Gogarth – Plenty Of Pissing And Queuing To Fulfil A Dream

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Hey look, a no-hands rest

This is THE ROUTE that pretty much is or should be at the top of ones “dream-list”. However, before we dive into the main event that is A Dream Of White Horses, we’ll take a step back to find out exactly how does one end up hanging around on this wonderful route.

This was to be my first ever sea cliff climbing adventure and with my standard naive hat pulled tight, I was perplexed by these squiggly lines that were informing me that you can’t just abseil into the cliffs whenever you fancied. Turns out that the tide goes high and low throughout the day – who’d of thought it eh? So be prepared to get your homework done and don’t go dunking into the sea ropes first!

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First sight of Holyhead mountain

We ended up setting up base camp at Valley On The Rocks for a shiny cost of £6 a night, which gets you: a great location that is only about 10-15 minutes drive away from The North and South sea stacks, several water taps that are dotted around the place, a bit of camping space and some well maintained bogs. Also, 20p for a shower – cheapest yet! Make sure you book ahead though, seems like the owner doesn’t like to flood the place with people, which is good. Nothing worse then a crowded campsite.

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South Stack – Castell Helen

Eager and ready to get stuck in, we headed on down to Castell Helen at about 10am on Saturday to get our provisional license in sea cliff climbing.

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The masses of climbers all waiting to abseil in

We soon realised that we weren’t the only eager beavers, turns out that there was 8 people on top of the cliff all wanting to abseil in and numerous parties already below working their way up. Considering there is only one abseil point, which is also the anchor for most of the routes below, we probably would have queued for about 2 hours before getting on a route. Therefore, it was time for a new plan!

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Holyhead Mountain

The swift change in plan saw us do a full u-turn to head for the almighty Holyhead Mountain that oversees the local dwellers and travellers whom come to island of Anglesey. I was in two minds about plan B; I was excited about the prospect of climbing on a new crag and rock type, but on the other hand, a tad bit upset that it wasn’t involving any sea.

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Katie and Steve cruising up Birthday Passage (VS 4c)
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Lawrence getting to grips with the arete of Cursing (VS 4c)

I have no doubt in my mind that plan B was the best idea to salvage the day and was a good way to help us get introduced to quartzite. It’s a rock type i’ve never climbed on before and  heading to Holyhead Mountain definitely helped me gain some confidence as to what to expect and get a feel for the rock.

Holyhead Mountain has plenty of low to mid range grades to go at; mostly from Diff to VS and some HVSs – E4 and are generally about 30-40 metres long. Oh and it’s pretty much an oven on a nice sunny day, so make sure your creamed up! Overall, a wonderful spot and is only about a 20 minutes march from the car – winner.

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Attempt two at Castell Helen

We decided that we would try and sneak in our first Gogarth sea cliff experience before the end of our first day of climbing and strolled over to Castell Helen again, in the late afternoon. However, to our amazement, we once again spotted another group of people sitting at the top of the cliff. Undeterred by this fact, we decided to go on down and scout out the situation and assess how long it would take us before we could get stuck in. Things seemed promising this time round: a few people were just topping out, one party waiting to go down and they weren’t doing the route we wanted to do.

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Lawrence and Rob getting ready to abseil down to the ledge of Lighthouse Arete
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Getting intimate on the ledge: 4 of us huddled up on the belay ledge for Lighthouse Arete (VS 4b) and Pel (VS 4c)

Initially it seemed we would be down in no time at all to climb Lighthouse Arete, but an hour later we were starting to be a bit concerned about the party infront of us. They were still hanging on the abseil rope and their partner was still waiting at the top…

During this time a few more climbers gathered at the top of the abseil looking to get down too. These dudes were getting a reet grump on with the hold up and was leaving me feeling a bit sour listening to them moan on. However, once I got to abseil down and landed on the belay ledge, all these feelings faded away: the sound of crashing waves against the ledge was majestic. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it in the climbing world and was in love straight away.

With my new found buzz, myself and Rob skipped up the Lighthouse Arete swapping leads. It’s steady climbing all the way, but probably gets VS to ensure that the uninitiated sea cliff climbers, such as myself, are accommodating for (1) there’s some exposure to sea cliff climbing and (2) to give you a slight warning that you wanna be climbing at said grade confidently, as there’s only really one way off the route and that is up! To retreat off this crag would either involve you turning around and diving into the sea or a massive effort which would involve you ascending up the abseil rope!

