Saturday, 20 September 2014

Popping my Cloggy & Dinas Mot cherry

I've always hated the drive up to North Wales, it's always at night, I'm always tired and the drive is always boring. Except for the time I was sideways on the M56, that was an interesting drive. But every time I make the journey up north, I know that I'm about to escape from reality and spend the weekend in a place where I'm truly happy and where I feel I belong: In the mountains.

I arrived in Llanberis Pass at 01:30 with 2 good friends, Chris and Pablo, and proceeded to set up my bed for the night, a bivi bag just behind the wall opposite the Cromlech boulders. The next morning, I awoke in between 2 great historical crags: Dinas Mot to my left, and Dinas Cromlech above me to the right. But the agenda for the day was Cloggy. On the walk in from Llanberis, we met Pablo's friend Rich and continued on our way to the majestic cliff.

We left the traffic of tourists heading for the most expensive and hard earned coffee and cake in Wales (I would say the UK but have you ever tried ordering a coffee at an airport Starbucks in the security lounge?)  and continued along our now lonely path to the base of cloggy. I quite fancied White Slab (E2 5c), but seeing as neither me nor Chris had done much climbing this summer, we decided on Longlands climb (VS 4c) instead. Chris led the shockingly awful first pitch whilst I belayed in the swamp at the bottom of Black Cleft. Whilst Chris was rigging the belay at the top of his pitch, I cast an eye up the cleft and was making mental notes for winter. Maybe not this winter, but sometime I hope.

I don't really have a lot to say about this climb apart from i wasn't too impressed by it. Yes it's a classic and the first ascent back in the 20's must have been a great achievement of their time, but the climb was crap, mostly pulling on loose holds and grass with spaced gear. I ended up leading all the pitches after pitch 1 and the only notable move was the 4c move off the last belay. But that was short lived and it was then a grassy loose scramble to the top. The descent down the eastern terrace offered more excitement! We met Pablo and Rich back at the rucksacks and decided that we should head back down, Petes Eats was calling!
That evening, Rich had left us to go for dinner round a friends house, and me, Chris and Pablo headed for a pint and then a spot of bouldering by head torches at the Cromlech Boulders before setting up for the night in our previous spot behind the wall.

The next morning we had a dilemma. Rich wasn't joining us after eating dodgy chicken round his friends house, so we had a decision to make, whether to climb as a 3, which I wasn't bothered about, or one of us sit out. In the end, Chris decided on running up Snowdon and so me and Pablo set off on the short walk in to Dinas Mot. Our target: Plexus (HVS/E1 5b), one of the classics on the crag. I led the second (5a) pitch and Pablo the crux pitch. The climbing was 100% better than that on Longlands, it actually had some descent moves and the friction of the rock was nothing I have ever experienced before (I've never climbed on grit by the way) and made a change from southern limestone. The 2nd belay wasn't too inspiring, I'm sure it was bomber but the tat on the rusty pegs didn't inspire confidence.

Once Pablo had made the delicate traverse off the second belay and cruised the crux, it was nearly my time to shine. Once safe and off belay, I started to strip the belay and get ready to climb. However, all my moving about had unclipped a shoe from my harness and off it tumbled. Down the slab below my feet and over the edge. Ahh shit. How am I supposed to climb the crux in one shoe and a bare foot? Chalk my toes? I can't bend my leg that far round. The rope came tight and I called up "That's Me!", still trying to work out what the fuck I'm supposed to do. It dawned on me too that if I some how manage to do 5b moves in 1 shoe and a bare foot, there's still another pitch and the descent.

But from no where, another climber appeared below and noticed my shoe had landed on a ledge just beside him! Now I don't believe in luck and shit, but that was pretty lucky. I passed down a loop of rope for him to tie my shoe too and then managed to continue my way up through the crux, safe in the knowledge that my feet will stick to anything...ish.

On returning to our packs at the base of Plexus, we discovered a body. It was Chris. He looked knackered but he had just ran up Snowdon in 1hr 02mins and back down from the summit to the Cromlech boulders in 45mins! Good going. We had Nexus in mind but 2 other teams beat us to it and so we headed for the nose and embarked on our way up Super Direct (E1 5b). Pablo had a bit of route finding difficulty on the first pitch so I had to direct him to the first belay. And then it was my time on the sharp end. The second pitch is quite possibly some of the best climbing I have ever done. The pitch just kept on giving and the moves fantastic. I got to the start of the traverse with ease, rummaged around for some half descent pro and then proceeded to spend the next half hour pissing about moving backwards and forwards on the starting moves of the traverse. I had an issue with commitment (Luckily this doesn't reflect in my relationship) and couldn't find faith in my ability to pull off 5b moves or in my rather poor protection.

But I committed and nearly kicked myself for being such an idiot. The moves weren't hard, it was just the boldness of the traverse. The crack above gave nothing for my achievement in succeeding in onsighting the crux and so i pressed on, now WAY above my last piece of pro. Dropping my, stupidly, only set of small wires didn't help matters. Nothing else I had would go, so again, i climbed on, running it out until I got to the less than reassuring flake which sounded hollow and loose. A fall from here would send me well past Pablo at the belay, not what I fancied. But adequate pro and easy ground after placed me on the large ledge of the second belay. Phew!

The day was rounded off by Pablo cruising the second crux up the overhanging crack above the belay and just as I was about to set off to join him above, the same guy who rescued my shoe from plexus appeared below me. A few excited sentences were shared about the previous pitch, and off I went up the final crack to finish off Super Direct,

Overall, it was a great weekend with 2 really good friends. I had climbed on 2 historic climbing crags and climbed the worst and the best climb of my time in this sport. I'll be back again soon, this time to tick off White Slab on Cloggy and Nexus on Dinas Mot.

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