November 22nd:

Four brave climbers left Derbyshire early Friday morning, piled into Rob’s home brand-Audi and headed off to Anglesey with the intention of doing A Dream of White Horses on Gogarth. (This was primarily to shut our Old Man up who’s done nothing but talk about it since climbing it in 1984).

Each member of the team had been carefully chosen, specifically selected for their own experience and unique skill set. I brought the documenting skills of photography (I had a camera) coupled by great headwear to the table. Ed had been brought along for his immense span (both leg and arm). George was called upon to utilise his skills as ‘Derbyshire’s Top Slab Climbing Specialist’. (A title that both Sport England and the BMC dispute as being “misleading and potentially dangerous; bearing little-to-no resemblance with reality”.) And finally, Rob was invited along so there was an even number.

 

Things were looking great on the journey across, cold with brilliant sunshine and blue skies, but as we pulled into the car park at Holyhead the grey clouds rolled in and the rain began to stream down the windscreen. As a result, an executive decision was made to run away and escape to Tremadog via ASDA instead. However, after an extravagantly expensive visit to the supermarket (where an immoral amount of money was spent on meat products) the weather had improved, and it was hastily agreed we should return to the coast and have a crack at it after all.

So a couple of hours later than planned we found ourselves at the top of Wen Zawn, putting all our clothes on and hoping the weather/daylight would hold out. After a precarious scramble down, the abseil point was found, rigged, and Ed headed off down first. Unfortunately, (having recently turned ‘climber and caver’) Ed confused the two disciplines and went into full on abseiling mode like he was descending Titan in a downjacket, and overshot the belay.

As a result we started the route a bit lower than we’d intended - about halfway up the first ‘true’ pitch, not far above the sea. By the time we’d gained the traverse line, halfway up the slab, (combined with how late we’d started and the inevitable faffing that 4 people plus ropes plus hanging belays makes) the time was getting on a bit. The final call came sometime around 3pm when George’s ‘toosh’ began to quiver – sensing the impending gloom. The 2nd executive decision of the day was then made, and the team split in two. Rob & George volunteered to sacrifice themselves like Captain Oats and headed off to the right in search of escape, whilst myself and Ed were elected to continue. (Actually Ed didn’t really have a choice, as he’d already lead the traverse pitch and was now committed, hanging alone in the middle of the slab. A position that Syd is apparently very familiar with).

So with his Uncle having ditched him in exchange for saving his own moustache, Ed was eventually joined after I’d negotiated the crux moves across the slab. From there it was 2 pitches to go; the next taking a diagonal line up the slab following a wonderful flake system. If it wasn’t so late, and in places horribly greasy, it would be really enjoyable, but by now any idea of enjoying the climb were ditched in favour of trying to get the thing finished before it got dark.

With the final pitch reached, the scariest of the lot, the sun was beginning to go down and just as Ed headed off into the hanging corner, Rob and George appeared round the other side of the zawn, having made good their escape. I felt slightly guilty they weren’t over here with us, but at the same time, slightly envious that I wasn’t over there with them. And I began to feel very lonely as Ed carefully picked his way across the zawn, up the hanging groove and eventually joined them. Bastards, now I’m the only one left. I was the loneliest Hobbit in all of Wales.      

The final pitch is definitely scary, it’s an intimated place, but the climbing isn’t technically difficult, so with the light from my headtorch (and George illuminating the zawn from a distance with his industrial mine inspecting searchlight) I was slowly able to pick my way across to the other side of the void. 

Chuffed and relieved, happy to be back on terra firma we headed back to the car, only to see a helicopter fly out along the coast line - probably confusing George’s stage lighting skills for an approaching oil tanker about to Costa Concordia its way into Anglesey. (If anyone asked, we agreed to blame it on Mike Johnson setting off maroons again).