Tuesday, 2 September 2008

In the Lap of the Gods & Fate Determined

A Dream Of White Horses Part One, IN THE LAP OF THE GODS.........

August 25th found Ste and Jeff heading over to Gogarth to meet Graham and his mate Dave. We found Holyhead alright but finding the road to North Stack took a bit of cunning. We also found that when you ask the locals for directions, they take so long in telling you whether to turn right or left at such and such a junction that you are eventually forced into filling in the long pause for them with whatever direction pops into your head. It goes something like this.....

Ste: "Excuse me, can you tell us how to get to North Stack please?"
Old Lady: "Oh yes... You go back down here, then turn left, then you take the next......................."
Ste: "Left?"
Old Lady: "Left."
Ste: "Right?"
Old lady: "Yes."
Ste: "Right, thank you."
Old Lady: "Yes."

And off you go to ask in the Post Office and buy a Mars Bar.

Found North Stack eventually where Graham and Dave were waiting patiently at the car park. Introductions all round, grab the gear and it’s off to the (surprisingly hard to find) cliffs. Actually, the cliffs are not hard to find, just the bit where Dream is. This is itself surprising as both Graham and Dave had been here previously but seemed to have forgotten the topography. Much detouring and hill climbing followed before we eventually spotted some climbers. We followed them to the upper slopes and then made our way down to the little promontory where Ste and Jeff were rewarded with their first sight of the fabled route.

What a sight it is! Confronted suddenly by this vast and seemingly blank wall, your senses take a bit of time to start taking it all in. I heard Ste say something along the lines of, "**** me, look at the *&%A3$in' size of that **&|A3$%..!" To which I could only agree as I was thinking along similar lines myself. Graham and Dave just smiled serenely, whilst two other climbers declared Dream to be "too wet". Sometime during the following few minutes, captivated as I was by the sight and sounds of this place, part of my brain and half of one eye noticed Dave pointing and saying, ".....so you belay there, in the niche. " At the time I took this to mean that you belay in the niche ON DREAM......

Silly me. You will realise the significance of this mistake a little later.

Time went on and sarnies were eaten. Eyes began to pick out features on the cliff. The Wen Crack and Ledge, Concrete Chimney, the first belay point after the abseil down, the great overhangs of the final pitch, fierce and forbidding and streaked with water. "We on then?" Oh yes.

Geared up and at the abseil station Ste and Jeff checked and double checked everything before Ste set off down to build the first belay. The two climbers who had declared Dream to be too wet had already set off to do Wen and had thoughtfully left their ab rope in place. They also thoughtfully directed Ste to the Wen ledge as he was looking for the start of Dream thus neatly putting us in the wrong place. Hmm. So there we were, on this nice big comfy ledge with no sign at all of the “rising flake line" that we wanted to see. We were a few meters to the right of the Wen Crack and above us we could see a climber belaying. "I reckon if we go straight up here towards that climber we should find the flake line of Dream." It looked ok so I set off going slightly leftwards on what at first were very nice holds indeed. “This is fantastic Ste! Really nice climbing!" I enthused, making fairly rapid progress. "Not much in the way of gear though," I murmured, as the holds started to thin out and become smaller and smaller, the straightforward though strenuous moves becoming more and more technical and the distance between the (rather poor) gear, getting further and further.


I was dimly aware at one stage, of a line of flakes going off to my left, but being a bit gripped was determined to reach what I still believed was the belay. I reached it eventually to find an extremely commodious spot (the niche) in which to build a bomber and even quite comfortable belay that was in entirely the wrong place from which to access our Dream of White Horses. It was in fact (of course) the start of the last pitch ON WEN. Damn.

Ste came up, declaring the pitch to be harder than expected but glad of the two dodgy slings and three rubbish wires that I had found to protect the 30 odd meters of slightly desperate climbing. Are we having fun yet? Well yes actually, we were not too downhearted not to be on the correct route. We were, after all, in a fantastic position. Safely hanging in our little niche we had time to admire the view and contemplate what to do next. We soon worked out that getting back on Dream would require some very bold efforts indeed and in fact the deep and rugged crack line of the route we were on looked decidedly appealing.

Ste's lead then and off he went. Dealing with the crack, pulling over the bulge and tackling the traverse with aplomb. Nice one dude. Really, really nice pitch. Can't wait to do the route proper.

So, sigh of relief, grins all round, explain to Graham and Dave what we had been up to (they had been watching our efforts with some bemusement after finishing Britomartis), get the books out again and find out what we had been on between the ledge and the niche.

Close study of the guidebooks revealed......

Zeus, E2 5b.

Moral of the story...?

Leave not your fate in the lap of the gods..........read your bloody guidebook properly!

A Dream Of White Horses Part Two, FATE DETERMINED.

August 26th and Ste and Jeff made their way gingerly along the narrow path to the abseil station. This was accompanied by much burping and letting off of wind from Ste who had been unable to finish his breakfast, blaming, "The powdered milk in my brew". Not, of course, the many pints consumed the night before in the campsite bar. Jeff too felt a bit wobbly tying on his prussik and launching, once again into the void to follow Ste to the (this time correct) belay point on Dream.

Marvel dear reader if you will, at this pair's dedication in keeping the time honoured traditions of hard climbing. The preparation, the early nights, the crack of dawn starts, the healthy eating regimes, the fitness programmes...... All properly ignored in favour of a fish supper, lots of beer, a few hours kip and half a sausage roll for breakfast.


We had read the guidebook properly this time though and spied out our belay. We were on.

Invisible from a distance, the line of deep flakes was now obvious rising up and left, inviting lots of gear placements for Jeff as he lead the first pitch. Mostly straightforward with one or two quite technical moves providing extra interest on what is a fantastic line. Belay built in the crack of Wen, below the niche and Ste was away leading the second pitch. The flake line got steeper and ever higher, good climbing, plenty of gear again and on towards the block below the Concrete Chimney. What a place to be! No seals today(we had seen one the day before) but it felt great to be there. Blessed with decent weather, cool and a bit foggy for a short spell but nothing untoward, we positively revelled in our position.


Last pitch then and stepping out over that great undercut drop was something else. Moving along, traversing, holds always where you wanted them to be. Even dripping wet in parts, this final pitch was a joy. Great teamwork too, runners extended, rope given or taken in promptly and without drama, time to look down and thoroughly enjoy the exposure and grin at each other. Bloody marvellous.


Under the final overhanging block then, belay from there to avoid dragging the rope tight around the corner. Much nicer too, to be able to see something of your partner as he comes across and watch him smile as he sees the sky above your heads.


A Dream of White Horses HVS 5a, 4c, 4c.

This time, fate determined for ourselves.

Jeff B