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!

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