On the second bank holiday of May (thanks Charles for the extra one) 27 prospective and current members descended on Dolgam campsite in North Wales. For the many that were there to experience the joys of trad climbing in North Wales for the first time, the meets secretary had arranged a warm welcome from the community of midges.
This meet built on the previous success of developing belayers for current members through introducing indoor wall climbers to the outdoors. The previous cohort had improved so much from last year, that they have become leaders and are now on the hunt for new belayers. The cycle of climbing continues, find a belayer, they improve so much that you become the belayer, and a new belayer must be found.
On Saturday morning, 12 keen students headed off with Nick, Paolo and Harry to Little Buttress at Clogwyn Cyrau. The day started predictably, with the Mountain Leader (Harry) taking the team to the wrong crag. After realising that the selection of E(xtreme) climbs may give those new to the outdoors the wrong impression of both the club and the joy of trad, maps and phones got referred to. The first lesson of planning approaches to climbs had gone well.
Once at the correct crag, the tutors went through a briefing on the different equipment to be used, checked helmets and harnesses, and then the students helped to set up some top ropes (which from that point onwards were referred to as bottom ropes – as is the trad way of confusing people that have started climbing indoors with odd terminology).
The group got to grips with the rock and progressed on with then setting up anchors and top roping, learning that the moment you try to belay from above, everything feels really different and unnatural.
The group finished the day with some abseiling and headed back to the campsite for some well earned dinner and in turn, to become some less well earned dinner for the midges.
Other members of the club did a range of climbing and walking – notably David and Ollie did a large link up of scrambles which may or may not have resulted in a stress fracture to a foot, and certainly left the other walkers stranded at Ogwen Cottage.
Alistair and Christine, and Anne, Andrew, and Pete hobbled off with to discover The Moelwyns – a fantastic area of easy-to-access multi pitch routes with a range of excellent climbing. Alistair and Christine had an entertaining day out involving a “12m” section of slab with one piece of protection in. Though, the length of that section might be exaggerated by the audacity of the route.
By the end of the evening all had returned safely to cover themselves with smidge and various sleeping bag bags to ward off the midges (all methods were ultimately unsuccessful – perhaps why it rains so often in Wales – that seems to be the best midge repellent).
Sunday started early again for the trainees – with an uneventful drive and approach to Lion Rocks above Llyn Padarn. A few more members (Oscar, Rick, Matt and Ali) were roped in (literally) to provide support as leaders, so that the students could practise their belaying and seconding skills.
The students then spent a good amount of time covering the entire crag with the members gear, practising nut, cam and hex placements. The members looked on checking the placements, and feeling a slight nervousness that their lovingly collected gear was now spread out randomly over the first couple of metres of rock.
The day finished with the students doing some mock leading (with a safety rope), to learn the full practice. The formal training was done, and the students were advised to spend at least a year belaying current members. The circle of climbing must be continued.
Alistair and Christine headed back to The Moelwyns where they “set a new route” they called ‘Londoner’s Get Lost’. An epic adventure involving crossing over to the wrong side where no-one seemed to have ventured (ever), with plenty of moss and a hairy traverse to line it back up.
Meanwhile, Anne and Andrew had their own little master-class in abseiling and practiced this at the end of their multipitch climbing session with Pete before heading back to their sleeping quarters.
After the day of learning, many members descended on the pub closest to the campsite (Tyn Y Coed). As the excitement of the pub rallied on, Oscar, Paolo and Harry decided that after training people, some leg stretching was necessary and headed off up Moel Siabod – to practise their getting lost at night skills.
The following day, many of the new climbers elected to sample the joys of North Wales sport climbs, whilst others opted for some walking and an early return home. Paolo and Harry used the long period of good weather to head up early to Cloggy (normally wet – and a two hour approach) to nick a glorious multi-pitch, Longland’s Climb.
A great weekend for all, and remarkably dry all weekend too.
Editor: Thank you to Harry for sorting out an amazing trad training trip for our newbies and improvers and those who came along for the fun. We’re all looking forward to the next!