Monday, June 10, 2013

In dreams begins responsibility

Sutty after his ordeal,with Sian Williams.Photo BBC Wales

One of the most popular stories on this morning's national news was a  feature about a Spaniel which had survived ten days on a mountain face after his owner fell 400' and was seriously injured. Despite not having been within 30 miles of the mountain when the incident occurred, I can't help wondering if I might have had a part in this incident?
The Carnedd Filiast Slabs are probably the biggest expanse of rock in North Wales. Being 1000' high and contained within a remote high glacial cwm above Nant Francon. Because of its remoteness and because other factors such as suspect rock quality and intrusive vegetation,the venue has seen relatively few routes recorded, and those that have been made are all in the lower grades. For these reasons, it's certainly a venue for the iconoclastic explorer! However, the vertically overlapping bands of slab do have a few good routes and scrambles on the very edges of the slabs, which for some reason offer much better quality rock. Left Edge,a two star V Diff, and The Ridge, a thousand foot Grade 3 scramble amongst them.

Now the last CC Ogwen guide was the first guidebook in the UK that I'm aware of, to have included scrambles above grade2 alongside pure rock climbs. I had the pleasure of checking out many of these routes,all of which had previously been listed as Mod or Diff rock climbs. The theory being that a lot of rarely ascended old 'Mods' might lend themselves as superb scrambles. Particularly in light of how scrambling is now seen as an activity in its own right with a dedicated band of activists. And so it proved. Many of these old climbs at places like Tryfan's West Face, on Glyder Fawr and at Carnedd Filiast itself are indeed well worth checking out.

The Ridge: A superb 1000' scramble on the Edge of Atlantic Slab

Now, Atlantic Slab where the 'Sutty' incident took place, is a huge expanse of rock which ironically doesn't offer much in the way of actual climbs-bar one 'Diff'-but it is contained by the aforementioned The Ridge and another grade 3/Mod scramble,The Runnel, which is also a good long G2 winter plod. Now, I'm just guessing here, but I imagine the injured scrambler who fell was on The Runnel? He definitely would not have taken a dog on a 1000' slab face or The Ridge on the right. The Runnel,although long, is contained and is a gully of sorts, although at 600' it steepens and the exposure can kick in. I've done it as a winter route and a scramble but I wouldn't take a dog up it. But that's coming from someone who has experience of the route and not intended as criticism of the unfortunate climber. I've taken a labrador up a variation of Cyfwy Arete and over on the West Face of Tryfan, a dog was on the first ascent of a quite testing V Diff. Providing you are careful and your dog has a harness,they can get up quite demanding  terrain. It's better for the dog and I'm sure they enjoy it more than being overfed and under exercised .

From below, The Runnel might look a reasonable option and I'm sure a scrambler might think he could get a dog up it. The other reason I think it was this route is the MR team describe 'Sutty' the spaniel as having 'dug a little nest for himself... "either to keep warm or to try and keep out of the sun". The vegetated Runnel lends itself to this more than Atlantic Slab or The Ridge.

I've had a look this morning at the guidebook to read my description of the route,in case I might have offered some misleading information which would lead someone to tackle it without being fully aware of the implications. To my relief it's pretty accurate and doesn't oversell the route.Suggesting that it's probably better as a winter route than a scramble.It's something that anyone who has ever written a route description will have pondered at some point. How accurate is the description and is it technically spot on?  Some climbers are notorious at 'sandbagging' one of their own routes. This is to seriously underplay the technical difficulties. Either as a ploy to sell themselves to their rivals as hard cases or through sheer ignorance. Menlove Edwards was notorious at under grading routes but it's generally accepted that there was no ulterior motive behind this. He was just useless at grading! If anything, whilst attempting to be accurate, I tend to over grade routes rather than under-grade them. That's why it's always wise to get a second and third opinion. That way you usually get an accurate consensus.on the true grade.

The 2 star V Diff Left Edge

I hope the injured 60 year old scrambler, currently in hospital near Birmingham, fully recovers from his serious injuries. I'm sure being reunited with Sutty will give him a big boost. If there is a lesson to be learned it is that guidebook descriptions offer a general over-view of a route including warnings about rock quality etc. However, there are always external factors such as weather conditions,recent rock fall and a lack of traffic etc,that can change a route's character completely. At the end of the day,it's all about assessing the route and making a decision on the day as to whether or not it's feasible. Especially, if you are on your own and soloing in a place like The Filiast Slabs. Don't just go on route descriptions which might be twenty years out of date.More especially on low graded routes in unpopular areas.

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