Sunday, 18 March 2018

The ANNUAL DINNER MEET, Tyn-y-Coed Hotel, Capel Curig.

You might think this was the "event of the year" but tastes have changed and only twelve members and guests sat down to the evening meal.
The weekend started early for Stuart and Liz who take advantage of the warm, dry conditions existing on the Friday. With the sun out and very little wind they decided to visit the Dinorwig slate quarries to do some climbing. Stuart led their first route “Seamstress VS 4c” a three star classic which is an entertaining thin crack up the face of the Slab in the Serengeti area. In this area “Neat arete VS 5b” was also climbed which has a series of tough moves at the start but is a worthwhile route. They also visited ‘Never never land’ Stuart led again, “Hawkeye F5c” a delightful route on great rock before the last two routes of the day “Tomb raider F6a+” and “362 F5c” fine multipitch sport routes which proved to be brilliant adventures.

Friday night, most of the guests arrived at the Ty-y-Coed Hotel.  A fine time to socialise and work out the best climbing plan for the Saturday. 
The "Beast from the East" was blowing and the hills were coated with a thin coating of ice and snow.  Tryfan would be dangerous so we opted for the Gribin ridge which for the most part would be sheltered from the biting wind.

Dave leading the team up the Gribin Ridge.

The ascent went well and ropes were not needed.  At the top we turned towards Glyder fawr keeping the wind to our backs.  The descent down Glyder Fawr was rather tricky - the scree was frozen and potentially slippery but there was a long slope of snow in perfect condition for the ice-axe to grip.  We expected the normal descent by the Devil's Kitchen track to be covered in ice (verglas) so we thought that a safer descent might be made down the north-east ridge of Y Garn.  Stuart and Dave braved the icy blast at the start of the route but others refused the invitation to follow as the wind blowing back was monstrous.  So it was back to the Devil's Kitchen track for the many.  Yes, some verglas where extreme care was needed but not as bad as expected.

View from the summit of Y Garn

The Dinner went well.  Chairman Jeff Dodwell presented the Annual Awards, which was followed by two slide shows: previously unseen photos of climbing Mera peak; and a traverse and rock and ice climb of Mount Kenya.

The start of the rout to Llyn Crafnant

It put down 6 inches of snow overnight.  Before the snow plough had come through you couldn't tell where the road started and the pavement began -  a magical sight. 
The team decided to blaze a trail to Llyn Crafnant because the route starts immediately behind the hotel.  The wind had eased but out on the open moor compasses and maps came out to try to find the path in this snow covered wilderness.  A team effort was required as the heavy snow fall had obliterated all trace of any paths.  Eventually we found the main path to Crafnant where most of the snow had been blown off the path.  Lovely views of the lake and even more magical views in the forest path over towards Llyn Geirionedd.  A lovely easy walk and we were back at the hotel for 2:30pm.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Longridge Fell Walk

A diversion from the main path blocked by fallen trees. Gail Craven leads Stuart Hesketh, Liz Harrison, and Ian Craven through the forest of debris.

This meet took place when there was still lying snow on a typical winter day.  The path up to Longridge Fell was often blocked by fallen trees almost certainly brought down by "The beast from the East" the previous week.  But we are a Mountaineering Club, not a set of ramblers, so we found a weakness in the forest of fallen trees and treated it as a challenging rock climb using inventiveness and determination.  It was great fun acting like a child again.  
The lovely views of the Trough of Bowland from Spire Hill were not to be - everywhere was covered in mountain fog and it was snowing heavily.
Food and drink at the New Drop Inn was as comfortable as ever in the snug bar.
The return to Hurst Green seems to follow a constant east bearing but the paths are so complicated in this region the compass and map had to be our companion throughout.  Our last summit was Doe Hill before returning to Hurst Green.        

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Climbing the Frozen Idwal Stream

The wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ had left Wales frozen all the way down the roadside.  Simon, Lee, Stuart and Chris made plans to exploit the conditions and climb the Idwal stream.  They climbed in two teams, Stuart and Chris followed by Simon and Lee.  The route was well frozen with brittle ice in places.  Stuart and Chris climbing on alternate leads.  Simon led most pitches with Lee leading two of the easier pitches to accomplish his first leads on ice.  For the upper sections both parties moved together.  A busy excursion with very social belays it seemed most climbers had heard the stream was in.  Descent was made via the Devils Kitchen path.

