Category Archives: Wales

A Mixed Few Months

It’s been quite a while since I last posted a blog (in fact, it’s been half a year!) and the reason for that is mostly down to not prioritising writing time rather than being completely inactive. My last post was about climbing in Norway last August which is when I first picked up a shoulder injury, likely a Slap tear, which has been plaguing me over the last few months. It’s had quite a big effect on my climbing and has led to spending some rest and recuperation time away from climbing. At its worst it’s painful and awkward putting a jumper on and at its best it doesn’t really affect my climbing and only feels sore. Because of this I thought I’d start doing a less shoulder intensive activity for a while – white water kayaking!

Unfortunately, as you may have suspected, I soon discovered that river kayaking wasn’t that great for my shoulder either. About one month into my paddling renaissance I capsized in some boisterous rapids and nearly tore my shoulder off rolling back up – this almost certainly put my shoulder recovery back by a couple of months! Despite that and considering that Wales had the wettest Autumn and Winter that I can remember, taking up river kayaking was a great excuse to get outdoors where I’d otherwise almost certainly be drinking tea and eating cake in front of the fire at home.

Wales has some classic white water kayaking and part of my reason for getting out again was to paddle two stretches of river that had evaded me when I was into paddling years ago. These were the Aberglaslyn Gorge below Beddgelert and the Afon Ogwen, which runs through my home town of Bethesda; two classic stretches of Welsh river paddling.

It’s pretty interesting coming at kayaking with plenty of climbing experience. Climbing is perceived as a risky activity and trying to put the same risk management/fear control in place paddling white water just hasn’t worked very well for me. It seems that kayaking, like downhill biking or steep skiing, is about commitment and knowing your limitations; little skill is required to land yourself in a whole heap of trouble and if you’re not up to the job then your fate is in the lap of the Gods! Climbing does of course have similarities but you do need some level of competency to get started, you have a lot more time to try and get yourself out of trouble and you have a rope to save your skin if all else fails. On top of that I guess my regular exposure to height and plenty of lead falls have expanded my comfort zone in climbing, whilst with kayaking I have an extreme fear of being stuck upside down in my boat! I find kayaking truly gripping!

Well outside of my comfort zone, mid-way down Ogwen Bank Falls above Bethesda. Photo - Gabby Lees

Well outside of my comfort zone, mid-way down Ogwen Bank Falls above Bethesda. Photo – Gabby Lees

My first bit of river paddling after a six-year hiatus was the Abberglaslyn Gorge, a sustained class 4 rapid descending swiftly from the quaint tourist village of Beddgelert. This was to be my hardest river to date and I was fortunate (?) to be with two particularly good paddlers who could keep me safe(ish). By some miracle I got to the end of the gorge in one piece having rolled only once at the very end (which was a fluke as I’d not rolled in six years!). Buzzing with adrenalin the guys got me psyched for a second run where I promptly capsized at the top of the rapids, failed to roll, and took a hideous swim down the river losing one of my favourite crocs along with most of my dignity!

Quite severely put off, but also strangely encouraged, I got a bit more paddling behind me and finally plucked up the courage to paddle the Ogwen, which was both terrifying and incredible. Although it’s not a river that I’ll be paddling all too regularly, due to me being rubbish at kayaking and a scaredy cat, it truly is one of the wildest outdoor experiences that North Wales has to offer and an amazing gem to have on the doorstep. Shortly after this I crocked my shoulder again, so kayaking play has been put on hold.

In the meantime, I have also begun the British Mountain Guide scheme with a great bunch of guys (where are the girls? It’s a bit of a sausage fest!) and along with the rest of the team, have passed the summer climbing, Scottish winter climbing and ski induction, which now makes me a trainee guide. I also passed my Mountain Instructor Certificate (MIC) at Glenmore Lodge which will open up some fantastic opportunities for work next winter in Scotland.

Making the first ascent of 'Ginger Ninja' E7 6c on Craig y Clipiau. Photo - Adam Booth

Making the first ascent of ‘Ginger Ninja’ E7 6c on Craig y Clipiau. Photo – Adam Booth

Amongst this, I’ve been out rock climbing, the highlight being a cracking new route, if I say so myself, on Craig y Clipiau in the Moelwyns, which I dubbed the ‘Ginger Ninja’ E7 6c, the neighbouring route being the ‘Crimson Cruiser’. Work and a bad shoulder has got in the way of climbing since the New Year and my first winter route of the season was the Welsh test-piece ‘Cracking Up’ IX 9 on Clogwyn Du – a route that I have wanted to climb for a long time. I foolishly thought that I wouldn’t get that pumped hanging off jug handles and my four days of climbing wall sessions leading up to trying ‘Cracking Up’ hadn’t been the best preparation. After a big tussle with the initial steep crack I was eyeing up the resting niche and victory only to be stumped by no hook placements in the rounded crack above me. I hung on as long as my puny arms could manage before finally slumping on the gear above my head; unfortunately, I’d missed out on a bomber choc-stone in the back of the crack below where I’d been reaching with my axes, I’m sure I’m not the only one to have made that mistake though.

Embracing the steep mixed climbing of 'Cracking up' IX 9 on Clogwyn Du. Photo - Steve Long

Embracing the steep mixed climbing of ‘Cracking up’ IX 9 on Clogwyn Du. Photo – Steve Long

Corsica

Punta d'u Corbu in Corsica, home to some of the best granite climbing in the world. Photo - Calum Muskett

Punta d’u Corbu in Corsica, home to some of the best granite climbing in the world. Photo – Calum Muskett

Back in November I booked a climbing trip to Corsica with Shropshire’s fifth strongest climber Ed Booth. Ed’s been going from strength to strength in recent years, probably due to his state funded climbing career as a fireman. I was hoping that his recent marriage might have slowed him down, but there was no such luck on this front. We were heading to Corsica to pursue my ambition of failing on all of the hardest multi-pitch routes in Europe, I can now proudly add ‘Delicatessen’ to that list!

We arrived in Corsica on the 9th of March with a week-long trip planned to sample Corsican climbing. I’d walked the incredible GR20 trail with my parents when I was thirteen and remembered the amazing granite rock architecture and my memories didn’t disappoint us. Our first route was ‘Jeef’ a 7b multi-pitch of some renown. The climbing was incredible with perfect quality granite and funky featured rock. Unfortunately climbing ‘Jeef’ was also the coldest rock climbing experience I’ve ever had – I thought rock climbing in the Mediterranean would be a little warmer in March!

