The good weather continued and I was on the rota as a Mountain Instructors Award (MIA) mock student. This was the first day of their assessment and is described as a “personal climbing day” where the aspirant instructors need to demonstrate the ability to climb VS 4c multipitch routes. I was Calum Muskett’s mock student; one of the cleaners at the Brenin. He had recently just got back from climbing arguably Wale’s hardest route, one called Indian Face on Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, so testing his ability to climb VS 4c was a bit of a forgone conclusion. I guess the question would be how much harder would he want to climb.
We set off on the way to Idwal Slabs and discussed what we’d look at doing in the bus. The first objective would be Rowen Tree Slabs, an e2 on the right hand side of the crag. This was to be followed by Javelin Blade, an e1 that starts above Rowen Tree. After that we’d see what else to get on.
Setting off it was very apparent that Calum was an experience and very good climber. He easily ran up the first route in what must have been less then 10 minutes before it was our turn on the first pitch. We followed up on delicate holds with plenty of fine climbing up the slab. The second pitch was less memorable then the first but still good climbing on clean rock. After this a brief scramble and an abseil later we were at the belay for Javelin Blade. This is an incredible route for when it was first done, featuring run out balancy climbing up a beautiful arete. It’s now on my hit list to go back and lead.
At the top of this we ab’ed down again this time so Calum could do a demo lead with lots of runners on the VS Javelin Buttress. Another classic route and again fun and absorbing climbing. Finally we topped of the day by quickly pottering up the HVS Continuation Crack. Hard at the grade this is another good looking line on the middle of the continuation wall above the main slabs.
The following day was lovely and sunny again but many days of continuous climbing was beginning to take it’s toll on my body so I was looking for something easier to do. Dan and a couple of the others were keen on a slate quarry adventure called Snakes and Ladders. This is a day out climbing the old ladders and sliding through the old mine shafts to wind your way around the slate mines above Llanberis. To start we went down to the “pan pipes” section near Dali’s Hole. This is where drilling in the rock has left holes of different depths that, when hit, play a musical note. We messed around for a bit composing some songs before continuing on into Dahli’s hole.
Skirting around the dry quarry bay, through some tunnels and into the next bay we found “The Chain” a giant metal chain which dangles from a cave above where you hope it’s well attached. Dan was eager to lead up this and dispatched it quickly hand over hand. I opted to go last so I could make sure everyone made it up ok. When it came to my turn I quickly found the rhythm needed to climb it. Mainly this involved using the middle two fingers locked into a chain loop while the rest was pinched with the rest of the hand. A pull up was then made to reach the highest next chain link possible before rinsing and repeating.
The next few sections involved walking in and around the quarry’s passed some deserted huts until our first ladder. This was precariously perched on top of a pile of slate at a jaunty angle. I set of up this first and dropped a sling down over the top so the others had a helping hand on the trickiest section. This started a run of other ladders as we wound in and around the quarries. This was followed by a squeeze through some tunnels and more ladder climbing before we finally abseiled down into The Lost World. This aptly named other worldly venue contains a “mountain” bothy where it would be possible to spend a night. We weren’t doing this though so instead continued up the ever longer ladders until we’d made it to the death bridge. This also looked too aptly named so we skirted around it and finished our day long tour.
Arriving back at the centre, Mike Raine intercepted me at tea and cakes to ask if I’d be ok taking a couple of the OTIS ladies out for a navigation day. Some brief planning ensued and I decided to head up Moel Siabod the following day. Rhys also joined me to get some more consolidation in before his Mountain Leader assessment. It turned out to be another scorcher of a day so it was nice and pleasurable to spend the first part doing a couple legs in the trees before setting a difficult leg for Rhys to try and finally some legs leading us to the top. The view was stunning and a quick look at the watch meant there was time for another round of legs each before making it back to the centre. It was really enjoyable getting the chance to work as an instructor and work a full day.
I was on night porter while Rhys and Niels were both off and the weather was stunning again. Niels also had Henry over so there where four of us looking to climb. With the weather having been so good for the previous week and a bit there was only one real choice of venue to go to – Cloggy.
Quickly packing our rucksacks, and driving to Llanberis we were heading back up the familiar Snowdon tourist trail before breaking right to head to the base of Cloggy itself. There was only one team on it this time and they were on great bow so we’d finally have the chance to get on white slab. The description of the first pitch is somewhat unnerving, “step up and delicately traverse the lip”. From talking to a couple of others who had done the route I new that this would be hard to protect. Particularly to make sure the second was safe.
This turned out to not be as bad as I’d feared. The hardest move was the initial committing step after that the difficulties began to ease. We had decided to run the first two pitches as one as apparently this is commonly done and we had a time limit. The second pitch is a long, technical 30 meter slab and arete climb. I started up the delicate absorbing climbing that remained continuously interesting until a resting place on the arete appeared at a good spike. From this point I couldn’t remember the description however I new I needed to head left to the belay at some point. Looking right a thin seem of chalked holds was visible where as left looked like a steep groove (also looking climbable). Figuring how busy the route had been recently I guessed the key holds would be chalked so left the security of my ledge and started out rightwards. The seem wasn’t as good as I hoped with the only place for gear also the only hand hold. I looked back but by this stage the delicate moves out would be hard to reverse so I was committed. Wrapping my thumb onto a slightly dimple in the rock and crimping my fingers over it I set off shouting watch me to Rhys below. Quickly and precisely stabbing my foot up onto the delicate smeary holds for a deep rockover to the next small edge. More thin climbing followed for two or three moves before I reached a horizontal break in the slab and could head safely around the arete to the belay. I’ve since learned that this variant pitch on the route goes at e4 (a much harder grade than the original) and has historically been done by accident before including a notable solo ascent by Jonny Dawes.
Thankfully the next pitch was easier. Heading back out along the narrow break it’s possible to lasso a spike for some protection before a further sequence leads to easier ground. The Lasso didn’t go to plan but compared to the difficulty and run out moves on the previous pitch this one went without any alarm. That left three more pitches of technical but easier climbing to the top. Time by this point was running tight so we tired to up the pace but unfortunately I had to call in a favour to get someone to cover the early part of the evening shift.
Tired from the previous days exertions and with the air being very hot, almost too hot for climbing on all but the highest mountain crags we decided to come up with an alternative plan. Looking through various guides we came across “The Tubes” a section of the Conwy where the rock walls narrow and form steep rock walls with funky shapes to climb on where if you fall you just land in the pools below. On arrival the area looked severely overgrown however unperturbed by this we soon had a path down to the water and had made our way down. The area itself was like a film set. Clean smooth walls with all sorts of funky shapes and dropping moss hiding holds. Soon we were swinging around and splashing down or relaxing in the dappled sunshine watching dragonfly’s scoot by. A very fun way to spend a hot day “resting”.
The heat wave continued the following day and Becky had popped up to join me in wales so we were looking for a classic to go and get on. What better route to pick than a “usual wet” route called Black Spring which was by now bone dry. This route features really nice pocket pulling on the first pitch with some entertaining but doable moves leading up to the sloping belay. Well worth getting on.
The next day I was in the kitchen from 15:00 so needed to have a short morning climbing. We decided on Clogwyn Bochlwyd in the ogwen. This is a really nice single pitch venue with a variety of interesting climbs. We did Bochlwyd Eliminate and two pitch route. The later lead by Becky in fine style.