Sunday, 30 May 2010

craig rhiwarth – blood, crud and spiders

It is a sunny Sunday on a Bank Holiday weekend, hence today’s little climbing adventure was a trip to a very quiet local crag that I had yet to visit – Craig Rhiwarth in the Tanat Valley. I was generously accompanied by Frank and eventually Phil, but sadly only climbed one route.

Actually it wasn’t really that sad that we only climbed one route, it was simply a case of making the sensible decision to sack it in once we’d discovered that this unloved and rarely frequented little crag was, in fact, mostly a tottering pile of choss and large dolerite blocks held together by mud, cobwebs and brambles.

I may well be doing the place an injustice, as we only paid any real attention to the ‘second crag – lower left’, where the routes of Rose Corner (HVS) and Melangell (VS) were to be found (these were the two I’d had in mind for some reason). We didn’t climb either of these routes though, as after we’d tottered our way up Ivory Tower – (HS 4b with a scary moss-bound unprotected HXS crumbly wall finish – see below), we looked down the final groove of Rose Corner (which is also the finish of Melangell) to see loose shaley flakes, ledges covered in loose rubble, with brambles, grass and a variety of other plants growing from the cracks, along with a slightly scary loose topout, and decided not to bother.

I’m half regretting not doing Melangell as the first part looked lovely, if rather easy (famous last words) – very reminiscent of the final easy pitch of One Step in the Clouds at Tremadog. The second half however, looked decidedly manky, and of course there was the grim looking top groove to reckon with too, which is why I’m not entirely regretting walking away I guess.

So what of the route we did climb? Ivory Tower is one of those routes that looks great from the ground, but when you’re on it suddenly becomes one of those routes that you wish you’d given a miss. There were actually a couple of nice moves up a big layback flake, with lovely grippy dolerite and reasonable gear if you’ve taken some big cams or hexes (I didn’t), it was just a shame that the cracks were full of cobwebs and spiders, and the big blocks in the groove after the flake were hollow and loose and therefore very scary to be climbing around/on/over. Oh and the top out – I’ve already made brief mention of this, but just as you think it’s all over, you find yourself stood on a ledge with a short (2m) vertical wall with a sloping top to climb. “Not to worry!” you might say to yourself, as you take hold of what looks to be a reasonable hold, place your foot on another big reasonable hold and weyhey…bye bye foothold! At this point you may start to wish you could levitate or at least reach the great big bloody tree a few meters to your right, as you look more closely at the holds on this ‘wall’, only to discover it is less of a ‘wall’ and more a stack of rock flakes piled on top of each other and very convincingly doing impressions of a Jenga tower made out of hobnobs and sponge fingers… Mercifully, once you finally commit your life to said hobnob (or sponge finger), you find yourself with an awesome variety of sloping biscuit tops covered in an especially grippy form of moss – perfect to grab onto just as your footholds start to disintegrate.

Anyway, it was a nice day out in the sunshine, the wind only made communication mildly impossible, and I was granted the honour of tripping up on a bramble at the bottom of the descent path and creating a nice jagged gash in my leg. Hence the blood as mentioned in the title.

The crag is in a lovely situation though, with great free parking complete with toilet, a very easy approach and seemingly some potential to be a really nice little venue if only it got more visitors (catch 22 eh?). If the crags received some attention, had a bit of a clean up and perhaps a little gardening, the fantastic immaculate Tremadog style Dolerite would probably yield some mini classics. Hell, I may even go back and do the nice looking little E2 I spied on the way down…

SDC10483 Left hand, lower tier of the Second crag (see the Meirionnydd Guide)

SDC10486 A beautiful location and crag aspect, and best of all, no bank holiday climbing queues…

Monday, 24 May 2010

more new gear to come

It’s been far too long since I last blogged, and for that I am sorry. The thing is though, it’s all well and good reporting on every climbing trip, every day out walking etc etc, but in reality not many people are actually interested in reading how many ‘easy’ trad routes I did a week last Wednesday…I know I sometimes tend to get bored with other people’s blogs when I’m reading yet another trip report, unless of course something rather special or noteworthy happened on that trip (I’m sorry, but it’s true!) and so with that in mind I have taken the decision to refrain from posting quite so often (after all, I’m generally out at least 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes more).

