Bull’s Eye!

Well you don’t often get a weekend like that! After what seemed endless drizzle and wetness, we were finally blessed with a decent spell of good weather. It was even better when you consider it followed a brief snowy spell, leaving the tops as white as you could imagine and Snowdonia in it’s most stunning beauty. This weekend, the snow reflected the sunshine, making the skies even more wonderfully blue, reminding those of who living here why indeed we do. And where was i? In a shaded woodland facing North…

Emily Bridger attempting Fresh EyesSo why did i chose this as the venue for my enjoyable and convenient weekend off? Because it is in this forest that lie my recent discoveries and current unclimbed (and as such ungraded) projects. I found them in the latter stages of last year, received an early Christmas gift on Christmas Eve, culminating in my first Welsh first ascents and have been waiting ever since for an opportunity to return. Beaten back on multiple occasions by time constraints, wet weather and on one occasion, a sheet of verglas covering the top of the boulder, it’s been frustrating me that i have yet had chance to return. So when this weekend rolled around, there was no hesitation on where to head.

Saturday morning and i rose fairly slowly, allowing the air to warm to a more amenable temperature  and drove to meet my companion for the day, Serena. I’ve been very careful over who to take to this boulder, Serena being an ideal companion and joining a currently elite list of trusted souls. We met, collected Tess and wandered in, the path to this new site slowly becoming more obvious. Conditions were good – not so cold as to kill enthusiasm but chilled enough to offer good friction. We began by introducing Serena to only her second outdoor bouldering venue, and a few attempts at Christmas Comes Early 5+. A good warm up for me, a good tick for her and (after a quick look at the problem now known as The Dichotomy of Good and Evil and thought to be around 7c) before long we’d moved around to try another first.

DSC04294Originally the line went from the shelf straight up through a tricky mantel, albeit with good feet. Slowly, the line moved, evolving as the moves fell into place and by the time it was climbed, followed a rising traverse line to finish into my premier problem on the boulder, Storeman’s Legacy 7a+. While not what i had originally imagined, it gave a more natural line – something i imagine is commonplace when making up the problem for yourself. It has maintained it’s original name of New Direction, somewhat fitting considering the history of the line and has a speculative grade of 6c until someone can confirm. It, and my other firsts on this bloc, can be seen on the video below.

We quickly nipped down to the RAC boulders, to give Serena a more normal taste of bouldering, introducing a nearby and established crag, with lines documented in a guidebook. It also meant we both left on a high, although the day had not gone the way i had originally planned…

The Bull's Eye Boulder

Another of my finds has an unfortunate stream that runs right through the middle. It is also a jumbled array of rocks, meaning it is very difficult to reroute said waterway and thus, offers little opportunity for ascent. So imagine my delight on Friday when i headed down to find the stream dry and the climbing possible.

DSC04349Sunday morning saw a solo return, desperate to make the most of the unusual conditions. With a lack of rain and what stagnant water remained still frozen, this was my best chance and i knew it. Another relaxed start saw me walking in after bumping into an old friend. Soon i was there, alone but for my canine companion and ready to do battle with this new boulder. Neither rockboot nor chalk had touched this before, although it had been cleaned of mud and moss and was good to go. I would like to take this opportunity to say (especially after i was foolish enough to publish photos of my cleaning efforts) that only nylon brushes and my hands were used to remove any vegetation and loose rock and that was after extensive research into the ramifications of my actions. Nevertheless, if you have issues with this, or indeed any advice or help on the subject, please do contact me at chezdelabloc@gmail.com

A beautiful day allowed me to climb three new routes: firstly Bull’s Eye 7a, named after the concentric circle formations on the rock when i first arrived. I’d speculated with a few people as to what they were and how they were formed; i quickly discovered once on the rock proper that they’re actually dirt formations… As such, if you end up there, please take care not to disturb more than i unfortunately have already. It is a very fun climb, with every move slightly harder than the last and is started in the low pocket shared with the next line.

DSC04367This is to it’s right and called Bull’s Arse 6a: a six-foot problem that seems a touch pointless but does give nice moves when started low and makes a good warm up. Finally on the left arete, Bull’s Large Protrusion 6c is named after the unfortunate jutting rock that nestles just above one’s backside once you pull off the floor. This move was considerably more difficult, almost to the point of impossible, before the loose shale-rock was removed and scattered on the floor to give a more solid standing. Again, as above, this was done exclusively with my hands, merely pulling and pushing loose rock until it became free.

Those three ascents fell surprisingly quickly and soon i was heading home, delighted with my achievements for the weekend. It has ended with a great sausage casserole and David Attenborough on the TV, bringing this week’s delightful days off to a fitting end. I now have to recover and hope that next weekend follows suit, to allow me to go back and tick off some more.

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