Dampened Expectations

When you go on a bad trip, it’s a travesty. When you play host to people and it’s a bad trip, it feels even worse.

We’ve all been there: hounded by bad weather or a lack of suitable options, or any of a multitude of factors that can mean your rare week off can not quite match your expectations. I’ve had my fair share – frozen to death in Magic Wood, boiled and lost in Frankenjura, rained on for a week in Daone, overwhelmed in Font and of course, the Ill Fated summer of 2013 with Fredrik.

Well the man in question came for his biannual visit last week, this time with his brother in tow. After months of planning and discussion, he finally arrived at Bangor station late into the night and was collected in the Green Machine ready for a week of sending.

While the weather was typically session killing, every morning of the week, we awoke to a wet outside that was painstakingly drying out. Yes, it meant we could still get out but it severely limited our options.

Not for day one, though, as Sheep Pen was on the cards one way or another – only a week of driving hell would prevent a day to one of North Wales greatest bouldering crags. In truth, it was a great session too, with sends galore including The Pinch 7a+ for Fredrik and Toe Dragon 6c+ for Tobias; the first of that grade for him and a prompt for a bottle of champagne for dinner. I even made some progress on Jerry’s Problem 7c+, although not much, and we had a visit from Emily.

Alas, though, as the days are now quite short, the success was all too brief; the downside of coming over so late in the year. The up side to that was it gave us plenty of down time, so back home and into the kitchen to cook up some hearty British meals.

I had planned to make sure we were well fed throughout the week and didn’t disappoint. The menu for the week included pan haggerty, bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and of course, bacon butties. And that doesn’t include the large bag of pies and pastries for lunches.

On to the second day and on to Rhiw Goch, with a personal aim this time: a correct ascent of Badgers In The Mist 7c. With my success on the direct variation, i was hoping that the ground work had been laid. I was wrong. It turns out that direct is as different a problem as you could get and my abject effort means i’m resigned to starting again on a problem i’d already had on my ticklist a week before. The frustration from that was carried through to the next day. Where the sun had basked us and dried the boulders of the previous days, Friday was no such luck. Wild and windy meant that when we headed out to the open boulders in search of dry rock, we were blasted from all sides. By the time we got home, with ascents of Utopia Left Hand 6c and King of Drunks 7a in the bag, we were windburned and wiped out.

With a promising forecast for Saturday, we were hoping that it would be the crowning day of a mediocre week. Supposedly dry, sunny and with a light breeze, the plan was Crafnant: a new crag for me meaning plenty to tick off. The downside? Quite a drive and a twenty minute walk in up a steep hill. It was also an unknown quantity, a risk, and it was probably this that led to our downfall.

Around two o’clock, we arrived only to find the air heavy with humidity, the sun hiding away behind a blanket of cloud and every single rock covered in what felt like fairy liquid. Even moving around felt nigh on impossible and the vast majority of problems unclimbable.

We looked and after some indecision, we reluctantly retreated. It was a tough choice as it meant we were restricting ourselves to a headtorch session somewhere but even in hindsight, i’d say it was the right one. Where we went wrong was gambling it would be in nick in the first place.

The evening session on the Cromlech wasn’t that bad though, with Tobias (undoubtedly the most succesful of our troupe throughout the week) getting yet more bits done before Fredrik had a semi-triumphant blast on Bus Stop 7b+. My poor showing on Diesel Power 8a highlighted my level of exhaustion after a summer of sends.

The Swedes’ flight wasn’t until the evening and with the best weather of the week so far, it seemed churlish not to get out. One last effort meant time to pick a project and Fredrik was keen to try Prowess – my three-star 7b line in a north facing forest that won’t catch the sun until March… In short, one of the few places i was pretty certain wouldn’t be in nick.

But projects are projects and i was very keen for my friend to try my super line. Armed with brushes and chalk, we trudged in and got to cleaning but sadly to no avail. Tobias tweaked his shoulder on Bull’s Eye 7a and Fredrik failed to nail the first crux, albeit getting the standing start 6b+ as a consolation.

At Crafnant, Fredrik squeezed in another new line and named it Dampened Expectations. It’s an apt description of the week, for while we all hoped it would be the trip of a lifetime, i don’t think it’s one that will sit in the upper echelons of experiences. The one consolation: it was fun to see my friend for the week.

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