Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Squeeze Chimneys, Rain And Rather Too Much Limestone Part 1

So, summer is here (arf), Avril had abandoned me to hone her kung fu skills in Cornwall, so I decided to take a week or so off work and have some adventures. This was initially hampered by nobody else having any time off, but harnessing the power of the internets to my advantage, I arranged to meet up with the talented Mr Ripley (of legend) in Tesco in Bangor. We pooled cars and negotiated the A55 and some barbed wire (though no farmers with shotguns, hurrah) to find ourselves at the start of the Smurf Girdle. A 2 star HVS trip around one of Gogarth's less frequented zawns. We were aided and abetted by a cheeky printout of the forthcoming guide, but it seemed nobody had actually climbed this route to check it's grade, and we were soon sent packing by unreasonable overhangingness. After managing to locate a suitable escape traverse we moved our aims somewhat and I found myself chimneying downwards towards the sea, inside an impressive, but very wet cave.

The Green Light's suppurating orifice

I'd been intrigued by Green Light, as Gogarth's only 3 star VS, but was always put off by the fact that it sounded a little, ahem, adventurous. The water dripping off the walls of the route did little to allay my concerns, but the first pitch turned out to be fairly reasonable, and I was soon perched on a ledge deep in the bowels of the earth. Tom joined me, then disappeared back towards the light, eventually belaying some distance away, apparently out of the darkness. I followed the line of the ropes, with much amusing bridging, chimneying and general inelegance, until I found myself taking the last piece of gear out several metres directly above Tom. I tried not to think about falling off and burrowed downwards, eventually emerging, dazed and confused, into the outside world again. The top pitch was a brief carnival of guano-encrusted juggery, followed by a rather exciting Lundy-esque finale, replete with tottering blocks and lush vegetation. Definitely a three-star route (and not hard for the grade) and a proper adventure all the same.

The second belay is out there somewhere...

Keen for something more prosaic we made for the slate quarries, where I finally got round to leading Combat Rock, which was nice (but I can wholeheartedly recommend taking more than 2 no.2 nuts, and definitely not placing them both in the first 5 metres of the route), and we had a little adventure not climbing a nearby E2 arete.

The next day we reconvened at the Gribin Facet, and Tom somehow agreed to do Monolith Crack. I suspect he didn't really know what he was letting himself in for. The first two pitches were amusing, if slightly ridiculous, but the real fun is in the third pitch. Tom spent some minutes posting himself into, and then back out of, the rather tight chimney before passing the lead over to me. I got stuck in and tried not to think about the impracticalities of being rescued from somewhere inside the mountain. Somehow I made it by a matter of millimetres and found enough space at the back of the chimney to reinflate my chest cavity and contemplate my predicament. I wasn't going back where I'd come from, but up looked equally challenging. At one point I found myself simultaneously offwidthing with both sides of my body in different cracks, which was an odd sensation. Along the way I placed a runner just to offer a little incentive to Tom to follow me, before emerging, in a fit of childish giggles, at the top of the pitch.

No caption required!

Alas, in spite of a few game efforts, Tom was either unwilling or unable (I'm not entirely sure which) to follow, and scuttled off round the outside via De Selincourt's Variation. This left me with the fun task of chimneying back into the dark to retrieve the gear. Fun fun fun. The top pitch was much easier, but still involved a tight squeeze. Lovely. After this we stuck to more sensible climbing, including the rather fun Flake Crack (with it's eponymous giant wobbly flake) and the delectable jamming of Herford's Crack. I rounded the day off with a speedy ascent of Western Slabs on Dinas Mot as the sun set with one of Tom's girlfriend's colleagues. Or something. She was very friendly anyway.

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