Willerup Brothers | Trip reports | Our friends
"Watch me Martin, I may do a Fat Freddy!" - I was struggling in the crux of the second pitch of "Pedestal Crack" a steady VS up in Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, the temple of traditional British rock climbing. On the week-end of an excellent conference in Bristol I was in Wales with Martin and Roystone, on a mission convert some last year's fat into proper muscle and scale some of the awesome rock climbs in Cloggy. Having climbed both Friday and Saturday this last climb of Sunday was starting to wear me out. I was hanging in a steep exposed corner trying to remember how to "rest" while hanging in one arms, placing gear with the other. A "Fat Freddy" was my hook to Martin to watch me, as stories of Fred peeling off "Goddess of Gloom" loomed in my nervous mind. I knew Martin would be sharp on the ropes should I take a lob, but he's firm reply had me back to focus. "Oh no you're not". I knew the belay and gear was bomber all the way and comparisons to Goddess of Gloom disappeared as a clipped yet another bomber friend 2.5 onto one of the ropes dangling between my legs down to Martin's belay. "Go on you bastard" I kept telling myself. Swearing and being really rude to yourself seems to help keeping the mind and body in an aggressive mood, and with plenty of this tactic I managed to pull up beyond the 2nd pitch's hardest parts. I still had 25 meters of pure steep rock climbing to go and was for now recomposing on a safe bridging ledge, before heading back into the exhausting finish.
Cloggy is an excellent crag. The walk is half way up Snowdon, with a full pack and full rack, it takes about 1.5h in a steady pace, both ways, both days. This gives the crag a nice and committing feel, as the pilgrims all have to enjoy or suffer the long walk in before getting rewarded with a plentiful selection of some of Britain's best rock climbs. Martin was a perfect guide as ever, both in organising and executing the logistics, as well as sherpa'ing most of the load up and down the walk. He probably carried over 30 kilos, and me 3.
Once at the crag the tactics of "climb whatever is not busy" (it's a very popular crag), paid off, as we were quickly racking up at the bottom of "The Corner", a great looking HVS at the centre stage of the crag. I tied on the sharp end and headed up some sketchy protected rock, quickly realising the full on nature of this place. Trad at its best. I arrived at the belay in good shape, happy that I had been accepted by the rock. On the way I had the pleasure of meeting Royston who was sitting on a nearby ledge, with a big grin, clearly in his element belaying his friend Rob up "Scorpion" an intimidating looking E2 just left of where we were heading. Royston quickly calibrated my compass to focus on the lass climbing the E4 on Great Wall rather than ol' Martin coming up from below and continuing above me.
Knowing Martin would flow up this splitter easily I could pay full attention to the conversation with Royston setting the tone for the weekend. Apart from the odd "watch me here Matheighas" Martin flowed up the route in his new found elegant, chalk normalised and steadily protected style (he used to grunt a lot more, cover the route in a slimy track of chalk, and fill any and every orifice with gear - now a thing of the past). Joining him after a desperate but fair fight from me on the jamming and lay backing extravaganza was a pleasure and the first route was ticked.
Routes take a fair bit of time in Cloggy but we had time for another. The oldest climb of the crag "Chimney Route" at VS, climbed by two nutters in 1931, was the next obvious objective. The route would set the tone for the rest of the weekend: superb back-and-footing up perfectly steep and consistent chimney. The climbing was awkward and challenging, and well worth it. We topped out at 6pm and decided to retreat to the climbers hut in time for lager and socialising. Walk out was brilliant in the setting sun - we left Royston at the crag: he was engaged in photographing duties of an onsight attempt of an E7.
Once back at the superb hut, we got amble amount of lager and a dinner extraordinaere from Martin: an Azusa inspired recipe of technical pasta tubes with a delicate sauce of asparagus and broccoli fried in chilli oil and slices garlic. Absolutely heaven. Rest of the evening was spent talking about climbing - an inherent quality of the CC huts. Brilliant. I cowardly crashed out as the first in the bunk bed after an for me exhausting and all together exhilarating day.
Sunday was a repeat, weather was still on for it, a bit more wind which was actually a relief: the walk was easier. Today we were climbing in 3 which was planned and the tactics was the same as the day before: meet up with an objective and if it was not on, find another route that was available. "The Boulder" E1 was occupied (I think), so after a bit of a debate we decided to go for Curving Crack, an stunning distinct line of the main face of Cloggy. Martin shot off from the swamp smelling base (actually smelled really badly), we later found out why. Martin's pitch was another back-foot job with a tricky finish and we all made it to the first stance in varied style. I led the second pitch which was brilliant and Royston the last which ended up in the sun on the lip of the crag.
Royston decided to call it a day and get back on his motorcycle to Edale, as Martin eagerly pushed on for another tick in the stephogalism. Although I was quite knackered I was actually really on for more, before we inevitably would have to return to the Bristol Beale Depot. The choice was obvious: Pedestal Crack, VS 5a, 4c, 4b, the other splitter of the crag: a straight line from start to finish. After our sandwich the remaining crisps, Martin led off the 5a pitch and I followed swearing and grunting along the way: it was hard and I was getting quickly drained. My turn to lead and Martin suggested combining the two pitches into one glorious finish for the weekend. I was up for it, although as I was engaging in the crux of the 2nd pitch I was getting a bit concerned: would I have enough juice left in the guns to finish this baby in style. "Watch me Martin, I do a Fat Freddy!". I thought it was hard and I was not sure I could stay on. Encouraged by Martin's calm: "on no you're not", I pulled it through, got composed midway and climbed the 3rd pitch in succession and topped out on the brilliantly exposed ridge of Cloggy. Martin joined me and we left Cloggy in the evening sun - thinking of objectives for our next pilgrimage to this Temple of Rock.