I’ve only got a couple more days to wait until heading out to the Alps. It seems like a long time ago that I last climbed on warm alpine granite or the water worn high mountain limestone in the European Alps. With the Ratikon, the Dolomites and the Mont Blanc Massif on the hit list for the next few weeks I’m bound to have a good holiday and I’ve got my fingers crossed for some perfect weather!
My preparation over the last month hasn’t gone entirely to schedule. Having completed quite a lot of really enjoyable guiding and instruction work in North Wales I had a few days free to get out climbing. I was feeling climbing fit and went to Gogarth to have a go at the classic test-piece ‘Extinction’ (E8 6b) on-sight/ground-up. I’d been saving this route for quite a while as I knew I had to be fit for it, but having climbed nearly all the surrounding E5’s and 6’s and still feeling the benefits of a sport trip I decided to give it a bash. Ben Pritchard and Rich Heap came along to film my efforts for a forthcoming BMCtv piece and Dave Evans and Steve Long were kind enough to offer a belay and some support. After a brief warm up it quickly became obvious that conditions were fairly poor so I just hung out in the sun for a good few hours in the hope that conditions would improve. They didn’t and I got sun burnt but I decided to go for it anyway and my efforts were woeful on the hot greasy holds! It turns out that you can’t just shuffle between the ledges on this section of wall and that good conditions are really important for such a steep route that has relatively poor footholds.
I was very keen to return for ‘Extinction’ in better conditions but unfortunately managed to injure my hand quite badly by pulling a rope too hard the following day! I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve done but the injury has improved from struggling to pull a handbrake up in the car to failing on pocketed rock climbs. A combination of Ibuprofen and using elastic bands to stretch my fingers seems to help ameliorate the problem and I’m hoping it’ll sort itself out in the coming weeks.
Despite this setback I’ve continued to get out climbing and have had some great days out enjoying some of the more amenable routes that I’ve never got round to doing in the past. I’ve had some great days out in the Llanberis Pass, the Carneddau, Ogmore and Dorset. One of the highlights was climbing the outstanding ‘Long Kesh’ on Cyrn Las, which is perhaps the best E5 in the Pass with a mixture of bold, tricky and exposed climbing. I also finally got round to climbing the classic ‘Freeborn Man’ at Swanage which was just as fun as I’d hoped it would be although the choppy seas and general damp weather didn’t inspire much more DWS’ing. Back in the Llanberis Pass Tim Neill inspired me to have a crack at the unrepeated E7 ‘Do or Dai’. After a couple of long falls off the crux I switched tactics and placed a very cheeky side runner which made the route feel considerably easier. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can claim an ascent of it now!
I also had a great day out with Pat Littlejohn on the Llŷn Peninsula. Pat knows the Llŷn like the back of his hand and pointed me at a route of his called ‘Overlode’ which awaited a free ascent in the esoteric Gwilwyr quarry above Nefyn. The climbing style was quite unusual on this quarried micro granite and after a bit of a tussle I managed to free the route on my second attempt using an unusual sequence to make headway up the smooth overhanging groove. One of the highlights of the day was discovering that Pat really did make an on-sight first ascent of ‘Alien’ (a rarely on-sighted E6 at Gogarth) in the late 1970’s. It’s worth considering that the crux of this route is made significantly easier by modern cams; Pat’s ascent must surely be one of the most significant pieces of on-sight climbing in Britain at the time.
I also had the privilege of carrying the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton when it arrived in North Wales. I carried the baton into the Beacon climbing centre where I was joined by the local climbing academy, the Welsh Minister for Sport and the Mayor of Caernarfon. It was great to see the torch carried by such a diverse range of people over the course of the day and particularly nice to see two non-Commonwealth Games sporting events recognised by the inclusion of the local fell running club taking the baton up Snowdon as well as its visit to the climbing wall.
With two days left before my hol I’m going to get some last minute training in, but failing that I’ll be climbing out there with the incredibly strong Wiz Fineron and I’ve just bought 100m of static rope!