Helen and I have organised a Rucksack Club meet at Gogarth every year for the last two decades, or at least we had done until last year when we had to make do with a zoom version.
Delays to the final step of the unlocking roadmap meant that hopes for a return to the usual 70plus attendance will have to wait until 2022, but we were thankful that at least 30 of us could make our way over the Menai bridge and onwards to Holy Island and the climbing mecca that is Gogarth.
… Not that things were looking very encouraging as we crossed the Welsh border on Saturday morning – typical Gogarth weather conditions (ie pi$$ing down on the way over)
had people wondering if they’d have been better off among the 30 on the standby list.
It wasn’t until Holyhead Mountain was almost in view that the magical microclimate clicked in and things perked up – oh ye of little faith! The paddling team (Gary, Gareth, Rachel and Rem) had already set off, but the climbers were sensibly waiting for the crag to dry, tucking into bacon butties – laid on for us specially by the very accommodating staff at the RSPB cafe. A big thank you for their warm welcome and being so flexible and organised, whilst keeping us all covid-safe.
With everyone paired up, teams headed off to all corners, with Holyhead Mountain and Main Cliff being especially popular, but North Stack, Upper Tier, Castell Helen and Rhoscolyn all seeing traffic over the weekend.
Lots of banter and the usual “I can’t decide how much clothing to take down with me” discussions at the Main Cliff gearing up spot.
Martin and Stan were already grappling with Winking Crack
Andy and Gareth were setting off up Peep Show
… and the sea was as still as a millpond – only disturbed by the inquisitive seals
and colourful paddlers.
Jake and I wandered along under Main Cliff with a vague plan to complete unfinished business from the last Gogarth meet when we were rained off after the first pitch of Citadel. However, Mammoth looked very appealing, and it’s one of the two Main Cliff E5s still on my To-do list, so Jake was persuaded. Fairly straightforward climbing up a clean corner
… leads to a trickier traverse under the obvious overhangs and a semi-rest and shake out before the battle commences. Unfortunately, after a few days of rain, the whole thing was sopping. Jake was now faced with about 20ft of seriously steep 6b climbing, and made improbable progress before finally being spat off soggy slopers within sight of an easing in angle.
A bit of A1 shenanigans (El Cap experience coming into play) had me marvelling at Jake’s tenacity but by the time I made it to the stance the heavens had opened and the Main Cliff pitch 2 curse had struck again. Rapping off a handy spike, and twirling to the ledge below, it was obvious things had got pretty wet out of the shelter of the unrelenting steepness above. After a bit of a conflab with Adam and Will, who’d also been hoping to do Mammoth, we set off back across the traverse in search of dry rock or at least a less ambitious objective.
Passing the Gogarth Pinnacle in a lull in the rain, it didn’t look too wet, so Jake and I decided to “take a look” rather than opt for the ignominious retreat up the descent gully. I strung together the first three pitches, with the 5b P2 proving damp but doable, with the “easy” P3 a mildly terrifying voyage up soaking lichen. Atmospheric views out to sea shared with a team on Resolution Direct
Jake polished off the final couple of pitches in a oner
… and we topped out into sunshine having salvaged a great day, just in time to head for the beach to start preparing the BBQ.
After the crappy 18 months that we’d all endured, it was truly wonderful to see so many friends on the beach, even if the prevailing rules meant that we had to impose a strict limit of 30. Helen, Tash and Chris did a sterling job of bringing some Covid-secure order to the usual chaotic food-grab, and Stan and Noah gave a burger-flipping masterclass. Thanks!
The usual toast to “Absent Friends” was especially poignant, owing to the recent loss of former President and Club legend, John Llewellyn, and this being the first Gogarth Meet without Alf and Dave – it will never be quite the same again. We were also mindful of the dozens of other “absent friends” who couldn’t join due to the covid restrictions, and looked forward to 2022 and the post-pandemic bounce back (can we beat the previous record of 92 and break the 100 mark?)
Sunday dawned sunny and the intrepid quested off for more seaside adventures, despite threatened showers at 2pm.
Paul and Rachel on Gauntlet
Stan and Martin on Devotee
Andy and Gareth on the top pitch of Peep Show (unfinished business from Saturday)
Adam taking a plunge before a Mammoth undertaking
Will eyeing up the crux of Mammoth
Jake and I were repulsed from a soaking wet Graduation Ceremony and settled for Rat Race – here’s Jake cruising the crux despite much wetness
… and adopting traditional techniques to storm up the chimney pitch despite the arrival of the forecasted rain.
A fab couple of days climbing and a memorable beach gathering despite the intervention of a couple of showers (and the drive home through the monsoon highlighted that once again the Gogarth Meet had enjoyed the best weather in the country!)
Thanks to everyone for coming, especially all those who helped out with the BBQ, and apologies again to those on the “standby list” – I look forward to fulfilling my promise that the first beer of Gogarth 2022 is on me! Cheers!