Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Hen Cloud (Part Two)

Jeff and AndyC weren't the only ones out at Hen Cloud on Saturday(Read Jeff's Report). They were also accompanied by Graham and Ste, Julie and Kevin, Malcolm, Alison, Richard and AndyG. Enough for a game of five-a-side footy.

AndyG started the show by leading The Arete 26m VDiff 2*. According to Rockfax, a "gritstone classic" and it turned out to be every bit as interesting as an experienced climber learns to expect after hearing such an apparently innocent phrase. A tricky, gearless and insecure start leading shortly afterwards to the first belay on a comfortable ledge. Then a few steps up to a steep wall and the opportunity to place a nut for protection. Next comes the good bit, grope around at full stretch until three finger tips sink into a little slot in an otherwise inhospitable seam in the rock. Hang off those three fingers, smear high with the feet and swing elegantly around the arete into a position of gob-smacking exposure.

Reach left and jam a hand into a horizontal crack and stretch your left leg wide for a little triangular foothold, while all the time admiring the view down between your feet, past the bottom of the crag and all the way to the bottom of the hill. When you have done that for long enough to realise that you are not going to fall off, at least not straightaway, it's time to consider moving up, and that takes some thinking about. Eventually, careful shuffling of the right foot, into the same cleft where your left hand is, allows the intrepid leader to raise himself on to the hold-less slab and tread carefully on the wavy ripples leading back to the arete and easy ground.

Not bad for a VDiff as Malcolm will testify. Despite checking the guide book, he refused to believe that it was proper VDiff. However, upon returning home and consulting his own guide book he was forced to admit that in the 1950's it was only considered Diff.

While all this was going on Graham and Ste, and Jeff and AndyC, went off further along the crag to do proper hard stuff. Then Julie and Kevin decided to lead Richard astray on K2 30m Severe 4b 1*. This turned out to be quite testing for them, especially as they were subject to scrutiny and heckling from the party above them on The Arete.

After a brief break for lunch, AndyG set out on Modern 20m Severe 4a 1*. To begin with, it proved to be a test of almost every possible type of jamming; fingers, toes, fists, feet and finally arms and legs. However, it finished with a strenuous layback in a rapidly disappearing crack, leading to delicate tip-toeing up a steep wall whilst trying to keep it all under control with the most tenuous of finger holds.

Unfortunately, this proved to be too strenuous for Malcolm but Alison had a good go at it and she has the grit rash to prove it. Kevin, Julie and Richard all followed on top-rope and clearly benefited from having seen how everyone else had done it.

Finally, Julie, Kevin and Richard decided to have a go at The Arete, and the rest opted for Ancient 16m VDiff 1* which weaves a slightly easier way up the tower than it's companion climb, Modern. It started easily with nice secure hand jams leading onto a slab and eventually a big ledge below the same headwall surmounted by Modern. This time the way was a little further to the left but it still proved to be surprisingly strenuous.

After descending and returning to our bags it became apparent that not much progress was being made by our other party on The Arete. After advice, encouragement and even ridicule failed to move the party upward, a top-rope was very graciously offered and gratefully received.

By this time the rest of the chaps had returned from their adventures and it became apparent that the consensus of opinion was in favour of retiring to a nearby hostelry for some well earned refreshment. Which we did.

Hen Cloud

A report on climbing at Hen Cloud on Saturday 26 of April 08 and a short treatise on why climbing may be better than sex.

Andy C was really up for it today but offered me the lead on Great Chimney S 4a *** as he had done it before. I had a bit of a tussle with the first slabby crack on the left hand side but really enjoyed the final section after the move right.

Next up was Rainbow Crack VS 5a *** which Andy led. I found it very hard going on second and needed a rest on the gear. This thing is very high in the grade and Andy did really well as quite a bit of gear is placed under pressure.

Andy was still fired up to push himself ( " f--- it I'm just gonna do it ! " ).
So we next did Bachelor's Climb 28m VS 4c 3*** with Andy again on lead.
I don't know what it felt like on lead.......Andy ................? But seconding was brutal.
In particular the bulge at the top which you have to jam and scrape and thrutch over.
I came out panting for breath and bleeding and again had needed a rest.

