Category Archives: Wales

Early Season Trad Climbing

Sun, rock, guidebook and climbing boots. What more do you need?

Sun, rock, guidebook and climbing boots. What more do you need?

The good weather seems to arrive earlier and earlier in North Wales every year. The best weather we had last year was in March and the rest of the year was a washout. It hasn’t rained in North Wales for two weeks now (!) and although the air temperature’s been pretty chilly, the sun’s been out to make it warm enough to climb.

Having not trad climbed in a couple of months I was keen to see how I was going. I’m feeling fairly unfit at the moment but I tend to climb quite well at the start of the season because I’m so psyched to be rock climbing again! Gogarth has been the place to be recently. It’s had the best weather and has loads of South facing walls, perfect for early season climbing.

Ed Booth heading up to the main pitch on Me. Photo- Calum Muskett

Ed Booth heading up to the main pitch on Me. Photo- Calum Muskett

The Yellow Walls have some of the most 3 dimensional climbing at Gogarth. All the lines go diagonally upwards following grooves and despite looking sedate, they overhang an awful lot which makes the climbing very strenuous. Add to this a large amount of loose and generally friable rock as well as some questionable gear and you’ve got a good adventure planned for the day. My first routes of the season were ‘Ludwig’ and ‘Me’; both strenuous E6 6b’s on total choss! Although the climbing on both routes was steady the “experience” was pretty memorable with talcum like flakes of rock falling into your eyes and hair non-stop whilst the holds you’re gripping are creaking.

Getting VERY pumped on Isis is Angry. Photo- Adam Booth

Getting VERY pumped on Isis is Angry. Photo- Adam Booth

With those routes under my belt I stepped up to the challenge of ‘Isis is Angry’, an E7 6b cutting its way up the steepest section of Yellow Wall. I teamed up with Adam Booth and we abseiled in, starting to realise quite how steep that section of wall really is! The guidebook description for this route ominously starts by saying:
“Looking for trouble? This route takes no prisoners!”

Ed Booth climbing Weird Fish in Tin Can Alley. Photo- Calum Muskett

Ed Booth climbing Weird Fish in Tin Can Alley. Photo- Calum Muskett


Tin Can Alley topo

Tin Can Alley topo

The climbing was really burly. None of the hand holds faced the right way and most of the footholds were crumbling under my weight. After a long battle up the steep groove I made it to the final difficult moves. I procrastinated a little bit too long here and was ejected onto some good gear! After a long rest I pulled back on and made it to the top of the cliff with burning forearms. I was so pumped that I struggled to pull the ropes up to belay Adam!
As well as climbing on the Yellow Walls I got a few other great routes done at Gogarth. ‘Free Stone Henge’, graded a very generous E7 6c climbs up some awesome and well protected roofs underneath the bird watching tower at South Stack and Eraserhead, a great multi pitch outing on Main Cliff were just a couple of the best.

As well as doing some on-sighting I head-pointed a spicy slab climb in Tin Can Alley, an old hone stone quarry at Ogwen. Tin Can Alley’s a bit of an old haunt of mine from my school days where I made the first ascent of a technical E8 slab. After belaying a friend on the E8, I top roped a line to the left which was a little easier and finished slightly lower than the original line. I returned a few days later after borrowing a bunch of pads from Ogwen Cottage outdoor centre and soloed the new line which I called ‘Honed’ and graded E7 6b. Although the slab isn’t much to look at it’s got some great climbing and the routes have a fairly unique style for North Wales as well as being very convenient with only a one minute walk in.

I’m off to the Alps for a month tonight; fingers crossed I get good weather!

End of a great day's climbing at Ogwen. Photo- Calum Muskett

End of a great day’s climbing at Ogwen. Photo- Calum Muskett

Summer Sea Cliff Climbing

One of the best things about North Wales is that when the weather’s bad there are plenty of areas to go which might be in the rain shadow of the mountains, all within a 40 minute drive of Llanberis. With this summer being one of the wettest on record that’s meant a lot of journey’s to North Wales’ fine and varied collection of sea cliffs. Seeing as North Wales has roughly 400 miles of coastline it makes sense that there are many sea cliffs; in fact, enough to fill four climbing guidebooks! The climbing varies from single pitch sport climbing on excellent quality limestone to great big adventurous routes on shale cliffs equally as good but perhaps a little less to everybody’s liking.

