Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The naming of the stones





In the millennium year, I happened to be driving through a remote valley in north Wales when I noticed that The Forestry Commission had clear felled part of a steep hillside to reveal an interesting looking crag high above the road. I picked my way through the tangle of forest debris and loose rock to discover a fine little outcrop which stretched across the hillside for a hundred metres or so. No more than forty foot high and often interrupted by vegetated recesses which broke up the continuity, it was nevertheless,steep, clean and inviting. The crag was certainly not bristling with post modern extreme test pieces. It appeared more suited to the average punter, beavering away in the easier grades up to HVS, but as something of a punter myself, that's fine by me.


Within a week or so, I returned after persuading my old friend, the veteran Harold Drasdo-not unfamiliar with far flung outcrops himself- that it looked well worth a visit. I recall that we did about half a dozen new routes although a return visit last week, 14 years on, suggests that it might have only been three or four?  The crag carries no name on the OS map and at the time I didn’t name it or record the routes. When I went back on a glorious sunny evening last week, my first thoughts were, I really should get back here and work it out before putting it on record. My second thought was to ask myself why I hadn’t bothered before? It set me thinking about the often arbitrary nature of route recording. There have been climbs on virgin crags I’ve done before and not recorded yet by the same token, I’ve recorded some pretty so-so climbs which were often not as good as some of the unrecorded climbs?


There’s no real rhyme or reason to it that I can explain. I imagine that there are thousands of climbs out there unrecorded by the first ascentionist which either remain off the record or have been claimed as first ascents by others who have followed. I noticed that climbs claimed as FA’s in the Filiast Slabs area of Nant Francon and on Craig Tonnau above Roman Bridge were done earlier by myself but not written up. It’s not something I lose any sleep over. They weren’t  particularly memorable anyway.



Some climbers however, are almost fanatical in recording every micro route they do, regardless of quality, height or the probability that no one else would be daft enough to repeat it! One climber called Barry Clarke has achieved modest fame-or is it notoriety?- by steaming his way across every minor crag and boulder in the area and recording these routes in detail. The CC has even given him his own new routes page! Usually soloed and in the lower grades, Barry has made an art out of creating things on these neglected areas of rock where others have either played on and left unrecorded or walked right passed.


A couple of years ago I soloed some of Barry’s ‘New Routes’ on the back of Arenig Fawr. At least one I’d done myself back in exploratory days in the mid 90’s. With all due respect to Barry, most people would have seen them as little more that an easy-ish problem to while away a few minutes on a walk before wending their way to the summit. Still, with Gary Gibson’s  first  ascent record in sight, who am I to grumble about one person’s right to name and claim a first ascent. As far as sorting the wheat out from the chaff, I’ll leave that problem to the poor guide book editors who have the unenviable task of deciding whether or not these routes of Barrys are worth putting into their guidebooks. He obviously thinks they are.




Which brings me back to ‘Bwtres Llus’ (Bilberry Buttress) for that is belatedly, the name I’ve given to the crag. All it needs now are a few visits to work it out and it can be revealed in all its modest glory. Now...if only I could find that lovely dolerite crag under Moel Meirch where I did three unrecorded routes in the early 90’s?

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