Wednesday 18 August 2010

moel y gest

Monday yielded a visit to another new crag (to me). Somewhat foolishly I agreed to go to Moel y Gest* to check out ‘some of the best rock in Tremadog’, not realising just how bad the bracken at the base of the crag was going to be.

Dave W was my partner for the day, and he only has himself to blame for the walk-in proving to be rather more of a fitness challenge than he had imagined, as he was the one who chose the crag (Dave had a rather unfortunate accident just over a year ago whilst climbing with me – he fell off of a hugely polished limestone horror at Pot Hole Quarry, ripping out the only runner he’d had in at the time. Somehow he managed not to land on his head, merely landing heavily on the heel of one foot, fracturing it rather badly. He’s now determined to get back into climbing, but walking seems to be the greatest hurdle).

One steep uphill slog, and one short painful battle through the head high bracken and ankle grabbing brambles later, we arrived at the base of Bulkhead Buttress (continuing on further to any other sections of the crag truly would be a horrendous brackeny epic at the moment), where I selected a nice looking route to warm up on, that Dave’s printed topo* indicated was an HS 4b called ‘The Ancient Mariner’…

HS my buttocks. The Ancient Mariner is neither HS nor 4b, it is a loose, vegetated, scary VS with mediocre gear and a 4c crux. I seem to have a way with choosing horrible sandbag routes as warm-ups (my visit to Craig Rhiwarth being a case in point). A lovely heathery descent back to the bracken topped off the ‘esoterica’ experience…

I’ll be honest, upon regaining our gear stash I was ready to call it a day – my arms were scratched to bits (note to self: when going to new esoteric crags, wear long sleeves and NEVER wear shorts), and I had bits of heather and mud in places I daren’t mention. The sheer effort we’d gone to (especially Dave) just to get up there meant that only climbing one short route was unacceptable. I was going to try something else. I had my eye on a couple of harder lines further to the left of our first route, Dave assured me that they were actually very good and probably worth some stars in fact (he’d climbed them before), so I chose an E1 5b called ‘Antur Madog’.


The picture doesn’t do the route justice, the guide describes it as being ‘easier than it looks’, and in this regard it didn’t disappoint. The gear was reasonable, the rock was gorgeous (now I know why they say it’s some of the best in Trem) and the moves flowed beautifully with holds only appearing as you got to them. In all honesty, I think it’s probably one of the nicest single pitches I’ve ever climbed, and considering I’ve been such a total coward of late, climbing an E1 that hasn’t scared me but has simply allowed me to revel in the moves, is really saying something. Mind you, lately I have been primarily hanging on minging tiny crimps on 7a limestone sport routes, so this was a refreshing change…

All in all, I think I would recommend the crag to anyone who doesn’t mind a little bit of a walk for single pitch routes, the rock itself really is of the highest quality I’ve climbed on pretty much anywhere, but it’s probably worth seeking out a little local knowledge with regard to which routes are worthwhile and which ones really aren’t. It’s also probably best to go in the Spring or Autumn/Winter to avoid having to battle through the bracken that completely obscures the paths at this time of year, although if you’re a bit of a wildlife fan, we found the place to be a real haven for the common lizard – whole groups of them would pop out from cracks in boulders to sun themselves next to us, truly incredible – I’ve never seen so many in one place.

*Check out the Wiki if you fancy climbing here, there is a link to a pdf document showing all the new routes at the base of the page.

Thursday 12 August 2010

rock, heather, slime, rock, heather, loose bit, rock…

What on earth am I going on about this time? To be honest I’m not entirely sure myself – is this a blog post about walking? Is it an entry about climbing? Is it about scrambling? Well actually, it’s a bit of all three…

A few days ago (or was it longer? I forget…), on a random, boring, everyday Monday, I found myself without a climbing partner on a day where the sun was shining and all was lovely in the world, so of course I had to go out. I had also just acquired a rather lovely new pair of boots (La Sportiva Trango S Evo if you must know) that I was desperately wanting to try out. Now, for me these boots are quite the investment – for starters they cost me a small fortune, even with a fairly hefty discount (and for someone who is currently jobless, spending a small fortune is no trivial matter), but they also mark a changing point in my life, for you see I have grown as a person. I am now learning to embrace the mountains for what they really are, a stunningly beautiful environment that we should not ever take for granted or underestimate, and not merely a ‘playground’ for the enthusiastic rock climber.

