Llanymynech

Another day promising blue skies after the mist has lifted prompted another trip along the M55 to Clwyd limestone. Andy and I made an early start to make the best of the short day, which had us nearing Oswestry as the drizzle started, resulting in a detour to the Lazy Kettle transport cafe for tea, bacon butty and procrastination. There’s only so much tea you can drink, so it was still a bit murky as we arrived in Llanymynech – another disused quarry finding a new lease of life as a nature reserve, dog-walking paradise and arguably mid-Wales’ best sport climbing venue.

Our warm up on Grid Iron Wall, Up The Spout, a 30m 6b, confirmed the coolth but at least got arms and fingers moving. This is an imposing monolithic flat vertical wall criss-crossed with occasional fault lines, hence the name. (photo taken at the end of the day, after the sun had been and gone…)

A chink of lighter sky in the gloom promised solar warmth so somewhat contrarily we headed round the corner for the main event on Red Wall. This highly featured, fearsome and overhanging wall runs to 35m and somewhat resembles an angry red sea, inspiring plenty of maritime route names. Facing east it catches the morning sun, but with its base down a hole and shaded by trees it’s a chilly spot to belay! Rock quality is a bit variable (especially the dank lower section and the weetabix upper wall) and bolting is spaced, with a few rusty relics in amongst much renewed hardware. All in all, quite a challenging spot.

Luckily, Andy’s climbing well (as always) and made easy work of Ship Dip, 6c+. I’d summarise my ascent as hard-won and continuously harrowing – never desperate moves but often reaching for holds of unknown integrity a long way above the last bolt. Here’s Andy enjoying the sun above the tree line.

Upping the stakes somewhat, we shift attention to The Ancient Mariner, the 3* route of the wall weighing in at 7a/+. Reasonably straightforward up to around mid-height where a complex and engrossing sequence takes you rightwards via a finger in a bore-hole and then presents a tricky crux wall on a couple of crimpy layaways to pop for a juggy break.

I just about sketched through this, helped by Andy’s chalk and beta. The route used to end not far above as a 30m 7a but has since had an extension through a crumbly top wall – more reminiscent of its namesake at Gogarth and adding a spicy finale which must be worth an extra + and possibly an E grade 😉 Not for the faint hearted and I was very glad of Andy’s thoughtful long sling on the final bolt!

Somehow I’d managed to miss any sun whatsoever on my turns, so I was really looking forward to moving back around onto the south facing walls – sadly the sun had already departed. Still time for another route though, so we headed for Nomad Wall and did a “Root Treatment / Pull em Out” combo to gain the mid height ledge (a bit dirty but interesting climbing) from where Andy launched out to try the eponymous Nomad – once E6 and protected by 6″ nails, now a safer prospect at 7a+ with good but spaced bolts. Progress ground to a halt about 5m from the top, not helped by the gathering gloom,

and I wasn’t too disappointed that bad light interrupted play for my attempt, and congratulated myself for good judgement as we were packing our sacks by head torch! We’d certainly made the most of the day!

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