Cragging at Holyhead!

Today, I met up with Ann for a days cragging at Holyhead Mountain. We didn’t manage to get photos unfortunately; however, we did some great routes and we even bumped into Johnny Dawes! So hopefully this post will still interest you guys! During the day we did several routes including:

Comfortably Numb VS 4c
Curtains VS 4c
Pigeon Hole Crack S 4a
Stairs S 4a

The day started a little day with thick clagg encasing the mountain and the crags; we met at the car park a little before 8:45am, picked up some ropes and kit and started the short walk across to the base of the crags. Despite the thick cloud and sea mist it remained warm and soon we were regretting wearing our jackets. We made quick progress and soon we were at the base of the first of our chosen routes, a nice little warm up line called Pigeon Hole Crack S 4a.

It was decided that I’d lead the first route of the day, the rock was still slightly damp from the sea mist but otherwise perfect. I made short work of the initial cracks before climbing a grove and making quick progress, past the a lovely thread to the top. The climbing was very straight forward, yet still very pleasant. Ann, too, enjoyed the route and climbed in fine style; we coiled ropes and headed down for route number two.

Secondly, we decided to head for a two pitched Severe called “Stairs”; I’d done the route a few times and enjoyed it very much. I lead the first pitch, a diagonal slab to an overhang; I placed some gear and pulled through the overhanging wall until I reached the upper slab. I traversed left and climbed the thin delicate arete before making rightwards moves to the belay stance. I belayed Ann to the stance; she thought the move through the overhang was quite hard for the grade but she climbed the rest in fine style. Ann lead through, the second pitch consisted of a short slab before a narrow ramp leads around a large block- Ann lead this in good style and soon she was bringing me up and we were coiling ropes and kit and heading down towards the base of the crag once again.

We’d not been rushing between routes, we enjoyed the time we had, especially considering the cloud had now brunt off leaving warm, bright sunshine. We leisurely headed further down the crag to the base of the next route…

Curtains, VS 4c was the next to-do route. The guidebook stated that it was a serious route that was bold and short of gear; however, I looked up at the route and felt that it was easily within my comfort zone. I racked up and started the bottom slab; soon I found a nice sling runner before making thin moves over a bulge. Another sling runner appeared and soon I was climbing the delicate and thin slab above; I placed yet more gear before reaching the final wall before the belay. Two mirco-cams and a small wire protected the next moves, arguably the crux, I made swift progress, unchallenged to the belay and romped up the easy second pitch rather than splitting it. Ann was soon following me to the top and afterwards, we both commented that we thought it was no harder than HS 4b.

It was now lunch time, so we set ourselves down and devoured our food, discussing the morning’s climbing. We packed away our kit ready to move down the crag again, in search of our next route. During our walk down the crag we passed the crack of King Bee Crack, I peered up at the climber making his way so smoothly up the crack- it was Johnny Dawes!! After saying a “hello” and watching the master ease his way up the classic climb, he shouted down to me that he had copies of his autobiography with him, if I liked one…how could I resist. We waited around for Johnny to complete the route (it didn’t take long) and to bring up his second, soon he reappeared at the bottom of the crag and took out a copy of his book from his bag. He wrote “To Chester, Johnny Dawes” and signed it, I was made up! I’d read about his exploits since I was a child and now we were sitting discussing routes, climbing and plans with a signed copy of his book in my hand!! I could have heard his stories for hours and watched his majestic climbing for even longer; however, we both needed to get back to the main point of the day- climbing! Me and Ann continued down the crag towards a VS 4c that I fancied doing; Ann was keen to do a VD next to it, that’s what we did next.

Ann lead the first pitch of a VD heading up a large crack in the slab before taking a belay below a chimney. Ann lead the first pitch quickly and easily and soon I was at the belay and climbing the steep, easy chimney above. A lovely route, despite the easy climbing, the moves were always interesting! We sorted out the ropes again and headed for our final route of the day.

Comfortably Numb, VS 4c was a route I’d wanted to do for a while. What the actual grade was, was much disputed. The eliminate nature of the route meant that one could move left/right and find easier ground; hence, some thought it was 4b. If the wall was taken direct, it was solid 4c, some saying 5a. Anyway, I romped up the easier lower section, reaching the ledge below the crux wall. I placed a cam under the bulge and pulled through before placing another cam. I ascended the wall direct on very thin crimps before reaching horizontal ground; the direct line was definitely 4c. Ann followed me, she found the crux tricky and announce that my lead was impressive and she agreed that route was definitely 4c! 

We packed away our gear, chatting about the routes and meeting Johnny. We’d had an excellent day, I was particularly chuffed to have done a couple of 4c routes and even more chuffed to be carrying away my signed book! We made the short walk back to the car park, eager to sample the coffee and cake on offer at the cafe!

An excellent day, me and Ann will be climbing again tomorrow at Rhoscolyn. Let’s hope for more good weather…

Rhoscolyn- a quick hit.

Tonight Dad and I found ourselves with a few hours spare before the weekend began. We decided we’d go to Rhoscolyn- a local sea cliff-to do a route we’d been meaning to do for a while, called Truant (VS 4c). The route was a short two pitches so seemed perfect for a quick hit.

We arrived at the parking area at around 8pm before making the short walk to the crag, the walk is across headlands on flat grassy paths and tracks enabling us to soon be at the top of the crag.

Photo 1.1 – Me heading for the cliffs!

ImageWe found the top of our route and proceeded to set up the abseil station next to it; once we’d racked our harness, put on our shoes and kitted up we descended into the Zawn below, eager to see the route ahead! We landed on a large ledge just above the high tide mark and began flaking the ropes out ready for me to lead away; strictly, the first pitch of the route should have followed the corner but it was wet and seeping badly. Hence, I decided to climb the slab variant to the first belay. According to the guidebook, the first pitch was much easier than the crux and that’s what it proved to be, quite an easy lead to the first belay.

Photo 1.2 – Me leading the easy lower section. 

ImageI set up a belay at the halfway ledge and shouted to Dad that I was safe, soon he began following me up the easier lower slab to reach me at the belay. We commented that the climbing was nice and that the crux was the bulge above the belay. We sorted kit out and soon I was ready to lead away again! I made short moves to gain a small ledge below the crux, the crux seemed to be two big pulls over a bulge in the slab. The gear around the crux wasn’t fantastic, one number 1 wire placement, not a fantastic one either. I climbed through the crux easily, it didn’t feel 4c to me, hard 4b would be my estimate.

Photo 1.3 – Me having just lead the crux. 

ImageAfter the crux, the climbing was easier. A slabby wall following the corner before stepping left slightly and climbing direct to the top. The climbing here, again, felt around 4a! The climbing was nice, though- interesting moves and a nice setting!

Photo 1.4 – Leading the head wall to the top! (sorry about the flash!)

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Soon I found myself at the top, a little disappointed that the route had been considerably easier than I thought it would be- HS 4b in my opinion. I set up a belay and shouted down to Dad that he could begin climbing; he took some time on the crux, finding the strenuous moves awkward. He climbed through in fine style however and made short work of the head wall above. We topped out a little before 9.45pm, swiftly sorted out the ropes and kit, eager to get home for a brew and a slab of cake! We romped the short few miles back to the car, the sun was setting over the fields and we felt in good spirits having made use of the evening. Rhoscolyn really is a lovely setting, I imagine we’ll be back soon to sample some of the other routes at the crag!

Photo 1.5 – Back at the car, ready for tea and cake!

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