Friday, 19 December 2014

Back home to the Lleyn

It’s December and I’m back in Wales after nearly three months in California. It has been a mixed bag being back in UK, being broke and job hunting, but also brilliant to catch up with friends and... grab a few great days of climbing on the Lleyn too! The first was a bit of a grim day when me, Calum and Caff went to have a look at Deep Sea Spex only to run away to Vatican Zawn. The second, me and Caff had a go at an ambitious new line left of Vulture and the third we were back for Deep Sea Spex.

The potential new line is one we’d both spotted years ago and in our minds there was a corner and a steep wall on the left with reasonable rock (which is as good as it gets) and loads of breaks for bomber cams. We decided we’d go and check it out and walked along to try and find the abseils. It had been years since either of us had last been down there and all we could find were rabbit holes, so we threaded a few of these and rapped in.

After scoping out a few possible options, we headed to the corner to have a look. It meant doing the first pitch of Vulture as there didn’t look to be a sensible or safe alternative. It’s about E3 5b and I had bad vibes for this pitch as last time I did it with Nick Bullock we had a bad experience. Nick was leading and broke a hold, he then grabbed a ledge which came away in a heap of rubble and took a nose dive stripping a few pieces as he went. Fortunately he was fine but he only stopped a few meters from the ground and was upside down, I won’t go into details about the piece that held.

Caff spying out a line of crimps
Rabbit hole abseiling, the best
Questing off into the unknown
Caff busted it out in no time and brought me up. He’d had a go at continuing above the belay into the unknown, but it looked a bit sketchy and with lots of rope out and the belay ledge below thought he’d be better off making a belay. We switched over and so I went off up for a look above the belay. It was loose and dirty, which is fine except that it was also steep. There were a few very old and very corroded bolts to clip as this is also where the old aid route, Giant, goes. This route is, or was, more or less a bolt ladder going straight through the huge roofs above. I didn’t have a great deal of faith in these old bolts.

It became less steep above and I eventually reached a ledge and gear, enough for a belay. It had been fun so far and since I’d only covered about 10 metres, I thought I might carry on. I was aiming for the big groove line and the wall beyond, the one with all the breaks for bomber cams, except in reality there weren’t any breaks for any cams! There was a hanging corner further up and left that I thought I could try and get to and where there would surely be a belay. Caff had said he didn’t think that this was very likely, but I thought he was being a pessimistic. The climbing was good and I even did some moves that felt tricky to reach the hanging corner. Climbing into the corner I pulled a pile of rubble onto my leg which was painful but not serious, and I managed not to fall off.

Crawling out of the cliff pulling out pegs
Topping out just in time
In hindsight, I can see that I had gotten a bit carried away and also that there wasn’t much chance of finding a belay in the corner. I couldn’t even find a single runner and had managed to get pretty run out by this point. Beyond was the traverse line we’d been eyeing up, but it looked awful, I couldn’t see any gear and the rock didn’t look very inspiring. Also, I had already placed almost all of the huge rack we’d carried down at the start of the pitch. I felt quite stupid for having gotten myself into this mess and also very hot and bothered because I was wearing too many layers and couldn’t work out any way of getting them off.

I stood in the corner a long time, getting very tired legs, wondering what I should do and hoping that a load of good runners would magically appear. Obviously, the only thing I could do was climb down. I placed an offset number five sideways and backwards into a seam to provide the illusion of a top-rope and set off down. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared and I was ready after having done a lot of down-climbing over the years. Back at the last good gear I brought Caff up and suggested we get out of there via the fastest means available, which meant doing Vulture it turned out. Caff did a huge traverse to access the top pitch, which is where I found I had to crawl along a ledge at the end.

Will the route go? Maybe, but I’m not sure I’d try it again. Then again I could probably be talked into it! All in all it was a great, and fairly typically, day climbing on the Lleyn Peninsula.

Caff risking life and limb to access Deep Sea Spex
Placing the first runner

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