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Rab Wash

The good weather seems to arrive earlier and earlier in North Wales every year. The best weather we had last year was in March and the rest of the year was a washout. It hasn’t rained in North Wales for two weeks now (!) and although the air temperature’s been pretty chilly, the sun’s been out to make it warm enough to climb.

Having not trad climbed in a couple of months I was keen to see how I was going. I’m feeling fairly unfit at the moment but I tend to climb quite well at the start of the season because I’m so psyched to be rock climbing again! Gogarth has been the place to be recently. It’s had the best weather and has loads of South facing walls, perfect for early season climbing.

The Yellow Walls have some of the most 3 dimensional climbing at Gogarth. All the lines go diagonally upwards following grooves and despite looking sedate, they overhang an awful lot which makes the climbing very strenuous. Add to this a large amount of loose and generally friable rock as well as some questionable gear and you’ve got a good adventure planned for the day. My first routes of the season were ‘Ludwig’ and ‘Me’; both strenuous E6 6b’s on total choss! Although the climbing on both routes was steady the “experience” was pretty memorable with talcum like flakes of rock falling into your eyes and hair non-stop whilst the holds you’re gripping are creaking.

With those routes under my belt I stepped up to the challenge of ‘Isis is Angry’, an E7 6b cutting its way up the steepest section of Yellow Wall. I teamed up with Adam Booth and we abseiled in, starting to realise quite how steep that section of wall really is! The guidebook description for this route ominously starts by saying:

“Looking for trouble? This route takes no prisoners!”

The climbing was really burly. None of the hand holds faced the right way and most of the footholds were crumbling under my weight. After a long battle up the steep groove I made it to the final difficult moves. I procrastinated a little bit too long here and was ejected onto some good gear! After a long rest I pulled back on and made it to the top of the cliff with burning forearms. I was so pumped that I struggled to pull the ropes up to belay Adam!

As well as climbing on the Yellow Walls I got a few other great routes done at Gogarth. ‘Free Stone Henge’, graded a very generous E7 6c climbs up some awesome and well protected roofs underneath the bird watching tower at South Stack and Eraserhead, a great multi pitch outing on Main Cliff were just a couple of the best.

As well as doing some on-sighting I head-pointed a spicy slab climb in Tin Can Alley, an old hone stone quarry at Ogwen. Tin Can Alley’s a bit of an old haunt of mine from my school days where I made the first ascent of a technical E8 slab. After belaying a friend on the E8, I top roped a line to the left which was a little easier and finished slightly lower than the original line. I returned a few days later after borrowing a bunch of pads from Ogwen Cottage outdoor centre and soloed the new line which I called ‘Honed’ and graded E7 6b. Although the slab isn’t much to look at it’s got some great climbing and the routes have a fairly unique style for North Wales as well as being very convenient with only a one minute walk in.

I’m off to the Alps for a month tonight; fingers crossed I get good weather!

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