Friday, February 28, 2014

The search for Greenland Rib..... Lost and Found?

Photo sent by John Hunt to John Jackson.
Driving up the A5 in Snowdonia yesterday, I reached that point where the road straightens out briefly near the Siabod Cafe and you emerge from the bends and encroaching foliage to get an uninterrupted view of the mountains ahead. As I approached the junction which I would take en-route to the Lleyn Peninsular, the prominent ribs and slabs of Creigiau’r Gelli were delineated by a strong morning sun. For years I had looked up at these imposing crags, wondering if they had any routes on them?  The North Wales guidebooks certainly didn’t carry any information at the time so if they did they must be unrecorded.

Given their proximity to the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre I guessed they just had to have been explored by the centre staff over the years, but in all the times I had travelled up and down this road, I had never looked up and caught sight of a party on the cliffs.

Miriam Tierney on'The Temptation of St Julitta'.Creigiau'r Gelli.
As I passed by, I recalled an interesting old photograph published in the North Wales Mountaineering Club journal in 2005 which illustrated an obituary for former club member John Jackson. John had been head warden at  Plas y Brenin in the early 1960’s. The photo carried some intriguing information surrounding a lost route ‘Greenland Rib’ which had been completed with Sir John Hunt in 1961. At the time of photographs’ publication, The Climbers Club were in the process of bringing out a new Ogwen guidebook under the authorship of Mike Bailey. Despite a forensic examination of club archives, old journals and appeals for information, Greenland Rib remained and indeed still remains a mystery?

Luke Appleby on P2 of 'St Julitta'.
However, I have a hunch I know where the route is, although this more based on a theory rather than pure detective work and hard evidence. In fact, I may have even made a ‘first’ ascent of the route myself! This brings me back to Creigiau’r Gelli. As previously mentioned, the crags stand pleasantly above Plas y Brenin, facing south and catching the sun. Or at least it catches the sun on those rare occasions when we actually see the sun in North Wales! It's a pleasant 15 minute stroll to reach the crag which at present has but four routes recorded which  follow the most prominent features. A retired PyB instructor confirmed that instructors had indeed climbed up there and named one climb as Diamond Slab, which as it turns out is a very good E1. He suggested that a Lakeland climber-I think it was Tom Bowker?- had also made first ascents up there but again no written information to confirm this?

As someone involved in the Ogwen guidebook  team at the time, I went up there one day with the author and we were immediately drawn to one of the most obvious ribs which we climbed, and after being surprised by a fox which offered some dramatic bridging moves up a neighbouring groove, it was named ‘ Basil Brush’ ! Again, another nice little route; this time at a sustained VS-4c. My theory is that Basil Brush and Greenland Rib are the same route.

The photo taken on the day of the first ascent (above) show Jackson and Hunt standing in front of a farm gate. This I’m sure is just up the road from Plas y Brenin with the backdrop being the lower slopes of Cefn y Capel. The crags of Dyffryn Mynbwr (formerly the Ricks and the Racks), lie just to the left and Creigiau’r Gelli just out of shot to the right. The script on the photograph which sent by John Hunt to his friend, says, John, The day of your appointment as Warden of PyB! Happy memories and good wishes for the future...John Hunt.

Underneath it is captioned....’Photograph sent by John Hunt after my appointment as Warden of PyB’ Person unknown has added... In 1960 they went out and climbed a route they named as Greenland Rib in 1961 following their 1960 Greenland Expedition.

To add to the confusion, in 2008 I climbed another rib further right with a couple of my off-springs. This was a pleasant three pitch V Diff which offers itself as a perfect route to take a novice. It was named ‘The Temptation of St Julitta’. St Julitta’s is the lovely little chapel next to PyB by the way. Could this be Greenland Rib? I don’t think so somehow. The latter is a rambling escapable route while Basil Brush is a striking line following a sharp, knife edge rib. I'm sure the two Johns would have been much more inclined to tackle the more imposing and harder line.

Until I hear evidence to the contrary, then I’m sticking with the Greenland Rib/ Basil Brush theory.Any further information gratefully received.
Tony Pearson on Basil Brush...or is it Greenland Rib?

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