Thursday, 22 May 2014

Twll Mawr- North Wall; A Personal View

I had the pleasure of climbing the Desolation of Smaug (TDOS) on Sunday, this is a 6 pitch sport route that picks its way up the back wall of Twll Mawr, skipping either side of a feint faultline to maximise the climbing of clean unfractured rock. The first ascentionist had obviously thought about its impact on existing routes and bolted sensitively to create a very safe and enjoyable excursion up the back wall.

My first excursion into this arena of adventure was in 2002, when Tom Shaw and myself took 7 hours to re climb what was left of Opening Gambit, after the rockfalls of the 90's. This included going off route, partially ascending the Gay Blade, abseiling off a block of slate wedged across a groove to regain the line, and only just making it for last orders at the Vaynol in Nant Peris. I was hooked on this alpine crucible, closer than Cloggy, requiring less petrol than Gogarth, and (contrary to popular belief) less likely to fall on you than the llyn. I climbed this line 2 more times, the final outing being solo. a hiatus followed whilst I looked for a willing climbing partner. Hamadryad followed; a splendid outing which was worth 2 stars at the time, however the vegetation has got a little rowdy so some secateurs may be needed to bring it back to stardom (it is named after a woodland spirit after all).

I followed this with a 10 pitch Girdle of Twll Mawr (as you do). Taith Mawr was climbed over two  7 hour days, in the company of a very Game Jon Byrne (I believe he has recovered), I told him it would be about HVS, rather than the E4/5 it turned out to be.
I regard Taith Mawr as a high point in my new routing, certainly the hardest on sight I've done, with many "challenging" sections where psychological fortitude was as important a the gaffa tape holding the slings on. It is still unrepeated, although a few connoisseurs have shown interest.

With my love of this wall it was natural that as I got involved in the Slate guide, I would cover this bit. I knew I wasn't enough of a rock star to cover the Quarryman wall, and so Mr Robins took care of that, But I Threw myself into getting to know the wall intimately. I abseiled the middle section of the wall, cleaning the upper pitch of True Finish, and levering a 20ft x 3ft Column of pitch 1 of bushmaster which had made the route unjustifiable. I also replaced the bolts on Razors edge (the Hamadryad bolts are redundant with cam protection) and  popped in a couple of escape bolts (the wall required me to use both a 100m and 60m Static tied together). I also had a very nice amble up Bushmaster with the Scorpion finish with Mike Raine (where I saw the Beast in Me for the first time). Incidentally, using Bushmaster P1 to start it Scorpion can be a very nice E2, and switch back to Bushmaster at the Balcony and you have a reasonable 4 pitch HVS.

I digress..
Whilst Researching the Guide, I was privileged to have a panad with Joe Brown. He was very passionate about Twll mawr, stating that it was amongst the 4 most adventurous walls in North Wales, and as well as discussing the established routes, we discussed the ones that got away. The shield of rock that hosts TDOS is bound on its left border by the faultline of Hamadryad, and on its right by a fault line and dolerite intrusion, just to the right of the Razors edge / True finish. This zone was subject to many probes by Brown; The Direct to Razors Edge (too loose), the right Bounding Faultline (retreat from high on the wall due to more scary detached blocks) and the Shield Itself.
Joe got high on the slab, halting where a rib petered out, and placing 2 hand drilled  bolts to escape with.. Marked with a D on this Picture.

Ray Kay tried this same line much later, and with a couple of bolts to spur him on, carried on to a high point marked as B with a algae colonised pink sling.

The Spot marked as C is the belay at the end of pitch 2 of TDOS, and it was at this belay that I pondered on all of this; the history, both personal and corporate that has gone before on this wall. While I don't begrudge TDOS right to exist on this back wall (as I said I really enjoyed it), it would be a shame if all this potential for real adventure is lost under a fog of bolts. However, I'm sure no more sport routes could find a home here amongst its complex of ledges and faults. What would be a shame would be if no more adventure routes were to be born here.

It would be a shame if this line so rich in history, remains unclimbed, so I encourage those of a similar heart to finish off the work of Brown and Kay. The bolt belay of TDOS would mean that the section of steepness halting the progress of Ray Kay (although it may have been not enough rope length left...) is no longer life threatening and should lead swiftly to the Angel belay of Taith mawr (end of P4, marked with an A). The Punters retreat could then take you to the top.
2 new Pitches soaked in history.
Get to it, or I may have to do it myself..

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