A Grand Day Out

As much as i am aware of the name of this site, unfortunately this is another non-bouldering related entry, involving a lengthy walk, a poor Pub for lunch and an excellent cafe owned by a local Dutchman which was agonisingly closed. After all, it was raining at some point of the day so what else do you do?

We decided to go for a walk. Quite a substantial walk. In fact, i don’t think Lucy quite realised what she’d let herself in for when she reluctantly got ready to leave a mere half hour late. Three hours later, having left straight from the house, we arrived in Rhyd Ddu, and to my complete horror and disgust, Ty Mawr, one of the best cafes in the area, was closed. As a consequence, we decided to try an adjacent pub which had promise from the outside but quickly lost it once we stepped inside. The Cwellyn Arms certainly has potential, but on the evidence of the other day, i would not venture through it’s front doors again. (There’ll be a review on here soon).

After what was admittedly a rather nice Sticky Toffee Pudding (the only desert on the menu without a ridiculous pretentious name – this is the middle of Snowdonia, not Kensington High Street!) we set off up the Rhyd Ddu path up Snowdon, to what seemed like a chorus of “You’re heading up there now?” concerns from passing walkers, confused as to how we’d come to be going up Snowdon so late, but yet blatantly didn’t look like your average trainer-wearing, Cafe bound muppet. It took another three hours to reach the top, including a rather exposed section near the top that i had completely forgotten about, which to my mild dismay didn’t phase Lucy at all. Another two hours and we were home, glad to be back, eating food that was nicer than the pub, yet a damn site less pretentious…

It really was a grand day out, and badger me though she has, i still can’t tell Lucy how far we walked, offering feeble guesses somewhere between “quite a way” and “fucking miles!”. Again, apologies to the boulderers, but hopefully tomorrow night i’ll be back on the rock again.

Setting Suns

Finally a rest evening: after nearly killing myself on the bike on the Lap of Snowdon, and straining pectorals from days of bouldering, i was about to walk through the front door and relax. It was a nice feeling, knowing that all that awaited me was a cold beer and a comfy chair with my name on it. So imagine, if you will, my expression when i was confronted with an excited housemate almost bounding Tigger-style up and down saying, “So what we doing tonight?”

That’s the problem with having a reputation for being always on the go – it’s hard to get away from some days. I said no to more bouldering, as my body just couldn’t take it, and we agreed not to go to the pub through a distinct lack of funds. I suggested a walk, but Rich wasn’t keen. Finally, i said, “About the only thing i’m willing to do is some easy lead climbing on Tryfan Fach…”

About an hour later and i was on lead, a situation that normally fills me with dread, on a nice well-protected Mod, after having made a tour of Llanberis to find a harness and chalk bag. It was a glorious evening, despite the cold, and i lead a little over fifty metres before bringing Rich up. We quickly ran down and started up the classic Diff Little Tryfan Arete.

Half way up and running out of quickdraws, i decided not to run the whole climb out in one pitch, and set up a belay. When Rich caught me up, he lead through, and i proceded to sit through the sunset, as the temperature began to plummet. It wouldn’t have been that bad if it wasn’t that my Rab Photon Hoody was still at the bottom…

Walking back to the car, we both thought on about how much we love living here, climbing after work on a whim, and generally just being able to get out and do what we want to do, when we want to do it. Okay, it’s not always perfect, and the weather is often wet (not enough for paddling, yet too much for climbing, somewhat annoyingly) but i suppose that’s what makes evenings like this all the better.

broken

I pulled up in a layby alongside Llyn Gwynant and realised i was in trouble. Not like, “if i fall off now, i’m dead” sort of trouble, but rather serious trouble nonetheless. I’ve done the lap of Snowdon on my bike before, but today it felt harder as i stopped briefly in Beddgelert and realised my legs weren’t supposed to ache this much right now. Not long out of Gelert, i’d noticed i’d lost my wedgebag, meaning if i got a puncture or anything went wrong i was stuffed, and as i sat next to the lake watching the sun set high in the mountains, but still not as far as i needed to go, i simply thought, “Shit”.

All the tough sections from my last excursion round this mountain hadn’t felt as bad as before, but in a strange twist of fate the easy bits were forcing me to really put some effort in. I’d managed to forget my water bottle too, although this probably turned out in my favour, as i stopped in Llanrug and bought two bottles of Lucozade to last me through my ride. Since then, up until Beddgelert, i hadn’t stopped, but it had taken it’s toll. Going from Waunfawr down through Rhyd Ddu had turned out to be strangly like hard work and now, some time later i prepared to start the long and agonising walk up the road to the Pen Y Gwyrd. If i could make it there, i’d be okay.

