Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Open Project of the Month - May

Its started to get warmer in Wales. I got my first bit of sunburn due to careless herding of my tribe up to Idwal this week, and the cool of the mountains is definitely calling. One spot that is easy for me to get to from home is Cwm Marchlyn. Not exactly a boulderer's paradise but there is things to scratch at, and its easily accessible by foot or bike. The latter allows a swift return due to the Reservoir road, although I've yet to brave it with a pad. The most well known are the Marchlyn boulders, a small collection of so so boulders by the Marchlyn Bach Reservoir (also this in the adjacent Quarry). Cycle / plod to the bend at the top of this reservoir and the plod approach to the Cwm Elidir boulders is found:
Home to this Puppy, as well as a series of slabs and highballs for the dedicated truffle hunter.

Recently I went to the Top; the Boulders of Craig Cwrwgl. Tipped off by the topo in the Ogwen guide (the boulders shown are so so, with one roof crack to seek out) I instead discovered these:
Massive Dolerite beauties of the Finest Brown Stuff!

This chap became the focus of my attention, as it had a very pretty face.. However the landing required work...

Next visit up pacified the landing somewhat, and still sans pad, I picked of the plum easier lines; the scoop and the blunt rib on the righthand side, the easy overlaps, the sitter up the righthand side of the nose to the eroded scoop, became Erodeo. On the Left hand side, the less than subtle campusfest became Ledgehammer. There's a line left of this that I required more of a safety net for, same for the stand on the left side of the nose. The sitter on the left side of the nose is the Open Project (as are all the unclimbed lines really) Undercuts, compression, poor feet and directional holds will gain the stand. A bit like a font extreme version of Braichmelyn arete, except instead of F7A sit/F5 stand its probably a F6cish stand and much harder sit (I could see the positions, just not hold them).

Another View of the Bloc. Just behind it is a steep boulder with a slopey lip. I climbed it  on the righthand side from a sitter off jugs with an exciting landing. I threw a heel up and thought of a vid I'd seen of The Prow at Cratcliffe, as I couldn't find it again here's Warm Love, same idea.
However,  as my trousers velcroed themselves to the extreme friction of the mighty brown, I stopped emulating the bespectacled grit guru, and with the focus provided by a hillside of spikey rocks wriggled like an epileptic catapillar..
The result was Livesey's Love Child.
The three named problems were in the F6B range, others were easier and there's plenty still to go at.

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..

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Neverfall nights

I was going to call it night digging, and then I googled it..

So when you have 3 boys under the age of six the bedtime routine can be a little rowdy. Logan (5) likes to avoid the whole scenario by creative use of the word "no", Dylan (3) claims his legs don't work and glues himself to the floor, and Ethan (also 3) turns all Drop Bear. Last night got a little on top of me, so I was directed to the door to destress myself.

So I did what any sensible person (who can't climb at the moment) would do, which is pack my fork and head to the quarries. More Phil Harding than Grendel, I thought I'd make use of a dry evening, rather than today's drizzle.

I paused above the monkey bar area to get a better picture of the rockfall on patellaectomy.

I doesn't look that good, you can see the fractures go right to the top, and the cracks above the bars appear to have opened up slightly. I reckon it'll strip to the top before it stabilizes, but at least there will be a climbable version left afterwards, if not at E1.

I had a great time at Neverfall, some how a chair and yellow sign has appeared at the bottom, but I was to engrossed in levering  blocks to investigate, so they're a bit buried now. Its starting to take shape at the top now, I even cleared the top out jugs with my fork. Promptly buried them again of course, but its getting there. I've excavated some substantial masonry at the top which may have been a retaining wall (very Time Team) which has molded my plans somewhat.

Originally I envisaged a flop ledge and a walk off ramp. These blocks are a tad too substantial to trundle, and therefore I started thinking of a combination of flop ledge and an easy, straightforward and above all Stationary set of steps. However, this poses more issues regarding the ergonomics of the flop ledge.

If you are going to flop (or elegantly mantle) into a space and not feel like you are going to wobble and die, how large should that space be? a waist to head length to allow gibbering whaling? or ankle to knee to allow prayer?
I think the end result will hopefully be somewhere in the middle. This is due to the aforementioned blocks being less than two meters from the edge, and the edge being slightly more that a meter below the bottom edge of the lowest block so far uncovered.
A stepped concavity is the best I can produce I think, but I am aiming for at least half a meter of clear flat ledge.

Lots of soil now to clear in the lower regions, so a Trowel will be packed next visit.

Its getting a little to close to being ready now, at some point we're going to have to try to climb it!

Returned home very relaxed, if a little dirty.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Bit of a Pootle

Went for a quick jaunt round Dinorwig slate quarry revisiting some old haunts. Its been a while, and some spots its been years, so I was interested to see how things have changed.

First off, there's been a big slip at the back of Australia, right from the top. Basically, the top pitch or so of "If you kill people, they die" have popped down the crag, finishing up by scouring the 1st pitch off:
Harold Walmsey's routes should have survived, but the bolts are probably worth checking..

I then Wandered along upper Peregrine walls to Golgotha. There are a few new blocks down on the path, but at Golgotha there's been a few changes..

A big slip above Golgotha has taken out the big block in the wall above the path, by the egg boulder. This has finished off the demolition job on the hut, loosened up a whole new section, and revealed a new groove.
Golgotha wall got a scouring and the 1st bolt on "Slip of the tongue" is now 8ft off the deck rather than 20 or so. making for a bolder proposition. Bolts are resin and generally look unscathed. "The Daddy Club" is untouched.. You can compare this to the old topo.

The scramble up to Suncharm Ledge now seems a tad more straight forward, and this venue looks as enticing and untouched as always..

A visit is on the cards
As My friend Gary used to say "Don't get crushed or mashed.."

Foot Note:
Harolds been up and the Ayres Rock routes have been spared a bashing. Good News!