Journeys in the hills and mountains
Having planned to spend the autumn pushing my climbing grade beyond the VDiffs and Severes that I had been leading over the previous twelve months, I signed up for a two-day course at Plas y Brenin. Unfortunately this course was not able to run due to an insufficient number of students, and so instead I converted my two-day course into one day of one-to-one guiding. I met my guide, Owen Samuel, an IFMGA guide, at Plas y Brenin and, after a brief chat in which we discussed some possibilities for the day, we headed down the Llanberis Pass to climb some routes on Dinas Cromlech, to home of the famous Cenotaph Corner.
In addition to some hard routes in the E-numbers, Dinas Cromlech has a small selection of easier routes, and Owen led me on two. The first was Dives / Better Things, a Hard Severe with one section at 4b. After climbing some easy ground, the route made a traverse across wet rock before reaching a belay at the ‘Forest’. The ‘Forest’ is anything but, containing a few small bushes perched on a narrow ledge. From here the route breaks out to the left; the following pitch is difficult but good handholds throughout made the climbing fast and pleasant.
After abseiling down the route, Owen now led me on Sabre Cut, a Very Severe route with a pitch of 4b and one of 4c. The first pitch of this was supposedly harder, any indeed this may well be the case for the leader, but as the second I found the climbing straightforward, involving ascending a crack before breaking out boldly onto steeper ground to gain the ‘Forest’ once again. The second pitch seemed much more challenging with few gear placements and little in the way of handholds. Instead, one climbed the deep cleft in the corner of the rock using small footholds where possible. Although this felt quite challenging, even as a second, it was nevertheless exhilarating. From the top we scrambled down the difficult descent path to collect our bags before heading back to Plas y Brenin. I’m not sure that I’ll be leading anything at VS anytime soon, but this day certainly made me feel more confident on harder ground, which can only help leading routes in the lower grades. A very good example, it seems, of how a short burst of instruction can prove very useful indeed. For those looking to take out a guide for the day or so, whether in this country or abroad, I cannot recommend Owen highly enough.