I will, however, continue with my never-ending barrage of gear type blog entries, simply because the vast majority of people I know will happily read a gear review, or a post on DIY modifications, without becoming quite as disenchanted with life as they would reading my continuing stream of HVS ticks…

And so, we have another gear blog. There are a number of items I could talk about, so I will choose a few of the more ‘major’ purchases I have agonised over for weeks before making:

  • Alpkit Pipedream 400, my new 2-3 season down sleeping bag. Ok so it’s partly Phil’s too, as I begged him to help me buy it. At first glance it seems like a really rather nice piece of kit. It fits me well, without too much dead space (which does mean it would probably be quite a tight fit for someone of a larger stature than me), seems to be well made, packs remarkably small and will hopefully soon be tested out prior to use in the Alps as my bivi sleeping bag…
  • Black Diamond Venom Axe, 50cm. A new ice axe! And not a pair of Fusions or Nomics (that purchase will come later in the year). Yes, I have at long long last decided to buy a mountaineering axe – something altogether more suitable for easier Alpine routes requiring walking with an axe, than my beloved DMM Rebel Axe. I spent a very long time deciding which axe to go for – my short-list eventually coming down to the Grivel Airtch Evo, Petzl Summit, Petzl Sum’tec or the Black Diamond Venom. Having played with all of these axes in the shops, I very quickly decided I wanted the Black Diamond, and then proceeded to take several months to finally order the damned thing. Anyway, I have ordered one, and I will most likely post up a full review once I have used it.
  • Crappy closed cell foam sleeping mat. Yes I have a Therm-a-rest, and yes it is awesome and I love it, so why on earth have I been out and bought an 8 quid foam camping mat? Well for Alpine bivis of course! More to come on this, including my customisation works…

There are many more bits and pieces I would like to talk about, and probably will do, but the three I’ve mentioned here are items I will be talking about in greater depth in the future as I have high hopes for all of them. So, I’m sorry I haven’t got anything more interesting to say, but I have climbed 15-20 more routes since my last blog entry, accounts of which would almost certainly have been more boring than what I have written!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

20 miles of the Offa’s Dyke path

And I’m not even a walker.

The Prestatyn Walking Festival took place over this weekend just gone, with a total of 40 miles of the Offa’s Dyke path being walked over 2 days. I tagged along at the back on Saturday for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to Moel Famau stretch.

I must just add, I wasn’t doing this entirely for my own enjoyment (I really don’t have the patience to be a long distance walker), but primarily as a helping hand to the NEWSAR sweep team attending.

NEWSAR (North East Wales Search And Rescue) are my ‘local’ Mountain Rescue Team, and a group I am hoping one day to become a proper member of. For anyone who doesn’t know me personally, I am currently an ‘aspirant’ team member and hoping to be promoted to being a full blown ‘trainee’ in the next couple of months. After that there is a deal of training and a number of assessments I will need to pass before I can [hopefully] join the call-out list and finally consider myself to be a part of a mountain rescue group. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but until a few months ago simply not had the chance to – so fingers crossed they don’t kick me out!!

Anyway, Saturday was the first time I’ve done anything with the team in a public setting, and also the first time I’ve been allowed to wear a team badge (sadly I have to give it back for the moment). I know it’s not a big deal, but being given the badge to display did make me feel a tiny bit proud, despite the fact that the jacket it was stitched onto seemed to breathe about as well as a plastic bin liner – I was constantly taking it off and putting it back on again as the sun and wind did some kind of masochistic waltz just to irritate us.

The walk itself was pretty uneventful, but actually very enjoyable – the banter was fantastic and the terrain pretty stunning in places, plus it didn’t actually rain which is always a bonus. Sadly my feet really aren’t used to traversing large distances and I’ve ended up with some rather painful bruised pads and heels – the rest of me, happily, is fine though. I was slightly worried that the colds I’ve had of late may have had an impact on my fitness levels, but honestly, even at the end of the 20miles I still had loads left in the tank, so that’s pleasing. My feet weren’t half grateful not to be going back out again today though!

