Summer round up

Gritstone Challenge

The first thing I would like to mention in this blog is the excellent news of the arrival of the most important baby in British history; yes I'm talking about my awesome new nephew Edward! Well done Robert and Jane!

Climbing-wise the summer began well with the 60 for 60 challenge Jez set for the shop (see older post). Me being me, I decided to take the challenge and climb all 60 grit routes from VDiff to E5, which I managed in around 3 weeks - mainly in after work sessions. Highlights have to be battling with Goosey Goosey Gander (E5 6a), the beautiful Calvary (E4 6a), the perfect Heaven Crack (VDiff) and all the routes at Cratcliffe. I'd like to thank all the guys (and Danni!) who helped me on my selfish mission with all the belaying, you know who you are!

One of the 60. The File before work (VS 4c)

This left me feeling confident on the grit and with a few more days of cool weather before real summer arrived I managed to squeeze a few more ascents into the month. This started with a headpoint ascent of Wall of Sound (E6 6b) at Stanage, followed by a flash of Make it Snappy (E6 6b) at Gardoms. This spectacular route from Neil Foster climbs a stunning arête with some of the best moves I’ve done on grit. Thanks to Dave Brown for the beta for the flash, I think a true onsight would be very hard to read. The grit season finished for me with a pile of pads and sturdy spotters on Nefertiti (E6 6c) which didn’t feel too bad with the power of lank on your side.

Summer Limestone

Things were starting to warm up which meant it was time for lime. Feeling good after all the climbing I had been doing, I went straight for one I had been saving for a while, Supersonic (E5 6a) at High Tor. Myself and Nathan had a flying visit to Matlock and without a warm up (I didn’t want to know if I wasn’t climbing well that day) got to work. Other than a little dither at the start and an issue with a nut near the top all went well. Outstanding climbing! Nathan (who is an incredible grit headpointer i.e. E9 etc) went straight on Flakey Wall (E4 6a) afterwards. As I followed him up he explained that was his first limestone trad lead! Anyone else out there decide to do Flakey Wall as their first limestone lead? Bonkers!

Stoney!! Oh Stoney. If you hadn’t guessed, next up was the mini Stoney revival at the best crag in the world. For a few weeks we didn’t really go to any other crags, it was great. Having steadily worked our way through the classic E4s of the crag we turned our attention to the safer E5s. Traffic Jam (E5 6b), Circe (E5 6b), Kellog (E5 6b), Kingdom Come (E5 6b) were all climbed and some of them first go! Great for rope testing!

Mountains in Morocco

Next up my fiancée Danni and I headed to Morocco. We had an amazing time exploring Marrakech, kite surfing and ascending North Africa's highest mountain, Jebal Toubkal. Everything went very smoothly with Danni easily climbing the 4,167m through scree and snow. Very impressive, as her previous highest was Ben Nevis, and she took it in her stride as others around struggled with the altitude.

Danni romping up Jebal Toubkal

Waiting for the sun

The long dry spell of weather in the UK started and so did my long stints at work. Mates were all bagging trips to Cloggy and climbing the route I had been dying to do for years, Great Wall (E4 6a). As my single day off approached so did my psych to head straight for Cloggy! Nathan and I left the Peak around 6.30am and started the walk in before 10. I was sure the rain from couple of days before would have done little damage after how dry it had been. I was excited. As we rounded the corner to the Great Wall my heart sank: there was a huge wet patch on the second pitch and the cloud rolled in. We nearly walked back down but gambled that The Axe (E4 6a) might be dry. We walked to the top and abbed in: it was dry - ish. I steadily crept up and over the roof with greasy holds and cold damp hands. The creaky flakes took small wires but did not make you feel safe. The higher I climbed the brighter the sky got and I topped out to warm sunshine. Spirits lifted and I nipped up Shrike (E2 5c) in one huge 50m+ pitch (good job my Duettos are so light!) before we finished up White Slab (E2 5c) and headed back to Sheffield late before work the next day.

