Wednesday, 24 September 2014

This is Bat Country....

After my taste of adventure with Calum Muskett in Twll Mawr, I must admit something clicked inside of me. A quiet reawakening, like a clock in a long silent room, suddenly resuming its slicing of time, tick tick tick tick tick. Or maybe like a long term vegetarian after a drunken kebab, I don't know...

I was keen for getting in the driving seat for some Adventure new routing, Twll Mawr had caught me again. Now I know that this was what I was doing with Calum, but going in packing a wad is a bit like cheating really, and I was keen to be fully immersed.

When I was Putting together this section for the Llanberis Slate guide, I was fortunate enough to go for a panad with Joe Brown. During our brew he pulled out some photo's and drew in the "almost" lines, adventures and probings that turned into retreats and memories. The Antiquarian, followed one of these lines (The Antiquarian Direct; pulled off by Calum and Jez Leong 5 days after our trip, straightens this and is a fine effort at solid E5). The old bolts we clipped, however, were on a corner line that Joe had attempted, to be turned back by loose rock. Having climbed in this vicinity with Cal, I was sure I could potter up this and with the Direct now done, separate out the lines.

With Ben sorted for a Monday attempt, I spent the weekend, plowing through pics of Twll Mawr, sussing potential weaknesses, planning the rack, and enthusing at all and sundry. Monday came around and the ticking in my head was almost audible, so pumped up for a step into the unknown. This is climbing. To me at least, the opportunity to put yourself into an unknown arena with unknown assailants and hidden obstacles, to succeed through planning and instinct and wits. Well, that's what I do it for. Now I can get that through bouldering, especially discovering new boulders, and climbing something outside of my comfort zone, but the type of adventurous new routing that Twll Mawr provides is the Colosseum to their playground skirmishes.

Pitch 1. 35m 5b. Start as for the Antiquarian. at the crack ascend this until it runs out then follow the slabby side of the corner above until a bolt is reached. Belay here with whatever else you can find.

Ben's pic of P1

I felt a lot happier leading this than with Cal as it was still in the shade and I found a Cam 3 slot at the start which prevented some feeling of doom, once out the top of the crack it all went into forced focus, and holds bright and hand drawn, looseness and threat doubly so, However, the drip feed of gear kept the tick tock at bay and eventually a lot later than I'd mentally rehearsed the bolt arrived.

Pitch 2. 25m 6a. Continue up the corner until it is possible to gain the slopey ledge on the left. Arrange meager gear, and force a rising traverse back right, dynamically across the corner (doubtful rock) to snatch a clean ledge on the steep side. Wriggle, throw and flop onto the ledge above. Belay of well equalized small wires.

Cal though this section of the Antiquarian warranted E4/5, I was with trepidation then that I lurched across the wooden corner. I would always agree that it is best policy never attempt something that you can't reverse. However, sometimes I disregard best policy and go for self belief, optimism, aggression and possibly a little carefully calculated psychopathy. However, a little goes a long way, and in this case it went a little way up instead of a long way to the floor. The nature of the back wall of Twll Mawr is that protection tend to be either solid faultline seams (rare) wooden and punkish corner faults (more common although less reassuring) or the cracks formed by massive chunks slightly separating from the back wall's main bulk. This belay was the latter.

Pitch 3. 30mish 5c/6a. Follow the left hand arete of the corner behind the belay easily at first with poor gear, until a committing step up to a sloping ledge (Cam 1 hidden on left) either take a large stride left and grapple into undercuts, or pull boldly upwards to a some poor gear and then scamper leftwards to a good foothold and undercuts (wire in a corner). Undercut wildly leftwards to the penultimate bolt of TDOS and mantel upto the bolt belay.

After pitch 2 I had originally intended to go up the cool looking crack line behind the grey slab of the true finish. Up close and personal it was clear this would need a clean on an abb before I would be prepared to commit. The same goes for the unifying crack system its part of, that arises out of the first pitch of Razor's Edge (indeed another Brown sortie repelled by death daggers, that led to the aid bolts and creation of Razor's Edge). The continuation of the corner system we were following was wide. the corner itself was wooden and bottomed out, the right arete a series of large blocky ledges of varnished slate, easy moves maybe, but past experience told me no gear and difficult to retreat from. The left arete looked full of holds and was a reassuring solid grey colour. Off I went, extolling it virtues while slotting away the RP's, then the slopes started, and the woodenness encroached forcing me away from the corner into steepness. Once I'd found the Cam 1, and remembering the benefits that pushing through provided on the previous pitch I laid one on and pinched my way up into the fins, hoping the steps would recommence. Nope, its flutings and eff all.

Bum, I realized I was in a little trouble here.. (Ben didn't until the next day when he reconsidered the nature of the belay he was relying on) a toe hook under the fin allowed a good shake out to consider my position. First, there's a shatter block in front of my face that may take a Cam, probably explode, but its something to do... Second, Smaug's sleeping over there, I can see the chalk, I can even see a foothold between us. Right. 1,2,3 Go (the old slateheads trick) pinch, hang,  kick press and into the undercut like your prizing the lid of a sarcophagus. Hairline seam in a corner framing a fang of broken rock. Flick! RP4. Okie Dokie, now look back through the razor fins, extend that rubbish cam to get the ropes clear. Right.. Serious Shuffling, then someone else's chalk, someone else''s route, someone else's bolt.
The Bugger didn't even grapple with the fins, with his lanky legs, and the nicely extended cam, he just sauntered underneath. (mental note: when seconding, make things look hard, or at least seem scared)

P4 etc. Continue as for TDOS.

We didn't. I'd done Smaug before, was late for work, over adrenalised, and the line above too populated with bolts for a "better" trad line to continue with any worth or quality. Besides Smaug is a good route, and easy to abb off.

I Think this is certainly one of the biggest onsight leads I have done, certainly up there with Taith Mawr, although the crux pitches of TM are easier, abet with less worthwhile protection and more irreversible moves. I've been musing for a while that TM is probably nearer E5 that E4, and along with my experiences on The Antiquarian, have led me to believe I may have onsighted my First E5.

However, my own self doubt sneers 'bound to be E4', and my lack of attempts on established E5's  are causing a lot of umming and ahhing.
Then again, no one's going to repeat it anyway...

Twll Love E5 6a
Mark Dicken, Ben Ryle 22/9/14

Ray Wood's Smaug topo that I nicked and scribbled over..
Yellow is Smaug, Red is The Antiquarian Direct, Blue is Twll Love, Orange is Hamadryad, Green is Opening Gambit, and Purple is roughly Rock bottom line.
The unclimbed Brown project is the whitish groove/crack line immediately right of Twll Love culminating in the crack behind the sharp arete of True Finish (whole lot needs a clean/garden on Abb)
The space in between Hamadryad and the lines to the left should be interesting to Cal and Co....

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