Welsh Rock

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jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Nov 19, 2013 - 10:59am PT
Ah Steve, shame about the lack of photos. I'm sure Duncan must have some. On the subject of Gogarth, I remember going to Gogarth with Jimmy Jewel one day, to climb on the Main Cliff...

Now, for STopians unfamiliar with either, Jimmy was famous for soloing at his leading limit of about E5, and was the star of an Alun Hughes film called Total Control. He died while soloing a very easy route at Tremadog in 1993. However, my tale is in the 70s, long before these shenanigans. Secondly, most of Gogarth, including the Main Cliff, starts directly out of the sea and the climbs are reached by 'walking' down a very steep path from a gearing up spot where you leave your packs, and then traversing along the crag just (sometimes!) above the waves.

... anyway, Jim and I arrive at the gearing up spot and look down at the crag. The sea is calm and the rock shady... perfect. I'm just putting my harness on when Jim grabs my arm and shouts 'look!' A couple of hundred metres or so out to sea are two ENORMOUS waves, barrelling towards the crag. We watch as they hit the crag and explode practically to the top of it and then drain off like a Niagara. The sea is immediately flat again but the crag is just soaked to the point that it'd need a day to dry off. If we'd been on it or indeed on the sea level traverse, we'd have been killed. The only explanation we could come up with was thet it must have been the wake from a ferry or some other big ship.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 19, 2013 - 11:21am PT
Jaaan, wakes don't do that, trust me. The same thing happened to me on a
sea kayak trip on a remote headlands on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
There are just rogue waves out there looking to send you to your wake. It
was just a few years after the above occurred that I was at Gogarth. It was
November and while the seas weren't large you can be sure I had my weather
eye peeled while we were hot-footing it to the base of the climbs. Gogarth
is a very sobering place. I didn't even bring my camera because I didn't
want to be tempted to dilly-dally.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Nov 19, 2013 - 11:27am PT
The place does have it's own 'vibe'. I recall the 'path' down to the main cliff, passing under the Strand as being particulalry spooky. You were much more comfortable once you got off the path and established on the rock.

I've seen the wake from the Irish Ferry funnel into Wen Zawn...... It only just missed washing a couple of blokes off the boulders.

Other days traversing the base of the Main Cliff heading for Big Groove above a flat calm sea, blue skies and watched by seals - magical!

Steve
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 19, 2013 - 12:04pm PT
From the article posted by Kalimon adding to the wave phenomenon:

"I had climbed the first pitch of Spider's Web and I was messing about the second pitch when I realized that we couldn't communicate - the noise was too great. I started to traverse back, when I reached the arete, the first of a whole lot of big waves was just coming in - God knows what caused them, there was no wind. Anyway, this one completely buried Fred the Ted. I almost fell off laughing, saying "Never mind Fred, I'll probably get wet next", not for a minute thinking that I would. The traverse back to the ledges by Genuflex was being buried by the waves, so we went up Archway fifty feet. ------- I saw a big wave coming in. By the time I had realized just how big it was, it was too late to do anything. It came sailing into the zaum, right over the top of me - I was completely soaked. I went back up the chimney to Fred, who'd been hit by the spray from the wave. I said: "We'll have to go straight up and try and climb out. I'll just put pegs in wherever I can". I started off and couldn't put anything in. I laybacked round three little overlaps, then got a good runner and went around the corner to start bringing Fred up. He took absolutely ages, and was three times under water, yet he must have been fifty or sixty feet above sea level. I couldn't understand how he managed to take so long on a layback, but what he'd done was fiddle little nuts in and come all the way up on those and I couldn't get a bloody runner in.

Joe Brown and Brian Fuller ("Fred the Ted") on Archway.
crunch

Social climber
CO
Nov 19, 2013 - 12:51pm PT
great stories.

One pic from Gogarth, circa 1981:


Terrifying climb. Rated E4. Poor protection, dicey belay anchors.

