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.



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