James on Shrike (E2 5c) in 1 big pitch

Nathan padding up White Slab (E2 5c)

Another long spell at work was again perfectly timed to coincide with the long dry spell, while everyone else headed back to Cloggy and nipped up The Indian Face as a short cut to the shops (so it seemed). The next days off were spent on another awesome trip with Danni, this time to Porthmadog. We swam in the sea most days and sea kayaked but the highlights have to be a spectacular evening camped on top of the beautiful Moel Hebog and climbing Sub Cneifion Rib (VDiff) in Ogwen, followed by an amazing swim in Llyn Idwal. It felt like a real holiday.

Danni approaching the summit of Moel Hebog

Danni cruising up Sub Cneifion Rib V Diff

Welsh adventure

Next up I headed back to North Wales but this time to meet up with top alpinist Will Sim. He was spending the summer living in his van, climbing and training for his guide scheme. The day before I headed over it rained hard in Sheffield and I texted Will to see if it was worth coming over. The reply read, "All dry here, just done Lord of the Flies and now off to get drunk, Great Wall tomorrow for sure!” Game on!

So another 6am drive got me excited about heading back to Cloggy and ending the 6 year wait for a dry Great Wall. I arrived in the Pass through a down pour and nearly cried. Will, still grinning from Lord the day before, suggested Scimitar Ridge would be dry so we climbed Troy (E1 5b) and The Rockness Monster (E4 6a).By now the sun was hot again and we pondered if Cloggy may have dried out. An hour later I was gearing up under Great Wall as happy as Larry. It was amazing and the wait had been worth it. We ran up November (E3 5c) and Jelly Roll (E2 5b) as well and returned to the Pass beaming.

Overnight rain made our decision for Gogarth an easy one. We walked down from the gearing spot and got soaked by wet bracken. Shoes and trousers were dripping wet and the mist we were in didn’t help. Due to the damp and the tide we stuck to the upper tier, ticking Aardvark (E2 6a), Fail Safe (E2 5b) and funky, pinchy, knee barring Energy Crisis (E5 6a) before lunch.

The bracken had dried but the mist remained, so we stuck with plan A anyway; Citadel (E5 6b). As we uncoiled the ropes the skies cleared. It went from misty damp to hot and sweaty in a few minutes. Will blasted up the first pitch which was spectacular but his first go at the crux saw some air time when he read it wrong. Next go and he was whistling on the belay ledge below the soaring crack. This turned out to be brilliant and not nearly as pumpy as the guide suggests - if you can jam! Before we knew it we were back at the belay spot with time to spare. One more before we head to a mate’s BBQ. Strike (E4 6a) got ticked and we left for beer a' clock. Not a bad day’s ticking!

The sun comes out for Citadel (E5 6b)

The next day Will was working and so I climbed with his friends Tom and Duncan. The forecast was mixed so we headed out of the pass to Clogwyn y Wenalt. The guys were keen the try the steep pumpy hand crack of Ferdinand (E2 5b) as they were heading to the States soon. Duncan lead on but soon realised it was not a good warm up. A little rest and then he battled his way to the top. We then raced up the 2 pitches of Bovero (E2 5b) but then unfortunately Tom had to leave. We headed back to the car and drove back round to the Pass now it had dried out. I ummed and ahhed a lot about the next crag choice as there was so much I wanted to do. Cwn Glas Bach won as I had never been. First I crept my way up Weasels Rip My Flesh (E4 6a) with its tricky crux and big run out. Duncan then lead it on my gear too. The short but punchy Beasts of the Field (E4 6a) and then the nicely over graded The Stebbings (E2 5b) were great. The midges then sent us packing back to the pub! 

