With a fabulous forecast for the reminder of the Bank Holiday weekend, a quick turnaround sees me heading west along the A55 to catch up with Paul for a couple of days in North Wales. Hopes that we’ve missed the worst of the traffic are undone as we crawl along behind day-trippers heading to the seaside, and frustration mounts as we encounter a cow-jam with the crag in view.
It’s half one by the time we’re actually walking up to Craig Yr Ogof (over 4 hours after setting off) but it’s hard to be grumpy for long as we approach the beautiful Cwm Silyn and the crag rears above.
… especially as it’s somewhere that neither Paul nor I have ever climbed before (there can’t be many of those left!)
It’s a crag of two halves – the sunny South facing slab on the right is home to the classic Outside Edge and Ordinary Routes, each with half a dozen pitches of VDiff and a procession of rucksack totting climbers enjoying the full mountain experience. The more westerly face (just coming into the sun in the picture above) has two mid extreme classics: Crucible, E1, takes a weaving line up the left, broken by a very exposed stance on the skyline (climber in red in the photo below just navigating the crux traverse on pitch 2 on the way to it). Jabberwocky, E2, blasts more directly up the middle of the face, to another airy stance (climber in turquoise with leader in pink just committing to the crux groove)
There was a team waiting for Jabberwocky so we jumped on Crucible. The first pitch saw me demonstrate a masterclass of how not to lead meandering trad – off route, with criss-crossing ropes, gear falling out and huge rope drag, I did my best to turn a 4c stroll into a struggle. Paul was much more accomplished on the 5b crux – here he is sorting gear and enjoying the exposure whilst contemplating the tricky roof crux.
… and safety over it
A much more straightforward 5a pitch lands you on Sunshine Ledge and the busy intersection of numerous routes, from where a 60m rap gets you back to the ground.
Next up, Jabberwocky – here’s Paul on the very exposed first pitch; only 5a but feels quite “out there”
The crux pitch follows (spoiler alert – contains beta…) with absorbing moves into and up a groove followed by a really tough move on tiny crimps and a smeared right foot for a good jug. Tough for 5c but well protected by some stuck wires behind a block. The rest of the pitch is a romp up cracks and grooves back to sunshine ledge. Here’s Paul approaching …
Back down the rap line and it’s getting on for 7pm but still shorts and tshirt conditions. Stick or twist? With Captain Enthusiasm there was only ever going to be one answer, so we head around to the south face and flake the ropes beneath Kirkus’s Direct, HVS 5b. A 90m three pitch excursion with sacks on so we can head straight down the ridge and back to the parking. I run the first couple together
… and Paul leads the tricky and somewhat runout top pitch
Great views across to a team on Ordinary Route, with Anglesey in the background.
Then a wander down through the gloaming…
with a magnificent sunset and the South Stack lighthouse blinking in the distance
After our delayed start, no one could argue we didn’t make the best of the day!