Your First XS - Hornblower, Lleyn Penninsulaby Pat Littlejohn Nov/2007
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Paitsh lies roughly in the middle of the mile-long procession of crags forming the west side of Cilan Head. The only other routes here right now are Controlled Explosions, a hard and serious E5, and Nighty Night, an XS which builds to a ghastly climax of unprotected climbing on rotted shale. Compared to these, Hornblower is rather friendly and enjoyable, a fine 'journey' of a route whose hardest technical climbing is 5a and with only a few of those special ingredients which make it Mild XS rather than say E1 (which it might be if all the rock were to become magically solid).
The next pitch up the spur is fairly straightforward mixed ground, solid bands of sandstone interspersed with shaly sections, and then a more compact sandstone barrier is reached. Finding a way through this is the first key to success. You belay on the left at some hidden cracks - a good stance where you can enjoy the total commitment of the situation. By now, failure would mean abseiling into the sea and making some serious swims (the sea is rarely calm at Cilan and the rock is very slippery at sea level, making landings difficult). But barring a cloudburst you're not going to fail on this pitch - nice climbing on solid rock takes you rightwards to an obvious block on the skyline, then you step up before heading rightwards again to pull over on to an easy-angled ramp with decent belays.
Even above the crags, Cilan is a serious place. The walk back to your gear - across steep grass slopes in rock shoes - demands full care and attention and even a belay if your nerves are frayed. You are pleased to see your rucksacks again, and once back to safety perhaps ready to appreciate the full beauty of the western tip of the Lleyn, where the craggy coast beyond Hell's Mouth stretches away to the Isle of Saints, Ynys Enlli, and more often than not the last glow of the sun in the western sky.
Guidebook (to locate the crag) - Lleyn (Climbers' Club Guides to Wales). NB. Paitsh is covered by a seasonal restriction from February 1st till July 31st.
About the author - Pat Littlejohn
Director of the International School of Mountaineering based in Leysin, Switzerland, Pat is a man of modest character and immense achievement. Pat is perhaps best known as creator of some of the UK's most memorable climbing voyages on superb and virgin cliffs lurking in remote and beautiful environments. Mention a Littlejohn route, and the word that most often comes to mind is 'commitment'. These are truly world-class adventure routes, often on remote sea-cliffs, usually climbed completely on sight into the unknown.
Pat has created new routes in many areas of the world, often at unconventional venues. Book Of Genesis in the Grand Canyon climbed in 1978 is an early example, the first serious free climbing in the Canyon. In 1991 he made the first free climb on the west face of Point John on Mt Kenya, an 11-pitch E5. In the Alps numerous first free ascents of climbs such as the South Face of the Fou. His 1995 new route on Taweche in Nepal with Mick Fowler was an epic affair with 43 technical pitches, desperate bivvies, little food and achieved over eight days in ultra-lightweight alpine style. With a sense of humour, too.
Pat's approach to climbing is clearly defined. He is totally convinced that the ground-up onsight approach is by far the most rewarding climbing experience to be had. He has also been prepared to speak out about the destruction of the adventure climbing ethic in the Alps. "If we allow the sport-climbing approach free rein in the mountains, we may wake up some day to realize that we've sold out our unique sport for... a synthetic substitute, offering virtual adventure where once we had the real thing."
For more information on The International School of Mountaineering, www.alpin-ism.com
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