My favourite sea cliff is undoubtedly Gogarth on the north-western tip of Anglesey. It is a true climber’s playground with a lifetime’s worth of climbing on mainly solid quartzite rock. It’s sunny aspect and often plentiful gear placements make it a good choice for a long day out whether you’re in search of a committing adventure or an easy day’s cragging. Perhaps the two most classic and sought after routes are the famous A Dream of White Horses and Conan the Librarian. A Dream of White Horses is famous for the wild position of its main pitch tackling ground normally associated with much more difficult routes and should be on every ambitious VS climbers tick list. Conan the Librarian on the other hand tackles probably the ultimate line of Gogarth up the big sea arch of Wen Zawn. Having climbed A Dream… years ago when I started climbing Conan had always cried out at me to be climbed and I finally found a climbing partner and picked a date to try it last month. We couldn’t really have picked a much worse day in terms of the greasy conditions that often plague this part of Gogarth but I decided that I might as well go for it then as I didn’t know when I’d be back to try it next.

Steve Long seconding the awesome first pitch of Conan the Librarian. Photo- Calum Muskett

Steve Long seconding the awesome first pitch of Conan the Librarian. Photo- Calum Muskett


Steve after his enormous fall off the second pitch of Conan the Librarian. Photo- Calum Muskett

Steve after his enormous fall off the second pitch of Conan the Librarian. Photo- Calum Muskett

The climbing is excellent, a lot more intricate than your typical Gogarth route with tenuous and well protected bridging up the first groove to an exposed and uncomfortable hanging belay in the break below the second pitch. Unfortunately I fell off the first pitch- and then pulled a big useful hold off higher up the pitch but it was still great fun. Steve seconded and racked up ready for the next pitch, a much easier but bold corner. I placed his first piece of gear a metre right of the belay to get him going and Steve made steady progress above placing quite a few wires, none of which he seemed happy with. He began to tackle the last difficult sequence of the pitch but ended up calling down to me to take in as his holds were so greasy he could barely hang on. He fell off stripping every piece of gear as he went apart from the first cam I placed in the break. A sure fire 60 footer leaving him stranded in the centre of the arch beneath me and directly above the sea. After a lot of faffing we retreated with our tails tucked between our legs having had a good adventure and keen to return at a future date.

A Craig Dorys Rack! Photo- Miles Perkin

A Craig Dorys Rack! Photo- Miles Perkin


Tonight at Noon. Photo- Will Oates

Tonight at Noon. Photo- Will Oates


On-sighting the Gross Clinic in a single pitch. Photo- Miles Perkin

On-sighting the Gross Clinic in a single pitch. Photo- Miles Perkin


Accidentally making the first ascent of a new E7 6c at Craig Dorys after abseil inspection. Video Still courtesy of Al Hughes

Accidentally making the first ascent of a new E7 6c at Craig Dorys after abseil inspection. Video Still courtesy of Al Hughes

Gogarth isn’t the only good adventurous sea cliff though, in fact for real adventure you need to go to the Lleyn Peninsula, an esoteric area which is always sunny and often scary! The rock quality in places is often poor requiring a connoisseur’s appreciation but some of the climbing and positions are excellent. I haven’t seen another climber there on one of my visits yet. Craig Dorys is the best developed crag on the Lleyn with many challenging routes and all are single pitches (not to be mistaken with Stanage though!). I’ve had a successful few visits there climbing most of the classics and repeating some of the harder routes; Cripple Creek (E3), Byzantium (E4), Trebizond (E5) and Tonight at Noon (E6 6b) are all fantastic routes and should be on the tick lists of those climbing at the respective grades. Dorys also requires a big rack of climbing gear. I placed around 40 pieces in a single pitch on both Rust Never Sleeps and The Gross Clinic E6 and E6/7 respectively. I also had a go at making the 2nd ascent of a Stevie Haston E7 called Harmony recently. I attempted the line on-sight originally getting up to the crux but simply couldn’t see what to do or where to go so down climbed. I ran to the top and abseiled down quickly in my trainers finding some hidden holds which I chalked up to help me out. I led the line next go and there’s an outrageous long reach on it but fortunately a well protected one. I later found out that this was in fact a new route as I’d started in the wrong place and headed out left from the crux of Harmony which might suggest why the climbing felt so dynamic. Anyway, it’s now called ‘Discord’ and graded E7 6c.

