#summeroftrad and learning to lead

I didn’t think back in January when climbing outdoors made it on to my year’s ‘to try’ list, that I would become addicted to it. So much so that it seems to have replaced hillwalking as this year’s outdoor activity – I’ve had only 2 days trudging over mountains since the end of the winter season (2?!) and 16 so far out trad climbing.  This might have something to do with the ever decreasing list of hills left to bag, and most of these being boring slogs over moors to featureless tops. It might also have something to do with a whole world of route lists on crags suddenly open to me – the tick list addict.

When I started trad climbing at the start of the season, it was to build my confidence and skills on more exposed routes, so that the big mountain routes of the world are more achievable, and Project Tink isn’t just a dream. Little did I know that I would actually grow to love climbing just for the sake of it, and love spending the day climbing up various routes on short crags.

I also didn’t think I would end up leading routes this year either.

I’m not going to pretend moving into trad lead climbing has been easy. Without friends willing to show me how to place gear and give me the confidence to have a go I’m not sure I would have ever tried. Trad climbing is a strange esoteric activity and the grades of routes are completely incomparable to indoor climbing grades. Trad climbing is hard to learn unless you pay a lot of money for a course at a mountaineering centre, or have friends patient enough to show you and crucially friends you trust.

I’ve learnt loads from climbing with Emily Pitts from Womenclimb this summer, most of all I’ve gained a massive amount of confidence, both in my climbing and my ability to laugh at myself when I dangle instead! Here’s Emily climbing a route at Birchen’s Edge.

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Sunburn and summits 

Welsh sunburn, now there’s a rare phenomenon but on Saturday’s hike we all finished the day sporting a varying degree of sunburnt necks and arms; looking more like Brits in Benidorm than hikers in Wales.

I’d picked Moel Hebog, the hill of the hawk, as our mountain for the day purely based on the delight of ice cream at Bedgellert at the end. There needed to be an incentive for my friends who were newbies to climbing mountains.

Moel Hebog turned out to be a good choice as the cloud around the summit cleared quickly while Snowdon remained shroud in cloud till lunch.

It was also guaranteed to be crowd free unlike Snowdon.  

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The trouble with peak bagging…. part 2

The real trouble with peak bagging it that its addictive. Having a burning need to finish lists and explore places I’ve never been before peak bagging provides me with the solution in a simple to organise method – look at the map identify unclimbed peaks and go.

So having had a great morning cycling around Lake Vyrnwy I still couldn’t cope with the idea of being so close to summits that need bagging. Clearly there’s a certain amount of madness in the need to be on the top of a relatively insignificant summit but nevertheless, its on a list and is technically a mountain so I had to go.

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The trouble with peak bagging…. part 1

Peak bagging is great. It gets me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily visit – sometimes away from the crowds of the popular mountains. That’s not to say I only climb mountains once – but peak bagging is a great way to quickly think of somewhere to go when I have the urge to be somewhere new.

However, peak bagging has frequently found me in vast expanses of moorland staring at a plateau trying to identify the summit. Or wandering through peat bogs with wet feet and wondering why I’m there and not at the seaside. Or on a proper mountain.

Having ‘bagged’ the Berwyns the day before, that left me with the plan to get the range of summits between there and the Arans. But I woke to cloud and a lack of motivation to head over miles of moors for the sake of it. So plan B.

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How to find a quiet bank holiday – The Berwyns

Sometimes charging up a pointy mountain of rock and scaring myself silly is all I want to do. Other times I need peace and quiet and chance to recharge – this bank holiday was the latter. Knowing Snowdonia was going to be busy and having an urge to visit somewhere I’d never been, I headed to the Berwyn Mountains in mid-Wales.

More like rolling hills of peat bogs and open grass land the Berwyns at 832m remind me of Skiddaw or the Howgill Fells. Open, vast and crucially – quiet. I saw three people all day. Bliss.

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Welsh winter – Wearing t-shirts in the snow

Having the opportunity to disappear to Wales for the weekend is always a welcome relief and with a forecast for sunshine it was always going to be a fantastic walk wherever we ended up going.

With only a couple of winter seasons under my belt I’ll admit to being daunted by the thought of being the one in charge, since the friend who was meeting me in Capel Curig had only had one weekend in the mountains previously. I had confidence in his strength to cope with the mountains in winter and confidence in his resilience to cope with a bit of punishing. I should have pondered a bit more about his ability to let others lead, he is a teacher after all.

Having sunk a few pints in the Tyn-y-coed Inn the night before, it was already 9am before we pulled up on the A5 at Glen Dinas in the Ogwen Valley. The sun was shining, there was hardly wind and by the time we reached Ffynnon Lloer there was already a throng of climbers heading up the rock face of Pen y Ole Wen.

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Bruised knees, bashed elbows and stuck bums

I have to start this post by stating that I am not a climber. I have dabbled indoors, but having never had a consisted partner to climb with I rarely manage the local climbing wall. I do however lack the ability to turn down a good offer and the chance to do something new, irrespective of the level of pain or humiliation it might cause.

Armed with brimming optimism and boundless ignorance I set off to North Wales with two friends (both very good climbers). I’d made them well aware of my lack of ability so thought nothing more of it, we are all Mountain Rescue team members so they’d understand I was being serious, right? A few training walls and perhaps I’d be left to potter off on my own for the afternoon while they tackled something more interesting? How wrong I was.

Saturday kicked off with what was going to be an epic walk of the Ogwen valley’s ridges, tackling the North face of Tryfan (a particular favourite of mine as I do like scrambling) and then onto Y Gribin ridge to ascend the Glyders and back down Bristly Ridge. I was happy with this, scrambling is loads of fun.

We headed off in typical North Wales murky weather and started our ascent up Tryfan.

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Moel Hebog and the best ice cream in Wales

It may not have been glorious sunshine and it has been pretty windy and cold, but today has still been a great day to get out on the hills – and Moel Hebog was today’s calling.

I’ve stared at Moel Hebog a lot over the years when I’ve been around Bedgellert and for some reason the closest I’ve ever been is when I did Moel Lefn and Moel Ogof about 6 years ago as the second day of a two day expedition and I was a bit gutted at the time for missing it out (even if I was knackered by that point in the day). I’m not sure why its taken me so long to get around to this one, but today seemed like a good day to.

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R+R in Llanberis – Bera Mawr and Bera Bach

Ok, I should have been in Scotland this weekend but life has a way of screwing stuff up and I find myself in Llanberis instead. There’s worse places I could be right now and the sun is shining!

I can’t recall a day I’ve been in Wales in the last few years when I’ve had such glorious sunshine as today.

I’ll be honest, I chose this walk on the assumption that it would be away from the Easter crowds that will descend on Snowdon and the Glyders. However, I hadn’t realised quite how stunning and thus popular the Aber Falls would be. Having also had a near miss on the A55 (my fault – sorry to the car in front who must have winced) I thought I should perhaps stay away from anything too rocky, since I was clearly feeling a bit distracted.

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