As huts go, the Karabiner Club hut at Dinorwic is pretty sizeable, which meant that the four of us on the meet seemed to be rattling around like peas in a drum, although the addition of a KMC member on Saturday did boost numbers, if only briefly.
As is often the case for me, any good weather in Snowdonia was playing hard to get, so a damp start on Saturday saw both teams heading off at different times to Anglesey in search of dry rock. With bone hard ground and a strong wind blasting the crag, there was no danger of running across wet rock at Holyhead Mountain, so having donned seven layers, I set off in search of on-sights. This is easier said than done when you’ve visited a crag as often as I’ve visited this one (usually in retreat from Snowdonia), but Primrose Hill (VD) proved to be a likely candidate for a warm up – this in the climbing sense only; my seven layers were only just maintaining a reasonable body temperature. This route was popular with the CMC as Dave and Jon were starting on it as we completed our descent.
Detailed consultation of the guidebook followed and with only lean pickings on offer to the chilled on-sighter, Erica was showing an unhealthy interest in The Elephant’s Arse. For those not in the know, I should point out that this doesn’t refer to a pachyderm’s posterior, but a two pitch climb at S 4a, 4b that involves climbing up to and squeezing through a tight slot to gain a belay in the bowels of the cliff. With my UKC on-sight percentage dangerously close to falling below the 50% mark, Erica generously pointed me at it. I’m sure she meant well, but while sporting a dodgy shoulder, being wrapped up like Michelin Man and having a history of failing on these narrow fissures (Helfenstein’s Struggle and Born Again are still vivid in my memory), she wasn’t really doing me much of a favour. I did show willing by climbing up to the offending orifice, arranging protection and then throwing all my gear through the slot, but I could only manage to fit my head and one shoulder into the beast’s lower digestive tract. Being in a horizontal position at this point and with legs flailing, it wasn’t just the elephant’s arse that was on display, nonetheless, it felt a little unfair that she who got me into this predicament should be finding so much merriment in my semi-submerged position. Eventually discretion prevailed and having retrieved my gear I renounced my role as human rectoscope and descended back to the ground, only to be greeted by looks of great disappointment – well, all I can say is I tried my best.
Being still tied on, I tried to retrieve the situation by suggesting an ascent of The Crack (VD) which lay just around the corner and up the slope. At 8 meters in length, it offered only marginal consolation, and much taking in of our 60m ropes – specially selected for the abseil descent off Dinas Mot, which of course we never got on. But, while taking in said ropes, I spied a lithe young fellow emerging solo out of the elephant’s gullet, which gave rise to a cunning plan that would appease my disgruntled second, namely, that I be lowered down to the first belay lurking somewhere within the beast’s lower intestine, pull the ropes, then throw them out the other end so that Erica could have a turn at being the rectoscope. And so, with careful placement of slings to create a redirectional runner that would keep the ropes away from teeth and tusks, I was slowly lowered out of sight. For me, the upside of this plan was that I was now out of the wind, although it did strike me that I could be in a bit of a predicament if Erica couldn’t fit through the slot, then took umbrage and decided to drive off back to the hut. Fortunately, neither of those things happened and after a little huffing and puffing, she made it to the belay.
Pitch two offered climbing of a three-dimensional nature, with an ample selection of good thread runners, but unfortunately I’d used all my slings on the redirectional runner up above. Still, necessity is the mother of invention, and the cobbling together of hexes and quickdraws in a circular fashion sufficed to afford safe progress, so I eventually emerged from the beast’s trachea and back into the wind. Erica climbed the pitch using different holds and facing the opposite way to me, then in a remarkable display of ingratitude, questioned why I’d made it so hard for myself. Well, I ask you!
While all this was going on, being unable to find us, Dave and Jon had left the crag, imagining that we had done the same, but no, there was still one more route to go – it’s called The Raver (S), but probably should be called A Route Too Far, as that’s what it was. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that a combination of poor rope management leading to excessive drag and a slot-like crack that inhibited a crucial foot change turned what should have been a pleasant finale into rather a torrid affair, but at least it was out of the wind again and it was on-sight.
More rain overnight sent Dave and Jon to the Moelwyns on Sunday, but a strong Easterly repulsed them, so they headed off to a more sheltered Craig Y Tonnau. Unfortunately Jon pulled a muscle at the top of the first climb which led to an early departure for first the hut, then home. Meanwhile, me and Erica had gone to Tremadog and had a slippery, but enjoyable time on Oberon, a three pitch Severe. Unfortunately, that was all we had tine for before the rain came in again.
Now down to three of us in the hut, we were rattling even more noisily.
With strong Easterlies forecast and more overnight rain, we went to a new crag for us; Clogwyn Bochlwyd in the Ogwen area. Facing North-West, we hoped it would provide shelter, which it did to some extent, but wearing all eight layers, I still felt cold – and on May 1st too. Needless to say, this did nothing for our grade, which never rose above Diff, but we did manage eight pitches and the sun came out on the last route, which gave a pleasant end to the day, and reminded us why we keep going back to Snowdonia, despite its capricious weather.