Ed Booth enjoying the funky rock of 'Jeef' 7b on a very cold day. Photo - Calum Muskett

Ed Booth enjoying the funky rock of ‘Jeef’ 7b on a very cold day. Photo – Calum Muskett

The main event of the trip was our attempt of ‘Delicatessen’, a multi-pitch 8b first climbed by Arnaud Petit and rumoured to be one of the very best routes of its grade in the world. Our first impressions were very positive. Amazing technical climbing on perfect rock, well bolted and in an amazing setting. The crux first pitch of 8b could be split into two sections: a strenuous lower wall which is about 8a in difficulty, followed by a 7c slab which is all too easy to fall off after the climbing below. We quickly started to piece the route together and were fairly confident of success.

It snowed the following couple of days which rather put a dampener on our climbing aspirations and it was freezing cold when we finally got back on the route. I managed to wrench my shoulder, inflaming my old injury on the powerful lay back moves at the bottom of the pitch and took some time figuring out a way to chimney past the hard section, whilst Ed went full charge and managed to red-point the pitch.

The snow arriving in Bavella... Photo - Calum Muskett

The snow arriving in Bavella… Photo – Calum Muskett

After another rest day, spent mostly looking at the thin skin on our fingertips and willing it to grow back, we had our final day on the island before catching the ferry back to the mainland. We knew that we didn’t have enough time to finish off ‘Delicatessen’ in full, but it was a good opportunity for me to try and red-point the crux pitch and I was fortunate enough to pull the lead out of the bag first thing in the morning. It was a shame to leave the route uncompleted, as I suspect climbing the rest of ‘Delicatessen’ wouldn’t have felt too difficult over the course of a day, but it was also great to have salvaged something from a trip that we nearly called off after viewing the weather forecast. The Corsican multi-pitch we sampled was brilliant and I’d thoroughly recommend it to any climber operating from 6a upwards. It has the best granite I have ever climbed on and its location, in the spectacular Bavella region of Corsica, is second to none. I’m sure I’ll be back in the not too distant future, but most likely at a warmer time of year!

Ed Booth seconding the final tricky slab of the crux pitch of 'Delicatessen' 8b. Photo - Calum Muskett

Ed Booth seconding the final tricky slab of the crux pitch of ‘Delicatessen’ 8b. Photo – Calum Muskett

Summer Climbing

After work climbing at Reiff, one of the finest crags in the North-West of Scotland. Photo - Andy Moles

After work climbing at Reiff, one of the finest crags in the North-West of Scotland. Photo – Andy Moles

It’s difficult to draw much of a coherent blog post out of the last couple of months as they’ve been full of travel, work and climbing. My poor Citroen C1 has been running me to opposite ends of the country on regular intervals but still seems to be going strong despite the length of time it has spent on the M6. I’ve been working in Inverness for quite a few weeks this year and in the evenings have been getting out and experiencing some of the local climbing for the first time. ‘Local’ is a term I’d use quite loosely as you do need to drive about 30 minutes to get to the nearest crag and over an hour for many of the better venues but there is some great climbing to be found with the likes of the Camel, Moy and Duntelchaig being a relatively short drive after work. It’s not exactly North Wales convenience climbing, but good if you’re still motivated to get out after work.

The best of the bunch is Creag Dubh near Newtonmore. This crag is unhelpfully referred to as Creag Death by many of the locals which seems to scare most climbers away despite the quality of climbing there. Creag Dubh has to be one of Scotland’s best roadside crags; it has fantastic climbing and doesn’t seem to be too bold despite its reputation. You have got to be keen to climb at Creag Dubh when you finish work at 5 in Inverness but it always feels worthwhile in retrospect.

Ross Creber attempting the desperate 'Meejies' at Creag Dubh just before he realised the "bomber" gear doesn't exist! Photo - Calum Muskett

Ross Creber attempting the desperate ‘Meejies’ at Creag Dubh just before he realised the “bomber” gear doesn’t exist! Photo – Calum Muskett

Sam was looking fairly sceptical on our first visit as I promised him the rain would stop by the time we got to Newtonmore and he must have been cursing my optimism as we walked up to the crag in the drizzle but miraculously the Sprawl Wall was just about steep enough to stay dry in the rain. I started up Cubby’s tricky E7 wall climb ‘Yes Yes’ in a light drizzle, convinced it would soon stop raining, and by the time I’d clipped the bendy peg having done the crux it started to absolutely chuck it down – enough for my chalk bag to start filling with water! With a final long 5c move to the ledge I was unsure whether I would be able to top out into what was now a mini waterfall and rather than risk falling onto the tatty peg I decided to run away and descend in more control. I returned a couple of days later with Ross to finish it off in much better conditions and we followed this up with an ascent of ‘The Meejies’ which is by far the hardest E5 I’ve climbed in Scotland and nearly as tough as ‘Yes Yes’!

One of the highpoints of working up there was also taking my army group up the Old Man of Stoer. It can be surprisingly unusual to get a highly motivated group of squaddies on foundation courses, sometimes it feels like you’re going through the motions a bit with teaching but when you do get a good group for ten days you can achieve some really memorable things. None of the five guys had done much more than an abseil before coming on the course and to finish off with all five getting up the Old Man of Stoer was a fantastic achievement – especially considering it was a fairly cold day.

Old Man of Stoer. Photo - Calum Muskett

Old Man of Stoer. Photo – Calum Muskett


Half way up the Old Man of Stoer as the exposure begins to creep in. Photo - Calum Muskett

Half way up the Old Man of Stoer as the exposure begins to creep in. Photo – Calum Muskett

More recently I also enjoyed a nice short holiday in Scotland with Gabby around Skye and Glencoe. It was Gabby’s first time in both areas and despite low expectations with the weather we had a really good time scrambling around the Cuillin and climbing on the Etive Slabs. I managed to make what was probably the second ascent of Dave Macleod’s ‘The Gathering’ on the spectacular Cioch in Coire Laggan. This spectacular route is an out and out classic, perhaps more E7 than E8 but with delicate, technical and exposed climbing. The Gabbro is unbelievably rough though and with the high humidity that day I was lucky to have enough skin left on my fingers to repeat the route before we continued up Sgurr Alasdair and along the ridge itself.

