August in North Wales can be a very wet month. After four weeks of poor weather in the Alps it came as a surprise to me to be enjoying sunshine in North Wales. The day after my return I finally climbed the classic Lord of the Flies on Dinas Cromlech. I’d wanted to climb this much coveted route for a very long time and had in fact first walked up to lead it seven years earlier. For some reason I’ve never been at the base of this route when it’s been dry and when bouldering down on the roadside blocks that day I noticed the wet streak had disappeared; I grabbed my rack from the car, walked up to the crag and climbed it with Gabby. The route was just as good as I expected – relatively straightforward climbing with reasonable gear but sustained the whole way and made a little more intimidating due to its reputation.
Dan Mcmanus came over to North Wales for a week shortly after my return – we’d been planning a Scottish road trip but the forecast for the far North was awful so instead we stayed in Wales and headed to the sea cliffs. Gogarth is a crag that just keeps on giving. I’ve climbed there so much over the last four years that I’ve ticked my way through most of the better known routes. Fortunately for me, George Smith has spent a good twenty years of his life finding unusual, grossly overhanging walls, crack and roofs and they’re normally fantastic adventures! With Dan, I climbed the fantastic Billy Bud on the overhanging wall on the far side of the sea arch from Wen Zawn. The climbing on this is fantastic but better still is the swing you have to make on the abseil rope to reach its base across a channel of water. It took me around twenty swings to reach the foot of the route having narrowly avoided dunkings in the sea. Dan, of course, found my feeble efforts at swinging a source of great amusement and I was absolutely sick when he managed the same swing on his first go!
Dan and I also attempted George’s wild roof crack called Barfly. When you first look at this route it’s difficult to comprehend any free climb going through such overhanging terrain – it appears to be totally unfeasible. Our first go was closer to aid climbing than free climbing but we soon worked out a sequence of knee bars that made the route possible; by this point our biceps were quivering with effort and the best we could do was escape to flat ground above. It’s certainly an incredible route and one to return for with a tough boulder problem at the beginning leading to sustained and technical shuffling along a flake. Those questioning the E6/7 grade should be under no illusions that this route is certainly E7 and not an easy one at that!
We also spent a couple of days in Pembroke which is a merciless place to climb when you’re not feeling particularly fit. I came with a long tick-list but after on-sighting the brilliant E7 ‘From a Distance’ as my first route of the weekend my arms were finished with. Dan however went on to on-sight Point Blank the following day resting on nearly every hold of the route and never for a moment appearing to struggle. He made it look very easy and although he had previously climbed ‘From a Distance’ it was still a sterling effort.
Back in North Wales Beacon aficionado Mark Dicken for the first time in four years was enjoying the first few days of his kids being in primary school. To celebrate we headed to Twll Mawr together and made the first ascent of an old Joe Brown project that he’d been eying up for quite some time. Whilst not the best route, climbing chossy slate with occasional gorse bushes sprouting out of holes, it is certainly quite an adventurous outing for the quarries and one that has plenty of character. The following week I straightened out the route with Jeremy Leong to create a slightly more difficult and bolder excursion at E5 6a. For those that have yet to climb in Twll Mawr the atmosphere is very unique and with multi pitch sport routes, adventure slate climbing and some of the best hard routes in the country such as the Quarryman and Blockhead, it really is one of the best crags in the country.