Castell Helen is definitely a great introduction into the world of sea cliff climbing and gives you a taste of what to expect at Gogarth. The crag itself has plenty of VSs-E2s to wept your appetite on, so long as your willing to get your queue on, but it’s worth the wait!

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A dreamy path

With our new found learner plates for sea cliff climbing at hand, we both headed to bed with one objective in mind: to wake up the next day to try and fulfil a dream.

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Paths in all directions, but which one to choose?

Considering this was both our first time to Gogarth and everything was completely new to us both, finding Dream wasn’t too hard. Well, it wasn’t all plain sailing, we did take a wrong path or two. I ended up taking us down to Easter Gully before realising we were too far over and had missed Wen Zawn – Wen Slab!

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After spotting someones helmet bobbing along, we knew they were bound to be heading towards Dream

There’s a well warn path heading towards the Dream, but it does have you thinking carefully about each step as it is quite an exposed path and the drop over the edge is probably about 80 metres.

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Finding ourselves on the queuing frontier again!

The all too familiar feelings of having to queue for an abseil came shooting back. Not being the most patient person and liking my space, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do the route anymore. There was one party below us on the first pitch already and two parties waiting to abseil into Dream too, so we were going to be the fourth party that morning looking to get involved and we knew that it would mean a hefty wait of a around 1-2 hours before we could even get stuck into the route ourselves.

So far the experience was as if we were all on Blackpool pleasure beach; it kinda felt like we had all just bought a ticket for the Pepsi Max and were all queuing to one-by-one get the thrill and fear of the in-famous roller coaster ride that was to come. Being behind so many parties would also mean that some of the adventure of the route would be diminished, as we would be able to clearly see where the belays were and where we were going to climb before we’d even done each pitch. On the other hand, this was probably a bit of a blessing in disguise considering that we were still novice’s to Gogarth and that this route is still a massive undertaking even with visual route and belay beta!

One of the main things that spared me on was the fact that myself and Rob had decided quite early on that we would literally dedicate the whole day to the Dream. Therefore, the fact that we were queuing didn’t really matter that much and considering that it is said to be the best climb in the UK, if not the world, then I shouldn’t be so selfish, as it’s here for us all to enjoy! 🙂

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Some other climbers preparing for the 3rd pitch

After spending an hour or so peeing my way through the waiting game on the abseil ledge, I had my first sight of the super imposing final pitch – thought’s of queuing, following other climbers and the Pepsi Max had now all vanished! What the heck is that monster! How the heck are we gonna get through those roofs! Surely that’s not the final pitch?! I like delicate slabs, I can’t crank that hard over a 60 metre sea cliff?!? Too late, Rob had already headed down the abseil line and I couldn’t express my new found fear and curiosity.

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Sling and crusty karibiner heaven
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First sight of the abseil in – a long way down! Gulp!
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No surrender, no retreat! Our first belay ledge at sea level
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Mr.Seal came to say “howdy-do chaps”

By now it had been about 2-3 hours since we had left the car park (9:30am) to get to the bottom of the Dream. I’d say about 30-45 minutes was spent walking, gearing up, drinking some of water supply (that we left in our bags on top of the cliff) and finding the route, then about an hour and a bit was spent on top of the route waiting to abseil in. Now we had spent about another hour at the bottom of the route waiting for party number 3 to head on up pitch 1. After many more whizzes at the bottom of the route we were ready to head on up the first pitch at about 12:30am – What was with all the peeing? Could it be the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks? fear? excitement? campsite water? Whatever it was, I have never pee’d so much in my life. Also, I didn’t mention it earlier, but Castell Helen had the same effect on me, I was needing to pee all the time! This is pretty much why I left my water bottle at the top of Dream before abseiling in – I didn’t fancy needing a leak mid route on the Dream.

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Under the sea – pitch one

Missed by many I bet. As you might be able to see from the picture above, it spends quite a bit of time under the water this pitch. Ironically we weren’t initially intending on doing this pitch, but decided we may as well considering that all the other parties before us headed down to the sea level. Otherwise, we would have waiting for like 2 hours on the high-tide belay ledge above. At least this way we got to see plenty of kayakers, jet boats and seals down ‘ere.

First pitch is quite nice and the rock has an interesting gooey feeling to it, as may imagine. Thankfully Rob had his cool head on and swam his way up the first pitch with no troubles at all. 40 metres later and he was setting up the first belay. The sight of tides crashing against the small belay ledge that I stood on was quite spectacular, but I was a bit precarious as to when this small ledge was gonna be swallowed up by the sea and would I still be on it!?