Gabby enjoying Cioch West. Photo - Calum Muskett

Gabby enjoying Cioch West. Photo – Calum Muskett


The amazing 'Gathering' on the Cioch. Photo - Gabby Lees

The amazing ‘Gathering’ on the Cioch. Photo – Gabby Lees

I also caught up with Dave Macleod and we spent one afternoon repeating the decidedly bold ‘Death Pirate’ E6/7 6b at Neist Point in cold and windy weather. An amazing arête which was only disappointing due to me dropping a rock shoe 100m into the Atlantic from the top.

'Death Pirate' on Neist Point. Photo - Calum Muskett

‘Death Pirate’ on Neist Point. Photo – Calum Muskett

In June I headed to the Alps with Emma Twyford on a Rab photoshoot. Emma took to the granite climbing surprisingly well and after her first day was already looking strong on the technical routes around the Cosmiques Arete. Our aim had been to attempt the ‘Voie Petit’ but this turned out to be logistically challenging proposition with a camera crew and not too much time, so after climbing up to the crux pitch we changed plans and the ‘Voie Petit’ will have to wait for another year.

Morning view from the tent beneath the Grand Capucin. Photo - Calum Muskett

Morning view from the tent beneath the Grand Capucin. Photo – Calum Muskett


'Cosmiques Arete' 8a+ on the Arete des Cosmiques. Photo - Calum Muskett

‘Cosmiques Arete’ 8a+ on the Arete des Cosmiques. Photo – Calum Muskett


Climbers on the 'Bonatti-Tabou' on the Chandelle du Tacul. Photo - Calum Muskett

Climbers on the ‘Bonatti-Tabou’ on the Chandelle du Tacul. Photo – Calum Muskett


Emma Twyford enjoying the 'Bonatti-Tabou' on the Chandelle du Tacul. Photo - Calum Muskett

Emma Twyford enjoying the ‘Bonatti-Tabou’ on the Chandelle du Tacul. Photo – Calum Muskett

Back home I’ve been enjoying some time off and trying to make the most of any opportunities to get out climbing. I’ve been climbing some of the more esoteric routes that North Wales has to offer and also climbed a couple of new routes. The first of which was a three pitch new route on the slate which I first attempted with Mark Dicken and Steve Long. The first couple of pitches are adventurous but ‘so so’ in quality with climbing up to about E4. The final pitch looked deceptively easy through a roof with good holds.

As is often the way with on-sight new routing I had a hard time on this easy looking pitch! I committed to a gently leaning groove that turned out to be off-balance, tricky and very run-out, to get to a good rest before the roof. Above I could reach some good holds and see a good wire placement but placing the gear was extremely difficult and after a while I decided to leave the route for a cooler day. Returning the following evening with Gabby, I abseiled down the pitch to see what size of wire would fit the slot and climbed it next go at E7 6b. It’s called ‘Burning Bush’ and around 7a+/b in a wild position at the top of Twll Mawr.

'Burning Bush' first ascent in Twll Mawr. Photo - Steve Long

‘Burning Bush’ first ascent in Twll Mawr. Photo – Steve Long

Finally I also got round to climbing a new route/link up on Clogwyn y Tarw that I’d noticed ages ago. This links the start of an E2 called ‘Trouble with Lichen’ into the top arête of ‘Rare Lichen’ to produce a nice soft touch E8 link without the bold crux of Rare Lichen. The gear is pretty good and the new section of climbing is relatively easy but does have a nice ramp leading to the brilliant upper arête. I think it should be a relatively popular route for the grade as it’s fast drying, safe(ish) and has a short approach – time will tell! It’s called ‘Day of the Triffids’ in keeping with the John Wyndham book ‘Trouble with Lichen’ that it starts up.

James Taylor making the second ascent of 'Day of the Triffids' E8 on Clogwyn y Tarw. Photo - Calum Muskett

James Taylor making the second ascent of ‘Day of the Triffids’ E8 on Clogwyn y Tarw. Photo – Calum Muskett

2014 A Year in Pictures

As the year draws to an end it’s nice to take a look back at what I’ve been up to. 2014 has been a year of travel for me with plenty of work filling the gaps in between. The year started in Patagonia and since then I’ve spent plenty of time in Scotland and Western Europe. So much travel and work has meant that my climbing has taken a bit of a hit in terms of performance, with long periods of doing little to nothing in the way of climbing and training. The plan for next year is to do more rock climbing whilst trying to keep in better shape when I’m working away from home. I’ve got some exciting expeditions in the pipeline for 2015 and will be spending a lot of the next few months in Scotland so have my fingers crossed for nice weather and good conditions! Below is my 2014 in pictures:

Ally Swinton and Ben Winston approaching the East face of the Mermoz beneath Fitzroy. Photo - Calum Muskett

Ally Swinton and Ben Winston approaching the East face of the Mermoz beneath Fitzroy. Photo – Calum Muskett


Dave Macleod battling up the hardest pitch of our failed new new route attempt on the Mermoz. We came within a single pitch of easier ground before turning around. Certainly something to return for. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave Macleod battling up the hardest pitch of our failed new new route attempt on the Mermoz. We came within a single pitch of easier ground before turning around. Certainly something to return for. Photo – Calum Muskett


My old school friend Wiz Fineron returned to the UK after six years of living in New Zealand. He now climbs 8c+ but had never climbed a hard grit route... Photo - Owen Hughes

My old school friend Wiz Fineron returned to the UK after six years of living in New Zealand. He now climbs 8c+ but had never climbed a hard grit route… Photo – Owen Hughes


Big Tim Neill forging his way up the crux pitch of 'Histoire Deux Fous' in Gorges du Jonte. It was nice to visit somewhere dry and sun kissed after months in Patagonia and Scottish winter. Photo - Calum Muskett

Big Tim Neill forging his way up the crux pitch of ‘Histoire Deux Fous’ in Gorges du Jonte. It was nice to visit somewhere dry and sun kissed after months in Patagonia and Scottish winter. Photo – Calum Muskett


