16 July 2016

Fun climb

The evening had all the ingredients for an unsatisfying climbing evening. It was windy, it was a bit cold, the sky looked like rain, the rock we would be climbing was infamous for getting slippery, and we would be eight people at a site with only trad climbs, and trad climbs mean: time-consuming faffing and little climbing. I had a great time, though!

We gathered at the RSPB centre at South Stack, as that corner of Anglesey was forecast to be the only dry bit of northwest Wales that evening. Initially it looked like there would be few of us; we set off with five people. That meant: much kit per person, and I have the biggest bag and the healthiest spine, so I ended up with two ropes and a heap of metalware. No problems!

 The view from the gathering spot

We walked towards Holyhead Mountain. An infamously windy place! Although it has its good moments. We would walk quite a way up it; this wall only has trad routes, and we weren't a bunch of very confident trad climbers. We would therefore go to the top and set up some top ropes. That is a bit of a work as you have to rig from whatever happens to be there, and anchor your belayers too. We would do that from the top this time! But that meant lugging all the kit up the mountain. It started with a boulder field; I took my time, as my centre of gravity was in a funny place and I didn't want to take one wrong step and bugger my knee. Climbing up the steep slope after that got me quite hot. But we got there!
 Stopping at a point from which we could see the routes; the book comes out

Simon and Ron started rigging. Soon Ron had a rig ready and I was ready to climb. Unfortunately, Simon wanted a bit of help with his, so I ended up waiting a while. Not my favourite thing! But one should not rush a rig. While we were rigging three more ladies appeared. I was glad when in the end I could lower myself over the edge. Soon I was down and could make my way up. The route started with some scrambling and then got into a crack. Climbing one can be a pain; jamming your feet in can be very painful, but this crack was rather forgiving. I had a few moments of not being sure where to put my hand and feet but I got up without issues. Next!

The next person was Piers, a retired man. I think his climbing prime might be several decades behind him but that doesn't stop him. I figured he'd struggle on this one! And he did. I took a strategic position from which I could see him so I could guide him up some of the bits. When he got to the crack he first fell out, with his back on a rock; that hurt. He didn't give up though! Grunting and panting he kept going. He told his belayer several times he wanted to give up but the belayer wasn't having it. And in the end he made it!

Piers and Mags are starting their way up

 Piers is still doggedly struggling on while on the second pitch, the next climber is already going down.

In the meantime Mags was doing the other route. I think it was easier on paper than the one I'd done, but she found the end trying. I think she left the route and found her own way. Then other climbed. I spent my time watching, shouting encouragements, drinking tea and putting on more clothes. I was keen to try the other climb too, but it was raining, the route was getting wet, there were loads of people and everyone was getting cold, and I wasn't sure if the opportunity would present itself. But in the end it did!

I knew I was the last so I wanted to be quick. No subtlety, just muscles! I worked my way up the first crack with all the elegance of a caver. I at some point anchored myself by squeezing my bum sideways into a wide crack and tensing up my muscles; not sure that is standard practice. But it worked! I got up. Then I came to the second crack; we thought the route just followed it but so far everybody had come out and climbed off to the right. I figured I'd do too at some point, but I was in a good jamming mood after the other crack and, to my surprise, soon found myself in the crack and close to the top. I had done it! And then it was time to pack up.

Ron volunteered to lower everybody who wanted down to the boulder field on a rope; he would then de-rig, throw the ropes down, and walk down himself. Excellent idea! No fun lugging a heavy backpack down a steep slope. The boulder field was still something to be careful in but then I reached the path again. Time to take my two (!) jumpers off! That night I drove home in torrential rain. We might have found the only spot on the island where the rain was just modest enough to allow climbing!

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