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Idwal Slabs

Date: 26th June 2010
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

The winding down of my time in Birmingham meant getting all my stuff back from the apartment on the ferry. PJ took a couple of days off and drove my bus over on the Thursday and Friday night we drove the packed car up to Betws y Coed for a spot of camping.

We'd managed to cram the 2 bikes in and the midges gave us an excuse to do the "wobbly bike thing" from the Stables pub in the village. The farm camp site on the edge on the village had a very strict owner who toured with her son at night with a torch to make sure you weren't speaking above a whisper, so there was it an early night after the shockingly early 11:30 closing time. On a Friday?!

Next morning we tootled over to Idwal Slabs via every gear shop around finally settling on the Joe Brown one hidden away on the junction to Llandudno at Capel Curig. At least the guy there could talk about female harnesses to PJ with more than a "it's VERY comfy" sales patter. One new harness later we were trudging up to the slabs after bumping into an Enniskillen man who now lives in Derry, who'd just done the 14 Wales 3000ft peaks and wanted to do the Cuillin in 1 day. "Sure I've done that" I quietly boasted.

The beaming sunshine meant it felt more like a walk in the Alps and the slabs were commensurately full of climbers. We were intially going to do Tennis Shoe HS and I could feel the weight of history as I started up the bold first moves. Or perhaps that was the heavy pack that threatened to peel me from the polished holds? 20 feet up I gave up trying to stay on and lowered off leaving a wee nut behind. I think maybe I started on Tennis Shoe Direct which is HVS 5c rather than HS.

So then, over to Hope (VDiff) which was much less polished and therefore much more enjoyable. The only downside was a whining child that PJ and I both wanted to give a stern talking to if not a good clip round the lughole. "I caaaan't put my feet in there" "I don't knoooow how to tie this" Grr!

Anyway, the Welsh climbers who put these routes up originally must be made of sterner stuff than I because Hope was thin and athletic enough for a VDiff in places. But it was a grand route made very enjoyable by the belay conversations with the other climbers on the same or parallel lines, including a bomb disposal tech who'd been to Iraq and had the Camp Liberty t-shirt to prove it.

On Holly Tree Wall we watched most people go up Javelin Gully. Some other souls had taken a direct line up Original Route and from underneath it looked fine. Not so when I got to the centre block and could feel that big pack weight pulling at me as I tried the VS 5a move. Bugger it, another lower off on a well jammed nut. Managed to retrieve the nut though with a borrowed tool and a few thumps with a big hex.

So it was into the crowded gully with the others to queue up for Lazarus (S 4a). The description talks of a traverse and some thin moves and when I finally got to lead it, it was definitely very thin indeed. Severe you say? Jesus these Welsh boys were hard! I got to a spike in the corner which barely took a small sling and was the only thing preventing a big swing if I fell so it took a bit of courage to make the move up into the corner and up the blocks to finish.

From the top we got a bit lost descending and nearly ended up down-climbing Ordinary Route but eventually we found some scratched arrows that led to an abseil point and a short walk out. We just decided to go to the pub in the sweaty gear, thirsting for a cool beer after the hot day.

Next day was another scorcher and we took the bikes round the gear shops again looking for a rucksack for me to use in the Alps. The purple and gay grey one is no more! Once again Joe Brown’s trumped the others and it was mighty fine to ride downhill from Capel Curig into Betws y Coed at top speed, the man boobs rippling in the wind. And on that bombshell…

Photo of Route