Silbergeier in the Rätikon is a route I have aspired to climb for a long time. Unfortunately this year it wasn't to be for me, but it was great to belay Wiz as he made a smooth ascent of this desperate technical multi-pitch. Photo - Calum Muskett

Silbergeier in the Rätikon is a route I have aspired to climb for a long time. Unfortunately this year it wasn’t to be for me, but it was great to belay Wiz as he made a smooth ascent of this desperate technical multi-pitch. Photo – Calum Muskett


It couldn't be August without a brief visit to the Mont Blanc massif. Here Wiz seconds a pitch on Ma Dalton. Photo - Calum Muskett

It couldn’t be August without a brief visit to the Mont Blanc massif. Here Wiz seconds a pitch on Ma Dalton. Photo – Calum Muskett


This summer I discovered the incredible climbing on Paroi d'Anterne. Fantastic climbing in an incredible setting. Photo - Calum Muskett

This summer I discovered the incredible climbing on Paroi d’Anterne. Fantastic climbing in an incredible setting. Photo – Calum Muskett


Dan Mcmanus sprinting up the first pitch of 'Les Naufrages', deep in the Verdon Gorge. Unfortunately, the Verdon was a poor choice for two ginger climbers in the height of summer! Photo - Calum Muskett

Dan Mcmanus sprinting up the first pitch of ‘Les Naufrages’, deep in the Verdon Gorge. Unfortunately, the Verdon was a poor choice for two ginger climbers in the height of summer! Photo – Calum Muskett


We had some great weather in early September to get out climbing in North Wales. It provided a good opportunity to attempt some of Gogarth's more esoteric climbing. Photo - Calum Muskett

We had some great weather in early September to get out climbing in North Wales. It provided a good opportunity to attempt some of Gogarth’s more esoteric climbing. Photo – Calum Muskett


Gabby had a couple of weeks off work and we headed to Yosemite for a holiday. I'm yet to be convinced that she enjoys big wall climbing though... Photo - Calum Muskett

Gabby had a couple of weeks off work and we headed to Yosemite for a holiday. I’m yet to be convinced that she enjoys big wall climbing though… Photo – Calum Muskett


A short trip to the Alps with Tom Livingstone when all the lifts were closed meant a lot of walking! We climbed the incredible 'Gabarrou/Silvy' on the Aiguille Sans Nom. It was the first time I'd ever climbed with axes and rock boots and provided a very fun experience although freezing for my feet! Photo - Jon Bracey

A short trip to the Alps with Tom Livingstone when all the lifts were closed meant a lot of walking! We climbed the incredible ‘Gabarrou/Silvy’ on the Aiguille Sans Nom. It was the first time I’d ever climbed with axes and rock boots and provided a very fun experience although freezing for my feet! Photo – Jon Bracey


I was invited along to the first Red Bull white cliffs event on the Isle of Wight. It was a great opportunity to climb the huge cliffs here and experience chalk climbing first hand. Photo - Jon Griffith/Red Bull Content Pool

I was invited along to the first Red Bull white cliffs event on the Isle of Wight. It was a great opportunity to climb the huge cliffs here and experience chalk climbing first hand. Photo – Jon Griffith/Red Bull Content Pool


Andy Kirkpatrick and I headed to the Alps in December with flexible plans. We ended up on the Matterhorn but with temperatures dropping below -20°c and wind speeds of 80-90kmph we decided that we'd rather keep our fingers and toes for 2015! Photo - Calum Muskett

Andy Kirkpatrick and I headed to the Alps in December with flexible plans. We ended up on the Matterhorn but with temperatures dropping below -20°c and wind speeds of 80-90kmph we decided that we’d rather keep our fingers and toes for 2015! Photo – Calum Muskett

August in Wales

A stunning sunrise on Crib Goch as we set off on the 14 Peaks. Photo - Calum Muskett

A stunning sunrise on Crib Goch as we set off on the 14 Peaks. Photo – Calum Muskett

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.

Steve Long setting off on the first pitch of 'Voice in the Wilderness', a Pat Littelejohn E5 on Craig y Bera. This crag is tucked out of the way but there's some fantastic climbing to be had here. Photo - Calum Muskett

Steve Long setting off on the first pitch of ‘Voice in the Wilderness’, a Pat Littelejohn E5 on Craig y Bera. This crag is tucked out of the way but there’s some fantastic climbing to be had here. Photo – Calum Muskett

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 swinging in to the base of 'Billy Bud'. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dan swinging in to the base of ‘Billy Bud’. Photo – Calum Muskett

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!

Grappling with the underclings on 'Barfly'. Photo - Dan Mcmanus

Grappling with the underclings on ‘Barfly’. Photo – Dan Mcmanus


Dan taking an unusual no hands rest on the incredible 'Barfly'. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dan taking an unusual no hands rest on the incredible ‘Barfly’. Photo – Calum Muskett

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.

Jeremey seconding the first ascent of the Antiquarian direct. Photo - Calum Muskett

Jeremey seconding the first ascent of the Antiquarian direct. Photo – Calum Muskett


Out for a quick scramble with Gabby on Clogwyn y Tarw. Photo - Calum Muskett

Out for a quick scramble with Gabby on Clogwyn y Tarw. Photo – Calum Muskett

A Disrupted Month

Clouds sweeping over the Glyderau. Photo - Calum Muskett

Clouds sweeping over the Glyderau. Photo – Calum Muskett

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!

Jeremey Leong experiencing atmospheric conditions on 'A Dream of White Horses'. Photo Calum Muskett

Jeremey Leong experiencing atmospheric conditions on ‘A Dream of White Horses’. Photo Calum Muskett

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.

The worrying wall climb of 'The Haunted' on Craig yr Ysfa. Almost certainly E6 now that the peg is missing below the crux. Photo - Jamie Holding

The worrying wall climb of ‘The Haunted’ on Craig yr Ysfa. Almost certainly E6 now that the peg is missing below the crux. Photo – Jamie Holding


The brilliant 'Freeborn Man' at Swanage. Photo - Gabby Lees

The brilliant ‘Freeborn Man’ at Swanage. Photo – Gabby Lees

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!

