Foreign Exchange Part Two

It’s one of those things in life: you meet someone on a trip, make friends, discuss where you’re from. After a little while, maybe a day or two to get to know each other, you offer somewhere to stay, safe in the knowledge that chances are, you’ll probably be safe from the rigours of vacuuming under the sofa and making the place look reasonable (or in my case, less of a building site). Not that you’d mind in any way, the visit would be really nice in itself, but in your heart of hearts, there’s something in your head that says it ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve met many a climber on some foreign field, and made the obligatory offer to plenty, waxing poetic of the joys of this land i call my home. Granted, old friends long since forgotten have come out of the woodwork, but new friends just don’t seem to grasp the idea that this is a truly marvellous area, neglecting to make the somewhat tricky journey to my little back-end-of-beyond. Still, there are exceptions to every rule, and much to my delight, almost exactly a year after my unexpected jaunt to southern Sweden, Fredrik and Karin jumped on a plane (with infinitely more notice than i gave them i might add) and after the usual collection of modes of public transport, eventually made it here.

Of course this left me with a mild dilemna: for two visiting climbers, where on earth do you send them on their climbing days? And more to the point, what the hell do they do with the rest/rainy days?! I collected them from Bangor train station on the Thursday evening, quite envious that literally the first view of Wales they would get would be from my front door. I just hoped it wouldn’t be to that incessant Welsh drizzle…

Sadly, we were all to be disappointed but they did say about being slightly jaded from the trip to get here (quite understandably; trust me) and passed the time wandering the village and enjoying the quaintness of the area: the Slate Museum and the quarries, the castle and just small village life in general. Meanwhile, i sat in my shop in Capel Curig wondering if they were having a good enough time. Determined to show them some local culture, as it were, i dragged them and anyone else i could lay my hands on down to the pub. A few pints and a pie later and we were off back home again, suitably entertained.

The next day turned out to surprise me somewhat. Again, i set off early for work but my Swedish friends caught the bus up the pass for a spot of bouldering at the Cromlech and the Wavelength circuit, astounding me that our local bus system was actually not bad! After having to make another quick commitment in Capel after work, i rushed over to meet them, only to find them underneath the Wavelength boulder itself… right at the top of the hill. I hadn’t realised i was able to sprint up a hillside, let alone with a pad and bag on my back, yet i eventually arrived, only to be thrown on two tricky problems for some “local knowledge”. One resisted, the other fell and we departed downhill just before the sun followed suit, getting just to the roadside as darkness embraced us. Still, it was a good night, and i dragged my now-weary friends up to the Cromlech Boulders for a night-boulder under car headlights. A great session, with some pleasant ascents was only slightly marred by the battery dying, but even this wasn’t a major problem in the middle of the mountain pass…

Sunday, my last day of work, Fredrik chose to be a rest day, although agreed to go to the new Beacon Centre to have a look and be sociable. Karin, on the other hand, found the alure of the problems too great, and apparently quickly disappeared, only to return with a pair of rental shoes. An early finish at work allowed me to complete the latest in my “taste of Britain” week, with a gorgeous roast lamb dinner, leaving us stuffed to the gunnels.

And so, at long last, i had a day off to join my friends for a climb. With clouds threatening the mountain crags, we headed south, on to the Lleyn and the stunning seaside venue of Porth Ysgo. Another local had apparently been raving about it as “the best crag in Wales” so my companions had no complaints (other than the width of the roads, although i suspect this was more surprise than unhappiness). Sadly, Karin’s indoor session the day previous rendered her skin a bit tender but we all had a bash regardless, getting some good ticks in guidebooks. For those that have not been, Porth Ysgo is about as seaside as you can get, the rock either worn smooth as marble by the sea, or the roughest of gabbro, enough to peel the skin from your hand or the rubber from your shoe in one small slip. We gurned, grimaced and moaned our way through some of the classics at the first area we came to, with the Ysgo Flange V2 and Higginson’s Scar V4 being the two stand out problems. However, we were all keen to check out Popcorn Party V6, with it’s unusual featured wall and thin crimps. Sadly, this should’ve taken precedent over some of the other problems, as we soon found our skin too thin, and fingers too saw. After a few more problems by Karin, and the discovery of a particularly fun looking rock, we headed back home, for a night in, chewing the fat and eating that most common of British meals: frozen pizza.

Tuesday was time to head back to Sweden for the betrothed couple, but not before having a quick peek at the famous Parisella’s Cave. With glorious blue sky and a fantastic view out to sea, Fredrik got on the walls of the small dusty cave… and promptly fell off again, bemoaning the amount of polish. Quite understandable, i said, and few enjoy their first couple of cave sessions here, it needing a certain amount of understanding before anything at all gets ticked. Still, it did mean he could check out some classic problems, and seemed a fitting end to what i was reliably informed was a great week. A surprisingly short amount of time saw us at Manchester Airport, after the suggestion this become an annual exchange being firmly agreed by all. It seems that while the first step to visiting someone you have met on a trip is quite tricky, and a bit of a leap of faith, once it’s done, things get a lot easier. I’m booking my time off for next September tomorrow…

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