Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trying To Rockclimb In Snowdonia

It's been a difficult time lately but with my good wifes blessing I headed across the Irish Sea for a few days in wonderful Snowdonia. I had been in contact with a guy on UKC (Nicholas Marriott) and we agreed to hook up for a few days with the aim of getting some easy rock routes done. I have been doing precious little in the way of technical climbing in recent years and I'm afraid the proverbial chickens came home to roost on this trip.

Saturday May 20th;

I travelled on the overnight ferry out of Dublin and using the excellent public transport links I arrived in Capel Curig at 9am. The dodgy weather forecast was proving accurate and I just managed to get my tent up in the basic but nicely situated Bryn Tyrch Farm campsite before the rain started in earnest and it was an easy choice to make to snuggle down and catch up on some much needed sleep. I awoke at 14.00 and once I saw that the day was much improved I had a bite to eat and decided to climb the nearby, elegant mountain Moel Siabod 875mtrs. The beauty of this campsite is that you can do several hikes directly from your tent. I walked through the hamlet of Capel Curig with its couple of shops and a few houses and on until I passed the outdoor education centre and crossed over the river and entered the pleasant woods. From there I followed the well made track that rises easily up the gradual slope. The woodland section doesn't last long and soon I was out traversing open slopes and enjoying more expansive views. I was feeling good and as I was only carrying a light bag I made good progress. I only paused to take a few photographs and I reached the blustery and chilly summit at 16.20 just one hour twenty minutes after setting off. I donned some warming clothes and after a brief rest I opted to descend via the Daear Ddu ridge which made for a pleasant excursion into the wilder east side of the mountain. Once down in Cwm y Foel things become a bit of a bogfest but once you exit the Cwm a good track once again leads down to Pont y Cyfyng nestling in the woods below. The weather was really nice now and it was a joy to gambol easily down and bask in the beauty of this special place. Once down to the road I took the beautiful woodland trail that follows the riverbank  and returned to Plas y Brenin and back to my tent. It was just seven pm so after approximately 12 kilometres and 750mtrs of ascent I was ready for dinner. I met briefly with Nicholas and we agreed to meet in a nearby cafe tomorrow morning at 9am when we would see what the weather brought and decide then what to aim for.
The elegant Moel Siabod soars above beautiful woodland

Towards the Snowdon Horseshoe from near Plas y Brenin

The hills that gradually get higher and stretch to Carnedd Llewellin

Tryfan makes an appearance

Wonderful summit views
Looking towards the Rhinogs

Looking north from the summit

Sunday May 21st

It rained most of the night and early morning and at 8am we decided to postpone our meeting until 10am. The weather was now dry and showing signs of getting better and another text from Nicholas confirmed that the forecast was quite good so we hooked up at 9.10 and decided to head for Pinnacle Rib on Tryfan. This would entail a bit of a hike up to the base of the route and we were hopeful that the rock would be dry by the time we got there. We arrived at a fairly quiet parking area and were underway by 10am. The path climb steeply from the start and Nicholas set a stiff pace that had me regretting my offer to carry the rope😊. As we rose higher so did the chilly wind and by the time we were up on the "Heather Terrace" I was in no doubt but that this would be a bracing outing. We went too far initially and had to retrace our steps until we reached our route on the right side of a grassy bay. The route is 164mtrs long and is graded as either Diff or VDiff depending on where you look but I was confident that it should be comfortably within my compass. That said, as I stood at the base of the climb and saw the occasional runnels of water on the rock my enthusiasm waned so I asked Nicholas to lead off.
Looking up pitch 1 of Pinnacle Rib