Gabby Lees enjoying 'Troubled Waters' at Swanage. Photo - Calum Muskett

Gabby Lees enjoying ‘Troubled Waters’ at Swanage. Photo – Calum Muskett


Climbing the unique pillar of 'Dead Presidents' E6 6b, in the Llanberis Pass. Photo - Steve Long

Climbing the unique pillar of ‘Dead Presidents’ E6 6b, in the Llanberis Pass. Photo – Steve Long

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.

Making the first free ascent of 'Overlode' E6 6c. Photo - Pat Littlejohn

Making the first free ascent of ‘Overlode’ E6 6c. Photo – Pat Littlejohn

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.

Carrying the Queen's Commonwealth Baton with Clyde the mascot. Photo - Beacon Climbing LTD

Carrying the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton with Clyde the mascot. Photo – Beacon Climbing LTD

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!

Back into the Swing

Pumped out of my mind on 'Tonight at Noon' E6 6b! Photo - Rob Greenwood

Pumped out of my mind on ‘Tonight at Noon’ E6 6b! Photo – Rob Greenwood

The last month seems to have zoomed by. Following my time in Patagonia and then Scotland my climbing fitness had deteriorated considerably and when I got back home to Wales I was falling off routes I’d generally warm up on. My last five months have been very broken up with alpine trips and work and as a result the last month has been spent trying to get as much mileage in my arms as possible to get fit for some climbing trips I’ve got planned later in the year.

At the beginning of March an old friend returned to North Wales called Wiz Fineron. We’d been at secondary school together in North Wales six years earlier and he’d moved to New Zealand with his family. Wiz is a couple of years younger than me and I remembered him being an awesome climber back then despite the fact he was so small. After catching up over a Pete’s Eats breakfast we headed to the Great Orme where Wiz on-sighted everything he tried in damp conditions, following on with a bouldering session then a trip to the climbing wall. It was awesome to see how well he was climbing and really motivating.

Wiz Fineron climbing 'Curved Arete' E5 6b at Black Rocks. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz Fineron climbing ‘Curved Arete’ E5 6b at Black Rocks. Photo – Calum Muskett


Wiz making short work of the Quarryman Groove. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz making short work of the Quarryman Groove. Photo – Calum Muskett

We followed this with a couple of trips to the Peak District where I gently re-introduced Wiz to trad climbing by trying ‘Kaluza Klein’ ground up together. ‘Kaluza Klein’ is a short and sweet Johnny Dawes classic found at Robin Hoods Stride. We both took some fairly exciting falls before I stuck what I expected to be the finishing jug only to sketch around a little longer before topping out (see video below!). This was followed by a trip to Black Rocks where we climbed on the Velvet Silence block. We both managed to climb ‘Velvet Silence’ and ‘Jumping on a Beetle’, two of the best highball slabs I’ve ever climbed, and had a quick go at the desperately thin ‘Angels Share’ before deciding to leave it for another time (I woke up the following morning with sore glutes having fallen off so much!). Wiz and I are planning a European road trip in June which should be a great laugh!

Wiz mid-flight off Kaluza Klein. Photo - Owen Hughes

Wiz mid-flight off Kaluza Klein. Photo – Owen Hughes


I’ve also spent a bit of time on Llŷn Peninsula with visiting German climber Benno Wagner. Benno is very unusual for a European climber in that he revels in climbing on the loosest, scariest and most challenging rock in Britain. Combined with this is the fact that Benno is very strong and isn’t afraid of long run outs or massive falls. On our first visit of the year Benno went for the ground up repeat of an E7 of mine called ‘Discord’. After a few falls on the tricky crux section Benno continued through to the bold section above. Looking pumped he began to power scream between holds before reaching the sanctuary of the break.

Benno Wagner climbing 'Melody' E8 6b in atmospheric conditions! Photo - Calum Muskett

Benno Wagner climbing ‘Melody’ E8 6b in atmospheric conditions! Photo – Calum Muskett

Our next visit to Craig Dorys was on a horrendously windy day. We had a go at ‘Melody’, a bold Stevie Haston E8 which climbs up some appalling quality rock. Although the route felt pretty straightforward on a top rope I was happy to take the good excuse that it was raining and a force nine gale was coming into the crag. Obviously in Bavaria, this sort of weather is common place and Benno stepped up to the task and went for it anyway! On our next trip to Dorys, Benno dragged me to the foot of ‘Nightstalker’, an intimidating E8 roof, cruised it, and then took me to the ominously named Shale City to try ‘Ugly’ – the man needs therapy!

I also made a quick trip up to Scotland for some work on the three nicest days of the year. I went for a couple of evening skis and afterwards met up with Dave Macleod for a climb in the beautiful Glen Nevis. I can’t wait to get back up here in some warmer and dryer weather to go rock climbing. Right now though, I’m in France’s Gorge du Tarn enjoying the amazing climbing, warm weather and tasty food.

'Jahu' in Glen Nevis, a classic E6 frightener. Photo - Dave Macleod

‘Jahu’ in Glen Nevis, a classic E6 frightener. Photo – Dave Macleod


'Mammoth Direct' E6 a fantastic Gogarth testpiece. Photo - Tim Neil

‘Mammoth Direct’ E6 a fantastic Gogarth testpiece. Photo – Tim Neil


Big Tim Neil finding the line of least resistance on Main Cliff on the first ascent of 'Main Wall' E1 5b. Photo - Calum Muskett

Big Tim Neil finding the line of least resistance on Main Cliff on the first ascent of ‘Main Wall’ E1 5b. Photo – Calum Muskett

2013

2013 has been a great year for me. Lots of travelling, stacks of climbing and amazing weather (with one notable exception!). Rather than writing an account of all the best moments I’ve selected a photo from each month and added a sentence or two with each one as an explanation. Enjoy!

January

Andy Turner ice climbing in Setesdal. Photo- Calum Muskett

Andy Turner ice climbing in Setesdal. Photo- Calum Muskett

I spent the New Year and the first part of January in the Setesdal Valley of Norway; a spectacular ice climbing area although a bit on the warm side whilst we were there!

February

Mina climbing 'La Cara Que No Miente' 8a+ in Siurana. Photo- Calum Muskett

Mina climbing ‘La Cara Que No Miente’ 8a+ in Siurana. Photo- Calum Muskett

After a great sport climbing trip to Siurana in Spain I headed back to North Wales feeling fit and enjoyed some great days out on the sea cliffs of Gogarth.

