Friday, September 21, 2007

Where am I now?

I have just spent another couple of days in Wales with Mark and Gareth on an advanced scrambling course followed by an AMI meeting in Manchester last night. Today has been spent on the computer and tomorrow I am off to the Picos for a week with Simon and Paul. I am back on 1st October.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rock Climbing in Snowdonia

I have just got back from 4 days work in Snowdonia. On Thursday and Friday I was with Steve and Roz who had joined me for a two day rock climbing refresher course. Steve had previously done a little leading with me but wanted a refresher before taking Roz out. We went to Holyhead Mountain on Thursday and then Milestone Buttress on Friday and Steve led a variety of pitches along the way.

On Saturday I joined Mark & Ben for a 2 day multipitch climbing course. Both had been out with me on other courses before but it was Bens first time rock climbing. We did 2nd Pinnacle Rib on Tryfan, a 6 pitch V Diff with a Severe final pitch. We then met up in the pub with Steve and Roz who had been to Tryfan Bach and had a good day. We also met a couple of my friends doing their summer ML and Andy and Sid who had been out having fun on Dinas Mot!

Sunday saw a wet day but we headed to Tremadog and the rain held off until mid afternoon. We did some more multi pitch climbing and looked at equalising belays, abseil retreats, an intro to leading and how to set up top ropes.

I am home today and back in Wales tomorrow and Wednesday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

King Kong, Wintours Leap & Cemetry Gates, Dinas Cromlech

These two routes have been on my ticklist for some time now but for whatever reason I have not got round to doing them - until this weekend.
This is the first weekend that I have had free for a long time with a good weather forecast so some frantic ringing around to get a climbing partner sorted saw Simon arranging cover at work and squaring it with the wife to join me for a raid to the Wye Valley on Saturday afternoon and then the Llanberis Pass on Sunday afternoon.

King Kong - HVS 5b? - 3 pitches
A couple of years ago this route had a fairly major rockfall and the guidebook grade has not been re-assessed since. Their is therefore some debate as to what grade it is now with internet speculation ranging from HVS 5b to E2 5c! It was pretty warm when we geared up at the foot of the route on Saturday but within about 8 metres of climbing I had sweated buckets - and I am not a sweaty person! The start is very physical and does not ease you into the route in any way whatsoever. You climb up under a roof, traverse below it and then pull up through/past it into a groove. That bit is fine. The groove is then reasonably sustained and I found it the most difficult bit of the climb before stepping out into a cave for a breather. The rest of the 1st pitch is pleasant but not in any way hard.
The second pitch has another roof on it and it took me a couple of minutes to figure out the sequence through it. I will not tell you what that is but needless to say feet are the key. Once solved the sequence was not hard but it is intimidating when you are looking up at it. The rest of the route was then pretty smooth.
Cemetry Gates - E1 5b, two pitches, Dinas Cromlech, Llanberis Pass
I had climbed Cenotaph Corner in April and so was looking forward to how this compared but in actual fact spent more time comparing it to King Kong to try and ascertain the grade of the Wye Valley classic. The approach to Cemetry Gates is fun involving an exposed scramble from the foot of Cenotaph corner and and squeeze down a chimney to the belay ledge. There were two folks ahead of us on the route so we had to sit and wait with fingers getting increasingly cold in the overcast weather. A fim crew had turned up that morning to film someone on Right Wall but it had been deemed too wet. Nevertheless we were surrounded by rockstars with folk climbing the Corner, Left Wall and Resurrection.

On belay at the top of the first pitch of Cemetry Gates.

As I started climbing it started drizzling but the route remained pretty much dry and it did not come to much. The first pitch is the 5b pitch and it is sustained but all of the holds are their. There was no single part of the climb that had me stumped, holds appeared where you wanted them and gear was plentiful. I took my time and rested as much as I could and enjoyed it. The last few moves to the belay ledge are pumpy and the world slowed down a bit as I made them but it went without drama!

The second pitch is 4c and is very pleasant taking you to the beautiful grass garden that is the belay ledge at the top of the Gates, Right Wall and Cenotaph Corner. It feels like a hallowed place to be and the abseil off is spectacular.

At the top of Cemetry Gates - buzzing!
So back to King Kong. What grade is it? The crux moves felt physically harder than anything on Cemetry Gates but it was less sustained. The majority of the first pitch after the crux is straightforward Severe. That said if you were an HVS climber I think King Kong would feel on the limit and hence the 5b grade. I would say its now a tough HVS 5b or lower end E1 5b. But then what do I know!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Arolla to Zermatt Walkers Haute Route

I have spent the last 2 weeks working in the Swiss Alps. I drove out to Arolla on Saturday 18th August and arrived about lunchtime. I had a day and a half to spare before the course started and decided to go and play on the local Via Ferrata at Evolene. I remember thinking that I must have been spending too much time bouldering indoors - at one point I used the rock instead of a metal rung for my left boot and acused myself of cheating!
I met up with the Evans family who were my clients for the first week and we headed off on the Monday from Arolla to La Sage in beautiful sunshine. We arrived as the heavens opened and woke up Tuesday morning to a fresh covering of snow. This made for some stunning views as we headed over the Col du Tsate and the clouds would part every now and again to show us snow capped peaks and tantalising patches of blue sky.

That night was spent at the Cabane de Moiry, an Alpine hut that is perched at 2800 metres and looks out on the Glacier de Moiry. We had stunning views the following morning with blue skies and sunshine. The whole family did very well and we arrived in Zermatt on Friday afternoon to well deserved views of the Matterhorn.

On Saturday morning I headed up the Klein Matterhorn on my own and took some lovely photos of the Matterhorn itself from 3800 metres before meeting up with a friend for lunch and heading back to Arolla.
The second week was spent with Sean and Annette and Simon & Claire. The week ran smoothly although a big lightening storm meant that we could not head over the Col du Sorbois and had to use the bus!