Thursday 30 April 2009

north wales

This weekend just passed was my first trip to North Wales for the year. Patrick and I had planned to do an ‘alpine training’ type trip involving walking and climbing carrying heavy packs, including tent and sleeping materials. Unfortunately, a number of factors conspired to change our plans entirely. Firstly, I had a stinking cold. Think gallons and gallons of green goo. Lovely. And secondly, Patrick got delayed on his journey over on Friday night, meaning it was too late to get to our first camp with any degree of comfort or daylight. So we stayed on a campsite.

Saturday had meant to be a day of long easy routing (Amphitheatre Buttress in the Carneddau was our specific objective), but I felt absolutely terrible in the morning, so we had a lay in and a lazy breakfast before finally deciding to go cragging.

Cragging in Llanberis – my first time. Well actually, the first place we went was into the slate quarries where I really wanted to have a crack at Seamstress (a lovely classic slate VS). Eventually we found it and I had a slightly scary time on some of the super committing polished moves over gear in cracks behind loose flakes (mmm nice). Anyway, despite being terrified for much of it and feeling horribly off balance because of my cold, I finished it successfully, right before another heavy rain shower hit.

After this, we ventured back into town to have a cup of tea in Pete’s (we were having a very laid back day), after which we headed up the pass and Patrick managed to convince me to go and do Crackstone Rib on Carreg Wasted – a super classic 3 star Severe. Hmm. ‘Super classic’. ‘3 star’. More like ‘polished to hell’, ‘awkward’, and ‘almost entirely unpleasant’. I didn’t like it that much.

On Sunday I was still feeling terrible, so much so that I wimped out of climbing altogether (we had been planning to go and do some VS’s on Dinas Mot). Eventually Patrick convinced me to go and do Cneifon Arete – a gorgeous scramble with a Mod start. Needless to say we solo’d it in our trainers, in fact we were up and back to the car in 2hrs20, even with lots of stopping to take the mickey out of a pair roping up for it behind us (I joke – we didn’t take the mick at all, but it was quite curious to see just how much gear they racked up with!), and to take photos:

DSCF2868After the scramble we went bouldering for a little bit, back to the RAC boulders (where I’d also been on Friday afternoon and finally did a cool little problem called Marsh Arete, V3). This was Patrick’s first time bouldering and I think (hope) he enjoyed it at least a little bit…

Sunday 19 April 2009



Beautiful place.

Monday 13 April 2009

so maybe I'm an ice climber now

Wow, it's beautiful. They are beautiful. Steep though – am I really ready for this?

It's ok, it's only steep for a short section, and that'll be fine because I'll be able to get some screws in, especially as we've got those brilliant express handled ones.

Don't think I'll use my leashes or the lanyards – I just got pumped with those last time. I'll go leashless so I can just lean back and shake out when I want to, I won't feel trapped or chained on to the route so hopefully I won't get as scared as I did before either. No, I won't get so scared, I wasn't feeling well and I was seconding – I always climb better when I'm leading and bizarrely don't seem to get as freaked out. It'll be fine.

Ok the ropes are out, the guidebook description sounds fine.

Gear. What gear do I need? Ice screws. How many shall I take? The route doesn't look that long and I don't think I'll be placing many on the steep section anyway – I'll be better off just climbing through it with a screw below. Screamers and 'draws? Yes, one for each ice screw – how many am I taking again? Oh yeah, I still need to work that out: let's see – one on the 'slabby' section, maybe one in the steepness and one once I get above the vertical stuff. Maybe another one to protect the dodgy top section. How many is that then? Four? Ok four, the four express-y ones with the nice handles, they can all go on my caritool. Better take another couple just in case, plus it'll keep Patrick happy. So four screamers, two on each side of my harness, then another couple of quickdraws for the other ice screws – they can go towards the back on the left. Slings and screwgates – towards the back on the right. Do I have enough? Yes they should be fine. So much I think I might just carry my big gloves up on my harness too – it's warm enough to not need them I think but you never know, I might want them at the belay when I get there.

When I get there...when...I...get...there...yes, I will get there and it will be amazing. Not scary at all.


Ok so I better tie on. Patrick doesn't seem worried. He seems to think I'm good at all this and I'll do great. I hope he's right.

Whoa, it all looks much harder when you're about to get on it, these things always do. It really didn't look so big a few minutes ago. The ice seems quite brittle too, am I really capable of climbing this? Oh well, here we go...

Crack, splinter, crunch, splinter, crack. The ice seems very brittle actually. Should I be doing this? It is really late in the season after all and it's warm and the ice isn't brilliant and this is hard and its so steep and the ice is cracking and my axes are...


