Usually heading down the Lleyn for a climb is filled with fear inducing trepidation, and friday was just such a day. Why? Well we were heading to Craig Dorys, for most the loose nature of the climbing is a risk too far, but a for a few, the brave and the fool hardy it is a lovely piece of tottering tot. As beautiful as the sublime setting of a secluded cove hidden from all but the chosen few who call this place simply “Dorys”.
A typical Lleyn day has several stages to it, first is the decision to go. This often comes down to meteologicial reasons, as the mountains suck in in all the bad weather, and Tremadog and Gogarth lose their appeal, and the memories of last visits fade the Lleyn beckons. Then you remember the breaking rock under foot and hand, the soaring exposure, and the complete experience these route hand out in the bucket full, and with it bravery takes over.
Having laid down a proposal a few days before, you end up in a situation where you have to put your money where your mouth is, so as it was drizzling in Llanberis, Llion and I made our first pilgrimage of the year to this femme fatale of a crag.
Thus started phase two getting, there. Which might seem as simple as pointing your car west, but with all things that take that much mental commitment, you need to make a pit stop in the Spar in Pwllheli, often referred to by me and my friends as the super deli in Pwllheli. The caffine and cake stop does as much to delay your arrival at the crag, a form of procrastination, as it does serve a functional purpose to actually stock up on food and water.
Stepping out the car, and the jitters are already apparent on my body, the walk in does little to calm the nerves, and racking up below the Stigmata Buttress will fray most people nerves to shreds. This 120ft high cliff of questionable permanency somehow overhangs, and seems to be held up by some form of magical spell, easily boken with the lightest of touchs.
The initial rock band is the worst, although it barely improves as you gain height. My plan for today was the classic Cripple Creek, a single hanging groove line that shoots a direct line up the cliff to an overhang that protects the last 15ft. Racking up I go with the battlefield mentality of you can only place as much gear as you bring, and paraphasing Ed Douglas commentary on the iconic Gogarth video, Protection is based on quantity not quality. Loading myself down with over a double rack of cams, wires and about 20 quickdraws, I could barely move as I made the first move up the initial wall, and place a cam, that may have stopped me dropping down the slopes below to the sea.
That initial wall, is loose, real loose, its like playing a game of vertical jenga, as you work out which holds you can use, the higher you go the more commited you are, until you finally gain a ledge at the base of the corner. A weiry peg, and a tiny cam offer a small reward for the intial foray up this wall, two body lengths above is the next gear, beyond that is unimportant, and like a war, the first battle lines are drawn.
With a move upwards the battle between body, mind and rock begins. Shapes flow, height is gained and the gear is reached. Stuffing gear into the small crack like a bloated christmas turkey, anxiety falls and attention is focused on the next gear, and then the battle plans are drawn for the next skurmish upwards. Will that hold support my weight, will that one…
Before long you are sucked into a war zone that resembles downtown mogadishu, I have enter the zone though. Processing a million variables every second, body and mind working in perfect synchronisity. Half way up the crack, and I have four quickdraws left and about three cams that will fit the crack, a new battle of the mind to work out what I should place where adds to excitement, time has gone from my world and in what could have been and instance or and hour I am at the roof.
Wild moves round this, and I am bridged across the lip, looking down forever. Yet it is here I feel the least in control, as ledges like this one have regularly fallen off under the weight of climbers. Chris Wentworth and Lee MacGingley attempting to repeat War and Peace an epic traverse of this crag ended in a ledge collapsing, broken ribs and thousand yard stares. Tim Neill of Honey dew, stood on a ledge looking 100ft down a pitch, barely a move from the top when the ledge collapse, 94ft later he stopped feet from the ground.
I quickly move off and through the last difficult to an undignified mantel to the belay ledge, My two remaining runners somehow manage to fit the only two decent cracks that constitue a belay. Sat at the top I chuckle to myself, as whilst I had gotten lighter with every piece of gear place, I now knew that llion was getting heavier and heavier with almost every metre he gained.
Interestingly many people consider the route to be bold, and it is, but in a little over 30m of climbing, I managed to place over 30 runners. The climbing is easier than Cenotaph Corner, but be sure you have the the mental capacity and experience with loose rock to enter this arena for the unwell. For me I have learnt to not so much master but control this environment, and the years of climbing, have made this a place where all of my climbign skills are tested to the full, technique to reduce the weight on holds, gear placements to make it ‘safe, and mind control to remain calm and collected throughout.
After that Llion did Knowing Her, another great piece of loose horror up the golden wall, and with that we had slane our emenies for the day, sounding the retreat we headed to Abersoch for caffine, medals and the most important part of climbing a well deserved cake.