Sunday, 24 February 2013

Clogwyn Du food theif!

Idwal or Clogwyn? Or maybe somewhere else? Oh the joys of deciding where to go in the winter climbing game. It had been cold all week, and ice was forming. But how good will this ice be? And what will the conditions be like higher up?

Me and Tim had bivied out by some boulders in Cwm Idwal where we were hoping to get an early start the next morning. I woke at 6am to a sharp, cold feeling on my face. During the night had it started to snow and around us now, lay a dusting of the sugar snow. Looking across to the cliffs of Idwal in the pre-sunrise light, we could see faint white lines streaking down the cliffs. As the morning light brightened, we could now see that a majority of the routes still had a long way to go. The devils Appendix was nearly non-existent. The Idwal stream was in, the Curtain still had a long way to, but had some very interesting ice formations at it's top. The Devil's pasture was just that, a grassy Pasture. And the Screen? It had touched down and look fat! So we headed for that. We geared up underneath and Tim took the lead. Fist axe placement and BAM! a dinner plate sized dinner plate piece of ice came off. Things were not looking good, and they only got worse further up. Tim climbed the first steep bit of ice on the first pitch, then eyed up the last section to the belay and decided that the top will need more of a thaw until it's 'in'. So we bailed from halfway up the first pitch.
The Screen (IV 4)

Point at which we bailed

We popped round to have a look at the Devil's Kitchen too. We found plenty of solid ice leading up to the climb, with a very cool looking Ice cave. The route had touched down, but was thin and fragile. Any attempt to climb it would have destroyed the lower section. So the Kitchen was out. We retraced our steps, and headed for Idwal Stream (II/III 4). We Soloed up the stream, and just as we started, another couple of teams were approaching the base of the route. The Ice was fat and good, but in some sections it was still running with water behind. With a lack of snow, the top pitches were all on water ice.

Ice Cave near the Kitchen

Tim on Idwal Stream

Soloing Idwal Stream

From the top of the stream, we headed over the Glyders to the top of Clogwyn Du. We descended down a grade II to the base of the cliffs and saw an MIC (I assume?) instructing a group in the art of self arresting. A look in the guide book, and a brief discussion and it was decided. Our target, Clogwyn Left Hand Branch (V 5/6). This was to be our first V. We soloed up the first pitch and Tim took lead on the crux pitch. And so it was on. Tim started off in good style, hesitating a little at an awkward step on the start of the mixed stuff, but continued up in good style. The Ice was good and fat, but Tim had decided to take the harder mixed variation and continue up the groove. I was scared for him. Watching him struggle and inch his way up only made me more nervous. He passed the Tat, and was soon confound to a small narrow groove and a roof. The only way now was to step out onto the ice. He climbed well, even if he did knock off large sized chunks of ice, and soon reached the belay. My turn to follow. And what a pitch! the first bit of mixed was easy, but higher up the groove and it steadily got harder and harder. At one point, I squeezed myself into the groove at the top take a no hands rest and let the hot aches pass! But my time had come to step out onto the ice. I could swing the left axe and got a good bite. But my right swing was hindered by the roof of rock. I had to gently chip a placement for my right tool and then commit. The placements held, but feet were poor on the edges. Once out on the ice, I relaxed and smoothly climbed up to join Tim on the belay. Bloody good lead by him!
Tim leading Clogwyn LH

Belay at the top of pitch 2 on Clogwyn LH
Now, the guide book describes this as a 4 pitch climb. I was going to lead the 3rd and Tim the 4th. As I left the belay, I was on the look out for a chock stone and then the chimney at the base of which I shall belay.The neve was perfect, and the ice superb. Every placement was bomber and the ice took plenty of screws. I came to what I thought was the chock stone. It even had a peg below it which the instructor mentioned earlier during the day. So I clipped the peg and continued over the chock stone in the most ungraceful and unelegent style. I had a hard time trusting the top placements in the snow as a few times the axe sawed through the soft top layer. But I pulled through and suddenly came across a snow slope that led up to the top. No chimney in sight. I figured now that I had either gone off route, or this 'chock stone' was in fact the 'chimney' on the last pitch. Either way, I didn't care. I'd done. And so I rigged the belay and Tim followed.
Ice on the 3rd pitch of Clogwyn LH

Tim at the base of the 'chock stone'/'Chimney'
The weather had closed in and visibility worsened. We made our way off the top of the Gyders plateau, dodging the cornices and descended down a grade 1 snow slope back to our rucksacks. Now this is where the title of this post fits in. On our return back to our packs, I noticed that my spare Mitts, fleece and a dry bag were out of the pack and that my climbing partners pack had been moved. We inspected the contents and found nothing had been taken, apart from our food! Now if you ask me, this is all very strange. Tim had an SLR camera in his and I had climbing gear and jackets in mine. Why on earth would someone take JUST our food and not the expensive items within? This didn't make sense, but we were relieved that they hadn't taken anything of value. A note to self for future climbing: hide rucksacks!

1 comment:

  1. the big 'blackbirds'are most likely to be the thieves,
    yours sincerly mr rookery raven