Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Training weekend in North Wales

With less than a month to go to our 4 day Coast to Coast adventure race, we thought we would get ourselves to North Wales for a few days training. So finishing work and flying up the busy motorways we managed to get to Idwal Cottage for around 4pm. The weather was perfectly stunning and we kept the plan easy of just doing some easy climbing on Idwal slabs to get back in the grove of rock climbing - it's been a while. And so we ticked off Hope (VD 450ft), Lazarus (HS 150ft) and Grove Above (S 100ft). 3 Superb climbs each above each other and so we finished 700ft above the valley floor enjoying the beautiful summers evening (shame the midges could enjoy our company this high up).
Enchainment Day (Travelled over 10km with 1400m of ascent and descent)
We awoke to a grey morning but were excited about the day’s big plan. An enchainment of the Glyders, linking in 3 or 4 climbs on different peaks. We headed up into the Devils Kitchen and scrambled up Idwal Buttress (D 300ft) and then traversed over to the base of Glyder Fawr as the wind and rain started to pick up. With some interesting greasy pitches we topped out from climbing Central Arete (VD 650ft) and found a small cave to shelter from the driving rain whilst having our lunch. Getting cold we made our way down Y Gribin undecided on what to do and jumping from choice to choice - keep climbing, go biking, maybe running or just go home. At the bottom the weather cleared significantly for us to take the gallant approach and carry on climbing we were ,after all, in the midst of the mountains. We deferred on climbing a route on Glyder Fach and moved over to the east face of Tryfan where Grooved Arete awaited us. I have wanted this climb since I had started climbing years ago and Dave would bring me up to Wales time and time again and with an endless list of reasons we never got around to climbing it. And so, each time I now visit Wales it’s at the forefront of my mind. With the weather brightening things were looking hopeful. That’s when Dr 'Jinx' Jake piped in that he would be doing this climb on his very first attempt. Thanks Jake. We found the heather terrace and the heavens opened up. We huddled up in another cave and had another lunch but it soon became apparent that things weren't changing soon and so we descended. On getting to the bottom the weather gods gave us one last dilemma and with Milestone Buttress right there in front of us we decided to have a go at another climb, Direct Route (VD 200ft). I started the first pitch not feeling it. I liked the climbing but constantly thought I was going to slip on the smooth polished limestone, which didn't sit well in my mind. Most of the way up the pitch the first drops of rain started to fall and that was my ticket to get the hell of this crag. And as Jake was belaying me off the rain hurtled down and kept us company all the way back to the hostel. It also kept me up and wet all night in my soaked tent (hmm another route I will have to complete one of these days).
Coed Brenin (Biked/Ran 40+km)
Wet and tired we awoke to another dreary day in the mountains and headed south for some biking. This wet weather won’t hinder us riding, I so wrongly assumed. Within 2 minutes of starting on the trails I had fallen over twice and by wearing Spds (clip ins) and not releasing quick enough I took a couple of hard knocks. We did a short circuit and returned to change to normal pedals. I was not liking the wet terrain and being stuck in the pedals, which I had, only used a couple of times previous. We hit the next trail a 20km black. My mood was downbeat and I was still massaging my confidence, so it was hard going in mind and body. I took a couple of half falls, one of which raked the back of my calf and put me in a fouler mood. Nearing the end I bumped down a steep and as per usual I just couldn’t seem to turn the handle bars the way I wanted and I careered straight into a boulder and tumbled head first. Initially I was just peeved of but, then was concerned with my arm but it was just cut up. It was the knock to my chest, which would be the most hindering and still today, days later I struggle to breath fully and get a good nights sleep in. So with battered confidence I took the short cut home while Jake continued his ride. Which he was loving. Back at base I reflected and decided it stupid to get back on the bike after lunch. It seemed I was just getting myself into accidents no matter how I rode. This I could ill afford with me dependent on being able bodied to work. A good plan was hatched in that Jake could continue to ride and I would run the trail. We took on another 20km black, MBR. With things brightening up we both enjoyed the trail. Good things couldn't last though and at one point I took a short cut, which turned out to be a bad choice. An old track I followed soon disappeared, so I headed directly up the very steep forest embankment. When I popped out of the woods thick brambles and thorn bushes confronted me. I waded my way up through this never ending bush cutting experience and finally came upon a track and feeling hacked off I powered my broken body home. The only things I can take from this day is that it was one of Jakes best - so at least someone enjoyed themselves and I can put it into that character building bracket.
Taking the long way home that evening turned out to be a refreshing end to the day. Sat in the evening sun on a bar terrace in Abersoch listening to live music from a guy singing acoustic feel good tunes.
Half Enchainment (Travelled 6.5km with 600m+ of ascent/descent)
After a nice dry nights sleep in the hostel, which was damn good. What was bad was being in a room full of snorers. Still it beat being in the wet tent with sore ribs, arms etc etc. It was a familiar day. It sucked. Grey and threatening to chuck it down at any time. So our plan of a long day on Amphitheatre buttress in the Carnedds was scraped and we decided to stick fairly close and to do easy climbing. So back up Cwm Idwal to find the start of Sub Cniefion (VD 300ft) and get that deju vu feeling of arriving at the foot of the climb and it begins to pour down. Undeterred, I sent Jake up for what was a great lead in awful conditions. I was soaked and frozen by the time he finished. No, I am not having a go at how slow he went, just to point out what the climbing was from my perspective (just do it quicker next time Jake). My lead was an easy zig zag who’s only difficultly was the rope drag I had to contend with. When Jake joined me we could not fathom where the route went and so he went straight up the face. Another good lead but again I was pretty cold by the time I started and within a few metres I could see where the original route went off to the right. Oh well, a first ascent for Jake. On finishing this climb we headed up the Cwm in ever worsening conditions. At one point I questioned where we were but in negligible visibility it was hard to pin point our position. A gust of wind faintly showed the outline of Cniefion arete (M 400ft). Jake again lead (in trainers, climbing shoes seemed pointless by now) in what can only be described as a heavy downpour. It was a good easy short pitch and I followed up an enjoyable chimney pitch. After this, to quicken things up as we were getting a little tired of the wind and rain, we simu climbed the remainder of the route.
Again the weather brightened in the evening all to late to dry our soddened gear. But our training weekend was over it was time to get back to work. Something I was pleased about, as I do not think my body would be able to do much more. R&R until I am able to breath more easily.
With the usual poor weather in Wales I think we were able to at least get out each day and cover a lot of terrain, do some different disciplines and be out for long days. So it was not wasted, as we are now a little more ready for the Coast to Coast at the end of the month.

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