2008/10/30--11/03 Record of mountaineering in Cornwall (by Masa)

[Japanese / English]


North Wales/Snowdonia/Tremadog, Llanberis Pass
Luke, Andy Ri, Claudia, Masa (Andy Ra, Brian, Steve, Baz (Bowline CC))
2008/10/30--2008/11/03 (4 nights)
  • 2008/10/30 Leicester ...(car)... Llanberis (hut)
  • 2008/10/31 Hut ...(car)... Tremadog/Craig Bwlch y Moch ...(car)... Hut
    1. Grasper Area/Valerie's Rib (HS 71m (10m, 34m, 27m)); Leader Luke (OF; off route to Gilljo (VD) during the 1st pitch; Climbed with 2-pitches to the top), 2nd Masa
    2. The Fang Area/The Fang (HVS 61m (24m 5a, 37m 5a)); Leader Masa (OF), 2nd Luke
  • 2008/11/01 Hut ... Llanberis Pass ... Carreg Wastad ... Stack ...(car)... hut
    1. Ribstone Crack (VS 52m (34m 4c, 18m 4a)); Leader Masa (OF), 2nd Andy
  • 2008/11/02 Hut ...(car)... Tremadog ... Craig Bwlch y Moch ...(car)... hut
    1. Plum Area/The Plum (E1 5b 42m); Leader Masa (OF), 2nd Claudia
    2. Vulcan Wall/One Step in the Clouds (VS 69m (27m 4b, 27m 4c (split into 2-pithes in the definitive guidebook), 15m 4b); Leaders (AL, OF) Claudia (1,2-pitches in one go), Masa (3,4-pitches in one go; Off route to Hail Bebe (VD))
Styles: AL = Alternative Lead, MT = Move together, O(s) = Onsight, F = Flash, (B) = With Beta, G = Ground-up, Hp = Head-Point, Y(o) = Yo-Yo (or dogged)
hut (Bowline CC)@Llanberis
  • 2008/10/30 Cloudy with occasional rain
  • 2008/10/31 Cloudy with rain at one stage
  • 2008/11/01 Cloudy after rain
  • 2008/11/02 Sunny
  • 2008/11/03 Sunny

Andy, Luke, Claudia and I had a fantastic long weekend in Snowdonia, North Wales. I later heard that Leicester had had a very wet and miserable weather, while Snowdonia was actually all right, even sunny from time to time. North Wales is generally speaking wetter than midland, and my past experience just confirmed it. However this time we were apparently in the right place at the right time!

On the first day we went to Tremadog. I climbed with Luke. After Luke's lead (which turned out to be a nice route, even though we took off-route), I lead The Fang, a Joe Brown's route. The "fang"-shaped hanging rock in the middle is eye-catching.

The first pitch is OK, maybe a bit strenuous and powerful 5a with good protections, and is a typical HVS. The belay ledge is quite small, roughly 30cm x 1m size. The first move of the second pitch looks (as the guidebook rightly points out) unprotected. So I placed a high runner (maybe a bit off route ... to E2, meaning a bit of swing would be inevitable), while I was belayed, via another 5a(?) move, and climed down to the ledge — strictly speaking, I did NOT place the runner, but just clipped a quick-draw to an in-situ stuck nut.

Then after Luke's arrival, off I went to the second pitch above the small ledge. A very good exposure! This is a truly multi-pitch route, rather than multi single-pitching!

It is a proper face climbing with a series of distinctive but small flat holds. I am afraid I was a bit too short to reach the crucial hold, so the move is definitely harder than 5a for me, probably 5b/5c. However given the fact that this route was first climbed by Joe Brown, I have to say, no excuse for me! I imagine it must be a horrifying experience for an averaged HVS leader, particularly if the first runner has not been placed by the leader of the first pitch (while s/he is still belayed).

Anyhow it still is well within my comfort zone, and I completed the series of the first moves without problem. After arranging a set of the proper first gear en route, the route goes down and round to the left, which is another nerve-wrecking traverse, particularly considering the good ropework to avoid a serious rope drag in the later half of the pitch.

Then, as the guidebook describes, a contrasting pitch started, namely more technical than powerful, and on top of it more unprotected slab climbing. In fact there are gear. It is just hard to gauge how good each gear is, because most of the gear are micro-size and often flared. I ended up placing 6 nuts/micro-nuts/micro-offset-nuts with the size 3 or below and 1 skyhook during this pitch.

The skyhook placement was good — as good as a skyhook could go (translated to be never sound). The nut placements were not brilliant, as the cracks themselves tended to be shallow and often flared. All in all, I was in a pressure that I should never fall. I don't think I would die should I fall, as some of the runners should work, if not the runner immediately below, but injury would be likely.

Fortunately as the grade suggests, the climbing itself was never hard and eventually I finally completed this second (and final) pitch of over 30-metre slab climbing. Bravo!

Luke had a major troulbe in seconding the pitch. He said he had to aid up to the first gear, meaning to retrieve the in-situ gear was out of imagination, and had to give up the first face climbing after several attempts and let himself swing under the tension of the rope to the left. He commented, a bit disappointingly, Is this just HVS? I will be never able to lead HVS...

To be fair, Luke, I thought this route is very tough for HVS, and is more likely to be E1 particularly for climbers without an advantage of long reach like you and me. The thing is that HVS is a very broad grade, probably by far the broadest grade in the British grading system. Indeed, even Dom, who lead up to E7, mentioned that he does not think he can lead all the HVSs cleanly. Or, some one else justifiably said HVS just means it is traditional. Or, in a definitive guidebook it describes a route, HVS 5b for some and E7 7b for others. In other words, there are much easier HVSs around. So you will lead a HVS route soon rather than in a distant future, as long as you keep practising!

The following day we decided to give Llanberis Pass a try. It turned out to be not the best idea as it was a bit dark, dump and cold, whereas we heard later on Tremadog was sunny on the day.

The venue we chose was Carreg Wastad, and the crag was on today's condition situated just below the snow line. By the first look it was at best dump, and wet from place to place. I quickly dismissed the idea to try a harder route, but chose a sort of open chimney VS route, Ribstone Crack, climbing with Andy.

The first pitch is long (34m) and sustained, requiring various sort of techniques. So I imagined it would be a sort of my type of climbing, and my guess turned out to be right! Indeed I used delicate face climbing, powerful pull-up, bridging and off-width crack climbing with various size. The interest, as well as difficulty, was quite sustained.

As a result, although the route did not look great from below, I found it to be a very good route! Andy managed to second the route cleanly (well done!), then mentioned that it was a good deal of struggle for him near his limit. In a way that is what I anticipated for him after I lead the pitch, because I found a quite a lot of moves required are something one would hardly use in indoor walls! Indeed Andy mentioned he had to invent quite a lot of moves on sight — extremely good effort from him! I think the technical grade of 4c is about right, but it would be much harder for indoor rats. In that sense this is a very good and proper outdoor route!

For me this route is memorable in another sense. I deliberately searched for tiny foot holds, rather than relying on blind powerful moves, and it worked well, partly thanks to my new technical shoes. Also I spent more time to look for potential holds round an arrete etc, which would not be spotted once I climb up, and it worked well, too.

For some reason I had quite a lot of memorable experiences when I climbed with Andy, despite the fact Andy seems to be very good at calling for wet weather (LoL). He definitely suffered in arresting my falls outdoor in much higher rate than any other climbing partners of mine. I climbed in thunderstorm, lead the hardest route and took a near-factor-one fall, all with Andy. Bless you, my friend!

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