So, the date was set! The 11th of January. What? To go rock climbing. You bet your ass we are going!
A brand new climbing partner, Alistair, an indoor climber keen to get his boots dirty outside. I was more than happy to take him. The weather was set to be fabulous and my new partner was set to match my endurance on the rock and hopefully we could get 7 or 8 routes done spending a full day multi pitch climbing in one of my favourite places.
We met at the infamous cafe Eric at 08:30. Perfect. The sun was just coming up and the forcing its rays through the low fog that had blanketed the earth the night before. Dry rock and not a breath of wind. I was excited.
The first route I decided to go for with him was Christmas curry with the Micah eliminate finish. Not a difficult climb at Severe 4a, although the top pitch is Hard Severe 4b, but a 3 star route to kick us off!
I led the first pitch making awkward moves up the leaning chimney, a commenting mantle that leads to a network of cracks finishes with the first stance at the top. No problem! Alistair emerged at my stance with a smile on his face but a load of gear still attached to the rope, trailing his nut key on a long piece of 2mm cord. Apparently, I had forgot to tell him to clip the gear to his harness when he removed it. Indoor climbers!
The second pitch, I lead on, out of sight round a large bulge of bullet hard rock which again leads to a beautiful crack system up to a large tree at a big ledge and the next stance. Again, no problems but still emerging with a bit of gear dangling from the rope. We are getting there! The third pitch I took direct from the belay over a difficult slab relying on a few smears and a tricky side crimp to gain some balance upwards towards another large crack that leads up to another ledge and the final belay before the last pitch.
I made the moves and built my belay giving Alistair the relevant calls to come on up. After slipping off the first slab a few times I told him I could lower him down and he could head around the block from the belay and climb some easier cracks (I hoped they were easier anyway). He managed it no problem, although the initial slab failure I think unnerved him pretty bad. Outdoor climbing, completely different – I think he was beginning to learn his lesson!
The last pitch I headed up the thin crack and swung out onto the arete with a difficult move climbing the arete to top out. A fantastic bit of exposure to end a brilliant route. However, I think a combination of the previous pitch and the exposure on the arete had Alistair shaking like a leaf. He managed the climbing just fine but slowly getting used to the outdoor world I think will take some time.
We made an abseil down the cliff and then for what Alistair described as ‘A well earned smoke’. A bite to eat and some hot drinks we were off again. I thought perhaps another Severe before we head up to some more difficult stuff. Oberon was our next objective a one star route that goes at Severe 4b.
The first pitch is easy but extremely polished. I made a belay by a tree at the top of the slab and brought Alistair up. The second pitch took a little bit more thought, an overhanging corner up to a large ledge. After arranging some protection, I committed to the move and popped out on the ledge just fine. Alistair was the same and managed both pitches quite comfortably. ‘Starting to get the feel for outdoors hey Al?’ I laughed as he emerged. ‘Bloody fantastic this is’ he replied. Almost a convert and it’s only the sixth pitch of the day!
The last pitch is by far the best on this route a technical chimney that isn’t quite a chimney. The corner can be slippy but there is loads of opportunity to stuff as much gear in as you want. Up I went to top out with the familiar view across to the Afon Glaslyn estuary and across to the other side were Cadair Idris dominates the skyline wrapping round the bay. Beautiful.
Upon the top out Alistair thanked me profusely for the splendid trip and said that last pitch was his favourite by a mile. However, he was starting to get cold and he thought we should call it a day. I have to admit I was a little disappointed, I was dialled in and ready for more, it was only dinner time and we had only done the two routes! But they had been two crackers and on a fantastic day. I agreed in the end, a little overwhelming perhaps for an indoor climber but hopefully a new outdoors partner.
Off to the pub we traipsed for a well earned pint to chat about the days events. Almost certainly to return in the Spring!