Flying Buttress VDiff
|Pitch 1, Flying Buttress|
Craig led the first pitch, which in reality was a steep and slightly polished scramble. I led the second, which was more of the same, but slightly complicated by a short descending section into a gully at the end. Craig's turn again: pitch 3 begins with an exciting and exposed traverse around the cliff face, before heading upward to the belay point. Then, surprisingly (to me, anyway), he didn't stop. He managed to combine the sinuous (but straightforward) pitch 4 while using a single rope and introducing virtually no drag. I was impressed! This did, however, leave the final angled chimney pitch to me. I used a combination of classic sling usage technique and modern camming (use ‘em where you can!) to gain advantage over the early 20th century gentlemen climbers. It didn't make getting into the chimney any easier though, and I found that a traditional "beast" technique eventually won the day.
Spiral Stairs VDiff (Partly)
|Pitch 2, Spiral Stairs: exposure included|
After the scramble, the second pitch was again Craig’s honour and again an exposed overhanging traverse. He appeared to be getting quite confident at this point! I cleared my belay and climbed past him and on toward "The Forest". Here we bumped into the team who went up Flying Buttress before us, and assumed that they were again on the same route as us: Spiral Stairs. It didn’t twig that we hadn’t seen them on the first 2 pitches. I waited for them to clear the belay below a very impressive, almost vertical "off-width" crack. At least, I think it was off width: it was definitely wider than a fist, perhaps even wider than a solid, modern, mountaineering boot.
|Not Spiral Stairs!|
Eventually, with the mantra “trust the shoes” ringing in my ears, I did indeed "Man Up" and plumped for a boot jammed in the crack, which was only just narrow enough, and stepped up for a positive hold. Phew, what relief! Big boots do have their place, just as they did on the First Ascent in 1931. After then, the climb was relatively simple, completed by my beasting several moves further to the top. Here I found a traditional 1930s belay anchor rock the size of a small car, solid and immovable. I walked the rope around it, clove-hitched in and prepared to belay Craig. He followed up shortly with the words, “there’s no way that’s a VDiff!”. Quite.
After all the excitement, we picked our way delicately back down the loose and potentially lethal descent path. Following a brief chat with a "hypothermic" Stu McAleese concerning the dampness on Cenotaph Corner, we returned to the car then toddled off to the Heights in Llanberis for a self-congratulatory pint for out-smarting Nature and not becoming a Darwin Awards statistic.
Right, when’s the next adventure?