Monday, 17 August 2015

Shock Of The New

...again. A trip to Wales without going to Rhinnogs is like a curry without a Cobra, a cappucino without an extra coffee shot - something essential is missing. And I don't mean Rhinnogs in the miserly token-gesture bandwagon-jumping Rockfax micro-coverage. Admittedly Lechau Mawr and Y Grisau are superb crags, but such limited plum-picking and honey-potting is quite contrary to the spirit of exploration in the area as well as a disservice to those developing and documenting it.

The days out I've had recently have been proper Rhinnogs days - hosted by the foremost developer and documentor, the legendary Terry Taylor, and accompanied by fellow enthusiast The Pylon Kunt....and naturally such days include new routing as well as second ascents. The lengths have been short, in keeping with the gritstone stature, but the quality has been high and the potential, around the Cwm Nantcol area, highly impressive. I've ended up doing two of the best new routes I've done:

The Bilberry Hunter E4 6a ** 10m
A good climb with a bold start and bouldery finish, and good cams in-between. Spring onto the first rail just right of (E4 5c), carefully gain the first break and then the second break on satisfying holds. A thoughtful crux on layaways leads to the finishing jug.
(named after the third man, who was easily distracted by local flora)

TT has numerous E5-ish projects at this short steep crag, but hadn't even spotted this line properly until he abbed down while I was repeating a neat new E2. He had a quick play on a top-rope but there were too many sidepulls for his tweaky elbow. I decided to have a quick look, quickly realised it was rather cool, gave it a good scrub, got the top dialled, and shot up it in a flurry of headpoint gaylordness. Not a style I'm familiar so it's hard to judge the grade, but the quality and balance of the pitch were still obvious.

Whillans Crack "HVS 5b" ***
Precisely named, with a grade as traditional as the line. The magnificent cleft delivers everything it promises, small cams and large nuts protect.

Same valley, same guru, different day, different crag....very different climb. Somewhat tired and somewhat midged to death (I'd got complacent about the relatively tame Welsh midges and left the repellant behind), TT had already retreated, PK was soaking in the atmosphere, but I couldn't resist this fantastic fissure. What one route would Brown and Whillans done if they'd visited? Exactly. I topped out giggling with my left arm covered in cuts and grazes. Hosey, your time!

Also quite a cool line but not in the same class:

Word Of Pain E3 5c **
Likely to be uttered if you fall off. The right side of the sharp arete is serious but steady after a tricky start. From blocks place high tiny RPs, pull onto the arete and make difficult extended moves to good holds up right. More RPs possible, then climb gracefully up the positive arete with no further gear.

This is the right hand side of PK's Dark Orgasm pillar (itself an undeniable classic, visible from literally miles away). Great line, slightly unbalanced climbing, a cool hard crux with 1 HB zero next to your face and a jagged block below. Above that, delightful and easy. Unfortunately the camera decided to stop taking shots and missed the funky final reach with the last proper gear being just above my hand, and only a poor taped on skyhook above.

Incidentally before this we revisited the site of my Careless Orc mini-classic that I'm still bemused why it wasn't considered worthy of a North Wales Bouldering mention, and I'm pleased to say it 1. Hasn't fallen over and 2. Still looks really cool and inspiring.

Finally, here's a second ascent of a TT E4 6a, very much the spiritual twin of The Bilberry Hunter (similar height, similar steepness, also crux at the top, also on the lowest tier of a 3 tier crag system in the Nantcol pass...quite uncanny). Had to fight at the top of this which was nice:
The wall to the right has 3 E2-ish things in a row up obvious flakes, then 2 VS-ish things at the far end. There's another half a dozen routes to the left, a comfy bilberry base, and nice clean tops.

And the Lleyn looks like this from Cwm Nantcol...

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