After a night of grinning like a Cheshire cat I headed to Main Cliff with George in search of adventure. We decided to have a go at Winking Crack (E3 5c) first. It has a fearsome reputation because of its final offwidth crack. I led the first pitch which was supposed to be 5a but I was made to work for it and had to knock it up a gear or two to finish the pitch.
The night before Laura insisted on painting my finger nails so I let her do one hand for scientific research. Apparently Laura noticed she became a lot more aware of what she was doing with her hands with her nails painted. I decided to test out the theory and see if it could be applied to climbing. In the morning I had to pick up some shoes for Laura, as I received the receipt from the cashier an embarrassed glance was passed from both sides as she thought she realised the shoes weren’t really for my girlfriend, and I realised what she was thinking.
Anyway, seconding George on the top pitch I gained the gnarly offwidth, psyched up and dived in to do battle, like a rugby player going into a scrum. Thrutching away I noticed my hand and the testosterone fuelled fight stopped and I began daintly shuffling my way up the edge of the chimney using all the little crimps and edges until these ran out and I wished I’d stuck to thrutching. So the verdict is, maybe painted nails is useful for slabs and delicate climbing but it’s a bad idea for butch stuff and buying women’s clothes.
|Arm Barring at the top of Winking Crack (E3 5c), George Ullrich Collection.|
Then we abbed into Main Cliff from the top of Resolution Direct/Achilles. We used a 100m rope but an 80m would probably reach, just. The Abseil lands you on the West side of the Gogarth pinnacle so it’s good knowledge if you’re doing two or more routes on Main Cliff or if the tide is still high as passing the pinnacle is one of the lowest bits of the traverse. We had come down to do Citadel (E5 6b). The route has two main pitches the first has a famous crux, whilst the second is an absolute festival of pump. I would normally pick the pumpy pitch but we let the Queen decide. She span round and round in the air landing face down in the dirt. Tails. I take the crux pitch.
The climbing felt good, some tricky moves over bulges and round overlaps led to a resting niche with some strange old, wooden instruments jammed into the crack. Above me laid the crux and a peg to protect it. I can only assume the peg was made of Cadburys Flake and has deteriorated since. It wilted further as I placed a quickdraw on it, and once the rope was clipped to this it looked ready to snap. So filled with confidence I inspected the crux sequence a few times, it was by no means obvious. I finally committed to some awkward undercuts, pulling out into the point of no return I threw in a pre-empted dropknee and before I knew it I had easier ground in my hands and a sloshing bucketful of exposure beneath me.
In the heat our tight rock boots had become tighter, excruciatingly so. I squeezed the sweat from the foam in my helmet whilst George cooled his heels before leading off. Struggling to enjoy the climbing through the pain he sprinted the pitch with me following suit. Even climbing hastily we still both felt the presence of the lactic reaper gaining on us. As always on the Main Cliff the last pitch felt like a chore, you’re always ready to be topped out at the bottom of the last pitch, and to make it a little more punishing at the top of the route we had a terrifying 50m traverse across vertical heather back to the bags. We had planned to do another route but our Achilles proved to be our Achilles so we didn’t abb back down Achilles.
Three days later I had tired of watching the crap weather so me and Owain hit up the slate between the showers. We decided to have a go at the new multipitch sport routes in Twll Mawr. The aptly named Supermassive Black Hole (7a,6b+,7a,6b) was up first we abbed in using a 60m rope to get down the top three pitches then abbed off the belay of the 1st pitch to get to the base of the route. I led pitch 1 and 2 in a oner (37m). There were a few technical moves but ample rests and easy sections made me think that maybe it’s only 6c+. Owain led the top two pitches in one 37m pitch at 6c+ again. This one had slightly easier moves but was more sustained. Overall the route is bound to become a classic outing with brilliant climbing in a brilliant place. Get on it.
It rained again the next day So I went out bolting with the some of the Old Boys of North Wales, Chris Parkin, Andy Boorman, Norman Clacher and Jon Ratcliffe. I’d never been bolting before so I just did the cleaning. I weeded the base of the crag then spent hours digging mud from some enormous, juggy pockets. The routes we cleaned and bolted are on a buttress about 50m right of Mayfair wall called Hanging Rock. They’re all fairly short (about 10m) and of boulder nature in the 7a-7c range. The next day me and Jon tried to go to The Diamond but after sitting in the van through persistent rain we could see The Diamond had bore the brunt of it and would be gopping. We decided to go and warm-up in the cave while we waited for the routes we bolted to dry. Sure enough they dried in about 30mins, we had beat the weather through pure optimism. First off we tried the rightmost line, Bethlehem is Lost (7a, used to be E3 6b), a bouldery start (V4) led to easier climbing on good holds but with little for the feet. Then we tried the leftmost line Slouching Towards Jerusalem (7b+, used to be E4 6b!) The climbing on this was very bouldery with an awesome cutloose dyno/throw, followed by another equally difficult move off a fingery hold, after this it’s a fun romp on the huge jugs I had dug out the day before. Before Leaving we Tried the central groove line, De Torquemada (it used to be E5 6c) neither of us managed it, the climbing seemed desperately technical. So there is still the first ascent for 20years or so waiting to be had on the two middle lines, it will not be easy!