I’ve had other adventures on the Lleyn as well recently on even more impressive sea cliffs and I managed to make the first ascent of a really fun new route in Twll Mawr on the slate which I called ‘The Hunted’ and it weighs in at around E6 or 7 6c. Off to the Alps next- let’s hope the weather gods are kind!

Abseiling in to Patish on the Lleyn Peninsula. Photo- Dan Mcmanus

Abseiling in to Patish on the Lleyn Peninsula. Photo- Dan Mcmanus


Dan Mcmanus going for it on his impressive flash of the direct start to Other Realms. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dan Mcmanus going for it on his impressive flash of the direct start to Other Realms. Photo- Calum Muskett

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

Pembroke and Projects

Top toping the finishing crack of my project. Photo- Ray Wood

Top toping the finishing crack of my project. Photo- Ray Wood

I’ve never been very good at completing climbing projects. The most time I’ve spent on any route I’ve tried is about four sessions and even then it’s probably been a case of the weather being against me, not the difficulty of the climb. But at the moment I’ve got a project and I’m in it for the long run! I first checked it out two years ago with Johnny Dawes. We were both keen for it but neither of us got our acts together to complete it. I tried it again late last year but it was a little too late in the year to return.

This year however I’ve decided to get my teeth into it and I’m going to keep trying it until I complete it. I’ve been getting really close too. I’ve fallen off the last hard move on lead, only two moves from the top but it’s been wearing me down. You’ve got to wait for good weather to try it, find a keen belayer and be fit and fresh to try it. I’ve been finding it surprisingly difficult to combine these requisites! I’ve also been missing out on the nice weather to climb elsewhere which has been frustrating me more than anything else.

Climbing The Blucher. Photo- Ed Booth

Climbing The Blucher. Photo- Ed Booth

Over the bank holiday weekend however I got a quick break and a fantastic trip to Pembroke which surely has the highest quantity of superb single pitch trad climbing in the UK. A good team was assembled in the campground in Bosherston which made for a fun and sociable few days as well as a lot of climbing getting done. Although feeling a distinct lack of stamina I scraped my way up a few classic routes such as the brilliant ‘Orange Robe Burning’, ‘White Heat’ and perhaps the best route of the bunch was ‘Rock Idol’ (the best E1 in the UK?).

I now feel reinvigorated to keep up a sustained assault on my project. I feel like I am as likely to do it now as I am likely to fall off it- maybe I just need a bit of luck….

Dan Walker climbing Orange Robe Burning. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dan Walker climbing Orange Robe Burning. Photo- Calum Muskett

Mixing Things Up

Stiff Syd's Cap. Photo- Mark Reeves

Stiff Syd’s Cap. Photo- Mark Reeves

Jon Griffith loving Scottish winter! Photo- Calum Muskett

Jon Griffith loving Scottish winter! Photo- Calum Muskett

2012 started in a wet and windy fashion for me when I spent a week up in Scotland over New Year. A big group of us had booked some chalets in Roy Bridge for a week of winter climbing- unfortunately the weather had different ideas! The winds were gusting up to 120mph and the temperature limited us to only a few crags. I was climbing with Chamonix based climber and superb photographer Jon Griffith. You would expect a Chamonix based climber to hate bad weather because you can pick and choose good weather days when you live out there. Jon, however, was mad for it! He was dragging me out every day in either hurricane force winds or generally wet and miserable weather. On our first day, the winds were gusting up to 120mph, we still climbed a route though, holding onto our axes for dear life! We only had one day of reasonable weather and we climbed the teetering test-piece that is ‘War and Peace’ on Coire an’ Lochain in the Cairngorms, with Jon pulling out a good lead on the first pitch. Despite the weather allowing us to climb only two routes in five days of trying we still had a good trip.

