Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welsh Winter

Now my wife Ali has gone back to work, I'm spending quite a bit more time looking after our little one Suzanna. This means that trips away are going to be a little rarer and my climbing for the time being will have to be snatched opportunities. This is exactly what Jon and I managed yesterday with a one day winter hit to North Wales. I'd been keeping an eye on the action that took place in early December at Clogwyn Du, a mixed crag high above the traditional ice venue of Devils Kitchen. (This is the venue where Nick Bullock established The Crack, one of the hardest winter routes in the UK.) Local activist Mark Baggy Richards had been regularly updating on his blog and the Welsh guidebook producer Ground Up included a report with some amazing pics Particularly enticing was talk of a grade VI called El Mancho being one of the best mixed climbs in the UK and speculation that a Paul Pritchard route called Blenderhead (freed by Nick Dixon in the 90s) might be VIII after some exciting attempted repeats which all resulted in lobs. I couldn't wait to see what all the fuss was about. After an early morning drive from Sheffield (a third of the usual to Scotland) we took the slipper iced up walk to the crag (again a third of the time to most Scottish venues). Upon arrival a team was already trying a direct start to Blenderhead. Conditions looked very lean and initially I wasn't convinced the harder routes would be justifiable. The pair Mark and Gaz? ended up opting for Blenderhead original and eventually made it up after a little exciting air time. Jon and I opted initially for the most wintery section of the cliff some turf and ice left of the central gully. However after a pitch of this it became obvious that on closer acquaintance things were in much better conditions than they looked from afar. So we headed across to climb the nouvelle classic El Mancho. 2 superb pitches of perfectly protected varied and exciting climbing - worth the drive alone. We still had a little time so I tried my hand on Blenderhead.This proved to be a little easier than I'd expected, with only one short section of truly difficult climbing. This crux however is likely to get harder as the turf gradually gets ripped up by struggling leaders. Another good route however and well protected.

I can see I'll be returning to Clogwyn Du again soon.

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