19th May 2014

Route of the Week No. 3

The Gauntlet HVS 5a, Upper Tier at Gogarth

To the seaside this week!

The forecast was good the day before, but as is the way in North Wales it had started to rain in Llanberis. A quick check on www.yr.no and the coast looked like a good bet, Gogarth it was.

Gogarth is a special place for most climbers, really atmospheric, generally steep sea cliff climbing and today the lingering sea mist made it slightly spooky.

Stu had his sights set on an E2 called UFO but we wanted a warm up first so we decided to climb The Ramp first but after scrambling down and along the cliff, as is always the way, the only other climbers around were already on that so The Gauntlet it was!

We sorted ourselves out and set up a belay at the bottom, there was an unfortunate accident here last year where it seems the climbers hadn’t put in a belay at the bottom of the route, which is a must do as the fall below the start of the route has potential for very, very serious consequences. Stay safe folks and take a minute to put in an initial belay on these type of routes.

The start of the first pitch looks mega easy from the bottom and Stu made light work of it as always and cruised up to the belay which has some in situ gear. There is the option to climb a bit higher and belay below the final crack but I preferred the way we did it.

Following up the first pitch I realised that all the big holds you can see from the bottom aren’t as big or as positive as they first appear! It’s all there but the holds are a bit thinner than you expect and are typically Gogarth style weird angles so it takes a little thought to make progress. Similarly the gear placements are there but they’re on the small side, but after a few metres you reach a peg and then better gear.

The climbing then eases off and you can look around and enjoy the imposing but impressive setting. We were lucky, the sun was out and it was t-shirt off weather – Gogarth had triumphed again.

I had the next pitch, 4b in the guide so a bit of a path really I thought. Well, I was glad I climb harder than 4b because it was cheeky! It starts easily enough up a groove then steps right which gets you thinking a little before you’re standing below the final corner crack which is a good looking bit of rock climbing.

The crack provides ample opportunity for protection, it’ll swallow cams nicely with a currently in situ nut as well, but you look down at the footholds and think “where are the rest of the footholds?!” Pull hard and smear though and keep going, stuff a final Dragon cam in and grab the big finishing jugs to pull over on to the top, greeted by some abseil tat to belay off.

Stu followed up and unprompted by me suggested it was more 4c than 4b, I’d be inclined to agree.

I’d suggest using the abseil tat to descend. We didn’t so Stu lead of up the 30m slope above which is a mix of vegetation and blocky choss, placing one or two bits of gear before finding a block to belay off at the top. I’d definitely stay roped up for this bit if you go this way, it would be really easy to slip or snap some rock off.

After wondering back to the bags we jumped on UFO – E2 5b,5c,5a which all went really well, the first pitch especially is a cracker and well protected as long as you have the energy! I found the crux of the second pitch quite tricky and not where the guide says the crux is and the 3rdpitch has a bit of suspect rock.

The Gauntlet is a great intro to the crag but the whole area takes a bit of getting used to, so it’s probably best enjoyed if you have a grade or more in hand for your first visit whilst you get familiar with the rock and the atmosphere. Other routes to do here at a similar grade include The Ramp and Scavenger.

Make sure you leave enough time at the end of the day to grab an ice cream by the beach after, as it wouldn’t be a proper trip to the seaside without it!

If you want to sample some awesome sea cliff climbing in North Wales check out my climbing course page.

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