Now, well and truly settled for the winter season, I have time to reflect on the few weeks I had tradding in Wales over the amazing Indian Summer we had. Me and Dave had booked just over two weeks at the end of September and beginning of October for some trad. The original plan was to head over to Europe, to either Orco or Zillertal, but keeping an eye for the weather in the UK. Both of us were fundamentally psyched for Welsh trad, which you can never have enough of. It's like Pringles, once you pop, there's no stop.
We could believe our eyes when we looked at MetOffice forecast for the week. It seemed that a high pressure system was going to be sat in North Wales for 10 days. So the ferry was never booked and instead we headed to our favourite dossing spot, the Rhoscolyn parking lot. Every day was like being truly in Spain in Autumn. Open the van door, let the sunshine in, strip down to shorts, make coffee and go for a swim. The added thrill was having a paddle board which we took out numerous times before heading to the cliffs. During the full-moon nights, we took the paddle board out at night on an incredibly still night. We both went individually for a night tour of the Rhoscolyn bay sans-head torch, and I can say it was magical.
So back to the climbing, the only agenda was to get as much varied Welsh trad as possible, visiting as many crags I haven't seen as possible. Dave of course had been to many, but I'm quite a novice in North Wales trad, so I was in for a treat. The amazing weather followed us for about 10 days, in which we climbed non-stop without rest-days. And I paid for it when I tried to lead Right Wall in the baking sun on my 7th day on, on the day after having been up to Cloggy. Fortunately I realised I was caked soon enough and I managed to down-climb, with excessive amounts of effort, and save the onsight for a fresher day.
As usual, below are some pics to tell the story.
A pretty spectacular late evening arrival to Gogarth. I clocked 7hrs driving by then but still hungry for some Gogarth sea broccoli.
Parked up in Crafnant Valley, and an amazing view to wake up to. As it turns out the local tea shop owner doesn't like paddle boards in the lake.
This picture doesn't do justice to the amazing climbing in Crafnant. This route is a very burly E2 called Phoenix I think, which I string in one epic 60mts. But the crown jewel was Snowdrop, a Pete Livesey classic E4 6a. The second pitch is an immaculate overhanging headwall. It looks menacing, devoid of easy holds and grown with some lichen. But luckily I unlocked the way before my arms gave way. One crag to come back to for the rest of quality routes. And no, I wasn't tempted by the drytooling across the valley.
We spend the evenings drinking beer and paddle boarding by the many Welsh lakes. This one was our favourite, Llyn Gwynant just down from the Beris pass. On this particular day I got a bit brazen with my skills and end up in the soup fully clothed and lost my sunglasses. I had to have a shower anyways, so killed two bird in one shot.
Llyn Gwynant from our dossing spot up the road. We many good sunsets up there.
Abbing down into Wen Zawn on our first day. I was nursing a bit of a hangover so chose to do Dream of white horses. Got lost en route (don't trust a Catalan to navigate in Gogarth) and end up the just doing Wen instead. Such a cool place.
Second day we came back for an Extreme Rock tick and did TRex. I got the second pitch, which I found harder then the first. I chicken wing the first and it felt straight forward, but being terrible at slabs I did have a bit of a moment in the downclimb and coming around the corner, the exposure got to me. The coolest thing was hearing the infamous "whale" resting under 4th Dimension...
I've looked at Hoyhead Mountain countless times and always though it looked really good. So when Dave suggested spending a day there I concurred. It was way too hot for main cliff anyways. We had a great day ticking some awesome route on fantastic rock. This was Penny E4 6a which I led on Dave's gear. I also lead another E3 crack to the right which was superb.
I think this is the top pitch of Wen if I remember well. The whole of the 10 proved too hot to go down to main cliff. One day we wanted to go and do Dinosaur but there was no breeze and we were sweating our tits off at the gearing spot. Instead we went to do Strike E4 and then Blackleg, a very tasty E5 which we had to headpoint. I later learned it used to be E6, which I thought more appropriate.
It got unbearably hot in Anglesey so we retreated to the mountains. And what better place to head than Cloggy. Being October I'm told is a very unusual time to be up there, but it was in perfect conditions and, despite the horrendously hot walk up, was a great break from the heat. We did Jellyrool E2, something that Dave hadn't done, as he's done most stuff up there. I had the treat to string the first two pitches together making monster 60mt pitch. I love it! Can't wait to go back for more.
We had a good day up Grochan after Cloggy, but I was feeling the pace, 7 days on non-stop climbing. What fear of bad weather makes you do! Dave lead Stroll On E3, and I lead it on his gear, just! Then somehow we thought it would be a good idea to go up the Cromlech as I still have to do Right Wall. Dave got on True Grip E4/5 which I second with effort. Then somehow I thought it would be a good idea to do Right Wall in the blazing heat. As soon as I got up 5mts I realised the mistake. But the panic to blow the onsight set in and managed to find the energy to reverse the route, so I'm still on for the onisght. The rematch will come soon enough!
We finished our North Wales tour by paying a visit to Pete Harrisons creating in the Orme, and home to the cliff that's in the cover of my bible, North Wales Limestone guidebook. Red Meat is very adventurous 7b that felt more like a trad route. I didn't onsight it as it was quite an effort to work out where it went, but got it second go and it was a very high note to finish our short Autumn excursion around North Wales.
Then the bad weather finally came in, two days of rain, which my body really welcomed. I drove back to London to scrub the dirt of my body and see Viki. But then as the weather improved again, we headed to Pembroke. As it turned out, there was another bloody heatwave down there, and got symptoms of heatstroke. We had an amazing day at Stackpole, I did Heavens Door, which is certainly no E3 no more after loosing the block. I was truly gripped but loved the exposure beneath my feet.
Dave on Heavens Door, more like E4 6a now. I loved the exposure of Stackpole. Soon after this I lead Swordfish E3, what a top pitch! I don't climbing will be the same again ;-)
After this we had a day on Trevallen where we did the neglected Broadsword E4 and I was proud that finally I seemed to have mastered my jamming skills. Although the Ocun Crack gloves might have had something to do with it... In this picture Dave is on Youth on fire E3/4, I can't believe he hadn't done it yet, it was one of my first routes in Pembroke. The quality of this route sparked a debate in which one is better climbing, North or South Wales? No need to choose, luckily we can have both. God, I don't miss Spain one bit...
So a throughly happy chap having filled his boots with world-class trad. I haven't missed my long-haul trips one bit this Autumn, luckily it was all here on my doorstep. All this trad got me psyched for Scottish winter and I will certainly will give it a go this season. The winter tyres are fitted in the van!