"That's not going to work either Chris. I'd have to remove my Helmet and strip down to my pants to squeeze up there."
Chris was a "Valley Man", by which I mean he had big walled in Yosemite. Rather like his charity work, he didn't like to mention it much. As I eyeballed this hideous off-width crack it became apparent that I was tied in to the wrong end of the rope. This should be his pitch.
I was "MIA" and rather like my charity work, I didn't like to mention it much.
The Valley Man had not climbed much at Tremadog, a grande roadside multi pitch crag in North Wales. In Mid April with a good forecast it was THE place to be as it's at sea level and south facing. If it's going to be warm anywhere it would be at Tremadog .
Having spent the last 3 yrs qualifying as an MIA I had become a professional VDiff climber so I was looking forward to getting out and climbing some of the harder routes that Tremadog had to offer.
Valerie's Rib (Hard Severe) was hardly harder climbing. Over a whisky the night before in the hut Vector had been mentioned as had Pincushion. However the snow was down to the Cromlech when we got up and somehow we had both managed not to mention either of those climbs in the 30min journey to the crag. Valerie's Rib seemed a good warm up route as neither of us had done it before. The first pitch was a long and lonely lead, not much gear between some reasonable moves. If you were a 'severe' leader then you'd no doubt have a moment on this route. Served a purpose though and after Chris had found the top of the crag we were ready for something with a little more bite.
Yogi is one of Tremadog's secret routes. It gets no stars in the guidebook but it's a fantastic 2 star VS 4c. It happens to be one of the routes I climbed with clients on my MIA Assessment so has a special place for me. Chris lead it and tied both pitches together. A quick ab down and then I shot up Mr Ranger, one of the few VS's that I hadn't climbed in these parts.
We were flowing now. Into the groove. Confident in each others abilities. The 'Valley Man' was enjoying this crag. Lets keep it going, time for one of the true classics of the crag, Merlin Direct. I showed off a bit on the first pitch swinging off the massive hand holds below tree. Trying to let the Valley Man know that this was a climb to be respected. After rescuing a girl on the belay ledge who, unbeknownst to herself, was not tied to the belay. She was not even tied to the rope as it was 10' from her. Her smile dismissed these facts. I clipped her to my belay and when The Valley Man came up he retrieved her rope, she was completely oblivious to the fact that gravity was not in her favour. The Valley Man quickly dispatched the Top Pitch.
"Awesome route, but would struggle to get VS on the Grit", I tended to agree.
The Fang was next. The Valley Man eye'd up the E2 start
Perhaps the slab to the right of the Off-Width on Shadrach would be the better way. I like slabs, bold balancey slabs are my territory. At this point most folk would have thought of looking at the guidebook, but where was the adventure in that.
"This looks too bold for VS Chris, I'm going to try a different method."
The Valley Man dispatched the first pitch with a couple of grunts. I'm never sure if his grunts are real or just to make me feel better when I grunt for real when I second the pitch. Why do I always feel unbalanced when seconding, its not like the rope is in the way of my feet?
The belay ledge is small and tucked in, the Valley Man was not fussed, but solid. The second pitch has a reputation; bold technical start to a lonely finish. A positive start led me to clinging to a big undercut 5m from the belay with the rope free from me to it. A slip from here would not be ideal for either of us. The Valley man raised an eyebrow as I controlled my breathing trying to remain calm whilst I fought a snagged No 2 wire into the crack. Rope clipped but no relief as the moves round the corner were not obvious.
I nodded a goodbye to the Valley Man as he wished me luck. The top didn't look too far away but it somehow Tremadog had foreshortened it. Winding around features placing tiny wires every now and then and much after I knew it I was clipped to the trees at the top.
The Valley Man followed at a respectable and considerate pace.
"Awesome route, but would struggle to get HVS on the Grit, more like E1", I tended to agree.
A simple couple of steps left past the Off-Width and I was the base of Meshach. This was obviously the way to go. A quick shoot up straight up past the pinnacle to the Top.
The Valley Man followed.
"Covered a lot of ground there Jim, A three pronged attack on a VS. The Trident Approach" I tended to agree.