Chris about to lead the first pitch Stuart & Chris at large belay high up in stream

Ropes leading up one of the lower ice pitches Simon leading up an ice pitch

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Winter Climbing & Walking Meet - Braithwaite

Saturday morning at 6:45 a band of winter climbers emerged from their bunks and busily prepared for a snow and ice climbing day on Great End.  At 8 a.m. they left the hut and journeyed to the car parking at Seathwaite. The objective was to climb Cust's Gully.  As we ascended the light rain turned to sleet, then snow.  The whole face of Great End was covered in fog but we could just about make out the start of Central Gully.  Cust's Gully was known to be high and far to the right but in the mist it was difficult to make out anything distinguishable.  The trek was easy under the rocks but Cust's Gully was nowhere to be found.  Checking the guidebook we decided that we were too low and a climb over steep rocky terrain to the next level shelf would be necessary.  Eventually, after much searching, we found the narrow steep-sided gully of Cust's with the unmistakable chock-stone wedged in it. 
Here we split into three groups.  Chris and Stuart decided to climb the grade III Window Gully. Ken roped up with Kieran and Phil whilst John, the other leader of the day, roped up with Simon and Lee  to climb Cust's Gully.  Snow conditions were not firm but there was enough purchase on the boots to allow us to move together as two teams.  A small rock pitch under the chockstone gave a difficult pitch where a permanent belay was made.  The final steps out of the gully were relatively easy.
We waited on the summit for Chris and Stuart, in total white-out. Eventually we heard a faint whistle and they joined us in the shelter of some rocks. Their climb had involved  a tough pitch of mixed ice and rock in lean conditions, lead by Stuart and giving Chris his first taste of grade III winter climbing. After a month of frustrating conditions it was fantastic to finally feel the crampons and axes bite into real ice.

Above the icy rock - the chockstone feature evident

By Taylorgill force: Phil, Chris, Stuart, Lee, 
Simon, John and Kieran
The descent in the cloud was far from easy.  Ken was armed with map and compass which gave a good, safe line of descent but the compass then led us uphill for too long.  Something was wrong.  John checked our position on his new navigation gizmo and decided we were starting the ascent of Esk Pike.  A quick turn-around brought us to the branch off to Esk Hause and a new compass bearing toward Sprinkling Tarn.  The fog had descended still further and no features of Great End were now to be seen but at least it had stopped snowing.  Down to Styhead Tarn where a mountain rescue man was quite rightly turning back young hopefuls wanting to climb Scafell so late in the day.  Our descent then took us over the small scramble by Taylorgill Force, one of the highest waterfalls of the Lake District. 
The day was finished off with a communal meal of corn beef hash and fruit salad at the hut before going to the pub.

On the Sunday we rose to a much brighter day - no risk of rain or snow.  The quest was now to climb Helvellyn from Red Tarn.  At Glenridding car park we waited for the car parking machine to register 9a.m. after which it allowed you to buy a ticket.  The trek to Helvellyn was arduous
over ice-glazed stones and a gradient that seemed to last forever.  Eventually the bowl of Helvellyn became visible; one of Lakeland’s finest winter views. Red Tarn was surprisingly unfrozen. 

Stuart climbs V Corner (III) Red Tarn Cove

We roped up into three groups as before.  Kieran had gone home to celebrate his father's birthday and his place was taken by Ian.  The main groups chose the Grade I Gully 2 (as opposed to the Grade II Gully 1, confusingly) whilst Chris and Stuart plumped for a grade III route.  The main teams made good progress at first but as the gully steepened conditions under foot were not good - 10 cm of soft snow covering an icy base.  Both Ken and Ian tried to fit crampons on the steep icy slope in vain - they would have to kick and cut steps. The exit from the gully was particularly tricky, rising to about a 70 degree angle on uncertain snow, but the two axes helped a lot to steady the climb.
Stuart and Chris made a successful ascent of V-Corner, a line of weakness up the buttress to the left of Gully 2, culminating in the tricky eponymous corner. Again, conditions were leaner than ideal but Stuart lead the first and third pitches boldly, with Chris succeeding on his first grade III lead on pitch two. They moved together on the upper snow slope to rendezvous with Ken and party on the summit plateau, with glorious views over the snowy fells.

John and his team decided to descend by Swirral Edge                                                                        
Ken chose Striding Edge as a descent because one of his team had no crampons.  Striding Edge is longer but safer because Swirral can be lethal in icy conditions without crampons - there are no rocks to stop a fall, just a continuing icy slope to Red Tarn, far below.