Other routes I've done at Gogarth are superb, Strand, one or two on the main face (Citadel--awesome quality)

There's other sea cliffs in Wales. Southern coast, near Cardiff (where I lived for a while), is Ogmore. Not for the faint hearted. Tidal range is over 30 feet, so it's best to be on the sharp end, and failure on a lead can mean a hanging bivouac.





Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 19, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
Crunch

Great pictures and great atmosphere... I can imagine what it's like to be there...
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
UK
Nov 19, 2013 - 10:02pm PT
Gogarth before photoshop when we actually had to stick pictures together. :D

I'm in this picture 5 times.

rmuir

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Nov 20, 2013 - 01:39pm PT

Unfortunately I've got only a picture or two to post about this, but I do have a story to share.

Back in 1977, three of the Stonemasters made the journey to GB to check-out the fabled areas of our collective past. Gib Lewis, Rick Accomazzo, my partner-to-be, Candi, and I eventually met up in Yorkshire to mash into our tiny British Austin Woolsey and chug up the M40 to the M42, along the M5, to the A5. ...through the hamlet of Betws-y-Coed, and across the stark Llamberis Pass into the valley of Llamberis. We were—eventually—headed onto the Continent, so we had rock gear, alpine gear, big boots and EBs, haulbags and mountain tents, and a roof rack fairly bulging with gear to dirtbag and climb throughout GB, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. Candi and I had booked a Freddy Laker flight for fifteen weeks during, this, our first Grand Tour and we were in it for the long haul.

Now just above the town, in Gwynedd, was the 400 year-old Welsh cottage named Bigil owned by Al Harris--a madman to beat the band. This, was to be our destination for the next week or ten days.

There were few Americans in Wales in the summer of 1977. We were brash, bold, and just a wee bit cocky. With our California sensibilities and heretical chalkbags, we were gonna take Europe by storm. Before we arrived, Gib and Rick had spent a night with Ken Wilson, the editor of Mountain Magazine, and--in a fit of bravado--Rick let on that we had our sights on Big Things®. Somewhere along the line, The Great Wall of Clogwyn D'ur Arddu and The Right Wall of Cenotaph on Dinas Cromlech were let on--one pint too many I suppose... The press was now on to us, the cat was out of the bag, and so we arrived in Snowdonia pre-announced.

Now, as you approach Bigil, you notice that it's a typical Welsh cottage surrounded by ugly, shaggy sheep painted weird runny colors grazing on the damp, green hills—built low to the ground, the slate roofs nearly touch the prevailing slope, and long piles of stone forming fences separating one quaint farm from another. Stepping across the threshold, you need to stoop a little beneath the massive slate beams, and it feels like you're stepping back in time. Until—that is—you enter the living room and see an entire wall of day-glo Sixties posters and the disco ball hanging from the ceiling along with the strobes, the blacklight, and the colored flood lights. Harris has turned rusticana into Brit party house extraordinaire! This, mind you, is a climber's house.

The first noisy night did it for us, and during the remainder of the stay Candi and I retreated to our mountain tent pitched in the yard. Only then could any sleep be assured... Gibo and Rick would not be so clear-headed in the days yet to come.

In Llanberis, we did run into Jack Roberts. Perhaps it was the day we ran into Don Willans drinking proper ale in the pub. Maybe it was the day I bought a whole rack of Wild Country cams from Mark Vallance, which, it turns out, was the founding year for the company.

...too many memorable events to recount here, but one of the choice ones was the sea girdle of Gogarth. It was an off day, as the weather was too thick to consider something in the highlands. I'm not sure how it came about, but the Brits arranged to show the Californians a bit of fun. The cast of characters included Ken Wilson, Al Harris, Tim Lewis, Joe Brown, and Gib, Ricky, and Robs. Can you sense a sandbag is the offing?

It was cold and Welsh-damp as some of us jumped into Brown's late-model Volvo and we drove across Holyhead to the Gogarth headlands. The logistics were interesting: Al Harris couldn't swim, so Tim wore a wetsuit in the event that Al fell into the North Sea. (!) It was understood that this was a no-holds barred, +5,000' traverse, to finish above Wen Zawn just beyond Dream of White Horses. The goal was to be the last one still dry by the time we topped out.

