26 July 2016

Tiring but great day on top of and inside mountains

It started out with climbing outside again. I realised you are a lot better off if you can do trad climbing, placing your own gear, rather than relying on bolted routes. And I figured a "single pitch award" would get me there. And the entire award may be a bit much (I don't know yet what it entails), but one has to start somewehere: I registered for a one day course. It would be soon! But then I realised it was the same day as a not very loudly advertised mine rescue training. So I had to move it to the next occasion: in July. I hadn't initially realised it would be on a week day. But it was! Oh well. Let the Calvinist stay home, I go out!

That day I drove to Plas-y-Brenin, the local outdoor centre. I met Simon, our instructor. The only other person in the course would be Mags, another club member. Together we had a cup of coffee and decide don what to do. With only two participants one can tailor a course to their exact needs! I said I was happy with pretty much anything as I was bound to learn something. And Simon suggested going to Cwm Idwal and have a scamper. Sounds good!

He drove us there, and we set off on the path that goes by the Idwal slabs. We wanted to ascend these, but they were busy; Simon decided on scrambling up the Introductory Gully instead. Fine! It had a big overhang, and it was wet and slimy, so I was in my element. It wasn't hard but slipping will kill you, so Simon made sure we were always anchored in some way. That also provided some practice in setting up anchors like that. Soon we were at the top. I did, unfortunately, pop my knee in a careless moment, but it wasn't too bad. There we continued, very suitably, on Idwal Continuation. That was a bit of scrambling with some climby bits; sometimes the steps were so high you needed climbing techniques to come up. That was fun! And I put my climbing shoes on for some of it; I was just on my everyday shoes as I thought I'd be in climbing shoes all day, but for scrambling you don't need them, but these were not so good for the climby bits. So I had to change! it was fun, though. On the tricky bits we were on belay again. Good practice!

When we got up we had a quick bite to eat.Then we were on. Into Cwm Cneifion we went; I had never been but I agreed it was beautiful. From there we would scramble up Cneifion Arete; this isn't hard but it is very exposed, so we would take turns leading, and placing kit, so we would be secured. Simon didn't do a lot of explaining but he did keep an eye on us and dropped useful hints. I learned stuff! And just had a generally great time. It was beautiful and fun, and the company was good. What more would one want?

Mags belaying Simon who has started climbing Cneifion Arete

Simon scampering up

View from high up on the arete; Llyn Idwal and Nant Ffrancon 

We reached the top. That was a pleasant, flat place. We could take all helmets and harnesses and suchlike off, and all we had to do from there was walk down and think of the cup of tea we would have afterwards. 

 Mags and me on the top

The cup of tea was lovely. But after the second I had to go: Fron Boeth was waiting! I wanted to have ample time to drive to Croesor, so I could have a relaxed bite to eat before everyone would arrive. We had only eaten a small amount on the hill! And days like these make one hungry. SO I drove off, and to my surprise, found Phil in the car park. He had given the likelihood of his appearance as 1%, but there he was! He was as hungry as I was, so we did the eating together.

The other appeared and we got to the final parking spot (with limited space) and started changing. I had bought a new furry suit on eBay and wanted to try it. I have one, but it is very thick and too warm in summer. Wearing anything other than a one-piece, however, leads to shirts creeping up and concomitant unpleasantness. I had got cold on two previous trips because of this and had had enough. Now I could try my new purchase! Even though it started to dawn on me that it was going to be a long, uphill walk, and maybe it was a bit much in the middle of July. Oh well. I had left everything else in the car. I was committed!

There also was mention of rope work; I love that, so I had brought my rope, and full SRT kit. That's heavy! Phil started to run up the hill, as he does, so I followed and sweated my arse off. But it clearly was less sweaty than it would have been in the other suit! I did feel the fatigue, and Ihad tired feet, and I struggled a bit with my popped knee. But I got there.

 View from the way up

I thought I had never done this day's mine, but when we parked up things looked familiar. When we started walking it was even more familiar. And then I realised I had indeed done this mine before (albeit not the part we were heading for now), and more than that, I had seen this valley before from above, without realising I had seen it from the inside too! Things started to come together. It all makes sense now!

We got to the top of a spoil heap and sat down for a bit. I could feel the mountain and was quite happy. I just lay down! Very relaxed. But then we decided to move on. Almost a pity!

 Having a relaxed chat before going underground. David, Simon, Phil and Edwyn

Phil wasn't well and had only come along for the walk, so he went one way; David and Paul didn't want to do SRT so they went another way, and Simon, Edwyn and me went to the top entrance. While walking into the adit Simon asked "so who of us has hangers with them?" None of us did. Oh dear. That seemed to be the end of our SRT plans. In these regions it is customary to leave only the bolts in the rock; the hangers and nuts you take with you. You can't safely attach a rope to just a bolt. We just looked into the depth and had to make do with that.

We went back, walked to the next entrance down, and went to the pitch. There were hangers there! We could do two thirds of the planned rope work! Great. But we would be careful; there was no way out on the next level, so only if the next pitch also had hangers we could go down and pull the rope down without getting stranded. Edwyn went down first; soon he confirmed the next pitch did have hangers. So I went down too, Simon threw us the rope, and we went on. Simon would follow us around the outside.

 Remains of a bridge

When we came out at the bottom level we saw the nearby lights of David and Paul. Great timing! We walked back and changed. It was late. I tried to convince Edwyn and Simon (on whom I depended) to go without delay. It had been an excellent day, but now I really needed sleep! Lots of it!

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