We got down to the Car Park at 5:30 as the light was fading on one of the most successful winter climbing meets ever and a pleasure to be with such an enthusiastic team.     

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Winter Hill Walk

The walk was 6 miles from Rivington Barn up toward Belmont Road before a steady push to the trig point and the Winter Hill Mast (photo Lee Foster) .  We then made our way to Two lads Stone, descending to Rivington Pike and into the terraced gardens with a slight detour to the waterfall. 

This was a well attended meet with Dave, Yvonne, Lee and son, John with Benji, Ian, Scott, Simon and daughter Rebecca.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Mallorca Meet

Another winter draws in and Spanish limestone calls again.  Whenever I do this I’m struck by how easy it is, when you get down to it.  Two hours after landing at Palma we’re gearing up beneath delectable slabs in a quiet mountain valley, climbing high above the tree line to enjoy views across the flat plain that stretches south from the rocky northern spine of the island.  We lark about on hanging belays and confuse locals with our trad-influenced rope technique.  Grade targets are achieved early and the week stretches ahead of us full of hope, promise, and crimpy finger pockets.

Alice on Baba (4c) Kieran on Ses Tres Maries (6a+)

Alice has done a great job finding our villa, a luxurious spreading bungalow nicely hidden down a dusty side road, complete with a population of cats and a pool that we never use (this being a climbing holiday, after all).  It is the perfect base from which to explore, with nowhere more than an hour’s drive away.
            Top of the list of places to visit is the peninsula at the far northern tip of the island, a place of remote rugged beauty with shapely ridges running out into the sea, and home to an excellent collection of routes, clustered together to facilitate enjoyable levels of sociable fun.  Some superb lower-grade routes are topped off by some harder technical wall climbs, and my limestone head is clicking into gear. 
            The next day we head into the mountains, to where a vast scooped-out punchbowl of rock is bounded on its northern edge by a 200 metre high fin jutting out into the valley.  The front arete of this impressive feature forms a classic trad line, while bolted routes scale the faces on either side.  This allows for a pleasing symmetry, with Tom, Kieran and Justin tackling the trad route (Albahida, 4c/HS) with John and Chris on one side (La Ley Del Deseo, 5c) and Dave and Neil on the other (Supernova, 6a).  The latter two teams make short work of the bolts, meeting in the middle, Livingstone/Stanley style, to munch sandwiches in the sunshine.  A pleasant ridge scramble takes us to the top of the mountain and stunning views across the whole island.

John on La Les Del Deseo (5c)

       A pleasant day by the seaside follows, with yet more perfect rock, lapped by the gentle brine below. The routes here are intense and full of character, sometimes steep and gloriously juggy, sometimes fingery and fiercely technical.  We surmount tufa blobs, lie about soaking up the sun, tackle sea-level traverses and take relaxing swims in the sheltered bay.  A sleek-looking sailing boat pays a visit, dropping a dinghy for a brief paddle before departing along the coast.

            The setting for the following day’s climbing is a little less delightful, at an urban crag behind a derelict bodega littered with industrial remains, but the unusual rock quality more than compensates, as does the helpful beta of a local German who appears to have bolted the entire crag himself.  Grades are pushed further with his encouragement, Kieran deserving special mention for his ascent of Que Chulo (6b+).  Contender for route of the week is 3D (6a+), featuring wild bridging up apparently impossible cavities scooped from the rock.
            Our friendly German turns out to be the owner of the boat seen the previous day, onto which we are cordially invited for a taste of Mallorca’s famous deep-water soloing.  So off we motor over the warm (18C) blue Mediterranean to the ‘Rich Bitch cave’, a hidden beauty spot overlooked by a low glazed palace with perfect lawns.  Getting off the boat onto the steep limestone wearing only boots, shorts and a chalk bag was a fantastic feeling, and climbing with a new incentive not to fall resulted in gripping hard and lots of friendly encouragement.  However the inevitable splash-down happened for most of us on our second climb, an improbable 7a jump for a jug.  How refreshing the water was, the fear broken with a desire to do it all again!  The undoubted highlight was Kierans’ brilliant on-sight of Balso Boys(7a +) which had him shaking out nonchalantly with his body horizontal 4m above the sea.  More great climbs and scary splash-downs followed, and sailing back that evening to the setting sun, most felt this was the best day of a brilliant week.
Then it’s back to the mountains for yet more superb routes.  By now our brains are wired into the patterns of the rock and the moves that climbing it necessitates.  Bolting here is generous by any standards, making it safe to tackle lines that would inspire dread done trad.  We pull hard on millimetre-wide crimps and stand on sloping smears, high on exposed vertical faces, soaked in climbing and wanting nothing more.
            Even on the day we leave there is time for some of us to visit one more crag, to tick off a final few delightful clip-ups, to enjoy a beer as the pump finally defeats us, and the journey back to the cold and damp begins to beckon.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Nicky Nook and Grizedale Walk