After that I made a quick trip up to Northumberland with James McHaffie to Bowden and Back Bowden Doors. I was really impressed with both crags and the quality of the sandstone was superb. James managed an impressive on-sight of ‘On the Rocks’, a technical E7 6c and we climbed a bunch of other classic routes such as ‘The Tube’, ‘Poseidon Adventure’ and ‘The Bends’.

Back in North Wales I’ve enjoyed a few days on the slate making perhaps the second ascent of Johnny Dawes’ extremely bold route ‘The Dyke’E6 6a in Twll Mawr. I also climbed a Rainbow Slab classic, ‘Stiff Syd’s Cap’ E6 6b which had fantastic moves on perfect slate. Mark Reeves came along to take some pictures and took some great shots.

Caff cruising The Bends at Bowden Doors. Photo- Calum Muskett

Caff cruising The Bends at Bowden Doors. Photo- Calum Muskett


Sky hooks aren't the best bits of gear.... Photo- Alex Mason

Sky hooks aren’t the best bits of gear…. Photo- Alex Mason

I also managed to deck out on a slate route, fortunately from not very high up, and snapped a sky-hook in the process- they say 2kn breaking strain for a reason! After that I decided that perhaps bold trad wasn’t ideal for a cold day so changed themes and went sport climbing where I red-pointed another Johnny Dawes classic called ‘The Medium’ F8a. I first tried to on-sight this route very optimistically when I was fourteen. Suffice to say I didn’t manage it then and after a quick attempt on top rope forgot about it for four years. It was really nice to finally climb ‘The Medium’ as I remember when I first started climbing here I couldn’t understand how anybody could climb these routes!

North Wales Winter Action

Clogwyn Du. Photo- Stu Harth

Clogwyn Du. Photo- Stu Harth

Winter weather has finally arrived in Wales (well, kind of!). I’ve just enjoyed a couple of days winter climbing up on Clogwyn Du above Ogwen. The freezing level, rather unusually, hasn’t come down to sea level yet this winter and the snow line is still very high (around 500m). So I was rather sceptical walking up through the mud and rain to Clogwyn Du with the irrepressibly enthusiastic winter climbing guru Andy Turner. To our surprise however the final one hundred metres of ascent to the crag showed promising signs of winteriness and through a sudden break in the cloud we saw a totally white crag which even had a pair of in-situ climbers on it!

Our objective was a modern classic test-piece called ‘Travesty’ to kick-start our winter seasons. Having attempted the line the previous winter and gone the wrong way I was keen to get things straight. The crux pitch is a relatively short and wild traverse around the nose of the crag. It went smoothly enough (apart from getting hot-aches halfway through the pitch!) and I was soon in sinker hooks racing up the easy ground to the belay. Andy cruised along to the belay in a matter of minutes whilst carrying a bag (git!) and smoothly led through up the easier but still very enjoyable climbing to a very windy ridge.

The wild crux traverse pitch. Photo- Andy Turner

The wild crux traverse pitch. Photo- Andy Turner


Andy on the second pitch of Travesty. Photo- Calum Muskett

Andy on the second pitch of Travesty. Photo- Calum Muskett

The following day I was back up to a considerably busier Clogwyn Du to do a pleasant(?) squeeze chimney called ‘Pillar Chimney’ before work. I also wore my new ‘Stretch Neo Jacket and Pants’ properly for the first time. Both items have a really nice cut and fit and Polartec’s NeoShell fabric is undoubtedly the best fully waterproof fabric I’ve ever used. Very breathable, very waterproof and very comfy when you’re being battered by spindrift! That could well be the end of our first spell of winter weather as temperatures are rising and rain is falling but it was a pleasant change to trying to rock climb in freezing weather.

Other than that I’ve been climbing on slate a fair bit trying some projects and climbing a couple of routes that I hadn’t done before on the awesome Rainbow slab: highlights include the rarely climbed ‘Chewing the Cwd’ E5 6a and getting close to flashing ‘Naked Before the Beast’ E6 6c which James McHaffie casually on-sighted before me.