Ok so I'm scared. This isn't helping. I'm not even on the steep bit yet, I need to get a grip. I need to just get an ice screw in so that if I fall I'm not actually going to kill myself. Ok, don't drop the bloomin' thing now, excellent, that's better. Apparently I'm looking good – it doesn't feel like it. I'm all shaky and sketchy, I need to drop my heels so my crampons bite better. Oh yes, my crampons...they stick...

Awesome! They are much, much, much better than my old ones – I can use my feet properly! Wow, now I can climb ice. Excellent!

Maybe this isn't so scary, a few deep breaths and a nice shake out. I really should be enjoying this. Lean back and hang, straight armed, the axes are solid. My axes, my beautiful Rebels, yes they are solid as a rock! Lean back, take a nice deep breath and just look around. Wow, this is absolutely fantastic. The valley is stunning!

Hit, hit, solid. Tap, tap, kick, kick, stick, stick. Awesome! This is amazing, I'm climbing a vertical frozen waterfall and it feels fantastic! I think I should place another ice screw, so I just need to find some decent ice...

Ooh there we go. Reach down, unclip, let's get this started. Why is getting these things started such a pain? I'm sure I'm going to drop one of these at some point...please don't let it be now...ugh...pumped...feeling pumped now, don't drop the ice screw...argh...ok I've got it, just get it winding in a bit...I really need to shake out...

Breathe, relax. I'm nicely bridged here so my arms can rest a little. Think I might have been over gripping a bit. Breathe nice and deep, breathe slow. My heart, I can hear it, it's settling down now. Wow I can hear birds – hadn't noticed them before. The air smells fresh and cool. This really is lovely. Just a few more moves now and I can really relax.

Hit, hit, thwack, thwack, bury those axes deep, this soft stuff is excellent. Kick, kick, stick, stick, scrabble around a bit. Hmm, elegant, so much for being a technical climber...

Wow I'm at the top.

So where's the belay?


It was warm. Too warm. The weather forecast had said it would be. Still, we'd come this far (and had to fight all the way), so we were going to do our very best to actually climb something...

Friday evening, a rush to the airport straight from work led into the nightmare that is super budget flights with the likes of 'scum-air' [name changed to protect the guilty] and the hundreds of seemingly mindless people that book them and then fail to have any comprehension of how an airport actually works.

Despite my many ravings about how getting stressed at the airport is completely unnecessary, I did indeed get myself ever so slightly hot under the collar. I just couldn't help it – my tolerance for selfish, ignorant people barging into me to cut into the queue is remarkably low...

So how could it get worse? How could my enjoyment levels plummet any further? Well it was quite simple really – we got diverted.

Oslo Gardermoen (or however you spell it), is nowhere near Oslo Torp and as such was nowhere near where our hire car was. By nowhere near I of course mean it would have been a simple matter of an additional 2 ½ hour bus ride, at midnight. Then, of course, the hire desk, and probably the whole airport would have been closed. Great.

Anyway, in the end it didn't prove to be too much of an issue – Patrick managed to arrange a one way hire from Oslo Airport (where we landed due to fog) to be returned to Oslo Torp (where we were supposed to have landed 2 hours previously), and so we were on our way.

We arrived at our cabin in Rjukan at approximately 4am. Only 4 hours later than anticipated. We had planned to be up and heading out by 6am in order to catch the coolest part of the day - when the waterfalls were most likely to still be icefalls, so we stayed up – it seemed like the most sensible course of action given the circumstances.

Stunning. Absolutely stunning. The valley was beautiful in the sunshine – the trees and the mountains, and the ice! We were going climbing!

I love ice climbing. My first real ice experience in Cogne back in February had already convinced me that I want to climb ice, that I want to be an ice climber. I'm not sure what it is about climbing ice that draws me so, perhaps it is something about the transitory nature of it all, how you are impacting against and fighting your way up something that in a few months time will not even exist. Perhaps it is because with these routes, I know I'm good enough. I know that there will not be a single move that I cannot do (unlike with rock climbing where there is always that element of doubt), I know that as long as I can hold myself together mentally and overcome my fears and trepidations that victory can be mine.

Whatever the reason, we had a good day.

I climbed my first WI4s (one of which may have been a WI4+ even), Patrick found an ice screw, and he brought me chocolate at the belay – what more could a girl want? I was sat in a beautiful place having climbed one of the hardest routes I'd ever tried, with memories of a wonderful taste lingering on my tongue, a glint in my eye and a smile on my face...

I was right, I really do love ice climbing.