Monday, November 17, 2014

Cold Climbs: Summer rock climbs in winter conditions

Gearing up for a 'summer climb'. Note the frozen stream! 
I must admit; I love the mountains under a mantle of snow and I love being amongst them; whether it’s simply walking over the tops or thrashing up a white frozen gully. However, the strange thing is, I’ve never been passionate about winter climbing in the same way as I’ve loved pure rock climbing. Given the choice between a winter climb or wrapping up and doing a pure rock climb summer style in winter then I’d choose the later every time.

Time was when my climbing season never ended. November often provided beautiful autumnal days when I’ve been in my T shirt-not this year!- and I’ve done routes in December, January, February and March; even on the coldest days. I know I’m not alone in this of course. Read any old timers account of their climbing days and they record climbing in all conditions and all times of the year.

These days though, people climbing in winter are the exception rather than the rule. Cheap flights to sunnier climes, indoor wall climbing, the popularity of skiing and mountain biking and of course the popularity of UK snow and ice climbing-conditions allowing- have all contributed to the gradual decline of rock activists out and about in the winter months.

With the next Carneddau guidebook being pulled together at the moment, I was racking my brains trying to think of an obscure climb I did with Scott Lloyd one bitterly cold day in the 90’s, on Braich ty Du above Ogwen Cottage? Rooting through some photo prints this morning I found some images from the day, although it hasn’t helped me remember the route name. The images show a frozen gully stream and the pair of us wrapped up and climbing in gloves. I think the route was about HS and had  at least four pitches. Unusual hereabouts as most  routes on Braich ty Du are only one or two pitches.

We finished late afternoon with the sun disappearing and I remember trying to squeeze feet that had been numbed inside rock boots into walking boots and not having any feeling in them whatsoever! We stumbled blindly down the rough frozen ground back to the car and didn’t warm up until we were virtually back home in north east Wales. Shaken and stirred with ice!

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