Rick and Gib had started a mental chess game somewhere north of London; it had be going on for days. Mid-crux Ricky shouts out, "Rook to queen bishop six!" Unfazed, Gibo has the next move pre-worked. Brown is smooth and confident, having probably done this daylong escapade before. We're each forced to follow each other's lead as we up the ante. Easy sections interspersed with steep faces and yawning caves dangling above the fatally-cold, thrashing North Sea. The Stonemasters have our chalk-bags but they're about as helpful as a kiddie's pacifier. Harris is looking green, and--at one point--Tim "jumps in" to spot another tricky bit for Al.

Joe has sneaked on ahead. Al and I are pretty close together when a gigantic stone whizzes by Harris' ear causing a huge plume of spray to erupt. Brown is laughing his fool head off...

Hours later, we summited to our cars waiting on the cliff top, smelling of wet wool, sea salt, and spent adrenochrome. Smiles as wide as seagulls' wings.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
rmuir

What a story... a dirtbag treasure for a lifetime... very well told...
crunch

Social climber
CO
Nov 20, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
great story, rmuir!

I've done the stone tossing a few times. There's usually detached blocks on the sea-cliff tops. It's hilarious when you are the stone thrower (and there's a skill in finding flattish slabs and getting them to land on a flat side for maximum, belly-flop-style impact).

But man, it's utterly, nerve-shreddingly unnerving when it's the other way round, when you are struggling a bit, mid-crux, totally absorbed, when you hear that "Ka-Boosh!" explosion behind and below you!
rmuir

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Nov 21, 2013 - 03:51pm PT
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 21, 2013 - 05:25pm PT
Studly

Trad climber
WA
Nov 21, 2013 - 05:48pm PT
Whats a good guidebook to the whole area of Wales for an American coming over? I was just there, stayed in Mold at the Druid Inn. Didn't look like much good rock near there. Previously I have been up in Snowdonia, but without a guidebook its hard to know what to climb. I did hike up and check out Cloggy in the rain. Awesome and a little spooky feeling.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Nov 21, 2013 - 06:05pm PT
BBST
LongAgo

Trad climber
Nov 21, 2013 - 06:32pm PT
Spent some time in the 70's and 80's rambling around England and Scotland. Dream was a wonderful climb, especially so with the rock and sea clashing below.

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 21, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
That picture of "dream of white horses" is an enduring classic....funny i did it with my wife 17 years ago and the sea was like a mill pond, you could have skipped a rock on it. We did suffer from the elements however....that rare British malady, sunburn.
LongAgo

Trad climber
Nov 21, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
And for history buffs, here's an old 60's article about young dumb Americans coming to Britain with only climbing shoes and a grin, meeting up with the Wales protection rules - "no pitons, yanks!" (even though we had none with us) and going forth with what was handed us - machine nuts threaded onto hemp rope, a system eventually adopted/adapted by Royal Robbins and others into American climbing, here you go:

http://www.tomhiggins.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=20&limit=1&limitstart=0

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
rmuir

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Nov 21, 2013 - 07:14pm PT
I've still got a few steel nuts collected from alongside the Cloggy railway tracks. Never got around to filing out the threads...
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
UK
Nov 21, 2013 - 08:00pm PT
Whats a good guidebook to the whole area of Wales for an American coming over? I was just there, stayed in Mold at the Druid Inn. Didn't look like much good rock near there. Previously I have been up in Snowdonia, but without a guidebook its hard to know what to climb. I did hike up and check out Cloggy in the rain. Awesome and a little spooky feeling.

Studly you can't go wrong with Paul Williams' Rock Climbing in Snowdonia.

http://www.amazon.com/Rock-Climbing-Snowdonia-Paul-Williams/dp/0711224080
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Nov 24, 2013 - 02:14pm PT
Marlow here is the second part of the Gogarth Saga from Mountain #58.


Enjoy!
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