But i was rapidly running out of daylight. It’s something like 17 miles from Gelert to Llanberis, and feeling boxed out of my mind after two, i was starting to come up with contingency plans in my head: who’s got a car? Who can i call? What am i going to do if i’m out of signal? I pounded on, the blood surging through my legs with a dull ache so relentless, i nearly stopped again, but looked at the sky and persevered. Music blaring through my ears, i tried to match my cadence to the tracks, blessing Fleetwood Mac along the way. I knew i’d have to walk sections up from the campsite in Gwynant so i stopped for a fag just to let my legs recover as much as possible.

After a heavy mix of walking/riding up the steep mountain pass, looking in the distance at the sun setting over Pen Y Pass and worrying more and more about the dwindling amounts of daylight, i let out the occasional scream of pain, and maybe a shout at a sheep in the road again. Eventually i walked past the Pen Y Gwyrd, and my last chance of salvation before the last section home. I persevered, jumping back in the saddle again to ride the last bit past past the Youth Hostel. Finally i crested over the hill, and to my dismay, i was set to ride down the pass in the dark.

I got beeped by a couple of cars, and shouted at by one passing motorist for having no lights but he just got abuse as now, even coasting downhill hurt. On the final uphill the dull aching turned into a pain that was sharp and constant, and it wasn’t subsiding any more. This wasn’t like ending up riding the back roads of Birmingham late at night, there are no lights in the pass, and just as i was enjoying being able to see the road again, i was distracted by a phone call, “Where are you??”

i made my excuses, turned my face into a fierce grimace for reasons that are beyond me, and peddled on, feeling more and more exhausted with every turn. By the time i got home, i had to ask Rich to fetch my Chinese takeaway dinner, and Lucy to make me a glass of squash: i have never been in so much pain after being in the saddle. Thanks again guys, i was so tired it hurt to move. The great irony is that i decided to go out on the bike as i’d been pushing it a bit hard on the rock lately, and so tonight will be a rest night, god knows i need it!

(PS Sorry there’s no photos, and for the length of today’s blog, i’ll try and put some old ones in to make it a bit prettier…)

Nippletastic Thigh Squeeze V4

A mere 24 hours after my epic day and i’ve been out again, this time at the RAC boulders after work. As i write, my housemate is trying to persuade me to write lots of rude words on this entry, such as clench-age, shaft and strain and so this may come across a bit weird but never mind.

It’s all part of my get-mildly-stronger-than-a-big-wet-fish-before-Italy plan, and it seems to be working, as tonight i managed the Pump Traverse V4 before lapping the first pumpy section about half a dozen times. Meanwhile, Lucy was hard at work ticking off some more V0s and V1s, and exploring a lovely little venue within an hour of her house.

The name of tonights post stems from a little problem i found that isn’t in the guide between The Ramp and Marsh Arete. It involves (and i’ll keep this short) a sidepull left hand, mono right, with a heel hook on the right foot and as you pull up, squeeze the arete with your knees to try and hold on for long enough to reach up. The top is also awful, and the first time i managed it was topless, with added nipple friction! Hence the name.

Lamenting on the epic that was yesterday while at work today, talking to customers about kit and taking stock of my life, i realised my livestock is going pretty well. It’s not often that seems to happen to me, but i’m glad it has. I suggest to you all to think about yourselves for a moment, concentrate on what’s going well, the best parts of life, and let out a little smile. It’s worth doing every now and again.

12 hours at the office

My fingers hurt. Quite a bit actually, although it’s not really a surprise when you consider my day. Much as it was against my better judgement, i was persuaded to get up at 9am on my day off to go and meet my old uni friends at the Cromlech boulders, arriving at about 9:30. I got home after having dropped Lucy off at the Pen Y Gwyrd at 9:45pm and have been climbing pretty much all day.

So a good solid 12 hour day out bouldering is probably exactly what i needed. We started at the Cromlech roadside face for a bit of a warm up (although i did find a couple of problems i haven’t done, but they are high, scary and sharp) before missing out on my little V8+ traverse project because there was a mini parked in the bloody way and headed down to Browns Crack (cue stupid jokes please).

Before too long, we headed down to the famous Jerrys Roof V9. For the uninitiated, this is a very steep boulder problem in the Llanberis Pass, which is supremely hard. I’ve worked the middle section a bit before and today managed to get the start wired, which is great progress if i’m honest. We stayed for a while, not too long, and headed up to the Utopia boulder on the opposite side of the pass below Cwrn Las.