DSC00114Please note, this is me, picture taken whilst moving, and my feet were sore – this is not my ‘usual’ facial expression

Friday, 14 May 2010

toffee apple cake

So, today I decided to break out my baking skills once more in order to produce some hill fodder for the weekend (for anyone who doesn’t know, tomorrow I am walking 20miles of the Offa’s Dyke path as a part of the NEWSAR sweep team, for this I will be requiring cake).

After much deliberation and some random googling, I settled on a sort of toffee apple loaf – basically and apple loaf cake with a ridiculous toffee sauce topping. Yum.

I must admit this is not my own recipe, I used a fabulous one I found on the BBC good food website, I did make a couple of tweaks though.

Anyway, this is it:


  • 175g soft butter (I used standard salted stuff)
  • 180g golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract (I actually used ‘vanilla flavouring’ as it was all I could get hold of today – seemed to work fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150g tub Greek yoghurt (BBC version calls for 4tbsp)
  • 2 normal apples (not cooking apples)
  • 50g ish chopped pecan nuts (BBC version uses walnuts, but I thought pecans would fit the recipe better)
  • 60g chewy toffees
  • 2 tbps double cream

First things first – preheat the oven to 160c/gas mark 3. Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper (you could alternately just use a strip of greaseproof paper along the bottom and ends, and grease the rest of the tin, but I’m lazy so just crumpled the paper into the corners).

Firstly, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla (making sure the butter is ‘warm’ and not straight out of the fridge really helps reduce the forearm pump).

Beat in the eggs, one at a time – it will look seriously manky when you’re doing this.

Peel, core and then chop the apples into little bitty pieces.

Add the flour, cinnamon, yoghurt, apple and a small handful of pecan nuts, then carefully mix it all together until it resembles a smoothish yellowy paste with lumpy brown and appley bits in (aren’t my descriptions so much better than Delia’s?)

Tip the mixture into your loaf tin and smooth it down so it’s roughly even, then scatter another small handful of pecans over the top. Whack it in the oven!

Leave it to bake for 1hour, then check it to see if it’s done – use a cake tester or some kind of skewer to ‘probe’ the cake – if the skewer comes out clean (i.e. no goopy cake mix on it), then it’s done. Be aware though that you may get little goopy bits of apple with this cake! If it’s not quite done, give it another 5-10 minutes and check it again.

Let the cake cool in the tin for a bit (it will sag otherwise), then when it’s solid enough, remove it from the tin and place on a cooling rack.

Once it is pretty much cool, you get to make the icing/sauce stuff, which is the best bit:

Pour the double cream into a small saucepan and add the toffees (for reference I put 7 in, weighing roughly 60-65g). Slowly heat the pan and keep stirring constantly to make sure the cream doesn’t burn and the toffees don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Eventually they will melt (trust me, they will, it just takes a little patience) – keep stirring until you have a lovely toffee fluid. Tip this over the top of your cake and then sprinkle yet another loose handful of pecans over the top of the sauce.

Now this one is important – LET IT COOL for at least 10mins before you tuck in, otherwise you will get into a mega mess.

Bon Appetit!


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

bumblie’s bimbles

So today I went for a nice walk up above Dinas Mawddwy. I’d been up in this area before when I went for a hack up Waun Oer, but today I took a more sedate approach and just headed around the rim of the horseshoe for a bit. Lovely.

Have some pictures.

SDC10292 SDC10346



I was also testing out my new, smaller ‘walking’ and short day rucksack, a Millet Prolight 27, and I must say I do rather like it. It’s a good size, well built and should withstand a reasonable amount of abuse, and it’s comfortable. It does (currently) have a couple of little things that irritate me – the cord-lock for the main drawcord was some stupid ponsy wedge thing (ok so this one isn’t current as I changed the cord'-lock the day I bought it), it has thumbloops (WTF are these FOR??! Seem like a great way of improving the odds of landing on your face if you fall over), and it has a somewhat useless little zippy pouch on the left waistbelt (not only is it pretty useless and badly positioned, but the stiffened zip pull catches on my sleeves as I walk!). Needless to say, I will be enjoying a little session with the scissors and a gas lighter later on…