Anyway, time to enjoy more important things like mince pies and Christmas cake now. Have a good Christmas!

Autumn Cragging

Dave Rudkin lay-backing the lower crack line of Blockhead. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave Rudkin lay-backing the lower crack line of Blockhead. Photo- Calum Muskett

It’s a funny thing getting back into climbing after doing very little. Following my return from the Alps I’ve been so keen to go climbing but fairly hopeless at completing various projects. If anything I think this has helped my motivation and I feel like I’m on the verge of actually getting up some routes!

I’ve spent a bit of time in the slate quarries recently which has been really fun. I climbed on the slate so often when I started climbing that I climbed many of the routes I wanted to do so subsequently haven’t been a regular visitor, but with the bad weather we’ve had, it’s been one of the few places to climb due to its remarkably fast drying qualities. There are lots of potential new routes to climb in the quarries and I’ve been particularly keen to try some projects in Twll Mawr recently. Twll Mawr is a big, eerie place to climb with the hardest multi pitch climbs in Wales and the longest sport route in Britain. The line that I spotted recently was a route climbing directly above the famous Quarryman groove. I rapped the line, gave it a quick clean and tried the moves and was amazed at how straight forward the route was considering that entry level to this section of wall is normally about F7c. I was so keen to climb the route that I persuaded evergreen Rob Greenwood to join me after finishing work.

Gunning for it on Blockhead! Photo- Dave Rudkin

Gunning for it on Blockhead! Photo- Dave Rudkin

We rapped in to the belay ledge and I tried the route quickly on top rope, somewhat concerned about the run-out nature of climbing but I felt solid on it and lead the route without too much trouble- Rob had even untied himself from the belay at one point ready to jump off the stance to prevent me from hitting ledges if I fell, a brave thing to do considering the position (see Stone Monkey!). It climbs a nice groove feature in the headwall and it was great to climb it all on traditional gear. The route next to this one carries the extremely odd name of Phil’s Harmonica, so we continued with the theme and christened this one Mike’s Trombone! The following day I succeeded on another new line at the bottom of the same wall, a technical pitch with a flamboyant finishing lunge for the last hold. Probably a more difficult lead than Mike’s Trombone, but perhaps not quite as good.

The line of the Quarryman is in blue whilst the two new E6's are the red lines. Photo- Calum Muskett

The line of the Quarryman is in blue whilst the two new E6’s are the red lines. Photo- Calum Muskett

Last week Ian Lloyd-Jones made the first ascent of Rock Bottom Line, a spectacular 5 pitch sport route on the right hand side of the Quarryman wall. I returned with him and his climbing partner Sion McGuinness the following day to repeat the route. The fourth pitch in particular is fantastic, climbing a technical and slippery groove, the rest of the pitches are also good fun- it’s a route sure to become a modern classic.

The Quarryman wall is an amazing place to climb with atmospheric, ‘airy’ and powerful climbing. Nine out of the thirteen routes on the wall remain unrepeated; several have remained unrepeated for 25 years! Having tried a couple of the harder unrepeated routes I can certainly vouch for their quality and I look forward to having an opportunity to repeat them once the weather relents.

I’ve also spent a bit of time climbing over on the Little Orme recently at the brilliant Diamond. The approach involves a long and exciting hand-line which leads you to the best limestone crag in North Wales- unfortunately prone to greasy conditions. In some ways this crag seems to have brought about a real ‘vibe’ to the local climbing scene and loads of quality new routes are being climbed both here and elsewhere on the local limestone with grades ranging from F5+ to F8c+.

