Catcher in the Sky: With the more delicate lower slab behind me, I can just pad across the easier upper slab with the first ascent in the bag.
It first caught my imagination sometime in the 90’s. A line up a vegetated groove where two slabs running off at different angles meet. To the left was a pleasant VS; to the right an old Drasdo/Moulam ‘severe’. Then I noticed a few years ago that someone else had claimed the line. Weird!..who else in North Wales would be mad enough to clean out that dirty groove and then climb it? However, I discovered that their new line was further left...a good bit further left and that part of the crag was still untainted by chalky paws. The concept changed last year. Not inclined to bring in heavy earth moving equipment to clean out the groove, at least I could add a top pitch to the veteran’s route. A huge overhang offered itself as an airy challenge. Traversing across it’s exposed face in a real ‘Space below my feet’ position. By today’s standards it didn’t look hard-no more than 5a-but it was delicate and if you fell off you better know how to prusik. Either that, or hope there was enough rope to be lowered down to the lower slab. Better wear a helmet for this one!
The concept changed again last summer when I realised there was a totally independent line up the slab from which you entered a groove and from there you could bound onto the hanging slab and scuttle across. It could be done in one pitch although at around 150’ it might provide some serious rope drag and if you fell off! Better to pull out at the top of the slab and belay on the arête, from where you could step down into the groove and gain the slab.
For various reasons what I thought would be a nailed on spring project never happened and with people on the climbing forums already asking when the snow will arrive-get a life!- I realised I better get my skates on. And so it came to pass. A dry but cloudy Saturday in August and I had managed to twist Tom’s arm into accompanying me with promises of guidebook immortality!
The crag was a lot more overgrown at the base than when we were regularly up and down there last year, working out it’s seriously under-exploited face. Until last summer there were only about 8 or 9 routes on the cliff. Now there must be at least 20. The slab was dry fortunately and very easy. You can usually get a reasonable idea of a new line’s grade by looking at it. More often than not it turns out harder than it looks. In this case, a rough stab at 4c turned out to be barely 4a. The top pitch which I had down at 5a was also a lot easier, No more than 4b. It was a really good pitch though. Passing over a steep, delicate slab in an outrageous position but with good holds and protection appearing just when you needed them....nice!
I graded it VS rather than Hard Severe given one or two delicate little moves and the exposure. ‘Mild VS’ in reality although of course, we don’t use the Lakeland guidebook ‘mild’ prefix in north Wales although I think we should. I wanted a 'One step in the Clouds' type route name for it and came up with 'Catcher in the Sky'...whaddayathink? JA
Photos: Tom Hutton