We had planned to up and out early so as to avoid the heat of the day. We had gotten up at a reasonable time, watered and breakfasted ourselves, made lunch for the day, packed climbing and walking kit, sun-creamed up, tidied up and still people weren’t awake….
It wasn’t so bad, we sat and watched camp unfold. People emerged sweaty and red faced from their tents as the sun turned them rapidly from cool dark sleeping cave into unbreathable nylon oven. I do enjoy the perks of the van, it stays noticeably cooler in there than a tent in the sun – unless the windscreen is pointing at the sun. This is basically a greenhouse on the front of an oven and heats up the whole place to an intolerable level in the summer sun. I’m going to have to get a reflective screen.
We asked around camp and found Mr Moore, Kai and Laura wanted to do some climbing. It would be an easy day romping up Idwall in Ogwen vally. Good job too, becasue i had talked Aimi into giving it a go. What was going to be an interesting first experience would turn into a trial by fire… no… trial by LAVA!
Finally on the road, we arrived before midday (so much for early start) and headed up the easy walk-in. It was only 30 mins to the base of the crag which is nothing for Snowdonia, there are climbs where the walk in is more of a journey than the climb itself. Idwall is a 45 degree slab with a few long, wide cracks wiggling themselves up its face. All the climbing is really easy which means LOTS of people go there. We had been lucky and there was no-one there when we arrived so had the choice of routes. I wanted to do a VDiff (very difficult) route however due to the popularity and traffic the route had seen, the starting features were used up and polished to a mirror sheen. It was tricky for even me to get on it (ok, I have old ripped shoes and next to zero climbing strength right now) let alone Aimi, a complete noob, and Laura, who hadn’t climbed in months.
We settled on going up a Diff (difficult) called Ordinary Route (inspiring name, I know…) which basically followed a deep crack in the slab. There have been myths of climbing heros doing this route in roller-skates and even on their hands only, pushing their butts up the rockface ahead of them. We didn’t feel the need to compete.
I went straight into “Teacher” mode and started talking Aimi through the harness, knots, bits of gear and how it all worked. She wouldn’t have been able to remember it all today, but hopefully one day… Laura said she found it useful as a reminder too. I would be climbing with both of them, leading the route and bringing them up on second. The first pitch was a bit sketchy for me, leading again on real rock. And it was a bit sketchy for Aimi, having only bouldered indoors up to this point, real rock was a challenge. There are no brightly coloured holds to look for or obvious ways to get up the rock apart from what you find and invent yourself. Its one of the main reasons I much prefer real rock climbing to indoor climbing. You are free to explore and test and probe to rock, finding the most natural way for you to individually move over and up it onto the next challenge.
After the first pitch, i was feeling more comfortable and old tricks were returning to me that i thought lost to the depths of my memory. The belay was SO solid and comfortable that i had Aimi lean back on the rope and trust it. This was scary for her, dangling about 50 meters up above solid rock on nothing but a length off cord. It is nonetheless, important to be able to trust the gear and climb with confidence. Lack of knowledge and tentativeness have been the downfall of many climbers so by practising on easy rock you can become prepared for harder challenges in the future. After this and another couple pitches, Aimi and Laura were flying up the rock as fast as I could lead them, chasing me up the rock in 20m jumps.
Towards the top, the length of time we had been out started to become a joke. I had thought this would only take about and hour and half. Turns out we were on the rock for about 3 hours in total, then came the walk down…
I was sure this had been a bit of easy scrambling up to the traverse and subsequent down climb some easy rock and then a walk down a path. I could see the path below but the rock i was expecting wasn’t there anymore. There was no down climb, it would have been hard for an experienced climber to down climb this, let alone us. We opted to use the well maintained abseil station to descend. Time for another lesson. Abseiling, the most dangerous part of climbing would have to be taught and learned quickly. Once you are out on the rope, you are on your own and in control of yourself. I went first to set the rope and test it. All i would be able to do from a safety perspective from below would be avoid falling rocks and bell-ring on the rope if someone started to descend out of control.
Mr Moore set the girls up on the rope with all the kit and gave them a lesson how to use it all. Then over the edge they went. They both managed admirably, if a little jerkily, but that can be overcome with a bit of practice. Everyone got down safely and even the rope pulled down neatly without snagging which was a bonus!
It had been so hot out on that rock that we met up with Jord, Kayley and Scott who had spent the day walking around the Idwall lake. This had looked so inviting from the mountain that there was nothing for it but to strip off and jump in… I say jump, it was more like an undignified hobble. The water was refreshingly cold but the stones under barefoot were razor sharp and stuck into your sole worse than standing on a plug, worse than standing on LEGO! By the time i got out to ball-depth, i could say i was cooled off and in enough pain to return to shore. But i had come this far so dove in. IT WAS SO DAMN COLD i thrashed around and beat the water into a white froth warming up. It got better as i got use to it, but still got out fairly sharpish. Only Kayley in her wet-suit (cheater) actually went for a swim, Jord and Kai got to ball depth and chickened out, which may have been the wise thing to do in hindsight.
It was late by this point and none of us wanted to cook. We called up a takeaway in Tremadog and pre-ordered Pizza so we could do a drive by collection and carry on straight back to camp, do not pass go, do not collect $200.