Author Archives: dillwat

Are we there yet?

19th September 2019

Piz da Lech

Pete as the oldest member of the team commands the respect he is due…. But if he asks me one more time how long its going to take to get somewhere he’s going to be abandoned to the Bears.

So Piz Da Lech was the unanimous choice for the final days Via Ferrata given our somewhat misadventure on the first day. I had a few moments where my unbridled enthusiasm got the better of me (wanting to go for Giovanni Lipella a beast of a mountain near Punta Anna) and I sulked for a bit. But to be fair Piz de Lech was the right choice. A nice short walk in after a couple of chair lifts (Pete is no longer a chair lift virgin) and a steady walk off, with just a little sting in the tail.

Sited above Cortina, its a brilliant route. Good steep climbing on fairly good quality rock, a little polished in places, but mostly excellent. Straight forward to climb free as well, which always adds a bit of spice. This coupled with some stunning views off the top made for the perfect end to the trip. And once again those startling blue skies which dogged us for the whole trip.

And now Tony and Pete can class themselves as hardened VF veterans. Two high altitude VF’s, a gorge and dealing with traffic on our first outing. This coupled with ‘the adventure’ of our first day made for a memorable trip. Chris of course took the whole trip in his stride. I can see many more outings coming up for the two of us.

We need to do them ALL! Oops there goes the over excitment again 🙂

I shit on your Death Gully

16th September 2019

Dolomites
Punta Sud from the wrong direction

So this should have been a exciting and dramatic start to our adventure in the Dolomites. With a full blue sky day almost guaranteed and a fantastic Via Ferrata in Tomaselli the destination what could go wrong. Or in our immortal team moto, “Whats the worst that could happen”. Well it did!

This is what happens when you combine over exuberance, with unfounded assumptions and poor decision making. Access to Tomaselli should in theory be straight forward. Get the Lagazuoi cable car and then follow the signs for the Via Ferrata on path 20b. We even had a map to complement the cicerone guide. So how did we miss the right fork and end up dropping the entire length of the valley before realising we’d gone wrong.

Then the second mistake. Instead of returning and finding the correct start I recommended coming at the ferrata from the ridge of Cima Scotoni, described as an exposed walk into the Tomaselli VF. The map showed a route in and in hindsight (always reliable 🙂 ) it probably was ok, but once again we made an assumption which was ill founded.

We set off up the very steep pass of Forcella di Lech and then branched off up towards Cima Scotoni. The track is marked by Red and White flags and is a treacherous ascent up a scree filled valley which goes on and on and on and on finally reaching a flag on a blocky outcrop. From here the flags seemed to stop suggesting the very steep gully to our right was the way. Incorrect assumption number two. Logic had it that if we cut the ridge of Cima Scotoni then we’d pick up the ridge path and be able to follow this back to Punta Sud and then Tomaselli.

But having reached the top of the very loose, fragile and snow filled gully we were presented with two teetering piles of choss on either side. I tried a sortie to get on the ridge but everything moved and given this was Pete and Tony first foray into the mountains it was no a clever idea to get us stuck on the crest of a dangerous ridge. Also I had no gear and only a 10m rope.

Only one course of action…. retreat. “Whats the worst that could happen” out the window and rightly so as this was only going to end in disaster if we continued to pursue our current course. Pete’s remark of the fact it was only 1pm was right, but its easy to forget the scale of these peaks and even if we had found the correct ridge it would have meant completing the walk into Tomaselli and descent in 6 hrs. Sounds a lot, but we’d have missed the Cable car and it would have been a staggeringly long day.

As it was it turned into a feat of endurance. What an introduction for Pete and Tony! So it was back down Death Gully (after me and Pete both marked our territory), a scree down the main path with everyone adopting interesting techniques for skiing on scree. And then the awful slog back up to the Cable Car which never got any closer. Not sure what we would have done if we missed it, but we scraped onto the last one with a huge look of relief from the crew.

So these kind of days are a testament to what adventures in the mountains are like. No pain, no gain. Despite not achieving our goal, we had an epic mountain day. Massively tiring, but we went to places we will never go to again (hopefully). Well done on Tony and Pete for persevering – not that they had much choice.

Very much in keeping with Rule 4

Bitof A Rope Thief

29th August 2019

Carn Gowla
Touch the Earth – VS 4b – Lead

Not content with nicking my gear, Dave has moved on to more blatant thievery. Cant really miss a rope can you! I might let him off due to fact I hadnt even noticed it was missing until the following day. Also lost my guidebook. I wonder if he’s got that too! Old age eh…

BREAKING NEWS! Turns out Sam is the thief, not Dave. The above is pure slander and I retract everything I’ve said. But still not deleting it!!

Sam finishing off Touch the Earth and feeling happy.

Sam, a good friend of Bart, came along with us today for her first experience of Carn Gowla and Gowla turned it on with a beautiful evening. We dropped down onto Indian Buttress for a crack at TTE mainly because the tides and swell were a bit against us and also because its a bit more amenable for a quick foray . Its always a pleasure to go to ‘Scary Gowla’. I get that privileged feeling whenever I wonder across the colourful upper cliffs and as you drop down, Gowla does its thing; part intimidation, mostly excitement.

Sam discovers that bits fall off Gowla

TTE is typically Gowla, unreliable holds, iffy gear, shear and with a drop into the sea. Standard stuff really but at least its escapable and not too terrifying for a first venture for Sam. But it does deliver on the fun side and what a way to finish the day off.

Dave full pose

It was also a nice way to think about Bart. In happier times, when we would scare the pants of each other with adventures into the then unknown. Back when we were climbing, every outing was a potential for disaster, mainly because neither of us knew what to expect at many of the venue’s. Good times, if a bit harrowing at times. I like to think I’ve continued the tradition of turning most days out into epics. Just ask Dave 🙂

Cleaning out the Gutters

26th July 2019
Snowdonia National Park

So there were some interesting statistics acquired on this walk from a combination of fitbit data and Strava. 6850ft of ascent, 28.95 miles covered, 17 hrs of walking, 6,874 calories burnt, 6 x 3000ft peaks summited, 1 x Grade 3 scramble, 1 x Grade three RRR (triple R rated) descent, 3 wrong turns, 2 packs of Uncle Bens rice eaten and 14 midge bites.

Crib Goch

Not bad for a failed attempt at the 3000’ers. However you could argue some mitigating circumstances. 35 mph winds, low cloud, rain and a propensity to chat to every stranger who came within range.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jF-g7CqTx-XeSROlI0DrA26qgNOdUCXs/view?usp=sharing

The link above gives a flavour of a great day out. To be fair it was a really tough day, with a 3.30 start to maximise the daylight time (turned out we needed it as we rolled into Gwern Gof Isaf at 10 pm!)

The killer from Nant Peris to Elidir Fawr

So we started on a very blowy Crib Goch, moved onto Garnedd Ugain in the clouds and then Snowdon itself. Then down the Llanberis Path where we dropped off (literally as we took our own route down a suicidal field and into boggy woods) to Nant Peris. Then we got a little lost, the slogged it up the diagonal path from hell to the top of Elidir Fawr. Around the horseshoe rim of the col to a slope up to Yr Garn. Down to above Devil’s Kitchen and then skid up the scree to Glyder Fawr. Rock hop to Glyder Fach and down a treacherous descent to the saddle of Tryfan. Quick scramble up the South Ridge and then the long walk out to Gwern Goff Isaf campsite.

Our alternative descent of the Snowdon spur

That equated to 17hrs of walking with only a few breaks for trail snacks and water. Not bad for a bunch of old crocks.

Richard Burton eat your heart out!

Not I might add the actor, but the famous explorer Richard Francis Burton, purported to be one of the first Europeans to cross Africa from West to East. I read a story about how they had to cut their way through miles of jungle; so Tregiffian’s not Africa but today’s outing felt like it for a while.

Sophie in the Jungle

It was a pretty harsh introduction for Sophie as a new member of the group. Shame I forgot to mention that we would be hacking our way through 100 metres of dense thorn, stingers and brambles. Still, I managed to forget my trousers as well, so shorts it was and the tingling sensation is still there in my legs 6 hours after leaving. I suppose its a right of passage though. Here’s Rule 4…. live with it!

Me on Acid Test

However despite the pain it was an amazing day. Sunshine, perfect rock and great climbs. And finally a plunge in the freezing briny. Tregiffian is a truly magical place. Remote; a hard slog to get to and requiring commitment to jungle bash your way in, but the climbing is very fine.

De-rigging after Acid Test

Sophie and I started on Thea, a nice Severe with a tricky leftwards move at half height. Th rocks not perfect on this route, but the final slab makes it worthwhile. And then on to Acid Test, one of my favourite VS’s. Joe explained that I was doing it all wrong because I just step into the crack and try to walk up it. Precarious, but fun, but there’s nothing for your hands so its a bit of a trust things using the crack to cam your body on.

No explanation required!!

Our final swim capped off a great day. Still a bit cold, but actually not too bad once you’ve been in for a few minutes. Not a bad turn out for this one. 6 of us with Dave, Piers, Chris, Joe (back from his adventures in Norway), Me and Sophie.

Combined Tactics (beneath Pendeens massive hooters)

19th April 2019
Pendeen Cliffs

Second Slip – Severe 4a – Lead
Gymslip – VS 5a -Lead
Foam Follower – HVS 5a – T/R
Sea Music – V Diff – Solo

Its been a long time since Joe and I rocked up to Pendeen in the mist and first explored its slightly under-graded routes. Its a strange but slightly enchanting place with surprisingly good quality routes for a small venue.

The seaward Cliffs at Pendeen

Not one that always springs to mind, but after a quick rekki to the South coast Chris and I opted for the more sheltered North, given the Easterly winds. A good choice as it turned out. The obvious place to drop in is next to a cleft on top of the seaward buttress; which of course we did. But this leads to a freaky but fun drop inside the the huge boulder into a sort of cave. OK the first few times but as the tide pushed it made for an exciting challenge, timing when to drop so that you didnt get hit by a wave!

Chris on Second Slip at Pendeen

The two climbs I led on the seaward cliffs were both tough for the grades.With my head still not in full trad mode, I made a bit of a meal of both, but was glad that I persevered to bag both of them. For Second Slip (a repeat) its the step off the boulder which is unprotected but actually straight forward. I dont know why I was so hesitant. Gymslip is a different proposition. Another hard move to get established, but then a decided absence of gear leads to some thought provoking moves. For me I couldnt commit for a long time. Only Chris’ constant reassurance and encouragement got me through. Turns out it was all about one move with little gear. Then everything pans out.

Both routes are really enjoyable and worthwhile, with great moves and absorbing climbing. The same cant be said for either of the other two. While Sea Music was a ladder, it was a decidedly ropy ladder. No point protecting it. You were more likely to kill your belay partner with the falling choss than save yourself. Still it was fun if nervy. Foam Follower is described as ‘poorly protected’ which it isnt. I know I didnt lead it but I checked it out and there are a number of placements. However, the overall quality of the rock has to be considered as well. So maybe it is poorly protected, just in a cliff collapsing sort of way 🙂

Joe on Pork Ordinaire

The coastline here has a timeless air to it. Plenty of old mine workings around and on this day a haze which made it seem surreal. I do love Cornwall… all of it. But places like this make you feel alive when you visit.

The secret gear licker

12th April 2019
Porthguarnon Cove

Fences – HS 4b – Lead
Sloe Slab – V Diff – Solo
Porcupine – VS 4c – Semi Solo 🙂

The Hearse – V Diff – Second
Toy Story 2 – Severe 4b – Second

Wow what a windy cold day this was! Got things slightly wrong with the weather, as the wind was whipping into the Cove like it was going through a funnel. A few more degrees to the north and we would have been ok, but it was a bit of a trial of endurance.

Bouldering in

Coming in from the bottom of the valley is described as arduous in the guide book because it involves a boulder hop to get to the main face. But contrary to this, we all found the traverse good fun and it involved some nice climbing. For those not comfortable with scrambling about with fairly high steep drops, I would recommend the alternate abseil or walk from the ridge. But this is definitely the fun way in.

Dave enjoying the freezing wind… if only you could see it!



I was also surprised that the main face section was reasonably accessible even at high tide (only a small swell running). For some reason I seem to remember it being a problem on the high tide, but the landward climbs are all available almost through to ‘Iron Bell’. We (Tom, Dave and I) all had a lead. Fences is a textbook corner, as is The Hearse. Dave’s Toy Story 2 was a bit steeper but good holds all the way. All three are worth doing, with strangely Toms lead, The Hearse being the hardest to protect.

The rock here though is second to none. Unpolished, grippy and immaculate granite in a stunning location. What more could you ask for except less wind?? And as is always the case when we’re out, we turned a fairly normal (and normal is not always normal) day into one of adventure by deciding to solo out. Sounded like a good plan to start with but ended with Dave having an epic tussle with lichen and a gnarly arete and me and Tom wondering how we were going to get up a tricky VS with two cams and a nut (and I’m not referring to Tom).

Me and Tom semi soloing Porcupine



The solo up Sloe Slab had been an adrenaline rush. Nothing like squeezing through a tortuous mantle shelf, after a smooth slab with no rope or gear. But Porcupine is a foot grinder. Positive flakes but its a case of jam that foot in and soak up the pain. Seeing as Dave had wandered off with all the gear and the second rope (doh!!) Tom and I jury rigged a few dubious gear placements and alt led the pitch in semi solo stylee. What a buzz. Must do this soloing malarkey more often if you get that kind of adrenaline :-). Mind you we’re no Alex Honnold, but I sort of get where he’s coming from. Free soloing focuses the mind like no other kind of climbing. Easy moves become a challenge when you are trying to influence the percentages of success in your favour. And you get real freedom.

Dave…. On the wrong crag???



And so ended a typically adventurous day with good mates. As we collected Dave for the walk back to the bags I couldn’t help but reflect how lucky we are. Turning a pretty shite day into a good one by seeking out a great location and having a good crack with good friends. Coming back here shortly by the way as its a top place to climb and there’s loads of routes I want to do.

Oh and did I mention that Tom licks his gear as a form of corrosion test for salt air. Well, each to their own ha ha

It was the best of days… it was the worst of climbs


22nd February 2019

Sloe Steel – VS 5a – Lead (Dgd)
Margin – E1 5c – T/R (dnf)

Continuing in the spirit of failure which has dogged my recent outings, I had a typical day of jittery nerves and low confidence. This has been a theme in my recovery from my shoulder injury. It probably stems from not having the confidence to put power through my right arm or maintain my grip in my right hand. This puts all the stress on my left and as I’m out of condition it undermines my belief.

However I look at it, my climbing is pants at the moment so I’m hoping the trip to Leonidio may kick start my season off. I have loads on my tick list for this year and last October I was on siting E1’s for fun.

Margin was an interesting climb. Very furry and at first glance looks easier than it is. The initial crack isnt too bad, but the transition into the rightward trending crack is tough and a bit tenuous. I have to say I wouldnt want to lead this as its low on gear and high on the possibility of failure. But as a top roping climb it was fun.

St Loy always makes you feel good, even if you’re off form. It helped that Tom showed us a new way into the climb which doesnt involve the long descent and climb through Boskenna. Although a perverse part of me enjoys that route, because I’m sure it pisses off the locals with all their ‘Get Orf My Land’ signs.

Heads Up!

Rosebud in June – HVS 5a – T/R

Blind Fury – E2 5b – T/R

So maybe it wasnt shorts weather after all. I did my best, but that darned SWerly put an edge on the whole day. The forecast as usual was partially correct. Yes it was sunny, but it was also windy, de rigueur for Zennor.

The wind made climbing pretty uncomfortable, removing any finess to moves and turning them into more of a death grip. Of course this explains my fall- from which Tom was lucky not to get flattened. Great catch by him though, especially as I dropped another few feet further than expected when my top runner ripped and almost landed on his head. Still, four feet is four feet off the floor which counts as a save.

The crux

It was at this point that I realised my self imposed 2 months of rest to bring my shoulder back from injury, was having an effect on my fitness. Time to back off and just put in the mileage, which is what Dave and I did. But who can complain when the climb is RIJ, an all time classic.

Into the upper crack

Which is a lot more than can be said for Blind Fury.

Dave approaching the crux and the powerful moves through the overhang

No gear, tenuous and strenuous moves does not make me want to lead this climb. My lack of power showed through here. I made the crux holds, but couldnt pull through. So time to get some exercising going. Especially with Greece just a month away.

Mileage!

Penberth
25th January 2019


They do at that age – E1 5b – T/R (pretend HVS)
Thirty Something – E1 5b – T/R
WKD! – E3 5b – T/R (More like E2 at most)
Head Rush – E1 5a – T/R


Toblerone – Diff – Solo
Iron Filings – V Diff – Solo
Rubble Trouble -Severe – Solo
Duck Soup – V Diff – Solo
Horse Feathers – Dif – Solo
D Tain – Diff – Solo
D Tour – V Diff – Solo

Time to test the dodgy shoulder I thought on Thursday, so a trip to a well know and familiar hunting ground was in order. I love Penberth. Not because its the mecca of Cornish climbing because it certainly isnt. But because its easy to access, beautiful and has a good vibe about it.

Tom on the bold arete of Head-Rush

Add to this that it brings back great memories of climbing with Bart (RIP) and it was a good choice for a day when I wanted to climb as much as possible. Also it has a plethora of potential solo’s to keep you occupied between routes. We Top Rope mostly, but the quality of climb meant that it was just a joy to be on the rock. We did most of the E1’s twice so by the end of the day I was confident my shoulder was back in shape.

Dave on TDATA

Its hard to find a bad climb at Penberth. The soloing is straight forward and fun and the harder routes are just quality providing a bit of everything. ‘They do At That Age’ is the show stopper, a 3 star route if I’ve ever seen one. Delicate traverse leads to a crack which requires thought to exit which in turn leads to a hairy, gritty chimney. What more could you ask for.

Me on Thirty Something (where it starts to get interesting)

Tom, Dave and I had a full on day and I think that every so often this is the way to do a day. Get on a top rope and get some mileage in. Great for the confidence.