I’ve had an amazing couple of weeks back in the UK, the weather, after a super shaky start has been brilliant. I’ve managed to get out most days and when I haven’t, I’ve been out on my bike instead. Living in North Wales has been awesome!
Climbing highlights include Blanco, HVS at Castell Helen, Canol, E1 in the Pass, a link up of Tennis Shoe Direct, Tennis Shoe, Rampart Corner and Continuation Cracks, E1 – HS – E1 – HVS on Idwal slabs and plenty of others, but one stands out for sure…
“Do you fancy Devil’s Nordwand?” Stu’s message read. I’d never heard of it so quickly checked UKC to see what and where it was, I groaned internally, in the Devil’s Kitchen and pretty rarely climbed. I had visions of a shady, wet, chossy route which at E1 5b was going to be hard work! I’m weak willed so I agreed and dutifully rode over to Stu’s house in Llanberis the next morning, it was a stunning day so the thought of standing in a damp Devil’s Kitchen wasn’t super appealing.
On looking at the guidebook though I realised Clogwyn Geifr isn’t in the Kitchen itself, but is a great looking cliff on the flanks of it. I was completely unaware of this cliff despite years of living around here and when it came into view on the walk in, it was even in the sun – amazing!
The walk in isn’t too bad either, we had just passed loads of people at the bottom of Idwal Slabs when Stu asked if I’d picked up a rope…. Errr, no. Thankfully we had one and not knowing if the other half was in the car or at Stu’s house we car carried on up the path. “Is it a triple rated rope? No…” We traversed across to the crag reminiscing about the time we abbed into Castell Helen with just one rope. Oh well, isn’t it lightweight alpine style to climb on one thin rope?
The crag looked brilliant in the sun, just one damp patch on our first pitch, that coincided with the “Awkward Traverse” and that was my pitch. The rock looked brilliant and we were basking in the sun chuckling at the masses on the Slabs in the cold looking shade.
Geared up and feeling a little naked with one skinny rope dangling down I started off up the first pitch which is 5b, it was pretty steady with enough gear which requires a keen eye to find and place, it’s a little spaced but the rock was confidence inspiring due to the rough texture of it, even the slopey holds felt super positive. Extending the gear well due to our “Alpine” ascent (!) I was soon at the awkward traverse, staying low on good hand holds and spanning across to miss a couple of wet holds saw me in the belay niche, which the guide says “requires a bit of cunning to construct”. The gear in there isn’t perfect but a Walnut 3, 6 and a thread, plus something else I forget meant I was more than happy with at so I leant back on it all taking in the fantastic position of the crag and it’s surroundings.
Selfie on the P1 belay, shade incoming!
P1 was super good and Stu’s P2 looked even better. After arranging some fairly small gear he went up through the small roof of the niche we were in, then up quite a bold but steady section by a small sapling. It was at this point Karma started making an appearance, we were no longer looking over to the Slabs laughing at their shade, in fact we were very jealous of the sun they were climbing in as we were in the shade getting quite cold from the breeze… Stu regretting just wearing a T-Shirt!
After a bit of thought around a bulge with a crack above he was away to the belay and I followed up the route, my eyes watering at the top ‘cos of the cold wind, Stu was shivering on the belay so we swapped gear as quickly as we could before I set off up the final 35m of 4c climbing. As was the theme of the route the rock was brilliant but gear a little spaced, I was just excited to scramble over the last few heathery metres onto the top, greeted by the sun again, but not as excited as shivering Stu was when he joined me up there! The belay up there is on a funky looking bit of rock. A careful scramble down a ramp to the left brought us to a bit of ab tat which we used the last section is down climbable for sure but we abbed it as it seemed silly not to.
Stu leaving the niche on P2
It’s very easy to go to the same crags all the time, especially the ones with an easy walk in like the Grochan, I can be at the bottom of the crag within 20 minutes of leaving my house, but there are some superb crags and routes hiding in plain sight. If you’re climbing around E1 and want a slightly adventurous route, which is almost certain to have no one else on it, Devil’s Nordwand is well worth a look. This time of year it gets the sun until about 1200, we just had a slightly too lazy a start…
We needed warming up so we then went and did the Idwal Slabs linkup I mentioned earlier. Tennis Shoe’s direct start get’s E1 5a, pretty easy but thin climbing with minimal gear for the first part. We then moved together on Tennis Shoe before doing Rampart Corner which is E1 5c and has some pretty tricky but well protected moves, finishing on the HVS 5a Continuation Cracks, which are no pushover!
An awesome day.
Devil’s Nordwand, 100m E1 5b, 5b, 4c
R James, J V Anthonie 1959
Stu on the crux section of Rampart Corner
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