The weekend in North Wales had already been put off once due to bad weather but this time the forecast was dry. However, it didn’t live up to expectations – and a local forecast predicted heavy rain and strong winds by mid day so an early start was necessary to miss the worst of the weather.
The team geared up at the car, with a minimum rack and a 30m rope before heading up to Cwm Idwal and an ascent of Cneifion Arete. The rain was already lashing down on the approach; Josh couldn’t wait to get started, but there was a sense of reluctance from Tom.
The clouds were low, reaching outwards with swirling trails, reducing visibility and playing hide and seek with the arete. The plan was to hit the ridge hard and fast and although raining most of the way, the wind was kept at bay by the sheltered aspect of the Cwm. Tom was tied in at the end of the rope, and Josh close by, essentially in the middle but out of kicking distance of Tom.
Everyone climbed efficiently in spite of the wet, polished, slippery rock and the rope management and stance change overs were slick. The rope soon became saturated and difficult to manage so they had to resort to Italian hitches to reduce the friction.
Within a couple of hours the team topped out after 7 pitches of 25m and Tom realised he’d actually enjoyed himself. A quick snack, several high fives and photos, and once the gear was packed away they decided to run most of the way back to the car just for the hell of it.
An exhilarating adventure that took 4 and a half hours car to car and had everyone soaked to the skin despite Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Gortex and Mountain Equipment high tech gear. In fact the only things dry were Ali’s feet in her Meindl walking boots.
The forecast for the following day was much improved, but being a mountain region it is difficult to predict the weather and they woke up to driving rain which didn’t bode well.
Walking up the valley to climb Hope in Cwm Idwal they were disappointed to see a continuous stream running down the slab and a lake at the foot of the cliff. Options were discussed and it was decided they would head over to the other side of the valley to Yr Ole Wen so Josh could learn how to Short Rope and drag Tom and Ali about like 2 dogs on the end of a lead.
They’d had a quick lesson earlier that morning tying in, creating and tying off the chest coils and tying in the 2 seconds, and once on the hill Josh executed the coils and tying in Tom and Ali with the minimum of fuss or assistance.
It is far easier to learn short roping on the sharp end so Josh was in charge from the word go, choosing the line of ascent and descent including traversing, and always staying above the seconds to arrest a slip or fall. Josh soon got the hang of when and how to short rope moving together carrying hand coils that could be dropped or gathered up as terrain dictated. He also learned when it was appropriate to lead a pitch, creating belays using an Italian hitch or using a waist belay locking off by wrapping the dead rope around the arm to bring them both up.
Ali and Tom enjoyed being Josh’s Guinea Pigs, learning when to wait and when to synchronise movements without pulling each other off. It was great to see Josh and Tom learning together and offering advice and encouragement.
Josh’s route finding often led to tricky moves which both Tom and Ali found difficult to surmount much to Josh’s amusement ( Josh is 6’6″). It is important to note that when with less experienced scramblers the leader must choose lines that are within the ability of the seconds otherwise it will not be such an enjoyable or positive experience.
All too soon it was time to head back to Gloucestershire after a fabulous weekend of climbing, scrambling, pool, shopping, ping pong, cushion quoits and drying gear. The chat on the way home was about where you could climb where you had guaranteed sunshine – SPAIN was Ali’s reply and so a plan began to form.
‘Thanks for an awesome weekend. We both really enjoyed it! We need to talk seriously about Spain as that would be insane. Look forward to seeing you soon.’ Tom and Josh Pettigrew.