Duncan starting up the pumpy Ferdinand (E2 5b)

A great evening was had in The Heights - maybe a little too good - and the next day started late and fuzzy. For some reason we decided to choose a crag with a huge walk in and a hard route for a hangover day. The 5 pitch Great Arete (E5 6a) at Llech Du always sounded like an amazing challenge. I never thought we would find it dry, but this summer it seemed worth a try. After the sweaty hour plus walk in I set off linking pitches 1 & 2 together so Will (ropegun) could get the crux pitch. The steep leaning groove (crux) is incredible, just enough gear but exposed and spectacular. This however left me with pitch 4, a 4c pitch. Now you would think this would be straightforward, but the 30m+ pitch was the most terrifying of the week; all the rock snapped and there wasn't a single worthwhile piece of gear. I wish I had done the crux pitch! When we descended we decided not to do another route there as we would have to repeat the first pitches again. We took the big walk out and moved crags to Clogwn Gafr where we climbed 2 amazing pitches, Pulsar/Red Giant (E4 6a) and Sacred Idol (E3 6a) before the rain set in.

Will hungover and hanging out on The Great Arete(E5-6a)

Second crag of the day! James on Pulsar Red Giant (E4 6a)

A steadier night in the pub left me psyched for my last day and a trip to the Orme was conveniently on the way home. Will had teamed up (with another Will, confusingly) while I partnered with the very able Mike Thomas. We arrived at Castell y Gwynt and headed straight for the classics of AppianWay/Watling Street (E2/3 5c) and New Dimensions (E4 6a). My top tip for this would be to combine the 2 routes (up ND into Appian) meaning you get all the main pitches, none of the poor pitches and only have to go down the wet, grassy, ramp-of-death descent once. After ticking them both we set up the abseil approach to Opal Moon (E4 6a), a wild and juggy pitch from a hanging belay (which I missed first time and had to walk back round! Damn!).

James enjoying the Appian Way

Pitch 2 of Appian Way (E2/3 5C)

Looking up at James on New Dimensions (E4 6a)

This ended an amazing 5 days in North Wales and I want to thank everyone who cooked me food, gave me beer and held my ropes, especially Will for all the mini adventures. I made some good friends and climbed some amazing routes.

Sorry to rant on so long, but a lot has been done since the last update.  Look out for the Dolomites next! Boom!

By James Turnbull

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James Turnbull
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Round the Orme

Determined to be in time for a route on Friday evening, I took an early afternoon and dashed across to Llandudno Junction to meet Steve.  We made our way to Castell y Gwynt on the Great Orme, a steep cliff with a large capping overhang, under which Appian Way traverses. 

Castell y Gwynt, Great Orme

With squawking peregrines, incessantly noisy gulls and the sound of breaking waves far below, this is an atmospheric route with wild exposure. Appian Way with Watling Street Finish E2 (5a, 5b, 5c) is great fun and highly recommended.

Steve on the Watling Street Finish

Saturday started with a visit to Craig y Llyn in the Nant Gwynant valley. But on closer inspection the routes (even 3 star routes) looked mossy, lichenous and unappealing, particularly as they have a serious and bold reputation even when clean. 

So onward to Carreg Hyll-drem and another classic traverse line. The Hyll Drem Girdle (HVS 4c, 4b, 4c) is a fine outing under imposing overhangs and the easiest route on the crag.

Checking out Primus from the Hyll-drem Girdle

Our second climb took us through the overhangs on a Joe Brown route – Primus E2 5c has a relatively short 2nd pitch but it is a strenuous and awkward affair. I wisely led the easier 1st and 3rd pitches.

On Sunday we inspected the striking Little Orme sea-cliffs from kayaks. Guano streaked lines with hundreds of attendant sea birds would presumably make for some messy climbing. 

Sea level blow hole

Guano streaked Little Orme

However two intrepid climbers were busy on an impressively overhanging line, one of which we think was Pete Harrison, who is currently co-writing the new North Wales Limestone guide. Obviously it is still a work in progress and is due out possibly towards the end of the year.

Chris Harle is Outside's bookman

By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
Team Photo
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