Sunday, January 13, 2013

Following ghosts and chasing shadows

Yet another 'Kerry Crag' discovered.

What a difference 24 hours can make. Yesterday I was out in Snowdonia on a cold but generally dry and bright day, doing some guidebook recce work. Today, I found myself walking in deathly quiet forest under a blanket of snow. Winding back to yesterday. The late Welsh climber John Kerry has been getting some long overdue publicity recently, not least through an article I did for Footless Crow (see Dead Climbers Society). He had come back into my orbit through the work we had been doing for the next Carneddau guidebook. It was not so much the quality of his 1960's and 70's climbs we had sampled, but the air of mystery surrounding his lost climbs and crags.

In fact,from other climbers like veteran activist Harold Drasdo we were aware of a number of unlisted crags were he had left his-unrecorded-mark. Indeed,there were so many of these 'lost' crags popping up that we routinely referred to them as ' a Kerry crag'. Yesterday we visited two of these venues and impressive they were too. From Harold, we had an idea of where one or two of his routes went but the overall quality of the venues which were relatively close to the road and therefore easily accessible, suggested that with some work and additional new routing, their inclusion in a guidebook complete with action photos and topos,couldn't fail to attract a new audience.

Around mid day today, with the temperatures around zero and an ominous grey sky suggesting the forecasters might be on to something when they suggested snow, I went off for a long dog walk on the outer western fringes of the huge Clocaenog Forest. No sooner had I left the car than small spits of snow drifted down. Within an hour I found myself walking into a steady fall of snow which was blanketing the trees and tracks and muffling my footfall. At the far side of the forest I came out onto a remote, rarely used back lane. Not a sign of traffic as to be expected. I stopped and just stood listening to the complete and absolute silence.

 I thought of the words of Alfred Wainwright when he contemplated a similar scene..."I felt like the last man alive in a dying world'.  Just before I got back to the car at about three o clock, I unexpectedly came across two mountain bikers heading  into the forest and to my mind,given the conditions, not exactly appropriately attired. From their tracks in the snow,they had come from the direction of the village of Llanfihangel and at a guess,they were a long way from where they had started. Given that even locals can become disorientated in this part of the forest with its myriad identical tracks looping off everywhichway, I sincerely hope they found their was back to their transport. With only an hour and a half of light left and with it snowing steadily It seems like they were pushing their luck but who knows. They might be staying in a local cottage or pub? I'll still watch the local news later though...... just in case they're still out there!

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