Well, that seems to be the end of the summer, even though it is still June! It has been a long run of glorious weather over most of the UK and that has lead to lots of people out climbing, particularly on the high mountain crags that are usually out of condition for most of the year. In between bouts of work up in the Lake District with the Army, I managed to sneak in a couple of days climbing in North Wales.
I hooked up with my old climbing buddy, Norman "the Ormesman" Clacher. He is the keenest guy I know and will always jump at the chance to climb on the majestic Clogwyn D'ur Arddu. Set high on the flanks of Snowdon, Cloggy (as the crag is affectiionately known amongst it's disciples), takes a long spell of dry weather to come into condition. Since his first visit, back in 1982, Norman has walked up from Llanberis to climb nearly 100 routes on the cliff, from VDiffs to E7s. I have accompanied him on several of these pilgrimages and have close to 50 Cloggy routes myself. These trips have always been fun affairs, where Norman would happily second me on a 'classic' climb that he had done before, then I would follow him on some esoteric horrorshow that most people just ignore!
It was a warm and muggy afternoon, and the walk up from Llanberis felt hard. Norman is over 50, but fit as a fiddle and would usually rush off up the track, but he stayed with me and we chatted about past Cloggy adventures. There were very few parties on the cliff. In previous times, on similar afternoons, one would have to queue for a climb, but these days, with the advent of sports climbing, the majority of climbers have stayed away from this magnificent crag. More fool them! Our chosen route was "The Orb", a climb that doesn't see many ascents. Situated high up on the Far East Buttress, we had to climb up the first half of Jubilee Climb to gain the starting terrace. Jubilee Climb has become known as a good mixed winter climb, and sadly, the rock in the crux corner has become marked by the passage of many crampons and axes. There was also quite a bit of insitu gear (slings, tat, jammed nuts etc) - sign of a great epic, perhaps? I remember soloing Jubilee Climb several years ago, and there was none of this detritus then. Such a pity.
Below the start of The Orb, we were attacked my hoards of marauding midges! I had never experienced anything like it in Wales. There were clouds of them! It was just like being in the Highlands of Scotland! These little insects can drive the unfortunate victim insane, buzzing in your ears and nose. They bite every millimetre of exposed flesh. We moved fast! A steep, short pitch lead quickly to the sanctity of a higher ledge below the main pitch. Norman struggled with the crux...a lack of large gear on our part didnt help matters. There was a bit of loose rock too, which is quite normal for the less frequented climbs on Cloggy. I followed, glad of the rope above me. The next pitch led up over large, loose blocks, before disappearing up a chimney, formed by a huge, detached section of the crag. I made sure I travelled carefully, making sure not to disturb any loose rock that could hit Norman.
Once I pulled onto the top of the crag, the midges descended in their thousands...and, like cowards, we ran away! The onslaught was incredible! I do hope the midge doesn't find it's way to Cornwall! We descended the Eastern Terrace to return to our rucksacks, followed by the midges. High on part of Cloggy, known as The Pinnacle, a couple of 'hotshots' were making an on-sight attempt of "It will be alright on the night", a climb graded E7. A fine effort, given the midge problem! News of this, and other, onsight repeats on Cloggy this month have been posted on UKClimbing. Click "here" for the report.
The next day was damp and wet. With no stomach to climb on wet rock, we headed down to that favourite wet weather location, Tremadog. Again, it had been ages since I had climbed on this fantastic roadside cliff. Here the atmosphere is more relaxed, as the rock is clean, solid (ish) and in the sun for most of the day. We dived into the cafe that is run by Eric Jones, the quiet, unassuming welsh man, who despite being in his 70's, still rides a motorbike, goes BASEjumping and who, in his youth, made the first solo ascent of the North Face of the Eiger. It was a slow day in the cafe and Eric, Norman and I shared stories of climbing epics and climbing legends, over a brew, before Norman and I went out to the crag to climb a couple of classics...Merlin Direct and The Plum.