September 2023 – Wales

22nd to 24th of September

MKMC Attending:
Lee, Matt, Kieran, Malcolm, Naomi, Michelle, Alexis, Matthew, Alex, Stacey, Shane, Bob, Keith, Nick

Back to North Wales, staying in the Oxford Mountaineering Club hut, Cefn Garw in Pentrefoelas, about 20 minutes East of Betws-y-coed. 

The hut was in an excellent location, giving easy access to the Ogwen Valley, Llanberis Pass and the Molewnys, however describing it as “Basic” would be an understatement having no showers and only being accessible by car for those confident at “offroading”. While some cars did make it up the track, an equal number decided to pass and park in the village which was about 20 minutes walk away, not ideal with a weekend’s worth of stuff on your back.

A little damp, so despite a few early starts, no mountaineering was achieved. 

On Saturday the majority of us headed to Craig Y Tonnau, a small single-pitch crag between Betws-Y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog with really unusual rock (a marine deposit of volcanic ash), the rock has a gris stone-like texture but is littered with jugs and the crag is distinctly wavy. We decided to climb here as it was reportedly quick drying and the preference of most leaders was for easier climbs of which this crag has plenty. Being single-pitch also made it more suitable for the number of novices on the crag.

When we arrived the rock was still wet and there were a few nervous leads, but as the day progressed the sun came out and the rock dried leading to a very enjoyable day. 

Highlights included the obvious crackline of Dianne’s Approval (VD), Robin’s Nest (S) which stars and an obvious keyhole-shaped slot and Brewer’s Troupe VS 4C which has a hard and bold start followed by steeper juggy climbing above.

We also set up a top rope on Dinner Time, an E1 5a with a very bold start. Alex Thakway and Kieth showed us the value of experience by making the crux look effortless while the rest of us struggled.

Michelle, Bob and Alex Pond had a day of scrambling in the Ogwen Valley. They completed the Pinnacle Ridge Variant on the east face of Tryfan which is a 3+/Mod scramble then descended the west face path off the summit to make an ascent of Wrinkled Tower another 3+/Mod before returning to the summit via the North Ridge (grade 1).  Bob & Michelle were roped in and were using both moving together and pitching tactics to try and keep things flowing as much as possible, Alex just soloed coz he’s nails.

They descended off the South Ridge and Michelle opted for an easier end of the day and walked off to Ogwen cottage and around Llyn Ogwen very graciously carrying the majority of Bob & Alex’s kit so they could move a bit faster towards Glyder Fach’s Hawks Nest Buttress. Here they made a reasonably speedy ascent of the very engaging Shark’s Buttress which despite being only grade 3 felt the most serious and intimidating.  After a quick refuel at the summit, they made their way off via Y Gribin (grade 1) and back down meeting Michelle at the car and straight to the Pub.

Stacey walked to Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach visiting the industrial remnants of the Victorian era at Rhosydd quarry and the dereliction created in the past. On reaching the trig point on Moelwyn Mawr it provided the perfect opportunity to savour the excellent visibility and one of the most speculator and diverse views of North Wales with the vista including the mountainous peaks of the national park, the sandy coastline and the distant Llyn peninsula. Following a descent via Bwlch Stwlan and Moelwyn Bach, the start point at Croesor was reached where the community cafe were holding an afternoon Reggae event and the opportunity to refuel with refreshments and cakes.

Shane, hitting the trail around 10 am, headed up the path along Creigiau R Gelli, west towards Y Foel Goch, then up to Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr and then down into Idwal Cottage via Devil’s Kitchen.  After a quick gel, it was time to ascend Pen yr Ole Wen, straight up the nose!. Some of the upper reaches present nice grade 1 scrambles, but there is one little crux which poses significant danger and difficulties, and in Shane’s book, deserves a grade 2. 

After attaining the summit, the route follows excellent runnable high ground along Cefn Ysgolion Duon and Bwlch Cyfryw – drum to Carnedd Llewelyn. From there, Shane followed the well-worn path to Foel Grach north for 500 meters, but then headed down, east then south to Ffynnon Llyffant to pay respect to the crew of WK129, who perished on the 9th December 1957.  He continued south-east along the unforgiving and undulating terrain featuring bog, waterfalls and streams to meet the old mining path at Cwm Eigiau, until the reservoir at Llyn Eigiau. Shane made it back to Capel Curig just as the sun was setting. The total for the day was 37 km with 2500 m of ascent.

On Sunday, the forecast in Snowdonia looked pretty grim., but things looked like they might be drier further east. Myself, Matt Rush, Matt Cleary, Naomi, Nick Kieran and Harry (Kieran’s brother), headed to Trevor Quarry, a sport climbing crag above LLangollen. The rock was dry when we arrived and we got a couple of routes in but the weather was very changeable frequently shifting between bright sunshine and strong winds and drizzle. We decided to pack up when things started to get a bit wetter, however by the time we’d made it back to the cars the sun was out again.

Visibility was poor in contrast to the previous day, so Stacey and Michelle chose a walk through the Aberglaslyn Valley to Llyn Dinas for Sunday’s outing. The previous night’s rainfall made the Afon Glaslyn roar in spate, making the fisherman’s walk impassable. Undeterred, they progressed through the valley by road, with Michelle grateful she had only packed her B3 boots, keeping her feet dry despite several inches of water, in numerous stretches throughout the walk. The descent back to Nantmor through Cwm Bychan passed the remains of the copper mine tramway and included several ‘stream crossings’ made precarious by the additional volume of water. 

