Ramon, long-standing Alpkiteer and friend of Alpkit, got in touch to tell us about his summer of trad climbing, looking back on our revisiting of the outdoors after a tough two years.
All of us have re-invigorated our love for the outdoors after the exceptionally difficult past two years. I was no different and I tried to spend as much time climbing outside as I could, hardly visiting an indoor wall in the last ten months. With such a drive, the main issue was finding partners to share the adventures with. Luckily, after years of nurturing my partnerships, I have a good roster of like-minded people I can rely on. This past summer my sport climbing wasn’t going as well as I hoped due to the aforementioned lack of training indoors, so mid-summer I rallied the troops for three separate trips to get my trad climbing fix. Andre, Arlo and Andre all signed up to my to-do list, which always helps!
I started with Andre in mid-July with a quick hit of the Moelwyns in North Wales. First was Clogwyn Yr Adar with the softly grade and low stress E5’s there, followed by a quick headpoint of Caff's excellent and photogenic E7 called "Meirionnydd". We had another couple of days at Gogarth, where I put the Alpkit Griffon fleece and the Katabatic jacket through their paces. I just wished I had brighter colour rather than black! The Griffon is great for trad climbing due to its waffle construction that can vent really well to prevent overheating when you are trying hard.
Next was Arlo, who agreed to a week down south in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, where the main prize was the aptly named and totally unique "Booby Prize". It's a tricky E7 due to the nature of the rock, which you guessed, has the shapes of boobs all over the wall. It took me a couple of day's work to get a clean ascent, and it was a memorable experience to climb such a unique feature.
Next was Dorset, where I had one last classic E5 to do, Polaris at Blackers Hole. This route has been on my list for over a decade, but finding partners to do it is quite hard. The climbing involves three pitches of fairly sustained climbing, one being a lateral traverse, making retreat practically impossible, the only way is up. We found that out the hard way as the route was dripping with condensation, making the guano-covered rock impossible to hold on. I managed to do the crux mostly clean, but finally slipped off as I approached the belay. Arlo had to aid-climb the last pitch, which made for very slow progress. It took us eleven hours car-to-car to get the route done, finishing in the dark and wet!
Finally, I had Tom line up for another week in early September. My main objective of the trip was to do "Space Mountain", the classic E5 at Craig-y-Forwyn. However we started back at the Moelwyns again as I wanted Tom to experience "Meirionnydd" himself, and I wanted to have a crack at another of the Caff's classics up there, and E6 called "Ci Ddu". We both succeeded in our ascent just as dark set in. The following day we headed to the main event, "Space Mountain", which has a reputation for being hard. I set off for the onsight, however, as expected, I found it pretty hard. It took me a few ups and down to suss out the moves and gear to finally commit to the moves, which thankfully I managed to do without falling.
Next Tom also had an attempt which resulted in him falling off the last move before topping out. He got it next go however. We finished our trip in Gogarth, where whilst attempting and onsight of an E5 called "Horrowshow" I managed to dislocate my hip on a hard move. I managed to pop the hip back in place and retreat safely, but that put to an end to my summer climbing, which to be honest, was one that exceeded expectations. It's not like I climb E7 very often, but to climb two consecutively of such quality was beyond my wildest dreams.