March

Skiing down the Vallee Blanche. Photo- Calum Muskett

Skiing down the Vallee Blanche. Photo- Calum Muskett

I spent the whole of March in Chamonix learning to ski and made my first, aborted attempt to climb a very snowy North Face of the Eiger.

April

Skiing in the Carneddau. Photo- Jamie Holding

Skiing in the Carneddau. Photo- Jamie Holding

April was an amazing month. The weather and conditions were just incredible! On one day I went skiing down Glyder Fach at first light, climbed an E6 at Gogarth, did some instructing in the afternoon and then ice climbed by head torch in the evening!

May

Climbing 'Daisy World' E7 6c. Photo- Ed Booth

Climbing ‘Daisy World’ E7 6c. Photo- Ed Booth

With the continuing good weather I spent loads of time trad climbing in the mountains of North Wales and climbed a bunch of routes I’d been hoping to try for a long time.

June

George Ullrich on-sighting  'Authentic Desire' E7 6b, on Cloggy. Photo- Calum Muskett

George Ullrich on-sighting ‘Authentic Desire’ E7 6b, on Cloggy. Photo- Calum Muskett

More time spent climbing in the mountains climbing with James Mchaffie and co and the first trips up to Cloggy.

July

George Ullrich leading the 'Indian Face' E9 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

George Ullrich leading the ‘Indian Face’ E9 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

After a great quick trip to Hoy in Scotland I returned home and jumped on the send train for an ascent of the ‘Indian Face’.

August

Leading the crux pitch of 'Paciencia' 8a, on the North Face of the Eiger. Photo- Alexandre Buisse

Leading the crux pitch of ‘Paciencia’ 8a, on the North Face of the Eiger. Photo- Alexandre Buisse

August was spent in the Alps. After some fun climbing around Chamonix I met up with Dave Macleod and we climbed ‘Paciencia’ on the North Face of the Eiger – a fantastic route and a great experience.

September

Dave Macleod on the crux pitch of 'Bellavista' 8c on Cima Ovest. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave Macleod on the crux pitch of ‘Bellavista’ 8c on Cima Ovest. Photo- Calum Muskett

After our short lived attempt on ‘Bellavista’ at the end of August Dave returned to finish it off in September. Unfortunately I just had lots of work to do!

October

Twid walking down the Bader valley in Patagonia. Photo- Calum Muskett

Twid walking down the Bader valley in Patagonia. Photo- Calum Muskett

I became an MIA at the beginning of the month and then headed out to a very windy Torres del Paine in Patagonia!

November

Twid hanging out on the lower slabs of 'Wall of Paine'. Photo- Calum Muskett

Twid hanging out on the lower slabs of ‘Wall of Paine’. Photo- Calum Muskett

Our trip to Patagonia was thwarted by bad weather but we had a good crack and got to the top of the wall of the south face of the South Tower of Paine.

December

Cerro Torre. Photo- Tim Neil

Cerro Torre. Photo- Tim Neil

December isn’t over yet! I’m off to Scotland next week and then to Patagonia with Dave Macleod on the 31st to attempt to make a free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre – really looking forward to this one!

I’ve also made a couple of changes with my sponsors this month. Having been sponsored by DMM for four years it’s with a heavy heart that I say thanks for all the help and goodbye. I’m now joining the Black Diamond team and am really looking forward to working with such a well respected company that have such a great product range. I’m also very happy to be combining two of my great passions – climbing and eating, with my other new sponsor Clif Bar. Hopefully my sweet tooth won’t lead me down the path of obesity! On top of this I’m also really happy to be joining Shauna Coxsey, Fran Brown, Molly Thompson-Smith, Hazel Findlay, Steve Mcclure and James Mchaffie as a BMC Ambassador. The BMC have done a huge amount of work in Britain helping access to the hills and climbing areas as well as improving access to the sport; it’ll be great to support them through 2014.

Here’s to hoping next year will be just as good as this one!

The Indian Face

Clogwyn Du'r Arddu. Photo- Calum Muskett

Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. Photo- Calum Muskett

The chugging of the train beats a regular rhythm as I march up the Llanberis path for the third day in a row. Unencumbered from the usual burden of a heavy rucsac my pace is swift; or perhaps it just feels that way as my mind races ahead of myself to the lofty heights of Cloggy. As I approach the base of the cliff I notice that conditions are good, great in-fact and that today there can be no excuses, other than my own will power, as to whether or not I climb ‘The Indian Face’.

It had started two days earlier. I’d walked up to Cloggy in the late afternoon coming into view of the crag just as Caff reached the finishing holds. It was great to witness somebody leading the line, especially after Caff had only practised the route on abseil that morning. I was keen to take advantage of the chalked holds and attempt ‘Masters Wall’ on-sight. Caff, however, soon dissuaded me from that idea, telling me that ‘Masters…’ was a poor eliminate and not worth the while. Instead, just out of interest, I gave ‘The Indian Face’ a go, along with George Ullrich. We both on-sighted the route on top-rope and suddenly knew that the lead was on.

The climbing on ‘The Indian Face’ is fantastic. The handholds are surprisingly positive, though they are mainly side pulls, whilst the footholds are just poor enough to make the climbing feel that touch insecure, even after rehearsing the moves on a top-rope. The protection revolves around a cluster of poor small RPs which offer some psychological support but little else.

I returned the following morning, feeling well prepared mentally to go for the lead. The moves felt reasonable on a gri gri but I was really concerned about how humid everything felt. I felt like I could scrape through the moves on lead but this wasn’t a route to shake and slap my way up! Ray Wood, having checked his constant stream of twitter updates (!), confirmed that it was indeed humid but that Derek the weatherman was forecasting low dew points for the following day.

Perturbed but as motivated as ever I had one final day to attempt the line before three 12 hour shifts of work, a week of assessment and a six week trip to the Alps. I knew that the likelihood of returning for the line in the Autumn was very low which added a little more pressure.