Six members and guests turned up for the walk on a perfect winter day.  Nicky Nook Hill gave the most amazingly clear views over the plain of Lancashire and Morecambe Bay; unusually the hills of the Lake District were clearly visible.  There is a short cut to the walk from the summit of Nicky Nook to the reservoir but all the party opted to extend the walk to take in the beautiful Grizedale wooded valley.  The Priory Pub at Scorton was a welcome rest stop after the 11km morning walk.

Hannah, Ken, Yvonne and Jud with guests Stuart and Liz. 

After the excellent pub meal someone shouted that the ice-cream shop was open - irresistible. The way back to the car park is a short 3 km so how could we resist!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Clywdians Walk

The walk in the Clywdians Hills (Offas Dike) near Mold took the smaller limestone hills to the east of Llanferres.

The walk passed Pothole Quarry then continued by tiny paths not even marked on the map to the limestone pavement highpoint of Bryn Alyn (408 metres) giving great views of the higher Clwydians Hills and the hilly eastern forests.   Continuation of the walk passed by real caves (relics of 4000 year old human remains and later Roman remains found there) and a potter about at Pot Hole Quarry. 

Elevenses at Bryn Alyn

The group at Pothole Quarry

Moelwyns Climbing and Walking Meet

I don't know why this meet is not more popular.  Wonderful climbing on south facing cliffs with a micro-climate similar to that of Tremadoc with hard 2-pitch routes and easier 6-pitch slab routes more than a 100 metres long.  Accommodation was at the 'Lancashire Caving and Climbing Club hut at Tanygrisiau just 20 minutes away from the climbing cliffs.
After saying this area is blessed with good weather it was not to be this year.  It rained heavily all night and with lighter rain in the morning we were wondering what to do.  The three of us, Ken, Yvonne and Neil decided on a walk direct from the hut along the Ffestiniog valley.  Mercifully the rain stopped and we entered the Ffestiniog Railway station of Duallt to discover that this was a special "Victorian" weekend for the railway with many extra trains with tiny old carriages on a Victorian theme.  A goods train carrying a few small wagons looked as though it had just come out of the box of a toy train set.  For those railway buffs, there is a video attached of the normal scheduled steam train working hard up the slopes above Duallt.
The walk continued through forestry and by swollen rivers and waterfalls and it started to rain.
Nice to get back to a warm, comfortable hut and a hot meal.  The nearest hostelry, 'the Kings Arms' is just over a mile away.  We were made very welcome by the locals who were curious to know all about these hill walking strangers.
Sunday was forecast to be a dry day in the Ffestiniog region but so much rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours, low level cloud kept rolling in over the rock climbing crags.  Eventually we decided that climbing would be on damp rock and decided on a walk.  Walking in the mountains in this region is more of an industrial archaeology outing. Our walk took us by the massive Stylwan Dam (pump storage scheme), onward past many mines to two massive mined craters 300 feet deep in the middle of a mountain plateau.  One of these craters connected via a mine tunnel to the abandoned mining village of Cwmorthin over a mile away.  We were fascinated at all the mining history around us, mines, villages, waterwheel housings, inclines and slag heaps, tramways and were determined to 'google' the history of the region when we got home.   

A pleasant meet in spite of wet rock.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Pembroke Climbing & Coast Walking Meet

Kieran & John on "Gone" Alice climbs 'Heart of Darkness'

PEMBROKE gave a great long weekend enjoyed by all on these superb limestone sea cliffs. Brilliant weather, wonderful beaches and friendly pubs all make this a must go to destination for all keen 'trad' climbers. Notable ascents were Chris and Alice on 'Heart of Darkness' (HVS 5a), and Kieran and John on 'Army Dreamers' (HVS 5a) and Pavla and Stuart ascents and first abseils.
The final highlight was the magnificent 'Threadneedle Street' (S) which saw Kieran, John and Chris finishing the weekend off.