Who Needs the Alps?!

Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege of climbing all over the world, from trad climbing in Yosemite and Red Rocks to clipping bolts in Spain, soaring granite pillars in Patagonia to snowy mountain faces in New Zealand. Plenty of people have asked me why I bothered returning to the UK, and aside from the usual ‘family and friends’ excuses, the main deciding factor was the huge amount of fantastic trad climbing our little island has to offer. No where in the world have I found such high quality and massive variety of rock in such a compact area. The amazingly good weather we had in July meant the perfect time to get out on some classic three star mountain routes that are often cold and wet and re-kindle my love for British rock climbing. Here’s what I’ve been up to – apologies for the lack of photos/terrible phone photos – I was too busy climbing!

First up was a few extra days off work in mid-July. We’d originally planned a Pembroke trip but given the forecast it seemed a little rude not to go and take advantage of Snowdonia’s classic routes. The first day’s choice was obvious: Cloggy. Wow, it was busy! As much as I’d love a crag to myself, it was actually really nice to see at least 30 parties up at Cloggy – who says that no-one’s climbing the high mountain routes any more?! We got on The Troach (E2 5b) – a lovely VS corner crack to warm up with, followed by the crux pitch traversing out boldly across an amazing quartz vein. More sustained moves and thin gear lead to the belay, followed by a very bold 5a pitch to the finale of a juggy arete – perfect! Definitely one for the confident E2 leader; the holds are positive but you wouldn’t want to fall. Our friends got on the classic Pigott’s Climb (VS 5a) reporting an excellent top couple of pitches making up for a slightly scrappy first two – take a large cam for the offwidth top section if you don’t like run-outs!

A swim in the lake won over a second route, but the next day was another sweaty walk-in to Llech Ddu. The crag above and behind Bethesda is better known for winter climbing, with the nearby Black Ladders providing some (apparently) excellent winter lines. It proved a reasonable summer destination too; the rock is of variable quality and the climbing feels fairly full-on, but that’s all part of the adventure with mountain crags! We did The Groove (E1 5b), a great and sustained line running up the centre of the crag for 6 pitches. The first pitch is no pushover (involving technical bridging), the second crux pitch is ‘awkward’ to say the least! Unfortunately this pitch was wet and my partner managed an impressive lead without using the groove itself; the team ahead of us resorted to a bit of french freeing! The rest of the climb was brilliant, the third and fourth pitches taking a lovely juggy and bridgy corner – our calves were screaming from all the bridging by the end! You then meet up with the Scar Face Finish of Central Route for a run-out but easier final two pitches. We met our friends at this point who had done Central Route – finding it to be fairly tricky and definitely more HVS than the VS quoted in the older guidebook!

A shorter walk-in was needed the next day, leading to the obvious choice of Dinas Mot. Here, we were keen to get on The Cracks (HS 4c) – as was everyone else as it’s one of the easiest climbs on the crag! It was worth the small queue though giving some great but predictably polished climbing and a total sandbag of a thrutchy final move on the last pitch – definitely warranting VS 5a for this one move, although it is possible to abseil off from the last belay if you don’t feel like it! Next up was West Rib (HVS 5a) with a run out second pitch causing me to give myself a talking to on the odd occasion… the gear, when it does appear, is bomber though and the moves never that hard. I finished up The Chain (E1 5b) – the logical continuation to West Rib and an absolutely fantastic finger crack that was over far too soon.

The following day saw us complete one of the best routes I have done anywhere in the world – The Grooves (E1 5b) on Cyrn Las. This is only three pitches but they are consistently fantastic without any distractions of easier pitches mid-way or traverses to link lines. Incredible bridging, jug pulling and jamming all the way up a huge corner for two pitches, then a hilarious small traverse (I crawled….. my 5’2 partner insisted she managed to walk along it… I’m sceptical!) into a final steep but juggy corner to the top. I can’t recommend this route highly enough.

Pitch 2 of The Grooves, Cyrn Las - apologies for my useless phone camera!

A short last day before driving back saw us do Diadem (HVS 5b) on Clogwyn y Tarw and Suicide Wall Route 1 (E2 5b) in Idwal. The latter of these was particularly good, hard moves to start but then steady to the halfway ledge, with another few tricky moves off this leading you to better gear and a convenient belay-with-ab-tat to avoid the notorious Idwal descent route! A great lead once again from Julie who kept her head on the hard lower moves, followed by the two (tall) lads after us cruising it, reaching straight through the crux to the good holds beyond!

 

Julie on Suicide Wall Route 1, Idwal.

 

The Lakes was next up, the following weekend. I’ve wanted to climb on Scafell Crag for a long time and the weather eventually played ball allowing us to get on Central Buttress (E1 5b). Another fantastic route up the distinctive huge flake with the crux pitch up the side of, then stepping on to the front of, the flake being no where near as bold or scary and I’d imagined! Again, a huge number of people out on the crag and on the East Buttress too, including Dave Birkett working something hard. I read after there were at least 2 new routes done that day.

 

 

The flake pitch of Central Buttress, Scafell

 

The last high-mountain day I’ve had recently was on Gable Crag, on the classic Engineer’s Slabs (VS 4c). Definitely not a slab! I have to say I was a little disappointed with this route, it was a little dirty and loose, no doubt the result of many rubbish summers and little traffic, and lots of use as a winter route – it’s well scratched up now unfortunately. We’d had our eye on other climbs on the crag but left early due to the huge number of people there and the ensuing chaos, crossing ropes, rock fall and general feeling that sometime bad was going to happen… it nearly did when someone pulled off a hold a few metres up Engineer’s Slabs and took a factor 2 fall onto his belayer’s single nut, which thankfully held and stopped him tumbling any further down the steep slopes below the crag. He was very lucky and was unhurt, but we took the cue to run away to the very unfrequented Green Gable Crags opposite and get a couple of lovely easy pitches in in the sunshine.

 

A climber on Saxon, Scafell.

 

 

 

<p>The Suunto Core is an very popular choice for mountain and outdoor users who want a highly functional watch but don’t require a
heart-rate monitor or GPS. Featuring an <strong>altimeter, barometer</strong> and <strong>compass</strong> alongside the standard watch functions it is ideal for
all your outdoor activities. </p>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *