Two axe and kiwi in the Alps

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Great belay .... a day out in North Wales

Ordinary Route, Idwal Slabs (Diff) & Cneifon Arete (Mod)

A cheeky mid week and rather indulgent day out in the hills was planned by Lord Charles and Two Axe to sort out the lack of Cneifon Arete in the old log book. The forecast was chilly with a few showers and bit of sunshine, so all in all not too bad.

We were greeted by eerily empty ogwen cottage care park, and had the pleasant walk in increasing drizzle to the slabs with a group of military trainees on their outward bound course. ‘What are your guys up to ?’ says Lord Charles , rather hoping that it was not the same route. ‘Idwal Staircase ... and you?’ . Ordinary Route then Cneifon Arete – ‘ says Lord Charles. The experienced eye of the military man was cast skyward ‘In this ? good luck!’.

‘It’ll be fine I’m sure it will go.’ As we watch the river running down the slab, with most of the long crack of the route under water. ‘Where does the route go, and what’s the description like ? - well I’m not sure all I have is this internet print out of a picture of the route!’ The famous phrase was then employed, ‘Lets try the first pitch we can always bail.’ The first pitch was a dream, loads of protection and big holds, leading to small ledge, you could have had a dinner party on. Up comes Two Axe, ‘come on lets get on with it, we can’t come to Ogwen and not do something again.’ . Decent second pitch, bit greasier than the first, leading up 40 meters to another decent bivvy. The Third pitch, drifted right across the crack and an interesting bulge, that required some long legs than weren’t available to do in decent style. The 4th pitch seemed to peter out below a rock barrier and steeper head wall, with easy walking ground to the left leading up to Cwm Idwal. ‘That’s it, think that we’ve done the route ‘. The sky had bought in increasing showers, that started to turn to sleet. Quick scramble up to the Cwm, and wee break in the shelter of the stones below the Arete. Dinner was shared with a seagull, who rather liked Nut bars.

The sleet had turned to snow, and the rope and gear came out again. ‘I think that we should pitch the first bit, the guide says it’s easier after that’ – (Famous last words). The soft snow , started to fill the ledges and cracks, making the route a little more interesting. ‘Where does it go?’, ‘think its up that chimney, I’ll take a look’ says Lord Charles ...... SLOW MOTION......... ‘bugger, i’m off.....................’ past two axe....................BAM, the rope jerked, the belay held. ’SHIT, SHIT .................... ok (Heart rate down to 140).’ . Quick check, knee hurts. Prat rating 9/10.

‘I think that it would be wise to pitch the next few, the snow is making things a little tricky.’ .............. ‘ I thought the guide said that it got easier !’

Slow and steady progress, trying to keep to the arĂȘte proper, and not drift left onto the slightly easier ground. An odd scramble, a challenging pitch of 5 meters and then easy scrambling in between. ‘Are we nearly there yet ? ...... it seems to have gone on for ever this route !’’. Starting to get cold, light fading , slowing down and having to concentrate hard

Pitch 6 – little nook at the top of the route, drop into the cwm to the right and a tricky block upwards for 3 or 4 meters. ‘This is not going to be pretty ....’ as Lord Charles hauled himself up the block, on to his knees and deftly caught it in the bandolier. ‘Bugger! Trapped the bloody thing round my neck , can’t get up !!’ a lot of squirming, rolling around and generally poor technique later , like a vision, the ground eased away into flatter ground to the top. Two axe , charged up, the final meters. ‘I think that we can claim winter ascent on that. ‘ !!

The sky grew darker, as we slowly wandered back to Ogwen via Gribin proud of our first mini epic.