Not to be dissuaded though we felt that as we were at Hen Cloud we just had to do Central Climb 38m VS 4c 3***. I led the first pitch which gives jamming but with just enough hand holds to ease the pressure and so felt really good. Next came Andy's lead up a very awkward crack. He stuck at it for a good while but in the end we swapped leads.

I didn't find it any easier so in the end, rather than risk the second benightment on this route I managed to avoid the crack by climbing the short wall to its right, gaining the next belay stance.
( phew ! ) Or rather ( F-"£$%^&****ing hell !!! )

Anyroad, Andy set off again on lead topping out nicely and bringing me up to meet Julie and Richard with tales of Peregrine sightings. What an epic.

A thought has struck me ( yes I know, it don't happen often ) but how many times do we do a climb and say, "that was horrible" or "thank god that's over" or "I don't want to do THAT again", etc., etc., etc.
Now, if you had a meal that evoked that response you would never eat it again would you?
Well you might if you had to but you would try to avoid it.
But we still go climbing....
Now what if after having sex, you felt moved to say "that frightened the life out of me" or "remind me why we do this" or "that felt awful, my knees are all bruised and my knuckles are bleeding" etc., etc., etc., would you not at least consider giving it up?
Or having a break, or doing it with someone else?
Thought so.
So there you have it, point proved.
Its better than sex.

Jeff B

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Idwal Slabs

Sheila and Mike were out in Wales on Saturday, here is her report with a few comments by Mike:

Faith, Vdiff route on Idwal Slabs (Sat, 26th April)

We arrived around 11.30 Saturday morning at Ogwen Cottage, with the intention of climbing 1 of the classic Vdiff lines on Idwal Slabs. We geared up and started walking in up the tourist path. I wasn't convinced it was a good idea given the howling wind, but as Mike was excited about climbing, we persevered and on reaching the slabs found them more sheltered and conditions to be satisfactory. We consulted the guide book and after some debate and consideration decided on Faith, which neither of us had climbed previously.

Mike started on the first pitch... interesting climbing if a little tenuous in places... a few "Jesus wept" were elicited (Mike- not sure I went the correct way, but looked horribly slippery further right...). However, after some deliberation, Mike made the moves that led him leftwards on the slab and appeared happy at the first belay. I followed suit and enjoyed the route and found the footwork interesting and fun.

The 2nd pitch was mine.... pleasant climbing up to a traverse section. The climb suddenly got interesting... my last piece of gear was some distance below me and my second long out of sight. A decision was required... go for a seemingly good handhold but smears for feet... or what? A tenuous position indeed, and with Mike out of sight, no retreat or backup. A handy cam placement calmed me down and I made the move without trouble. Time to set up a belay and get Mike up.

Mike took the 3rd pitch. The damp conditions made the traverse he faced entertaining, and elicited several "oh dears" (Mike – better than my usual comments) whilst making the moves.... some consideration of foot and handholds were required. He turned the corner and to my relief reported the next section to be pleasant shallow angled slabby climbing.

The final pitch was mine. Pleasant slabby climbing that gave me chance to appreciate the lovely quality of the quartz bands that line Idwal slabs. I struggled with protecting the traverse sufficiently for my second and indeed found my ropes on this occasion jammed on the traverse. A lesson indeed for the future. On this occasion, 2 other climbers who appeared on a parallel route (Hope – aptly named in this case), were kind enough to help out and free our ropes.

Mike seconded up the route into the now sunny conditions and we were all treated to a fantastic view of the valley over Llyn Idwal and Devil's Kitchen. We packed our gear and followed our new found friends to the descent route off the slabs. No simple task, the descent required some scrambling further up, till we came across the descent gully. A small wooden cross near the gully indicated some other poor unfortunate had not been so lucky in their descent. We thanked the other climbers for their generous help, and then made our way down the hillside, back to the car and a well earned rest and beer.