This Game of Ghosts

I read Caff piece the other week about his 100 project in the Lakes. In it he mentions being asked a question about whether he felt alone when soloing and his comment was that the routes and crags all brought back memories. The same is true for me of Wales and I find more and more often I am reminded of the first time I went to the crag or did a route.

Today was no exception, when I headed up to Criag Ddu in Llanberis pass to climb the classic Mabanogion. A short and rather intense route that Si had never climbed so I sent him up it. As I seconded I was reminded of the first time I had climbed here.

It was on the recommendation of Will, he had also said it was a great ‘highball’ problem. I should have known that it was going to be something of a sandbag. Will had once climbed and E6 and removed the only protection peg before recommending it to a friend. He was kind of an arse like that, but it was hard to stay mad at him.

Seconding the climb today I remember the horror I had soloing the route for the first time, the crack past fairly easily, as did the technical crux where you move left out of the crack to well placed jugs, even here the ground is close enough that you think you could ‘stick’ the landing. However the move up was rewarded by less and less positive holds as I grovelled my way onto the ledge, for the first time I am a little too high to think that falling would be a good idea.

The climbing is easier but your heart is in your mouth and when you get stood on the ledge you are met by another impasse, a boulder problem on high, with a ledge that slopes outwards. There is no falling off here. This is where my solo effort ended, unable to go up I managed to scramble off the ledge to the left.

I came back a year or so later to lead the route and take the proper finish. Like today the memories of what seem like a lifetime ago are still reasonable clear when ‘in the moment’. So my memory was of Will, in a couple of weeks a few friends have a plan to celebrate his life, a young man that burnt so bright that he burnt out too young. The plan is fireworks in one of his favourite places, a place where I saw climb one of the most ridiculous route ever, a route that I doubt will ever be repeated, Fruit of the Gloom looks truly horrific.

PS – I should add I don’t recommend soling this route! As a good friend once said to me before my first expedition to the Cirque of the Unclimbables, “Don’t do anything I won’t do and probably don’t do some of the things I would!”.

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