Up on the cliff I was back on my abseil rope. The moves went well on a gri gri and I felt ready for the lead. But I had no belayer! I’d expected to lead the route the previous day on which I’d had the offer of a belay but I’d had no luck finding a belayer at last minute for this day. I was anxious to get on the lead whilst I was still prepared mentally but it seemed to be slipping away. Fortunately for me, Dan Parkes, who I’d met on the walk up for the first time, had just come down after climbing ‘Great Wall’ with his dad. I asked him if he’d be willing to give me a belay on ‘The Indian Face’. He very graciously accepted but after a moment’s thought nervously asked if I was after a lead belay. I left the choice open to Dan and thankfully he decided he was happy to belay me.

On the lead. Photo- Emma Twyford

On the lead. Photo- Emma Twyford

The lead itself went fairly smoothly. My plan was to lead the route quickly, before any fear or doubt could enter my head. I’d left the cluster of RPs in place; not feeling well enough prepared to place them on lead and with no time left practice there placements. There was one moment on lead, a couple of moves after the crux, where my fingers began to creep off a crimp and I was forced into making a hasty slap for the next positive side-pull; a moment that retrospectively sends shivers down my spine! It took me around seven minutes to reach the finishing jug, where you can finally fully appreciate the quality of the route and enjoy the easy climbing that leads up to the belay.

George leading 'The Indian Face'. Photo- Calum Muskett

George leading ‘The Indian Face’. Photo- Calum Muskett

Later that same day George made a very smooth ascent of the route and we all headed back down for a pizza and a pint in Llanberis where we met up with Caff and enjoyed the evening sunshine.

Thanks to Caff and George for the motivation to try the route and Dan for the impromptu belay!

The three ascentionists. Photo- Miles Hill

The three ascentionists. Photo- Miles Hill

Mountain Days

Sunrise over Crib Goch. Photo- Calum Muskett

Sunrise over Crib Goch. Photo- Calum Muskett

They may not be the biggest or the most impressive hills around, but the mountains of Snowdonia have their own charms and history making up for their modest size. I’ve always thought that climbing in the mountains is something really special. Spectacular views and fantastic climbing is normally guaranteed in Snowdonia when you know which cliffs to get to.

Over the last couple of weeks though the perfect combination of sunshine and breeze (to keep the midges at bay!) have been fairly standard on my days off and I’ve had the opportunity to get out climbing at Ogwen, my most local climbing venue being only a 15 minute drive up the road. It was often really wet up there last year which meant I only got the chance to climb there a couple of times. The first route on the list was a route called ‘Kaya’ on Glyder Fach. It was first climbed by two friends of mine; Noel Craine made the first ascent of the original route and then Johnny Dawes straightened it out with a direct finish. They and others have all raved about the quality of the climbing and they weren’t wrong, it was a top quality route! Dave Rudkin and I both climbed it on our second go, both happy to have climbed it but a little gutted to have failed to on-sight it due to very silly errors on our parts and greasy conditions- although we would say that wouldn’t we! I also noticed a cool looking unclimbed wall to the right that day- but more on that later!

Dave Rudkin climbing 'Kaya', E7 6b. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave Rudkin climbing ‘Kaya’, E7 6b. Photo- Calum Muskett

The following day Dave and I were joined by John Orr as we headed up to Gallt Yr Ogof to attempt ‘Heart of Stone’, another top quality E7. It was Dave’s turn to go first and he put in a sterling effort up the steep wall, getting all the gear in before finally falling off with what he described as “bone marrow pump” a few moves from the top. I was up next and also got ejected a couple of moves from the top with elbows pointing skywards and feet pedalling downwards! It’s got a pretty healthy run out on the final section! The climbing on it is fantastic though with consistently steep climbing on perfect crimps, pockets and side pulls. We all had another go getting even closer to the top before Dave on his third go managed to cruise through to the finish after a brief abseil inspection. Unfortunately the midges had come out in full force by this point and we had to make a fairly swift evacuation of the crag!

Dave just about to take flight off 'Heart of Stone'! Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave just about to take flight off ‘Heart of Stone’! Photo- Calum Muskett


Dave messing around on 'Heart of Stone'. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave messing around on ‘Heart of Stone’. Photo- Calum Muskett

The following day was a long one work wise but very rewarding. At 4am I was out with Run Snowdonia helping out on the first leg of the 14 peaks with a keen group of walkers from Exeter. It was a misty and murky morning which hadn’t raised my hopes for a pleasant walk but, 30 minutes later, we broke out of the clouds as we approached the lower slopes of Crib Goch and walked up into a stunning sunrise combined with an amazing cloud inversion. It was the first cloud inversion I’d seen this year and the fact that it was coinciding with the sunrise made it even more special. By 8am we’d finished the leg and I had to dash off for a twelve hour shift elsewhere feeling fairly lethargic!

I also managed to return to the unclimbed wall I’d noticed on Glyder Fach. First I headed up with Ant Douglas for a quick blast to see if it was possible and managed the route first go, despite feeling like I was falling off half the time. The rain was moving in though which meant we had to make a fairly hasty exit. I headed back up with Emma Twyford though for my second go at it, hoping for a go on the lead whilst Emma was keen for a shot at ‘Kaya’. After a quick top rope I realised that the only way I’d be able to protect the crux moves of the route would be with a short sling attached to the first peg of ‘Kaya’, taped to the wall at a 45° angle to bring it just about within reach. I was hoping to clip the peg on lead, which would be possible, but would require some very delicate and dangerous moves that I wasn’t too psyched for on the day. The line is pretty good too, ascending the clean wall between ‘Kaya’ and ‘Lot’s Wife’. Unfortunately the first section does naturally trend rightwards into the crack line, in which you get a low side runner, but you soon make a committing step left and commence on a very thin sequence up the wall, having clipped the peg which slowly eases in difficulty before you finish up the ‘Watchtower’, an E3 that breaks onto the upper section of the wall. The lead went just about as smoothly as it could have and we both reckoned the climbing to be about E8 6c or F7c+ R/X.

The line of 'Sentinel', E8 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

The line of ‘Sentinel’, E8 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

Having climbed my route Emma now got psyched for ‘Kaya’. She made very short work of the lower crux section before cruising up to the upper crux. She spent a while working out the next few moves and waiting for the sun to go behind the clouds before making the tricky move up to a big positive side pull. Emma relaxed for just a moment having reached this good hold and both her feet popped off robbing her of her first E7 flash. After a very brief rest she cruised to the top and I’m sure she’ll be on-sighting many hard trad routes soon with her awesome sport climbing fitness.