Now I should say at this point that Nicholas climbs at a much higher level than I ever have and leads climbs in the E grades and this was pretty obvious as soon as he set off. He made light work of the start until the initial groove ends and the exit proved problematic. Damp rock and shoes certainly didn't help but he was soon up and over and at the belay. Now there was nothing for it but to follow on. It was pretty much as I feared and as I got into the meat of the climbing my confidence in the grippyness of the rock pretty much evaporated as quickly as my fingers became numb. Bollocks to it. It really shouldn't feel this hard even if I have done little or no climbing of late...should it?. Reaching the belay my appetite for leading was long gone and I was only too happy to let Nicholas continue at the van. While belaying him on the second pitch I even got a slight dose of the "hot aches", its May for Christs sakes. Anyway the route continued in the same vein and by the time we reached the base of Thomsons Chimney, a short Severe pitch I opted to give it a miss and we walked to the summit. As promised the weather had continued to improve and by the time we were descended the gully on the west face it was sunny and warm out of the breeze. We were heading for Milestone Buttress as Nicholas suggested we do a route or two there so I could get some leading done on one of the easier routes. It was warm and sunny as we approached the crag which was fairly busy by the time we got there. I was also surprisingly exhausted and I really couldn't face more climbing so Nicholas graciously accepted that we head home.I'm not sure if it was lack of sleep or mental fatigue or a combination of both but I have seldom been as tired after a relatively short day. I retired early to my tent and wondered what tomorrow would bring.

View from by my tent

Monday May 22nd;

It was a cloudy but dry morning when I got up at 07.30 but suddenly it seemed out of nowhere a shower of rain arrived and it appeared that climbing might be off the menu, but it stopped quickly and  the cloud lifted more and we were good to go. Nicholas has an injured right foot with soreness in some small bones towards the front of the foot and the long descent from Tryfan had aggravated it. He therefore was anxious to avoid any long walk ins to any route so he suggested that we head to Tremadog this morning. Now, I'd heard the name and knew it was a rock climbing venue but that was the extent of my knowledge so Nicholas filled me in en route with the details. It is an extensive collection of crags sitting just above a road behind some mature woods. To reach the base of the cliffs you have to do a short steep climb through the trees and its not a place to turn up without a guidebook as it would be impossible to find routes otherwise. Across the road there is a little campsite and the Eric Jones Cafe where ample parking (for a small fee) is available and it reminded me a little of being in Servoz near Chamonix. Eric Jones is a climber of some renown and also ventured into skydiving. Pictures of his exploits adorn the inside of the cafe. One picture in particular caught my eye, of a base-jumper perched on the top of a skyscraper, in a squatting position and tilting over just past the point of no return. It looked amazing 😨.
Some of the crags at Tremadog

Thankfully Nicholas had all the necessary guidebooks and he suggested we do Hail Bebe 68mtr VDiff. We found the base of the route and we geared up and today I opted to do some leading and I set off up the first pitch. This has a sloping niche near the start and it made for a tight squeeze for me as I squirmed into and up it and exited near its top and then up to the nearby belay. It was a short pitch and nothing too taxing but I always feel better when I'm leading and I was enjoying myself much more today. Nicholas led the second pitch which traverses left on a grassy ledge before rising to the next belay. The top two pitches are great and I led the next one which offers steep sustained climbing for twenty meters which I again really enjoyed. The final pitch has a delicate traverse on a flake before climbing a nose to the top of the crag. Again it was great. I totally enjoyed the climb and I was now hungry for more. We abseiled down the crag from an in situ point and went in search of the next climb.
Pitch one of Christmas Curry

This time Nicholas suggested the nearby route Christmas Curry (Severe) and by doing the Micah Eliminate finish this would make the outing Hard Severe. I was pretty confident again and looking forward to it. I led up the short easy first pitch and Nicholas led the second. I'm sorry now that I didn't take up his offer to lead this pitch as well as I think I would really have enjoyed it as it made an exposed rising traverse of the rockface until it reached a good ledge belay. Now the climb became steeper and tougher and Nicholas led up. I must say that it all looked a bit desperate to me and any confidence I had gained from the climbing thus far was fast evaporating and once my turn came to climb I was dreading it. It turned out to be pretty much as tough as it looked and I was struggling big time to get up the route. I realized that my lack of any real climbing these past years had finally taken its toll and I was seriously out of condition. I did get up the route but I was a nervous wreck by the time I reached the top and I was ready for a lunch break in the cafe.
After a nice bite to eat Nicholas suggested Poor Mans Peuterey a route a couple of hundred meters further west along the crag and graded at Severe. We found the base of the route and Nicholas led up the first pitch. It was a steep slightly greasy looking start which looked quite tough to my eyes but I gave it a go. I started up and only a few moves in I was startled when the fingers in my right hand suddenly spasmed and folded into my palm. My left hand was also inclined to cramp up and I realized that I was in a bit of bother. I called up to Nicholas and informed him what was happening and we decided that I would try to climb up to the belay. I literally straightened out my fingers and they actually worked okay for the rest of the way up. By the time I got to the belay they felt all right but we decided to abseil back down as it would have been more of a problem to retreat from higher up. So it was a rather ignominious retreat and meant the end of climbing for the day. We decided to meet again the following morning and see what that day would bring.
Pitch one of Poor mans Peuterey

