Considering summer updates were supposed to bring everything back up to date, they seem to have fallen by the wayside slightly. To be honest, one reason it’s been so long since my last update was that i was reading. A lot. I mean, i’ve been reading pretty much constantly for the past two years but all of a sudden, i can read for pleasure again, without feeling i should be reading academic papers or textbooks. In the space of a couple of weeks, i churned through Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project and The Rosie Result and am now on with How England Made the English by Harry Mount. I remember something similar once i officially finished my undergrad degree (not that i actually did much reading during that time but i felt i should be) where in the days following my finals, i quickly read JD Sallinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
It seems that once released from what we feel we should be doing, we’re free to turn our attention to other things instead; usually subtly different but definitely different. In a similar parallel, with the knowledge that several months of lockdown will have obvious consequences on my climbing level and top ten yearly average grade, once free to go playing, i decided to mostly foresake established climbs this year in favour of developing areas and putting up first ascents instead.
Becoming a Local Activist
Back when i started at Plas y Brenin in 2014, i started searching the woods of Bryn Engan to see if i could find anything new. I did, with Prowess 7b being the best of the bunch of around eight boulders cleaned and developed. That experience tickled my fancy and in an odd sort of way, announced to the local climbing fraternity that i am open to the idea of being an activist in the bouldering scene and apparently encouraged them to throw various new potential crags at me…
I’ve had a handful of places to develop in the back of my mind for a while now but struggled to find time to go check them out properly. After starting to offer outdoor bouldering courses (please tell anyone who might be interested!) i bought myself a bespoke local 1:50 000 map of the area, mounted on a pin board, with locations of all local bouldering venues, both established and new. After taking down the map of the states in the office that was there for a planned trip that never took off, the map now sits with different coloured pins showing me where to head next. It now couldn’t be clearer.
Now i have no less than eight crags ready to be developed to one level or another. At the beginning of Wes Anderson’s amazing film Grand Budapest Hotel, Tom Wilkinson is describing how as an author, he doesn’t develop ideas out of nothing, that people proffer ideas to him once they know he’s a writer. It seems similar with crag development. Once people realise you’re happy to put up first ascents, they’re happy to tell you about all sorts of rock they find, here there and everywhere.
And it seems there’s a lot of them. I’m constantly reminded of a foolish conversation i had with my good friend Fredrik Niva back in 2012. He asked me how many first ascents i had done, to which i glibly replied “none, i’m British…” My argument at the time was that everything to be developed on our small island had been developed and you either had to be a) lucky b) extremely good or c) immensely tenacious to find any new lines in North Wales. Turns out i was incredibly wrong; not that i mind that much this time!
Finding Our Own Crag
On my birthday at the Pop Bloc, i looked up the road and saw a garrison of rock at the top of the pass with an enormous boulder field. Surely there had to be something on there, i figured. Turns out we were right.
And so, i am delighted to announce that our new crag is at:
Clogwyn y Garreg
We have spent many sessions climbing there, landscaping landings by shuffling the blocs around and putting up around fifty boulder problems. The grade range covers from the very easy right up to the low-7s with the stand out lines being Dr Collins 6c+ Deep Low Boom 6c (which has not been repeated since a broken hold but should still go, albeit a little harder) and the outstanding Roohan 7b; the hardest line currently there.
There is also a glut of new rock waiting for someone with fresh eyes and maybe a different take on what constitutes an enjoyable boulder problem, with a host of scary and highball additions waiting to be added; which was not really our scene.
There’s a topo attached below that is waiting for you to download. Please do download, go visit, let me know what you think.
[Some caveats about the topo and boulder problems:
1. the grades are likely wrong and are given as an alternative to giving no grade at all. Sadly with Covid this year, we hadn’t really climbed anywhere else to calibrate our abilities. Please don’t hate us if they’re out by miles.
2. We may have been a little lovestruck with the crag after spending so many hours developing, so commenting on the quality of the crag is probably not our place. All we can say is we really enjoyed these climbs and we hope you do too.
3. While we’ve made every effort to make sure there is no loose rock and that everything is secure, new crags always have a risk of being brittle in places. Obviously the Garreg has yet to have the traffic to weedle out the loose bits so it is possible that you might pull something off.
4. Any new climbs are fair game and up for grabs now, although please do let us know if you put up something new so we can update the topo. A permanent page is available here for you to be able to check back in and download the latest version.]