A Grand Day Out 12: Cascade, Llanberis Passby SJEvitt Mar/2009
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Winter had struck in North Wales. Trickles of ice formed in the Llanberis Pass and my boyfriend asked me if I'd partner him on a route called Cascade. I'd never heard of it, but innocently, I agreed.
Soon our chosen day of ascent was upon us. We were joined by our friend Jack and arriving early, were pleased not to see any other cars when we parked. We hurried up the hillside, unsure if conditions would last until lunchtime. I had only climbed three winter routes previously, and as we approached I could see it was far steeper than any of those. I was going to be really challenged.
A short discussion followed: Too thin? Too wet? Too dangerous? It was decided conditions were just good enough for an attempt. My boyfriend set off leading the first pitch. He took his time looking for good gear and was relieved to find a couple of bomber wires about halfway up. It was nearly two hours later that I heard the familiar call of 'when you're ready Soph'.
After ten minutes on the route, I got a bad case of hot aches and I was unable to grip my ice axes properly. I tried moving on poor placements and before I knew it I fell off! I was gutted - I had wanted to second the route clean. But I told myself it was still good experience. I had a few moves left to the belay. As Jack followed the wind picked up and we lost our view of the Pass, but nothing could spoil our mood, the route was brilliant.
Jack led the last pitch. Again he went slowly as conditions were not ideal. After a while my boyfriend started paying out lots of rope and we looked at each other - it wasn't Jack falling - he'd reached the easier ground at the top. To confirm our suspicions we soon heard 'safe'. The route had been done!
Climbing third, I was left alone on the ice-screw belay to contemplate my position. One hundred and fifty feet from the floor, looking out on to the most famous valley in British climbing, I felt very lucky. Then it was my turn. I began by traversing cautiously left to unclip two rusty pegs. I found the moves awkward, the rope was pulling me to my right, and the pegs were almost out of reach behind an icicle. Communication was impossible, the belay was a full rope length above. I was very much on my own, I had to climb my way out.
It was steep and the ice was thin. Kick... Kick. Thud... Thud... A little intimidated I wielded my axes, the rush of air beneath my feet making the ice feel overhanging!
After thirty feet the ground eased up and I could hear familiar voices, I'd made it. As I approached I got a second set of hot aches and thought 'not now'! But I got to the belay - the boys filming me as I bent over in pain.
Later, on our way back to the car, we turned to have one last look at the route. Large snowflakes were falling like autumn leaves and the Pass was beautiful in its winter glory. Our phones started ringing, friends had seen us and wanted to know if the gear was good. The calls and texts continued into the evening.
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