“Day 6 at Clogwyn Du. The legs occasionally tremor with fatigue but I have become slightly more ‘in tune’ with mixed climbing again. My axes feel like an extension to my hands and crampons don’t screech against the rock. As we top out into a still, calm afternoon, I breathe a sigh of relief. I think I’ve earned a rest day!”
Optimistic as always. Weather could have brought good winter conditions. I persuade fellow C.A. Emily to check out Clogwyn Du - one of the most reliable winter crags in Wales. We glimpse it through the clouds from the road and my fears are confirmed. It’s black; not in condition; ‘dim dringo.’
We scramble up Cneifion Arete instead, trying not to be blown off the mountain by the gusts of icy wind. Descending into the Nameless Cwm I point out Cracking Up and once again, the demons begin to stir.
In the afternoon I go for a great bike ride with Will and Emily. Road cycling isn’t as cool as climbing (obvs.), but it is pretty damn cool!
James Williams answers the text message at 9:16am, Thursday morning. Yes, he’s free and psyched. Good man. We start walking in at about 11am (only in Wales…)
The crag is covered in rime - that white icy stuff that grows into the direction of the wind. Some may have even declared it ‘in condition.’ The top half of Cracking Up was white but the bottom corner hid from the wind - and looked black. I wanted to ensure that it was definitely ‘in’ and that I got the full, ‘proper’ tick. After much cursing, we climb Cleft Gully (V,6), a brilliant little route.
Will Hardy and I trudge up to Clogwyn Du. This time it’s plastered white. It springs out of the clouds during the walk in and my head spins: it’s in. Shit. I’m going to have to do it now!
The climbing is physical and strenuous right from the start. It’s deceptively overhanging and the wide crack line is baggy. I make it to the small ledge before the real meat of the route and, after constructing a complete bomb-shelter of kit, launch into the upper crack.
The niche is a bad place to rest. It’s a good place to think about the route. Too much thinking is dangerous! Before my thoughts get out of control I launch into the upper crack, almost enjoying the climbing and the brutal nature of the moves. With the end in sight, I start to lose control of my forearms. A baggy axe-head torque starts to slip and I throw my other axe into the crack, scrabbling, scraping. Anything? Anything!
Without warning my lower axe rips and, a moment later, the top axe pings off, flying down the crag. I scream, shout, kick, swear, punch… Goosfrahbahhhh! Hanging on the end of the rope I properly throw my toys out of the pram. To have onsighted this route would have made my winter, and to have got so close…! Another route, another time.
Ground up, second go was a decent consolation prize. Thanks to Will for the belays and photos.
Tony Stone drove over from Sheffield on a last-minute mission. He jumped on Travesty (VIII,8) and hung out on the arete for a while before concluding that it was too windy and too grim to pull on some thin hooks. We nip up Cleft Gully to escape the wind and then do Blenderhead (VIII,8). I had seconded this with Dave Almond a few years ago but it was in totally different condition and I couldn’t remember much about it, so it was nice to lead the crux pitch clean.
Tony and I go back to Clogwyn Du, since nothing else is in condition. Cloggy? Llech Ddu? Bladders? Unfortunately not. We strap it on for Pete Harrison’s new route, The Charlatan, a three pitch (IX,9). I manage to onsight the first pitch - given grade 9 - and am pretty chuffed to pull onto the belay ledge after a blustery lead. It’s a little bolder than Cracking Up but not as hard.
Tony climbs pitch 2 in style. The climbing is pretty full-on straight off the belay, with big moves. We are super-psyched to get this done and I even make it back to work on time. Cheers for a good one, geezer!
A big dump of snow last night, but Mike Thomas and I decide to go Clogwyn Du (again) because of my night shift.
I look at Lateo (X,10). I belayed Pete Harrison on the first ascent and Dave Garry on the second, back in 2012 (?), so I should remembered where it goes! Alas, I pull over the bulge and scrape around several times but can’t find a single hook. My arms and legs aren’t feeling tip-top (unsurprising I guess), so I sack it and vow to return fresh and with a route description. Mike and I climb El Mancho(VI,7) instead, which is brilliant. We top out into the calm soup of a whiteout and I feel content.
Today I conclude six days in the hill, with a total of 45 winter points in five days. Thanks everyone. Boom.