All was going well on the journey from Brighton, until the train from Crewe to North Wales was delayed due to it being too hot. Too much rain they can deal with but prolonged periods of sunshine is something no one could have predicted in Llandudno. With bus services grinding to a halt at 6pm across Snowdonia I gave up on public transport altogether. So I stood outside the Pen-y-Gwryd pub on a beautiful summers evening looking down Nantgwnant valley with my thumb in the air and a smile on my face as one car after another zoomed pass. After an hour the smile was slightly more forced but a guy who had ‘hitched in his youth’ and now drove something expensive and shiny and black picked me up. He drove me half an hour out of his way down to Eric’s campsite just outside Tremadog where I met Tony MIA in training and climbing instructor for the next three days.
Woke up to a glorious day and headed straight for the crag. The bottom of the crag is covered in woodland that provides a lovely shaded start but also makes route finding tricky. I learnt that working out the routes by looking at the crag from a distance was much easier. We started on a ‘Severe’ called Oberon that was three pitches. Tony lead the first pitch and although it was fairly easy angled there was nowhere for any protection for the first 10m which was a bit unnerving. I seconded up and he showed me how to organise the ropes for changing over the lead. I had lead ‘Severe’ single pitch climbs in the peak district before but was a bit rusty and leading when you are already 10m up and might finish your pitch on a narrow ledge instead of the top of a cliff is a whole different ball game. It’s just not cricket!
The rest of the climb was pretty straight forward so we moved onto another Severe called ‘Christmas Curry’ which was pretty a sustained for the grade with some great pitches. Having got my confidence up on these two we next tackled a Hard Severe which as the name suggests is harder than a Severe. ‘Valerie’s Rib’ involved climbing out on to the nose of an arete in a pretty precarious position for the first belay point as Tony led the second pitch.
The next day we started on another HS called Triangulum which I seconded. As different routes crossed after the second pitch we may have wandered on to an easier finish but we eager to get on to the next climb. ‘Poor Man’s Peutry’ is a classic of the crag and it more than lived up to its reputation. We alternative led this one. On my lead I had climbed up into a corner with a rounded sloping top, the guide said exit left, I could see a deep crack by my feet shooting off round the corner to the left but the wall above was pushing me out and I couldn’t reach round with my hands as I shuffled my feet along the crack. OK so I retreated back to the safety of the corner and tried again to get my feet along the crack and reach round to the left but again and again I couldn’t reach. I was stuck. ‘Tony I’m stuck!’ Below me and out of sight the reply came, ‘No you’re not; look around for where the rock is polished.’ This shows where people have climbed before and that deep crack was definitely polished but I still couldn’t work it out. So I ended up scrambling out the top of the sloping corner which was pretty dodgy, set a belay and waited until Tony came up to just below where I had got stuck. ‘Oh yeah that’s a hand traverse’ he said looking at the crack and so with his hands in the crack and feet smearing below he easily exited left! Another great climb and another lesson learnt.
On the last day we walked through the village to another crag to do a climb called ‘Creag Dhu Wall’ this was going to be my first lead on a ‘Hard Severe’. This time I knew that at the end of the first pitch I was looking for a foot traverse out to the right. Sure enough as I peered out around the arete I saw a completely blank wall plummeting back down to the ground with a single crack at foot level cutting across it to a chimney on the other side. Adding another bit of gear and extending my quick draw as much as possible to reduce rope drag I tentatively swung my leg out around the arete and put my toes into the crack, with nothing to hold on to I had my palms flat on the wall as I shuffled my toes along, just as the crack got too narrow to get my toes in any more I was able to reach across and gain a hand hold and step off the wall. Fantastic! Tony had to start the next pitch higher up going back left on a hand traverse – lowering your feet in to space on a blank wall with just your hands in the crack. Exhilarating stuff! Severn climbs, over hundreds of metres of great rock, lots of new climbing and safety skills learnt, lots more confidence gained, all in the sunshine, what more could I ask.