the first ascent of Unlocked. Photo- Chas Muskett

Since returning from Kalymnos I’ve been really keen to get out trad climbing in Wales. The weather’s been totally crap but between showers I’ve been heading out everywhere and anywhere that might be dry. Last week I got out climbing with Ed Booth who came over on a brief visit from Shropshire. We went climbing at Caseg Fraith, a small climbing venue near Ogwen where we went to attempt an E7 arête called Nemesis. Ed gave it a quick top rope and it quickly became apparent that it was a dangerous and un-protectable proposition but with some very good climbing. I was feeling good though and decided to go for it only to slip off the very first move! I was so annoyed with myself for falling off I got straight back on and got up it quite easily on my second go. Ed then nipped up it easily and like me found the very top a bit scary as the footholds were lichenous! Nearby I’d been told that there was an unclimbed highball slab that Nick Dixon had tried briefly. I thought it was worth a look and I quickly worked out a sequence that seemed to work.

Unfortunately the constant light drizzle that had been pestering us all day increased in intensity finally making the slab too wet to climb. I returned a couple of days later and finished the line off on my third attempt. I hadn’t put much thought into the finish of the route which joins an E4 and it was quite scary without a rope or spotter!

Steve Long gearing up on the Upper Tier at Gogarth. Photo- Calum Muskett

Steve Long gearing up on the Upper Tier at Gogarth. Photo- Calum Muskett


Climbing Barbarossa. Photo- Steve Long

Climbing Barbarossa. Photo- Steve Long

I’ve also made a few trips to Gogarth in the last week climbing some classic routes like Barbarossa, the Cruise and Citadel. I was also pleased to on-sight a classic E6 on Main Cliff called Alien which has a bit of a reputation for spitting off any would be ascentionists. I was surprised to find it quite steady and I think the main reason for its reputation is that people have tried the route in greasy conditions that are synonymous with that section of the Main Cliff making the route a considerably more difficult proposition.

Another fun day was had climbing Mister Softy with Steve Long on the daunting back wall of Wen Zawn at Gogarth. I’d heard rumours of really strenuous climbing on very loose rock but was again happy to find the climbing straightforward and well protected although the rock certainly wasn’t above suspicion! On the belay I placed nine pieces of gear before I was happy that I was safe!

Steve Long seconding the crux pitch of Mister Softy. Photo- Calum Muskett

Steve Long seconding the crux pitch of Mister Softy. Photo- Calum Muskett


An airy belay. Photo- Calum Muskett

An airy belay. Photo- Calum Muskett

The main route I tried recently though was the (in)famous Quarryman. I attempted it with Dan McManus with whom I’ve planned to go to Yosemite this Autumn. Now I don’t think either of us were expecting the route to be a pushover but something worth realising is that it’s not a one pitch route! We were keen to try the route in good style so I went for the on-sight of the first pitch and it took quite a bit of time to work out the sequences amongst all the promising holds. There are some sizeable run-outs too, some of which are quite dangerous and thought provoking! I fought my way up through the crux and then up above the last bolt to the final hard move only for some optimistic smears to ping off and send me flying at least 50 feet down the wall! Far enough for the bolt to pull out half a centimetre! I pulled back up the rope and lead to the top but it felt a little disappointing after all that effort. Dan impressively managed to flash the first pitch climbing it very smoothly and didn’t seem to struggle too much on any move. Then you’re onto the second pitch which has an unusual but very basic pull off a crimp and then you’re landed beneath the groove. The groove for me felt like a big struggle low down, chimneying up frictionless slate before a well earned rest and an easier but extremely cool bit of bridging up the top of the groove. This pitch defeated us both and our feet were aching too much to properly attempt the final pitch and actual crux move.

We returned two weekends later feeling a bit more optimistic about succeeding on the route. The first pitch felt more intimidating the second time around and the run-outs hadn’t got any shorter. Dan’s foot unfortunately popped off at the crux and he wasn’t keen for more. I climbed the pitch as quickly as possible to trying to forget about the fall and found myself hastily pulling up to the belay ledge! We both did the second pitch quickly and we were beneath the groove. I gave it a brief go and decided it wasn’t to be that day but Dan rose to the occasion and led the pitch after a couple of attempts.

The top pitch was also (not surprisingly!) difficult with a thin crux just high enough above the bolt to make it a little bit intimidating. We both gave it a go and both failed. I decided I’d give it one last go and despite struggling up the easy bit the crux felt reasonable and I made it to the top. Dan was unfortunate enough to split his tips on the crux move and couldn’t really try it after that. Between us we managed the Quarryman that day but we both need to return to it soon to finish off a pitch each. We just hope that climbing El Cap will feel easier when we try it this autumn!

Climbing the first pitch of The Quarryman. Photo- Ulla Pearson

Climbing the first pitch of The Quarryman. Photo- Ulla Pearson

Last but not least I climbed a new route on the worryingly named Suicide Wall at Ogwen. It came as a bit of a surprise really as I was feeling knackered having worked a morning shift and was thinking about going along mainly to give Ed a belay. When I reached the crag however I felt a bit more energized so thought I’d check out a line that I’d previously noticed which gave a pleasant and run-out E7 6b on the perfect side pulls and pockets that make Suicide Wall fairly unique in North Wales. It’s my fourth and most likely final new route on this wall and I’ve had a lot of fun searching out the new lines and repeating routes up there and only have a couple more routes to repeat on the crag which I’ll hopefully finish off sometime soon. I’m off to the Verdon Gorge next week so hopefully all this trad climbing will have put me in good stead for the long run-outs and scary drops found there!

Making the first ascent of Juvenile Delinquent E7 6b. Photo- Ed Booth

Making the first ascent of Juvenile Delinquent E7 6b. Photo- Ed Booth

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