Lucy sailing up Problem 3 at the Cwm Dyli Boulders
Me on, erm, Pete's Wall V3 at the Cwm Dyli Boulders

I never really make it any further, and can’t say i’ve really climbed on the Wavelength, Pieshop or other boulders above in the valley, but i have been working a project there for about 6 months; a long traverse starting at the bottom right and working around the bottom of the boulder before finishing up the final V5 problem at the end. For those in the pass that day, it was me that let out the ear-splitting scream purely out of frustration as a once again feel from the last hold.

After a quick bite to eat at home, and a rendezvous with Lucy, we headed back out again, this time to the Cwm Dyli boulders. It is at this point that i must declare i have fallen in love. It’s certainly an unrequited love affair… mainly as rocks don’t carry with them that emotion. I soon found that the Moose’s Boulder has the best landing you could imagine, is the perfect height, and is almost completely secluded. As such, i’m not going to tell you anymore than that – it deserves a little effort to get there.

So exhausted, i retire to bed, ready for work in the morning and ready to hit the boulders once again afterwards! It’s not quite 12 hours straight bouldering, but close enough and it’ll all be worth it once i get to Italia.

Slate excursions

As my flatmate picks holes in my grammar, it occurs to me that today has actually been too good for me to care. It’s not often i see old friends from uni, and yet today i’ve had the pleasure of climbing with two of them within an hour from my house. Despite my natural desire to head up the pass and hit the growing list of projects i have, i was persuaded to head out to Rainbow Slab and second some trad routes!

Even writing that fills me with a little dread, so i’m quite pleased at the fact that i managed to follow up Bella Lugosi is Dead E1 5b without too much trouble, followed by the beginning of Poetry Pink E5 6a (it’s not, it’s harder) before realising that enough was enough and i was bound for the smaller and steeper challenges that rock can throw at you. The lads continued without me, after i’d taken some rather snappy shots, and carried on with Pull My Daisy E2 5c, topping off a great day for them.

Sometimes it’s good to do something a little different, and today was one of them. Tomorrow shall return to the status quo but for the time being, despite my achievements being rather tame, i feel rather pleased with myself.

6 weeks ’till Italy and counting…

Six weeks. 45 days. 31 days of work. Doesn’t sound like long and then i’m off to an underdeveloped, new and upcoming venue in the Northern area of Italy known locally as Val Daone. Imagine the sight: a huge Alpine valley, beautiful views of high peaks and flowing rivers and some beautifully, unpolished granite with a host of unclimbed boulder problems. Just the thought of it is so good, i’ve just shuddered a little!

I always enjoy going to a new venue, somewhere popular and well known but that i haven’t been before. I still remember the first time i went to Font many years ago now, and the thought of going to Switzerland to check out Cresciano and Chironico and i was so excited it was untrue. With somewhere like that, you’ve normally met someone who’s been within the last couple of weeks, read all the guidebooks, seen the films and often know as much about the place by the time you go as you do when you get back! Now, i’m not complaining about that, or else there’d be no point doing this blog, but at the same time, last September i went to the Iberian Mountains in Spain to check out Albarracin. With it still being a mildly undiscovered place (believe me, if you go you’ll understand) there was certainly more of a feeling of adventure to the trip.

The same can be said of this June; the guidebook Daone Prog only came out in 2009 and i met the author in Spain last year. It feels almost as if i’m going to get some first ascents, to attempt some hard and unknown line and to show the locals that those of us in Wales can boulder too. Then again, reality has a way of hitting me in  the back of the head like the headrest of a Land Rover on a really bumpy road…

I am excited about going, and i am super keen to get some first ascents if at all possible, but i am very aware of the training involved. In a strange way, i’m hoping it rains relentlessly for the next 6 weeks, otherwise endless sessions in the wall at Plas Y Brenin may destroy my psyche. Then again, lets have another look at that guidebook…

Introducing a gramatical incorrectness

Alas, i have done what i said i would not for so many years and have joined the phenomena known as blogging. While i don’t want to do this just to join every other sap on the internet trying desperately for something interesting to say, i do need a medium to share info about bouldering trips, venues and possibly some info on kit.

And so slowly but surely i plan to explore the world, two weeks at a time, documenting every journey, story and life endangering experience along the way. I’ll even try and publish some of my older trip reports so you can see some of my previous tales from over the last few years. Feel free to check back for updates!

A home for European bouldering reviews and info