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Pitch 2
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Getting closer to the dreaded roofs

After completing pitch one, we had to wait another hour or so on the belay on the next belay. I decided now would be a good opportunity to eat my only energy ball for the route. I think it was about 2:30pm before I started to sneak my way over pitch 2.

Rob denies it, but I think in fact he knew all along that he was gonna throw me on pitch 2, as it’s right up my street! Slightly bold slab climbing – what more could I ask for, he knows me all so well! 😀 It’s funny, you sit on the belay ledge after pitch one and think “the start of this next pitch looks nice and easy, but wow, it sure does look like it gets pretty blank after 10 metres or so!”. That’s because it kinda does; All the holds are there, but they begin to get pretty thin and I kinda almost felt like I was off route – that was until I found a rusty old peg, for some reason it helped reassure me that I was on route! Then I ran it out a tad bit to a lovely spike hanging belay.

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Can’t beat a good ol’ hanging belay to finish up pitch 2

After polishing up 2 pitches it was time for Rob to head up the 3rd pitch, which is a massive flake system leading all the way up the way up the wall trending left and then when the flakes run out, traverse on over to the chimneys to your left to set up the 3rd belay. A pleasant pitch with plenty of protection to be had and quality climbing all the way up.

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Mid-way through the remarkable 4 pitch

I don’t think i’ve mentioned this yet, but originally I wasn’t really fearing the route too much, as I thought Rob was going to tackle the final pitch. The thought of myself leading it didn’t even cross my mind! I don’t consider myself a specialist of anything in the overhanging territory, even on single pitch crags, never-mind being 60 metres above the sea on a 40 metre traverse pitch!!??

We both watched each of the 3 parties in front of us crossing the final pitch in awe and fear! Some of them made it look easy, others made it looks like a bit of a tuffle! This was somewhat helpful, intimidating and still intriguing. Also, some parties decided to climb higher and others climbed opted to go lower at certain points. There’s no doubt about it, the final pitch is a work of art: too high or too low and you’d be in dangerously hard terrain, but at the right level, you get steady but very exposed climbing all the way across.

In addition, the protection all the way across these roofs is bomber with plenty of cam, wire and threading opportunities for the eagle eye’d gear placer. Oh and massive slings will most certainly help see you through this pitch without any rope drag (until the end). I couldn’t believe it, I was well chuffed with myself, I had got all the way across the traverse without any rope drag at all. Then after I clipped the in-situ silver peg on the final chimney section with a massive sling and a big grin on my face, I was almost pulled off by outrageous drag that came out of nowhere on the next few moves! I’m not sure if we all get that nip in the tail to finish off the route or if it was just because I didn’t extend my last cam placement with another big sling just before the peg – I used a long quickdraw instead as I was on a wet sloping juggy handhold!

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Toes of victory!
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Rob hanging out in the chimney ready to second the final pitch of Dream

We eventually topped out at about 6pm and raced to our bags for food and water. Considering our journey started at 9:30am, we had pretty much spend the entire day on this wonderful wall: queuing, peeing, climbing, snacking, soaking up the wild exposure and admiring the incredible route that is A Dream Of White Horses.

So there you have it! If you dream big, you can get achieve big! I had no idea that a year ago when I came back to the UK that i’d be undertaking the almighty Dream. I’d heard so much about it and just assumed that it would literally stay a dream for a very long time. I have no doubt in my mind as to how fortunate I am though! The weather, my climbing partner for the weekend (Rob), the wonderful Nick and Trish for organising the event and helping me get my dirtbag butt there and my ability to actually mentally and physically undertake this route had all aligned.

For some people, this route may currently remain a dream for maybe one or more reasons which could include: a lack of climbing partner, the right weather, lack of experience, lack of transport, commitments and/or injury. My advice: don’t give in! If you want it bad enough, it will happen. I’m a big believer in things aligning when they are right, you’ll end up appreciating it all the more too I reckon.

Anyhow, time to go re-assess my wishlist as a lot has been ticked off this year so far including this beauty, which was right at the top!

Need to start dreaming more and bigger I think!

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I wonder if the Old Man is calling my name yet 😀

Happy climbing peeps!

Sea ya later 😉

Naf

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Gogarth – Plenty Of Pissing And Queuing To Fulfil A Dream

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