Tuesday 23 February 2010

Reflecting back on Erazerhead I find it interesting that the urge to get back out is less than it would be on an easier route. Its only been a couple of days but normally by now I'd be scanning the guide books looking for the next objective, obviously this fix was a bigger hit and like any other drug the effects are lasting longer.
The climb itself was interesting, in that most winter lines I've done have followed distinctive features, a corner or obvious crack. This line was more intricate revealing itself as you climbed.
A couple of thin hooks, gain a bit more height, then scrape away the snow, (before the arms give up) to reveal the next hold, then checking the wide angle view, looking for the bigger features to link together.
It made for exciting climbing with a high level of uncertainty and once I'd committed to the wall it was going to end, either with success or major air time due to the run outs.
This time it was success.

Sunday 21 February 2010


Yes Yes Yes, I finally did it!
After a lot of training and a few trips to the crag, things came good for Dave and me, and the line I've been dreaming about for most of the winter has fallen, but it didn't give up without a fight.
I walked in to Clogwyn Du on the 11th with Tom but the crag was completely black other than the ice streaks of pillar and Left hand so it would have to wait until I got back from a weeks skiing with the boys, hopefully the cold spell would last.
I arrived back on the saturday to fresh snow and made plans with Dave for the following day.
9.30 saw us at the base of the crag in perfect conditions, no excuses now I had to go for it.
I thinned the rack down to the bare minimum that I could get away with, no point carrying more weight than you can help.
Now that I'd committed in my mind I just wanted to get on with it, so waded up pillar in deep snow, set up the belay for Dave and started to look at the route.
A steep groove cuts up and slightly leftwards for about 6m, at the top of this you can stand in balance to place some good gear and survey the ground above. Then the real climbing starts, you move up, the wall pushing you out and suddenly you're off balance and the weight's on your arms, there's no gear so you move up a bit more, now the gears by your feet and the arms are starting to feel it. A flat topped spike with a small lip on is just good enough to take a weighted sling and I managed to place a dodgy BD pecker, then thin hooks on nothing edges allow you to get your foot on top of the spike with the sling on, above and slightly to the left is the crack you're aiming for, there's no more gear so just go for it. More thin moves and you can reach the crack, thankfully there's bomber hooks to start but its still pumpy, now reach up and hook the top of the crack and the good turf where the angle changes on to the slab.
At this point with both arms locked off and about 8m to my last gear I was starting to worry.
After having climbed the hard ground below was I going to fail at an unclimbable slab and take a massive lob? Scraping the slab and clearing snow, as far as I could reach, time was running out. I would have to lower my expectations of what I was looking for. Rescraping the slab the pick caught on a small edge, I brought my left axe up to match, and moved my feet up. Keeping dead still, hardly daring to breathe I lifted an axe and hooked a good turfy edge, somehow I was still on the wall, I let out a whoop, partly satisfaction but mainly relief. One more move up and a insitu peg is reached and with feet on the turfy edge you can at last stand in balance again.
I stood here for a while placing another peg and a wire while trying to work out the moves above.
A slabby ramp leads diagonally leftwards to a flared crack and the turfy ledges of the belay. Using small hooks for the axes you work your feet up until they are in the gear break then a long reach left gains a good hook at the base of the crack and a small wire placement.
The flared crack didnt provide any hooks so I lent to the left and with feet smearing on the right wall laybacked up to the turf above, and finally reached the belay.
Now I could relax, it was Dave's lead.
Above a groove leads via steep bridging, to a big flake, and with gear behind this, you move left to reach another groove, place a 0.5 cam and swing leftwards to get a foothold,the ground is now overhanging and you need to move quickly to reach the turf above, before the pump kicks in. Now the ground eases and a few short steps lead to a belay in the groove of Travesty.
All that remains is a quick romp up this pitch to the top and trip to the pub where the pints tasted fantastic!
Erazerhead VIII 8

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Walked in to Clogwyn Du on Sunday not expecting too much, maybe take some photos of the crag to see if the summer line of Hebinwi would go in winter.
As we approached the predictably black cliff I was pleasantly surprised to see a line of ice running the full height of Clogwyn Du left hand, including what looked like a direct finish.
Another team were not far behind, so we got our skates on, (or should that be crampons) and leaving one rope in the bag, quickly got ourselves established in the gully. I moved up onto the first pitch which soon becomes interesting, a rock rib splits the gully providing good hooks for the right axe, while the left uses the ice on the wall. Above, the gully turns into a narrow chimney and after placing some gear thin moves left lead to the ice. It was running with water but it seamed to be solid enough and six metres at about eighty degrees gets you to the belay.
Dave led the next pitch up to the chimney of the direct finish, another team were established at the stance so he took a hanging belay in the bottom of the chimney as he didn't seem to keen on the ice above.
This next section was really good fun, made more exciting by not having any ice screws.
I moved up placed a rock 3 in a icy crack as psychological protection and moved up using the thin ice on the left, another rock 6 on the right, then delicately commit to the blobs of ice and move up and left around an ice chandelier and on to easy ground.
Dave topped out and told me both pieces of gear came out!
Glad I didn't know when it mattered!
After leaving the gear at the top we descended back to the base of the crag to get photos of Hebinwi (will it go in winter? we'll have to wait and see...) then climbed back up via Clogwyn Du right hand.
An unexpected good day out.