Tuesday May 23rd;

It came as something of a relief to get a text from Nicholas to let me know he would not be climbing today as he wanted to rest his sore foot. When I got up I had aches in muscles that had been little used in far too long and the probability was that I would have been rubbish on rock anyway. He had another week to get quality climbing done and I could only feel sorry that I was less than a good partner for him. Despite the good forecast I decided to forego a hike and left straight away for the return journey home. One positive about the trip was that I got a timely wake up call about my physical conditioning and I am resolved to do something about it. I have been doing more hiking than anything in recent times and I plan to continue with that but I'm not ready to throw in the towel with regards to climbing either. Of course it is always a joy to visit Snowdonia and it looked particularly good just now with the trees newly in leaf and bluebells still carpeting the ground in places. It was my first time driving the road to Tremadog and the wonderful scenery gave me ideas for further outings in the future. There is definitely more to the area than just the 3000ers. Meanwhile the kettlebell has been dusted off. Training has commenced.☺

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Coomloughra-Glengarra Wood and A Circuit of The Horses Glen

Is it really only four weeks since I was in Scotland?. It has been a hectic time with the passing of my friend and father in law which had all the turmoil and pain that that involved and in between hospital visits and funereal duties I managed to escape a few times and clear my head (a little) in the great outdoors.
When I returned from Scotland it was to sad news which took much of the colour from our lives but I went to The Reeks a week after coming home and enjoyed a glorious morning on the Coomloughra Horseshoe. The cold dry weather had persisted since I had been in Scotland and there was a dusting of icy snow on the north facing higher slopes. I will leave the pictures do all the describing. Suffice to say I enjoyed my day.
Never fails to inspire

One of Irelands finest coums

Cloon Lake surrounded by wild country

The East Reeks appear

The Iveragh Peninsula

Carrauntoohil from the summit of Beenkeragh

West from Cahers West top
Last Tuesday I went for an early morning trip to The Galtees to try and clear my head a little. I went to the lovely Glengarra Wood and walked up to Greenane and once I was on the ridge I ran on the beautiful dry turf all the way to the col under Galtybeg. It was a real joy to be on these normally wet and boggy hills when the ground was so dry. Normally you have to go left and right in the effort of trying to avoid bog holes and mucky turf but today I was able to just head straight through areas that usually are avoided and the turf was lovely and springy and easy on the knees. I slogged up Galtybeg and really enjoyed the dry conditions as I ran straight towards Galtymor. Again I walked to the summit and wasted no time in turning and I basically ran back to the car. I travelled light and didn't take any camera but it was a much needed blast of around 17 kilometers and 1000mtrs of ascent. The highlights were the lovely woods with their huge Rhododendron trees and the delightful spot where streams meet before I re-entered the woods again. Stunning.

Today I went for a walk around the lovely Horses Glen near Killarney. I normally head in to the glen itself but today I opted to do the high circuit and I really enjoyed it. I was feeling pretty good and I didn't get blasted by too many of the heavy showers that were all about. I did get a couple of drenchings but the showers only lasted a short time and I managed to stay dry for the final 90 minutes back to the car. Always a good thing. Just under 3 hours 30 minutes for a 14 kilometer round wasn't too bad. I must get back to doing some regular running this week.
Lovely starting out

One of my favourite views..Looking into The Horses Glen
Looking East from the top of Stoompa

Black in the Black Valley

Heavy showers but most (including this one) missed me :)