A Recipe for The Fourth Dimension

This article first appeared on UKClimbing.com in August 2015.



“Everyone spices differently. Some carefully measure quantities, make sure aromas will match and never make a mistake, while others just pour it on and see what happens.

With the latter approach, sometimes you blow your brains out and think you’re going to die… but sometimes you come up with something really memorable.”

Brian Baxter, A Spicy Living.

Mid-route on TFD. Photo: Owen Samuel

The Fourth Dimension (E7 6c) ***

Serves 1

This is a fantastic recipe - full of flavour and adventure, with a healthy dose of spice. Best served fresh and hot, it creates one of my favourite dishes. The climbing is fierce with a committing feel, which shouldn’t be under-estimated.

It’s also apparently one of the best lines on one of the best crags in North Wales (and therefore the UK) - which is quite a claim! Add into account the reputation, weather, tides and long prussik above the sea, and you’ve got an idea of the size of this meal. I’ve found an open mind and a large pair of guns to be useful, although I admit to misplacing mine for my ascent.

Serve with a good mate over a promising forecast, and a cool beer to finish.


To get on Down!

1 abseil rope (80 metres works best). I prefer the static variety. Prussiking up a semi-stretchy rope as it bounces over the lip of the zawn makes me feel 'the fear.' I can handle spicy run-outs and electrifying solos. But watching that single white cord rub over the edge makes my heart race.

2 ascending devices. Before you go down, it’s important to remember you’ve got to come back up! Top tip: For the ideal garnish, bring a jumar and grigri. Prussiking is rubbish. A Shunt and Ropeman work ok too.

To prepare: Baste in sunshine at the top, then ‘The Birkett Warm Up’ (see Psyche film by Alastair Lee). Alternatively refer to the Gorillaz’ Rock the House. ‘Tap your toes and clap your hands.’

To get on Up!

2 half ropes, preferably 60 metres.

1 standard trad rack. The usual shizzle will suffice: micro cams to medium/big, set of wires (choose your favourite variety) and plenty of quickdraws. Remember your nut key.

Chalk. Loose, and lots of it. If conditions are greasy you’ll be grateful. Use your own personal mix.

Gogarth North by Ground Up guides. Indispensable and full of information. The History section also makes for entertaining reading while your mate prussiks out!

De-greaser or greaseproof paper - as much as possible.

This is on top of the obvious: shoes, harness, helmet, gunz, psyche and gurn! Marinade and season. Mix well. ‘Twist your hips and do the dip.’

Oli Grounsell on The Whale, beneath TFD.


The Approach

As per the notes in the Gogarth North guide. Pre-clip the abseil rope through two threads as you pass under the lip to ensure a successful pendulum from The Whale to the route.

Once on the island, swing from The Whale to the base, across a 6 foot sea channel. It’s best to practice this in your garden or on your local swings to save embarrassment/breaking your coccyx on an unplanned return to The Whale.

Grab the small greasy spike at the base of the route, stick a cam in the crack and clip you and your abseil rope into it. This ensures you don’t have to keep swinging across each time. Rub your hands over the rock and say, ‘oooh, it’s not too greasy at the moment!’ Apply the de-greaser or greaseproof paper.

The Route

Pre-heat your conditions as described in Useful Information.

You didn’t expect me to give any beta, did you?! I will say that Paul Pritchard is too far right in Dave Kendall’s photo in the back of Gogarth North. It’s an inspiring picture, nonetheless.

Remember to appreciate your surroundings as you squirm up the initial groove, smelling the salty air and wiping greasy hands on your shirt. Remember to breathe deeply, filling your lungs before you traverse under the roof; feel the quartzite bite under your fingertips, small flakes cutting soft skin. Remember the steepness as you clip the peg and launch into the crux, the sea lapping far below and the warm sunshine on the slab above.

Go big, enjoy the positions and ‘ave it! Or again consult the Gorillaz: ‘shake and bake, do whatever it takes!’

The Descent

If you make it through the crux, rock onto the slab and relax - you’re out of the barbecue. Climb across to your abseil rope and tie an overhand knot with one hand. Lower off and strip - this is where it helps to bring the nut key. This is also assuming your mate wants to have a go. You could recruit a super-strong partner to second, but they might have a Weston-Super-Mare!

Useful Information

The Whale is a beautiful specimen, and not for eating. She’s spacious and usually dry, but she’s in a bit of a wind tunnel. It can be chilly down there, so bring your jackets. Avoid in rough seas/high tides. Take a rucksack full of provisions to sate the appetite between burns, and some cream to calm the spice.

I thought conditions were going to be the crux of this route but thankfully they’re usually ok, even in the shade. This dish relies on a light breeze and warm temperatures, otherwise it can be a little al dente. Of course, it’s best to wait until the sun comes onto the rock but this doesn’t happen until around 7pm.

The incredible Ray Wood photo of Paul Pritchard trying a version of TFD. He is going too far right in the picture. This is the back flap of the Gogarth North guidebook.

Try This Instead

Billy Bud (E6 6b) makes for a tricksome alternative with plenty of chilli and three stars. It’s more of a blow-your-head-off sensation compared to the delights of The Fourth Dimension. Approach and seasoning as for TFD.

References and Thanks:

Oli Grounsell - for having the patience to check it out in the first place.

Owen Samuel - for the belay.

Adam Wainwright - first ascensionist, and for being a legend and telling us our early attempts were going the wrong way.

Gorillaz - Rock the House: ‘tap your toes and clap your hands. Shake and bake, do whatever it takes. Twist your hips and do the dip.’

Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Cookbook (Collins, 2008). ‘Put some music in your food.’

Gogarth North (Ground Up, 2008).