Emma on the first crux section of 'Kaya, E7 6b. Photo- Calum Muskett

Emma on the first crux section of ‘Kaya, E7 6b. Photo- Calum Muskett

Back to Rock

A big multi activity day

A big multi activity day

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of work and play (although mainly work!). After returning from the Alps I enjoyed some good skiing, ice climbing and rock climbing all in the same week in North Wales. In fact, on one day, I skied down Glyder Fawr first thing in the morning, climbed an E6 at Gogarth, went for a boulder, instructed for a couple of hours and finished the day off with an ice climb!

George Ullrich leading the brilliant 'Glyder Crack', E6 6b, between hail showers. Photo- Calum Muskett

George Ullrich leading the brilliant ‘Glyder Crack’, E6 6b, between hail showers. Photo- Calum Muskett


Making the possible second ascent of the tricky 'Hideous Bypass', E6 6b at Ogwen. Photo- Steve Long

Making the possible second ascent of the tricky ‘Hideous Bypass’, E6 6b at Ogwen. Photo- Steve Long

The weather in Wales has been, in general, really good this year, albeit a bit chilly. At the beginning of May I travelled to Pembroke with Dan Mcmanus for an awesome bank holiday weekend. We climbed stacks of great routes and caught up with loads of friends. It was the kind of trip that reminded you how great climbing can be: three star routes, sunshine, getting pumped and having cream tea in the brilliant Ye Olde Worlde Cafe. Some of the standout routes were Crimes of Passion, Fortune Cookie, The Pulsebeat and Ghost Train. Ghost Train in particular was a route I’d been hoping to do for quite a while, however, up until this trip it had always been a bit too wet to climb. There’s a very big run out on the route to reach a thread at about 25m from where I remember thinking I really wouldn’t want to fall, as it would leave you taking a massive, ground sweeping fall. A good friend of mine, Will Oates, fell at exactly this point last week and through the quick reactions of his belayer didn’t hit the ground but took an absolutely humongous fall…respect Will!

Dan Mcmanus leading the out there 'Why Should I', E6 6b at Pembroke. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dan Mcmanus leading the out there ‘Why Should I’, E6 6b at Pembroke. Photo- Calum Muskett

Since that trip to Pembroke I’ve been working 70 hour plus weeks, losing the fitness I’d gained and feeling utterly exhausted on my occasional days off. So it was with relief that I found my two and a half days off last week coincided with the warmest weather of the year; and that meant only one thing- Cloggy!

Cloggy has got to be one of my favourite cliffs to climb on in the world; probably because my memories of climbing there are always of the warm and dry weather that are pre-requisites to go climbing there. My first visit there was on an after school raid with Francis Blunt when I was 14 years old. I’d just been given a copy of the classic and rare British climbing book ‘Extreme Rock’ and was inspired to try ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ having read the account of Ed Drummond’s early ascent. I met up with Francis outside the old Safeway’s store in Bangor at 3.30 in the afternoon and we raced up to Cloggy to arrive at a sun baked Great Wall with a pleasant gentle breeze. I remember setting off in the wrong place for ‘A Midsummer…’ and making quite a long and technical traverse to gain the route, but after that all I can remember are the intricate sequences of moves and the long run out with climbing that is never too hard and never too easy to reach the Great Wall belay feeling utterly satisfied.

Leading the initial section of 'Authentic Desire', E7 6b. Photo- Ed Booth

Leading the initial section of ‘Authentic Desire’, E7 6b. Photo- Ed Booth


George Ullrich reaching the easier climbing of 'Authentic Desire', E7 6b. Photo- Calum Muskett

George Ullrich reaching the easier climbing of ‘Authentic Desire’, E7 6b. Photo- Calum Muskett

So it was with happiness that I returned to Cloggy for the first time in nearly two years with on-form Cumbrian James ‘Caff’ Mchaffie and Ed Booth. Caff has been ripping things up lately in his typically understated way. He’d just returned from a trip to Scotland with an ascent of the Longhope route under his belt and the previous day he’d made the fourth ascent of ‘Rare Lichen’, an E9 at Ogwen. Keen not to show any signs of weakness to Caff, I stick to my word and “warm up” on the utterly brilliant arête of ‘Authentic Desire’, a route that I’d waited a long time to climb.
With the warm up out of the way, Caff was ready for the main event: an on-sight attempt of ‘Margins of the Mind’, an E7/8 6c with a BIG reputation. Caff took a while to find his way through the initial roof before placing plenty of poor gear behind rattley flakes as well as sky hooks kept in place with blue tac. He spent a long time on the crux going back and forth on small, lichenous crimps before finally committing to a sequence and reaching a good rest as well as a poor wire and skyhook placement. From here, Caff faced one final difficult move; a long reach up to a jug protected by the skyhook and poor wire beneath his feet. Caff spent ages going up and down, trying to work a sequence to get through the move, at one point nearly succeeding before he pulled off a thin side-pull. After ten “last goes” he was looking very frustrated and tired. After ten more “absolute last goes” he just looked deflated that he couldn’t figure out a good enough sequence to get him to the finishing jug. He’d been holding on for four hours before I eventually dropped him a rope and it’s certainly the most impressive on-sight effort I’ve ever seen. Caff returned three days later and finished the route off after a brief abseil inspection.

Reaching the easier ground on 'It Will be Alright on the Night', E7 6b. Photo- Luke Brooks

Reaching the easier ground on ‘It Will be Alright on the Night’, E7 6b. Photo- Luke Brooks

The following day I headed back up to Cloggy and climbed ‘It Will be Alright on the Night’, an excellent E7 that climbs the wall to the right of ‘Margins…’. The pegs seemed to be in pretty poor condition but there was just enough gear to back them up with which meant the route wasn’t too terrifying! I’m looking forward to the next opportunity I get to head back up to Cloggy, having noticed some new lines to do as well as some other classics to repeat.

Caff fully committed on 'Margins of the Mind', E7/8 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

Caff fully committed on ‘Margins of the Mind’, E7/8 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett