Spoiler alert! It’s an SMC meet in North Wales on a Bank Holiday but it did not rain. In fact the weather was fabulous the whole weekend, the only clue that it was a Bank Holiday was the tortuous, torrid, slow journey on Friday night. The Dolgam campsite at Capel Curig was pretty full but had set aside a section of field for us and the SMC contingent set up our portable palaces and parked their vans. A few of us even pitched small tents!
With beers, food and planning in the Tyn-y-Coed, everyone made plans to climb, scramble, walk, even paddle-board, in all four corners of the Snowdonia National Park. On Saturday morning the parking gods smiled on Ed and I and we were able to park at Ogwen Cottage. We set off on a big link up a routes in Cwm Idwal, with the aim of topping out at Glyder Fawr. Our line took us up the Idwal slabs, Holly Tree Wall, Continuation Wall and over to the Grey Group. But our plan to finish on the top of the cwm was thwarted by a final, unprotected, pitch running with water; so we abbed’ off and flogged back down the hillside to Llyn Idwal. On the plus side, the view of early evening light on Pen Yr Ole Wen was sublime.
New day, new crag; on Sunday. Ed and I went over the Craig y Clipiau, near Ffestiniog. The guidebook promised a 20min approach, but was vague in terms of where the path actually started. So, after more than an hour of flogging around the slate quarry we arrived at the crag. Mountain rhyolite on top of a slate was a most interesting combination but our curiosity had been dulled by the hot, sweaty perambulations uphill with poor directions. It is so frustrating to be able to see the crag but struggle to see how to get to it. Eventually we did arrive at the rock and bagged a couple of worthwhile routes before heading to the café; leaving Rob and James, who joined us at the crag, to finish off their route.
Final choice for the final day; Ed, Rob, James and I opted for Independence Quarry at Llangollen. A sun trap sport crag on the way home, what’s not to like? None of us had been there before, so new crag points all round. To be honest it turned out to not be the most inspiring looking crag I’ve been to, but there are plenty of routes so we got on ‘em. A few routes in and a line Ed and I had done also caught Rob’s eye. So we left the gear in for him. The crux sequence didn’t quite go first time, so Rob rested and went again but this time the crux came off with Rob, with arms outstretched either side of the crux section Rob and block left the main face. Despite having a sizeable chunk of rock in his lap, Rob had the presence of mind to push to rock away from him as they both succumbed to gravity, I held Rob at the bolt but the block was heading my way; I ran to get out of the way and fell backwards. Self locking belay devices really are a boon! Although pleased to have thought to put on a helmet, it wouldn’t have kept this at bay. The block split in two as it bounced on the way down and we both escaped injury. With Rob now hanging from a bolt where the route used to go, none of us could be sure as to whether or not the rock had hit the rope; so the Ed and James checked the rope over before I lowered Rob down.
Yours truly tied back in to climb an adjoining line, then traverse across to finish the route above the rockfall to retrieve the gear. We did another couple of routes, on much more solid looking rock, before leaving the crag and visiting the Aqueduct Inn for a well deserved pint.
I had thought that the majestic sweep of rock in Cwm Idwal, the banter in the pub, the camaraderie, or the light on Pen Yr Ole Wen or maybe even the Ffestiniog steam train would have been my take away memories from this trip. All fine recollections, but no you’ve already guessed what is seared into my memory. It just goes to show we can’t always pick our memorable moments. All in all, a glorious and eventful weekend, with quite some drama but no epics.
Words – Ian Wyatt, Photos – Ian Wyatt & Ed Shaw