The Good Life
I splashed cool water on my sunburnt face and remembered I hadn’t showered since… when? The stream almost smelt sweet as it gurgled into the lake beneath Cloggy. I thought about going swimming, the sun already turning my skin pink again. Although the summer’s day was still yawning awake, Snowdon buzzed with heat like an electric wire.
Snowdon Railway’s burnt orange tracks glinted in the light, next to fluorescent green grass grazed by nonchalant sheep. The first steam engine of the day cranked up the line, pushing a fat carriage of gawping tourists. I was briefly hypnotised by the steady 200 beats-per-minute as the cogs chugchugchugged relentlessly to the summit. Glancing upstream again, I saw a sheep shitting nearby. ‘Ah, it’s good to be back in Wales!’ I thought as I spat out a mouthful of water.
Cloggy is actually dwarfed by Snowdon, embedded into the hillside like a castle wall. I wondered how many hundreds of thousands of people have walked obliviously past on their way to ‘conquer’ Snowdon. But it’s one of Wales’s most famous and historic crags for good reason: there’s a classic route at every grade. And once you start looking at the cliff, you realise it’s all sweeping lines, impressive arcs and proud curves.
Several of my mates had recently unearthed hard new trad routes in North Wales, raving about the process of discovering and climbing first ascents. In the past, I’d always thought it was important to be climbing at a high standard before I looked for new routes - and I also applied this thinking when breaking into new grades, or new disciplines like hard alpine climbing. I also hadn’t seen anything unclimbed which truly motivated me.
Now returning to North Wales with some free time in the summer, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. I wanted to rave about my 3-star E8. The weather was idyllic: t-shirts and flip flops, evening swims in the lake, and barbecues on the beach. I realised I’d missed the climbing scene here. Between these people and this scenery, North Wales really was a special place to be based.
Later, I trudged up to Cloggy with a rusksack full of static rope, brushes, hammer, jumars, micro traxion and bolts (only joking - Johnny Dawes would shoot anyone with bolts). Where previously I’d seen only established lines on a cliff, I now looked for the gaps. Up here, I’d spotted an entire wall without any routes on it, but hardly believed there was potential at such a well-climbed mountain crag.
Ignoring the fact it was probably choss, I started swinging around on a rope, tap-tap-tapping my way across the wall. The rope skittered backwards and forwards over the lip, my nerves shot - though thankfully not the rope’s core - when I spied something on the second day. It turns out that most rock on Cloggy is choss, no matter how classic the climb.
From the side of the crag's undercut base, a line of edges led up and right onto a clean, grey wall. The compact rock looked promising, and the hammer blows returned in sharp, solid cracks. Alone on the wall, I laughed to myself madly, enjoying the echoes reverberating around the Pinnacle. ‘That’s a bingo!’ I shouted when I finally abseiled to the floor after a few hours of cleaning. My numb legs nearly collapsed.
You could call it, ‘A Sudden Wave of Compassion,’ Angus said. After several days of cleaning my prospective route, some satisfying trundles and numerous falls onto the micro traxion, I was ready to climb. All I needed was a partner who’d be free for a few hours before I had to rush off early. Understandably, nobody was keen to walk all the way up to Cloggy, hold my ropes, maybe get to climb something, and then walk down again… except Angus, who I promised karma, chocolate, eternal belays, beers, and to carry all the gear (or at least, I thought I’d promised that?).
Angus thankfully agreed, giving into a sudden wave of compassion; what a legend! A few hours later, the Cloggy new route was finally climbed, with Angus making a smooth second ascent. Like me, he thought the technical face climbing on the lower half was engaging, constantly switching side-pulls into gastons and placing small cams in vertical cracks. He reached the good rest at a pod below the overhanging final five metres and filled it with gear. After a brief shake, he launched at the chunky laybacks and onto positive edges, finally topping out through the dirty, lichenous groove which I’d neglected to clean. ‘Not bad’ he commented.
Back at the car, with the sun shining, I felt satisfaction at completing a process. My route wasn’t desperately hard or bold or impressive, as I’d initially hoped. But it was a fun few moves; perhaps a warm-up for someone. I looked forward to another evening barbecue so I could sandbag my mates into climbing it. Now, whenever I look up at Snowdon, I know I’ve added one line between the gaps. ‘This is the good life,’ I thought.
Thanks to Angus for the belay.
The Good Life (E4 6a - ish). Tom & Angus. 26/06/19. 28m.
N.B. It’s around E4-ish, with Fr. 6c climbing. If I was a sandbagger I’d say E3, and if I was a softie I’d say E5. I don’t think there’s a UK 6a move on it, but hey, who knows.
Approach as for The Axe - scramble up the Eastern Terrace to the top of Cloggy. Abseil into the East Gully, as for The Axe. Walk across grassy ledges to the base of the wall.
Start at the left end of the undercut wall, below the large obvious corner and grassy ledge. Climb 2m up the corner, then step right onto the wall, climbing up and rightwards. Join vertical cracks and finish via a gently overhanging crux section, exiting a little groove on the left side.
Normal rack, but take double small BD silver and blue cams if possible (sizes .4 and .3).
Climb grass for 10m to reach the belay, (cams in booming cracks and a big spike up and right).
The wall receives little sunlight, but seems to remain surprisingly dry. I climbed this route after 1 and a half days of rain, and it was still fine.