/ A day in Wales
What a great day it was yesterday, it didn’t seem like it when the alarm went off at 04.30 but it turned into one. We both had a full days pass from the wives, a full tank of petrol, a stunning forecast and a plan. Dave had wanted to do Amphitheatre Buttress for as long as he’d been climbing and for some strange reason we both wanted to tick the Classic Rock ‘Amazonian’ route, Great Gully. I wasn’t sure we could do both in a day, Great Gully has a fearsome reputation and the scene of many epics. To buy a little more time we took our MTBs with us which should knock an hour off the walk back.
The walk up that long lonely metalled track up to Ffyyon Llugwy is a trudge of the highest order as anyone who’s done it will know but with the added complications of the heat and the additional weight of full climbing kit, 4 litres of water each and pushing a bike it was torturous! Arriving at the end of the road we were both soaking with sweat, I’d not sweated like for years and if that was how it was going to be for the day I doubted if we’d be able to do the both routes simply due to the heat. We stashed the bikes just off the track and left a litre of water and a big bag of starmix feeling that we’d need it when we arrived back there god knows how many hours later. Not feeling any lighter whatsoever it was on foot from here up to and over the ridge and we dropped to the bottom of the amphitheatre. Gearing up at the start it seemed the best approach was to take coils and move together until we encountered something that needed pitching. I only met up with Dave once on the whole route, he’d stopped to get gear back off me and I had the water so we soaked in the view a while and set off once again topping out in one hour dead. It took another hour to get back to the sack and I'd say that unless people in your party are confident of down climbing loose and steep ground then think again before descending via the amphitheatre. It is very loose, greasy and steep and not for the faint hearted. The route is a soft touch for VDiff but it’s a long route and one that’d be a fantastic day out for multipich ‘trainees’.
We had a good relaxing dinner with plenty of coffee and sunbathing then it was time - time to make the decision, Great Gully or not? It was 14.00 so thinking of allowing 6 hours would put us at 20.00 and then an hour back to the bike, just enough time before dark so yea, lets do it!
GG starts pretty reasonably, bit of a moist gully bed scramble and this sucks you in, before you know it you are a third of the way up and although not exactly committed, it’d be a pain to have to turn back. The first stopper wall arrived and I had a look, not without a rope I said! Geared up and decided that I’d rather get my pants and tee shirt soaked as I had dry gear in my sack and full waterproofs would just feel too clammy. Onwards and slowly ever upwards, getting more committed and wetter by the minute and slowly being devoured by the creepy crawlies. I’m quite convinced there are species in that gully that haven’t been officially discovered yet, there was one beetle that appeared to have 2 knees on each leg, I saw it quite clearly as it was on Dave’s neck! Great chimney, the scene of many epics arrived. Who were we to break tradition? A combination of upwards swimming, ‘interesting’ climbing style and a few cheeky aid moves saw us up and choosing to haul sacks up this bit helped a lot. A few more slimy chimneys and we arrived at the Great Cave. This final pitch has to be one of the most surreal pitches of any route I’ve ever done, a little wall climb and a traverse – all in pitch black and running water! I got up and on the gangway and the crux for me was a little step where the roof dips. I tried it, feet on the wet gangway that slopes that wrong way and lubricated with running water, fingers on a couple of crimps I stepped and ducked, bugger! waking poles snagged the roof! Back again and re-think. Feel for gear, I had to protect Dave, if I fell it wouldn’t be pretty but if Dave came off it he’d swing the other way and go a long way and he hates traverses at the best of times. I fiddled in a small wire and a cam, both placed blind and both didn’t inspire confidence, they’ll have to do. Stoop a bit lower this time, I’m under “shit, there’d better be some gear under this!” Then I found it – a solid jam and a small hex placement to end all hex placements! I knew from that point it was in the bag and that Dave could set off knowing he was safe as safe could be and a good job too, he was shivering by now due to being soaked for the whole route. The sun felt fantastic at the top, we were buzzing and relaxed having coffee. I was more pleased that my cigarette papers defied logic and remained dry. I was watching the time the whole way and knew we were doing well but thought 3.5 hours start to finish was a great time.
Grade? XVDH <extremely very dirty and hard> with perhaps a bit of aid here and there, make no mistake, this is adventure climbing and you'll get no more points for climbing with any kind of style. Rock shoes will be of no help at all, we did the lot in 'tennies'.
An amble down to the bikes and the fastest freewheel at breakneck speed I’d ever done saw us from the lake to the car in 10 minutes! I’m going to have to have a look at my brake pads today, I’m sure I’ve burn the front pads out, you could have fried a steak on the discs.
Bethesda, curry, chips, carling!
I walked in the house at 23.00 - filthy, knackered, a little pink and very happy. A fantastic day away from the crowds, perfect weather and some unusual climbing. Yet another Welsh adventure in the logbook.
Summer is here kids, remember plenty of water, suncream, stay safe and have fun
*Got a couple of shots of the guys on Aura(?), PM me for them :-)
glad you enjoyed that! Think I'll wait for a dry spell before doing GG - can't recall that in Classic Rock, must look it out. :)
Mines the one with a shot of Pegasus on the front cover, GG is page 147. you have been warned ;-)
I've decided to give GG a miss after a mate of mine spent a night in it last March!
now you said that we did see a pile of bones in there ;-)
HaHa, them bones were pure white, the creepies would have stripped him in just hours :)
Well done-that epitomises what climbing's all about. Getting out with a good mate and having your own adventure/epic. And coming back battered but safe. If you want another great adventure go and do the climb out from the back of the Devils Kitchen, (left handside looking in). In these temperatures it's probably the only place to be- if the waterfall is still flowing you'll be belaying in the pool at it's foot.
Thanks for that!
It's reminded me what UK trad mountain climbing is all about!!
I can't wait to get up to the hills again - it's a real bummer living in the SE from a mountaineering POV!
There was what looked like a green army sea king in the ogwen area all afternoon, it came and had a look at us. Training I guess, anyone else see it? I'm a bit crap at helecopters, to me they are either the normal type or chinooks
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