Monday, 9 August 2010

The Whole Gamut Of Choss

This weekend I found myself heading, with no small amount of trepidation, towards the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, with committed mentalist and lover of danger, Andy. As somebody with a keen interest in staying alive I was a little bit afraid, but the adventure potential was high, and I do enjoy a good adventure.

Saturday morning dawned wet and grey, so we sat around in Pete's Eats drinking tea and persuading ourself that it never rained on the Lleyn. Eventually we were full of tea, so we set of aiming for Pen Y Cil, described as being particularly solid in the guide, and home to Guillemot's Groove, a pleasant sounding VS. After a bit of tomfoolery thanks to the guidebook describing the wrong place to park, and the wrong way to approach the route (I opted for some wave defying traversing and Andy downclimbed a frightening looking gully), we were in the right place, in the sun, and I was feeling quite psyched. The route turned out to be really good, with no sign of any loose rock, good gear, and some nicely exposed moves near the top of the first pitch. The second pitch was a bit of a scramble up some looser, but easy ground, and we were soon back at our bags.

The Wonder Of Dorys

Our next destination was Craig Dorys, renowned as being 'adventurous' even by Lleyn standards. The reputation is certainly justified. The crag is an impressive sprawling mass of epic shaley terror. Some of the rock looks like it might just about hold bodyweight, but a lot of it just falls apart to the touch. This is a crag for proper lunatics. The guide describes a 'fine' VS there, ominously called The Craterer, which I was a bit afraid of, but Andy manned up and set off up. It follows a vague line up a large, solidish looking slab with the promise of good runners at half height, below an overlap. In spite of carrying the biggest rack in all of Christendom, Andy somehow didn't have the right size cam for the only decent placement, and so beat a rather tentative retreat back to the bottom, whence we ran away to Abersoch for chips.

Sunday morning brought sunshine and the promise of a proper epic, as we had our sights set of Fantan B, apparently the lower grade classic of the Lleyn. Thanks to hearing tales of terrifying traverses on dried bird crap, no gear, mad hand infections and in situ vomiting fulmars I was substantially afraid, but somehow still found myself following Andy down the 80m abseil down a steep grassy bank. It soon became apparent that nobody had told the seagulls that the bird ban was off and nesting season was over. Both having had previous experiences with gulls defending their nests, and not wanting to incur the wrath of either the bird gods or twitcher hell, we decided that this was not our day, and prusiked back up the rope, the sounds of gulls squawking ringing like laughter in our ears. I'd never prusiked in anger before, and it turns out it's quite hard work...

The Approach Pitch To Fantan B And It's Avian Guardians

Suitably chastened we decided to abandon the Lleyn and head for the altogether more solid climes of Gogarth. Specifically Mousetrap Zawn, the most famously solid of all Gogarth's cliffs. Ahem. After some more halfwittery with steep grass and pretend ropes we found ourself at the bottom of the Zawn. It is truly one of the most impressive places I've ever been, with truly mind-bogglingly freakish rock rising up in bizarre folds above. Seen from front on from the lighthouse steps our intended route, The Green Slab, looks steep and terrifying, but the view from the side reveals a very amenable angle, and it was only VS 4b in the old guide, what could possibly go wrong...

The Top Pitch Of The Green Slab

Actually as it turned out the route was excellent, with really funky climbing on solid rock in an incredible situation, and all perfectly positioned for looking hardcore to the gawping tourists looking on from the steps. What's not to like? The gear was sometimes a little unconventional, but there was enough of it that it didn't concern me in the slightest. The top pitch had a tricky move followed by some softer and even more ludicrous rock, but the sanctuary of a typical Gogarth top-out was soon reached.

This esoteric climbing has a certain appeal to it, I can see myself coming back for more.

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