Friday 31 July 2009

Cneifion Arete

Ok so today I decided against going cragging with a random UKC’er who hasn’t let on what sort of grade he climbs as yet (I at least need info before I commit to climb with someone), but instead chose to do the 1 3/4 hour drive up to Ogwen and repeat the Cneifon Arete.

Ok so my original intention was that the next time I did this route I would continue it on and descend via Bristly Ridge as per Patrick’s [excellent] suggestion. Today that wasn’t to be as I didn’t manage to crawl my way out of bed until some time around 11am, after which I needed breakfast and then to pack my ‘sac. All this meant that I didn’t actually arrive at Ogwen Cottage until just before 3pm. Shocking I know.

Anyway, I headed out at bang on 3 o’clock and made fairly reasonable progress up past Llyn Idwal and to the base of the route. I say reasonable progress because it wasn’t a blistering pace by any means, but neither was I ‘hanging about’.

Now, the weather of late has been taking the mickey somewhat, one minute it’s sunny and the next it’s hooning down. Today was no exception – I started out in overcast but pleasant conditions, slightly boggy underfoot because of all the recent rain, a bit of a breeze with the odd strong gust, but nothing to write home about. I did most of the walk-in in just a T-shirt. This was soon to change…

No sooner had I committed myself to the initial ‘Mod’ section of the route, it started to rain. 'Twas a deceptively pleasant drizzle initially – the kind of lazy, unassuming type of rain that usually stops after a couple of minutes, like the clouds just can’t be bothered any more. Unfortunately I think the clouds were watching me and were in need of a laugh – they patiently waited for me to be completely committed to the route (Mod followed by Grade 3 scramble), and then proceeded to slowly and very patiently drench everything, including all my underwear.

I just had to keep telling myself that this was the entire point of the exercise – I need to be able to handle committing positions in crap conditions, and seeing as this was exactly what I’d got, that really, I should be grateful for the training opportunity. Somehow though, these thoughts were struggling against the other thoughts my mind was spontaneously producing against my nobler wishes: “I want to get off”, “if I slip this is going to be really, really bad”, “these walking boots are completely useless on rock this wet and slippery”, “what the hell am I doing this for?”, “where would be safe to sit whilst I wait for the Mountain Rescue Team?”, amongst others…Sadly my other attempts at focussing on more important issues like my pile of ironing still left to do, and which recipe for fruit scones I’m going to try first failed to improve matters…

On a serious note though, my walking boots really are not all that brilliant for scrambling, they are adequate, but not brilliant. My gorgeous new 5.10 approach shoes are, however, completely wonderful – I’ve even climbed VS in them! So why wasn’t I wearing them? Especially when this kind of thing is exactly what I bought them for? Simple answer: bog. They do not handle bogs, puddles or streams at all well (they’re just a trainer for goodness sake, what do you expect?). Hence today was most definitely a walking boot day as much of the approach and descent had become nothing more glamorous than a bog-trot.

Thankfully, climbing with a rucksac is a fairly familiar and standard exercise and so this didn’t prove to be much of a hindrance.

Once I’d gained the top and the power of positive thinking had finally proven its worth, the descent became the fairly obvious next priority, and I decided, being of a rather competitive nature, to see if I could catch the guys in front (who had just been finishing at the top of the Arete as I had started at the bottom). This was a stupid idea really as they were quite a long way ahead, nevertheless, not only did I catch them, I overtook and left them for dust! YES! Small victories…I think that maybe I was in need of something to take my mind of the fact that the rather impressive resistance put up to the rain by my softshell had finally failed and I was beginning to get damp…

So what did I learn from today’s experience? Well, to start with, when I pull my finger out I can actually impress myself: I was quite pleased with the way I handled the utterly sh*te conditions, and also very pleased with the (to me) remarkably quick time I made – 1:45 car to car.

Kit lessons:

Contact lenses are AWESOME in cruddy conditions like this. Today I was using the first of my five trial pairs to see how they would cope. Let’s just say I’m converted. There were times on the Arete where having totally misted and water covered glasses would not have been ideal. I’m actually still wearing them now, some 11 hours after I first put them in and my eyes aren’t complaining even the tiniest little bit, so I think I may well be investing…

Softshells are also AWESOME. But then, I’ve been saying that ever since I bought my rather expensive jacket. It’s not just that it was expensive though – it’s proven it’s worth many, many times over now, being perfect for ice climbing, alpine climbing, general cragging and scrambling and even going to the pub (it doesn’t look shabby!). Today was its first real test in the rain though. Normally, if it’s raining I will put a waterproof on (as you do – this is after all what they’re for), but my location at which the thought “hmm it’s raining properly now, my waterproof would be a great thing to put on” occurred was somewhat less than ideal (i.e. I was tenuously back-and-footing my way up a sopping wet chimney groove) and by the time I was actually able to stand with a degree of stability sufficient to take of my pack, my jacket was already wet all over – so I figured I’d just leave the waterproof off and see how the softshell coped. Anyway, it did excellently. I think it must have taken a solid half hour of medium heavy rain for it to finally begin to lose the battle, probably not much less time than my waterproof anyway, given the conditions.


  1. Another great read! I do love the blend of humour with the effective descriptions of your emotions and the general situation. Fabulous writing.

    "Grateful for the training opportunity". Well done indeed on this Lauren - a scary day out. But answer this - next time it rains on Dinas Mot don't you think you are just that bit more likely to finish the pitch? So hopefully a worthwhile day in its own way. What's more I'm glad that the lenses seem to be working out for you.

    Above all though, there was a marvellous insight into your mind. So next time I am with you and you are stuck on something REALLY hard and you manage to find a slight rest or recovery position, when you look back over your shoulder at me I will know that that deep look of concentration has got nothing to do with the few hard moves to come but is all about fruit scones! Or ironing!

  2. Well done! To not let the weather stop you is cool. I think that although it is good to be mindful of the conditions your confidence in what you can handle is improving, at least that's the way it reads to me and I am happy to hear about that :)

    I got a softshell suiteable for outdoorsy sports now. I do look ridiculous in it because you can't get them baggy for some reason (they aren't supposed to be baggy I gather) but to me a shell is something that should go on top of everything else and even an XL size can't handle a thicker sweater and the way I am shaped it isn't really flattering to me.

    But it is nice. Keeps the weather out and I still use it when I am all alone in the woods.

    I am now going for three weeks to the north of Sweden to run in the hills, eat BBQ food every day, swim in the nice lakes and read piles of books I have neglected. We are setting off on tuesday.

    Oh, and I did my 5 click run today. First time. I feel really good :)

  3. Another thing, I always wear my contacts when doing outdoorsy activities but remember to ALWAYS keep an extra pair on you at all times. Nothing feels as ridiculous as when you wipe the sweat from your eyelids and when tired you forget you have them in and suddenly you blink and it's gone.

    Extra pair, I use single day lenses that just disposes in the evening and a fresh pair in the morning. On average a little more expensive but you don't have to pack and mess around with washing liquids and stuff. Just pop a fresh pair when the old ones don't feel comfortable any more or when you wake up in the morning.

    It's the shit for anything outdoors!

    After a while you learn how to put them in using one hand only and no mirror as well.

  4. Awesome read L. Really enjoyed it. How come you never make me laugh this much when were out! Now you have to live up to your writing!


  5. btw - I always wear contacts especially on the MTB. Highly recommended and glad your converted!