Sunday, 27 January 2013

North Wales Ice Climbing

This week has been a bout of disappointment. At first I missed out on a night climb of Torpantau falls in South Wales with Tim, which turned out to be a blessing any way as he didn't even reach the falls. And secondly, Chris had to work at the weekend and Tim was already in Wales, so no climbing partners were free. So, I posted on UKC for a partner, with the slim chance that someone would answer.

At roughly 19:32 on Friday night, whilst I was at a cadet parade night, I checked UKC on the off chance that someone had answered my post. And with luck, someone had! A guy called Ben. I jumped at the chance, rang him, and by 21:30, I was on the road to North Wales. This drive turned out to be THE worst drive off my life! Snow + Motorway do not mix. At 03:30 in the morning, I pulled up behind a camper van which matched the description of Bens's, and fell asleep.

Andy on the first pitch of The Ramp
Andy leading the Ramp
I woke at 8 and saw movement outside the camper van. And so, I exited the car, and met Ben and his friend Andy. We headed into the Idwal valley with other teams ahead of us. Keen not to wait in a que, we set a good pace and quickly over took the other teams. Our in intentions were The Screen (IV 4) and The Curtain (IV 4) aswell as the Idwal Stream (II/III 4). However, Both the Screen and Curtain had a lot of running water on them and coming out of condition very quickly. So we headed a bit further up the mountain to The Ramp (II/III). As we were gearing up, a team of 4 came up behind us. The first pitch we soloed, but it was just slush and brittle ice. Story of the day! Andy led the first pitch in good style, despite the conditions and I followed with Ben behind. Below us now, was a rather large que of at least 4 other parties. A busy day it will be on the Ramp.

Queing up for the route

We descended back down and came to the foot of The Devils Pasture (III) which was the scene of an accident last week. Next in stall was Central Route (III 3). I took the lead on this one. The ice was hollow and brittle, thin in places and poor. My first screw ground out half way, so I tied it off. My second screw wouldn't go. And so, I ran it out. The belays were hard to find, and on the first pitch I couldn't find it all together. So I ran the first 2 pitches into one, but only got half way through the second pitch before the rope ran out. There was no good belay spots below, so I just had to make do with the position I was in. All I could manage was the use of my axes and their clipper leashes, and one stubby 10cm screw which ground out at 7cm. Never the less, I equalised the anchors and gave them a testing pull. Hmmmm.... Upon doing this, one of the axes sawed it's way through the ice! Re-adjusting the placement and the belay was finally secure enough to bring up the other 2.

Me on the Belay of Central Route
My poor anchor

Me and Ben at the belay
The tranquility on the belay made the day for me. Looking out over Llyn Idwal and over to the Carneddau in the silence was interrupted by screams from below. I snapped back to reality. The rope had stopped moving, but it hadn't gone tight. I called down, but no answer. Again more screams. At this point I thought someone had fallen on a nearby route, or that Ben or Andy had been hit by fallen ice. Until I heard Ben from below. It turns out that he had in fact, got Hot Aches. On the belay, he let off some more screams of pain as his hands regained warmth. The picture above sums up the pain he was in.

The weather had started to move in on the final ascent up the snow slope, and by the time we were back in the valley, large chunks of ice were falling off all the major ice routes. The thaw was in full swing. At this point, we abandoned doing the Idwal Stream, and made haste to Pete's Eats in Llanberis.

And now for a story of coincidence. Whilst in Pete's, I had a text from Tim saying that it was a good job that I didn't come up as the conditions were crap. At this point I had mentioned that I was in fact, up there. to cut a long story short, we were both in Idwal, both climbed the same routes, and had even slept in the same lay by. Yet, still hadn't crossed paths. I gave him a lift back to Taunton and even found out that I had taken a picture of his mate climbing with him just below! Small world.

Tim's mate
Ques on The Ramp

Idwal valley

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