Caff climbing The Brute on the Diamond. Photo- Calum Muskett

Caff climbing The Brute on the Diamond. Photo- Calum Muskett


The hand line out of the Diamond. Photo- Calum Muskett

The hand line out of the Diamond. Photo- Calum Muskett


Making the first ascent of the link up 'Boat of Fools' F8a, shortly before it was extended by Ally Smith. Photo- Adam Booth

Making the first ascent of the link up ‘Boat of Fools’ F8a, shortly before it was extended by Ally Smith. Photo- Adam Booth

The Wonderful World of Walt Disney

The West Wall of Twll Mawr. Photo- Calum Muskett

The West Wall of Twll Mawr. Photo- Calum Muskett

Twll Mawr’s West Wall is best known for the Dawes classic ‘The Quarryman’ and boasts a good number of desperate and unrepeated slate masterpieces. ‘The Wonderful World of Walt Disney’ is one of these. It very rarely gets climbed perhaps being overshadowed by its more famous neighbour and has four fantastic and varied pitches. A slippery layback groove, a technical arête, an outrageous jump across a groove and a delightful finishing slab. It’s graded at E6 6b or a spicy F7b. Get on it!

The technical arete. Photo- Miles Perkin

The technical arete. Photo- Miles Perkin


The wild leap! Photo- Ray Wood

The wild leap! Photo- Ray Wood


Another great Twll Mawr pitch: The Dyke. Photo- Ray Wood

Another great Twll Mawr pitch: The Dyke. Photo- Ray Wood

Numbers

Cwm Idwal. Photo- Calum Muskett

Cwm Idwal. Photo- Calum Muskett

Grades to climbers are like times to runners and there are times and grades that are mythical. Roger Bannister was the first to run the mythical 4 minute mile and Johnny Dawes the first to climb E9 with his ascent of the Indian Face.
When I started climbing, grades were a way of measuring my progression and being a trad climber books like Hard Rock and Extreme Rock were my bibles and where I sought inspiration to follow in my hero’s footsteps. I would focus on climbing classic routes at a level which would push me as close to my limit as possible. E9 was the level I wanted to reach someday but at that point it seemed like a distant dream.

Ogwen is where I started climbing. I remember being taken up the Idwal slabs when I was little and I also learnt to ice climb here a couple of years ago. Being only ten minutes drive from home I’ve spent a lot of time climbing here repeating routes and establishing a few of my own. Ogwen has always felt like the natural place to push myself and is probably my favourite climbing area in Britain.

Rare Lichen takes the obvious clean cut arête on Clogwyn Y Tarw. An awesome line first climbed by Leo Houlding. I first tried it last year with Johnny Dawes although my attempt was short lived as we were being eaten by midges. The route sprang to mind again recently. I’d just recovered from a badly sprained wrist and despite having 6 weeks off I still felt like I was climbing well. We’ve had a few days of stunning weather and I persuaded my dad to give me a quick belay after he finished work so we ran up to Clogwyn Y Tarw before supper time. I abseiled down the line and gave it a quick clean before top roping the route cleanly on my second attempt. It felt pretty tough but I knew the extra incentive to pull hard on lead would make it a more reasonable proposition.

I’m not sure what my initial intentions were after top roping the route but after having some food I decided to go for the lead the following day after school. I didn’t get much sleep that night due to a mixture of excitement and nerves and I had sweaty palms all day at school. I caught the bus home and at half five my dad picked me up after finishing work. We walked up to the crag pretty quickly and I abseiled down the route with a file and an RP 3 to make sure the RP went into the small slot on the upper arête.

I top roped the route first time and pulled the rope: decision time. I felt tired and not entirely confident but after sitting down and relaxing for a few minutes I knew that this was as good an opportunity as any and if I could top rope the route I could lead it. The first section of climbing is bold and only protected by an RP 2 in a reasonable but shallow placement; I climbed this bit like I was soloing, making steady progress past the psychological crux move around the arête to a reasonable rest. I made a tricky move up to place the good filed down RP and stepped back down for a rest. My wrist was throbbing in the same way it did when I’d sprained it the previous month but my fingers were still working fine and I slapped my way up the fantastic upper arête to finally reach the top feeling pretty exhilarated. Within two minutes of topping out I couldn’t move my right wrist: I’ve re-torn a ligament and the adrenalin had numbed the pain on lead but I’m not too bothered about some time off after that and it’ll be nice to get back into running for a while.

Placing the crucial filed down RP. Photo- Ray Wood

Placing the crucial filed down RP. Photo- Ray Wood


The finishing moves of the upper arete. Photo- Ray Wood

The finishing moves of the upper arete. Photo- Ray Wood