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.

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