In a round-about way what I’m trying to express here, is that I’m beginning to appreciate simply being out in the mountains without necessarily having to be tied into the end of a rope, focussed entirely on the small patch of rock in front of me. I will never be a hill-walker, but I am now beginning develop the skills of the mountaineer – the ability to navigate, to cope with weather of all types, the confidence to cross both simple terrain and the complex, I am beginning to feel at home in the mountains and in the wilderness. No longer am I scared to venture away from the path and discover things for myself, no longer do I feel the need to follow in the footprints of others – the wilds and the mountains are areas of beauty best appreciated with a confident, exploratory bent.

With all that in mind, on that random ordinary Monday a little while ago (was it last week? The week before? Is this the beginning of early onset Alzheimer's?), I ventured out, away from the path and onto a tangled mess of rock, grass, heather and slime…oh and goats.

SDC11055Welcome to the Rhinogs!

I’ve been out into the wilds of the Rhinogs before, the first time I picked an atrocious day and scuttled back to the car after nearly getting blown off of a small outcrop by gale force winds, the second time I dragged a tent and cooking implements out with me, oh and my husband.  This time however, I wasn’t out for a simple bimble, I was out to test out my new scrambling and alpine climbing boots. Armed with a vague description of a supposed Grade 3 scramble to the summit of Rhinog Fawr, I made my merry way to the Bwlch where I was meant to begin, and took my first look up at the day’s objective, the full horror yet to become apparent…

I mean no disrespect to the guys who wrote up this ‘scramble’ as I’m sure that deep down they are nice guys who don’t really want to torture and torment people, but seriously, why the hell is this route in a scrambling guide? If I had chosen to follow the description exactly I would have been met with the occasional short lump of rock to meander my way up, but mostly I would have been dealing with deep cavernous clefts of heather growing over bottomless boulder and scree fields, bogs, grass and lots of slime. Sorry guys – your route is crap.

I did make my way to the summit, and I did sort of vaguely follow the general gist of the scrambling route, but I needed to touch rock more, I needed to add interest – so I chose the hardest possible lines up the short rocky buttresses, turning a supposed grade 3 scramble into what I would describe as a ‘meandering mountain game of snakes and ladders, punctuated with the occasional section of VDiff rock climbing’. Yes it was a new route, no I probably wouldn’t ever be able to repeat it, although the two or three climbing sections would probably be identifiable, but in all honesty I could never recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have a fetish for mountain mankathons.

SDC11069One of the few [very] short, steep sections I chose to tackle head on – this may or may not be one of the bits I would have deemed to yield a couple of moves of Diff or VDiff, I honestly can’t remember. 

Some of the day’s highlights included my encounter with one of the herds of wild Rhinog mountain goats, playing with butterflies, prodding huge caterpillars and of course, reaching the summit trig point to find a load of manky old prayer flags tied to it…

WTF? Prayer flags? I don’t get it, I really don’t, but needless to say I cut down and removed these offensive pieces of unnecessary litter. Seriously people, this kind of thing just isn’t appropriate, especially when left in conjunction with empty bottles and crisp packets…

The goats and caterpillars were cool though.



Tuesday 3 August 2010

aim high…

…and you’ll almost certainly overshoot…

Or at least you will if you’re ammunition is good and your sights are set straight and true.

Sounds like I’m getting all philosophical doesn’t it? Well maybe I am a touch, but this post is actually really about guns and shooting – yet another semi-hobby of mine. I say semi-hobby because it isn’t something I do terribly often, seeing as our guns are very kindly being kept by Phil’s cousin over in Northamptonshire somewhere – this does of course mean that any shooting trips have to be accompanied by evenings of deep inebriation, followed by a horrendous hangover, which is of course exactly what you want when someone is having fun with a shotgun right behind you.

Anyway, yes, I can shoot. I prefer rifle shooting to shotguns primarily because I’m pretty good at rifle target shooting, whereas I’m completely useless when if comes to clay shoots. A couple of people have made somewhat scary comments comparing me to Lara Croft – after all I can climb, I can fly, I ride a motorbike, and I can shoot. Frankly though, I’m more realistic about the comparisons – my boobs are too small and I don’t look overly brilliant in tiny little combat shorts.

The weekend was spent very entertainingly (and relaxingly) eating, drinking, and shooting the crap out of whatever we could find as a target (I got bored of patterning on actual targets – making holes in pieces of paper simply isn’t as fun as watching large chunks of glass or sandstone explode into thousands of tiny pieces). I favoured the .22 rifle and managed to get through a fair few boxes of ancient ammunition (some of it was dated 1944), whilst Phil and Arthur took it in turns with shotguns and Phil’s compound bow (archery is not my thing).


Great fun!