Today, Dad and I decided to make use of the good weather and head to the Ogwen valley to do one of the classic Idwal link-ups! I’d lead the harder sections and Dad would lead the rest; the link up would consist of: Tennis Shoe HS 4b, Lazarus S 4a and The Groove Above S 4b.
We left at around 10am and arrived at Ogwen Cottage a little after 10:30am, we grabbed the bags and headed for the start of the walk-in. It was overcast but still very warm so we headed up in just a shirt, we made quick progress passing tourists heading for devil’s kitchen on the wide motorway-like path that skirts beneath Idwal Slabs and our first route. We arrived at the bottom of the route to find that we would have to wait for two climbers to climb before us, before we could set off, so we leisurely racked up our harnesses, flaked the ropes and drank some tea whilst we waited. We decided to take one small bag with approach shoes and some water in, whoever was seconding would carry it, leaving the leader unhindered. After around 20 minutes, we were able to begin Tennis Shoe.
I lead the first pitch, judging by the guidebook and UKC, this pitch was in the 4a/4b region and very polished. I set off up the slab, arranging a wire after a few meters and made progress up the small polished holds that lead to a blank step right into a deep pocket to meet the place where the slab met the side wall.
Photo 1.1 – Climbing the initial polished slab on the first pitch of Tennis Shoe, HS 4b.
Several smeary bridging moves lay ahead before a large ledge; from the ledge, a short slab is climbed before a bulge that separates the lower slab, from the upper. Good jams and smeared feet alloy one to pull through the bulge with ease, a pleasant crack leads to a large belay ledge where I set up an anchor and belayed Dad up. Dad climbed nicely, making good progress up the polished pitch and soon he arrived at the belay with me; we sorted gear and ropes ready for him to lead through. The middle two pitches were considerably easier, Dad lead them in fine style, each pitch was around VD standard- Tennis Shoe gets HS 4b for the first and last pitches really. We raced through the middle two pitches, Dad lead them both and soon we were at the belay below the last obstacle. I lead the last pitch, it started with a series of delicate moves up a polished rib to reach the crux. The crux involved a move to get from the rib onto a slabby ramp, I found that move easy for the grade and overall thought the first pitch was harder, probably due to the polish. The slabby ledge lead leftwards to a crack and bulge onto the upper slap, a short pull through this leaves a few meters of padding on the upper slab to reach they belay, and the top.
Photo 1.2 – Me leading the top pitch of Tennis Shoe HS 4b.
I set up a belay, well, clipped into the rope sling that’d been left around a large block and brought Dad up to me. He climbed well; however, he felt the crux was tricky. We coiled the ropes, sorted the gear and scrambled up and across a huge ledge to reach the bottom of our second route, Lazarus S 4a. Overall, I thought the first pitch of Tennis Shoe was harder than the top, but the crux was more difficult on the top pitch- overall HS 4b is a fair assessment.
I lead both pitches of Lazarus, due to it getting 4a. Two very contrasting pitches, the first pitche was a thrutchy ledgy corner-that was pretty wet!-to reach a belay. After bringing Dad to here, I set off on the second pitch, a gently rising leftwards traverse to reach the base of a steep groove. Lovely, though polished, climbing lead across the rising traverse until the short steep grove lay above, positive holds lead up this with nice moves before an easier run out landed me on the large grassy ledge above. Dad followed me in good style, remarking however, that it was very slippy on the polished holds- I agreed. I thought that it was perhaps a little stiff for the grade, more like easy HS and easy 4b would better describe the climbing.
Photo 1.3 – Me trending leftwards on Lazarus, S 4a
The Groove Above lay in wait above us, we moved our belay to the base of the large groove, racked up our harnesses and I started leading away. The first move was the crux, a horrendously shiny lay back move to get established in the groove proper. The groove proper, however, was absolutely lovely smeary climbing, uninspiring gear but straightforward climbing. The crux was around 4b, but the rest no more than 4a. I topped out with a smile on my face, I wasn’t expecting much from this pitch but the climbing was much better than I expected. Dad followed in fine style, equally impressed with the climbing. What an excellent way to finish a link-up!
We set about sorting the gear, coiling the ropes and putting on our approach shoes before taking a moment to appreciate the scenery. However, the bright blue skies had been replaced by dark clouds on the brink of spewing their heavy load of rain over the Welsh mountains. We quickly set off down the grassy blocky hillside towards the descent path and romped to the base of the crag to collect the second bag and remaining gear.
We had a quick sandwich and a drink, packed away all the kit properly and yomped back to the car in an effort to avoid the rain. We did so and soon we were heading home for a cup of a tea and a good meal. We were really pleased with the day, climbing some nice routes in a nice setting!
Can’t wait for the next day at the crag!