In honour of my 29th Birthday, I organised a minimal logistics weekend away in North Wales last weekend. In spite of a terrible weather forecast, DanDanDan, Simon, J-Rowe, Sarah, Andy and Julie all made the journey over, and we fell asleep on Friday nights to the all too familiar sound of rain on our tents.
We awoke on Saturday to dampness, but no actual rain, so after what felt like an eternity trying to goad Dan into action, we made a move for Caban, apparently the new pretender to Pete's Eats' throne of lardiness. It turned out to be rather more genteel, with posh tea and organic bacon. The breakfast portions weren't over-generous, but everything tasted marvellous, especially the mushrooms, mmmm. Suitably galvanised, and with things looking like they were drying off, we headed up to the slate quarries.
On arrival, Bus Stop Quarry looked damp, which spared me the terror of an attempt on Gnat Attack, so we took Simon (who had unaccountably never been to the quarries before) on a mini-tour. We visited Dali's Hole, then into California, where I ignored Andy's best efforts to persuade me into a swift death falling off California Arete (although it did look ace) and we threw slate at each other instead (well, mostly at Dan). Next we huffed and puffed up the levels to Australia, where Looning The Tube looked a) dry and b) quite good, so I decided to stop pansying around, and get on it.
The initial traverse on Looning The Tube (Photo generously donated by Sarah Clough)
I wisely ignored everybody's advice about only taking 3 quickdraws, a cam and a sling, and augmented this with a full rack of totally superfluous nuts before tying Simon down to a big spike to stop him catapulting into space were I to fall off, and stepping up off the pipe. The initial traverse felt steady, although I lost cool points for trying lamely to lassoo the chain at the earliest opportunity (and missing of course) rather than just manning up and stepping across to it. Eventually I did man up, and then tootled up the crack, with a tricky move past the bolt, to the top. Not a bad route really, but a lot more like an easy HVS than E1, and also a lot more like sport climbing than the guide would have you believe.
Next came a team rescue of Dan, who had managed to strand himself on a small ledge whilst trying to solo a HS, before James and I pottered about on some bolted VSs (!?) and then slogged up some more levels in search of Mad Dog Of The West. The guidebook boldly draws comparison between this route and Yosemite, which led to me being somewhat underwhelmed when I first saw it, being only around 15m long and rising from a scrappy gully. Luckily the climbing was really nice, very reminiscent of Lost Horizons at Baggy Point.
Getting stuck into Mad Dog Of The West (Photo generously donated by Sarah Clough)
After stumbling back down the levels in the dark, we visited our next culinary highlight, the Gallt y Glyn Hotel in Llanberis. Make your own pizza was the order of the day here, and all manner of horrific concoctions were conjured up, including Dan's 'Veg-o-phobia' and my 'Pizza del Crush' featuring Ham, Peppers, Chilli, Goats Cheese and Artichokes. A whole plateful of win.
Sunday morning continued in similarly gluttonous style, with a large breakfast and a pint of tea in Pete's Eats, just like the old days. This warmed us up nicely for the drive out to Holyhead Mountain, where the sun was shining and everything seemed rosy. Until we opened the car door and were promptly flattened by the wind. But we persuaded ourselves that the crag would be sheltered and set out into the gale. Our optimism was well rewarded with an afternoon climbing in glorious sunshine, with only the odd gust of wind to contend with.
I began by leading Black And Tan, a VS I had a recollection of as having a stiff reputation, but which wasn't too bad once you'd committed to the exposed monkeying around on jugs at the top - good fun. While I was on this Andy was slowly working his way up the adjacent slab of Breaking The Barrier, an E1 which was on my list of psyche, so I was keen to hear his report. Apparently it had fiddly gear, small footholds and lots of sidepulls, but was very good. Hmmm. Julie decided she fancied a crack at it next, so that delayed my vascillating and James and I soloed a couple of routes and then ambled up a fun, and very 3-dimensional Severe nearby. Meanwhile Julie had been forced to retreat by fiddly gear, sideways handholds, and a lack of the height required to lank past the first hard move. Hoping I might be adequately lanky I decided to give it a whirl, and set off with some trepidation and a lot of tiny nuts. The gear protecting the move which had stopped Julie was finicky and small, but eventually I fiddled in enough size 1/4 nuts, no. 1 peanuts, and brass offsets to persuade myself that I was safe, and stretched for the elusive hold.
Julie just before the heightism set in on Breaking The Barrier
Mercifully I just tickled my way onto it, which set up a delightful series of delicate moves on just adequate holds. There were a few bits of good gear to calm my inner wuss, but soon I found myself stopped by a sudden paucity of footholds. There appeared to be a jug about a foot above my hands, so I gave myself a talking to (and tried to focus on the bomber nut below my feet and not the shonky number 2 RP by my waist) and ended up launching myself inelegantly towards it. Success was mine, so I celebrated by somehow cutting one of my fingers and bleeding my way up the finishing crack, which maintained the interest well without ever being too tricky. I sat at the top belaying with the sun low in the sky feeling very satisfied with life, the weather, my climbing, and a great weekend with excellent company. And Dan.
Of course it would have been rude not to finish a weekend in North Wales without a Sunday evening visit to Conwy Kebab House. I treated myself to an eponymous kebab, and lo, it was awesome. So, what have I learnt? Eating a lot is clearly good training for climbing hard, blind optimism in the face of bad weather forecasts is sometimes rewarded, and I can still climb E1s without dying. In fact, in spite of the ungainly lunge, I didn't actually have to lay one on at any point on Breaking The Barrier, so perhaps I need to find an E2 in a similar vein to crush. Any suggestions on a postcard to the usual address please.
Just to prove that I'm not lying about the sunshine (Photo courtesy of Sarah again)