Alex Pond & Bob visited the White Goods dry tooling venue where we aimed for the Kitchen Garden Area.  There was some very suspect-looking rock on the periphery so they concentrated their efforts on the most solid-looking parts. The climbing was mostly on natural placements and with this being only their second ever attempt at tooling they opted for Top Rope-only climbing.  They managed a D5 (Adam’s) a couple of times to warm up then both made quick work of 2 D7’s (Apple & And Pears) both with very steep starts before finishing with some technical wall climbing.

They were only there for 3hrs but were thoroughly boxed by the end of it, this was next-level pulling!

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September 2023 – Scotland

7-15 September 2023

MKMC attending:
Peter, Kathy, Neal, James

The aim of this trip was “big mountain days with scrambles and classic climbs” and the group managed to deliver on this despite chasing the weather around the Highlands! The base was the Raeburn Hut (SMC) on General Wade’s Military road between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore. A really cosy place with good facilities, gas heating and cooking and the best shower we have ever experienced in a hut!

Peter and Kathy arrived on Thursday night and had to talk their way through a closed road sign as the road was being resurfaced. After a night being kept up by tarmac removal (grind… beeeep beeeep) they picked up Neal from the sleeper train at Dalwhinnie (good for Neal!) and headed to The Ben Nevis North Face Car park for a stunning sunny day climbing The Ben by Tower Ridge (Vdiff – 800m). This was Neal’s first Munro and first “proper” scramble route. Having done the route in 2021 Peter and Kathy enjoyed a relaxed and interesting second time around including advising other groups exactly where the Eastern Traverse actually is. Neal was nearly broken by the 1300m descent but all made it back to the hut in time to meet James who had arrived by car.

With slightly less promising weather on Saturday, we headed to Binnean Shuas – an hour and a half walk into possibly the best Hard Severe multi-pitch in the UK – “Ardverikie Wall”. Neal and James climbed it first (with Neal veering into and out of the E1 side of the first pitch!) while Kathy and Peter enjoyed the 45m sensational second pitch of “Kubla Kahn” (HS) and then followed them up. Climbing finished just before the rain set in and we all got completely drenched on the way back to the car (except Kathy who had brought her waterproof trousers)! Luckily the Raeburn Hut has a great drying room.

On Sunday there was better weather in the Cairngorms so we walked into Coire nan Lochain to climb “Savage Slit” (S) and “Fallout Corner” (HS or VS) on the number four buttress – both of which start at 1100m. Stunning vertical climbing on horizontal folded granite ribs with great protection. Descent over the Cairngorm Plateau down Fiacaill Ridge (grade 1 scramble) back to the car. A group of 4 Ptarmigan were spotted on the way down. Kathy headed home on the sleeper train that night after Fish and Chips at Joe’s in Newtonmore.

On Monday Peter, James and Neal took a break and found some sun cragging at Huntley’s cave near Grantown-on-Spey. Unmidgey in September, but still with ticks, the rock is overhanging and intimidating but with positively angled holds making for surprisingly accessible exits through roofs. The climbs of the day were “Cave Route” (HS– led by James) and its pumpy variation “Cave Route Direct” (VS – led by Peter) both of which exited out through an off-width crack in a large roof, but with good protection.

On Tuesday good weather in the West and the need to do something on James’ way home led us to Glencoe to climb the mega-classic “Agag’s Groove” on Rannoch Wall, Buchaille Etive Mor. A grade 2 scramble in (Curved Ridge) leads to the bottom of the wall. 4 pitches of fine mountain VDiff were led by Neal and James while Peter hung out (literally) on the belays chatting with other climbing groups and drinking tea. Neal’s second Munro! James headed home.

On Wednesday Neal and Peter went adventurous with a 4:45am alpine start to beat the weather and climb the 4-pitch “Cioch Nose” (S) on Sgurr a’ Chaorachain – another Classic Rock must. Immaculate Torridonian red sandstone coupled with wild scenery and a complex mountain route mean this is not a route for the fainthearted and we both felt the first two pitches were stiff at Severe. On reaching the top of the climb after only 2.5 hours, we decided that the intended descent gully was a “grassy deathtrap” (Peter’s words) and so the decision was taken to carry on with the 500m VDiff scramble of the “Na Ciochan continuation”. One roped pitch, some pitched down-climbing, plenty of exposed scrambling and an abseil. A great mixed mountain route. Eventually, we got back to our car 7 hours after leaving; and just before the rain! Coffee at the cosy Tornapress gallery revived us for the drive back to the hut.

Thursday was a rest day with a lie-in and then a drive to Moy Rock for some sport climbing. An intimidating vertical to overhanging conglomerate crag with long routes. 4 routes were managed topping out at 5c+ but felt like 6b! Beautiful scenery south to Inverness.

On Friday after a good tidy of the hut Neal and Peter headed to Polney Crag near Dunkeld for some Mica-Schist rock. After a 5-minute walk-in, Peter led “Cuticle crack” (S 4a) then Neal led “Kestrel Crack” (S 4a). An interesting route with a good off-width section which he was particularly pleased with leading. The crag’s easy descent is via abseil with in-situ tat and blackberries in September! The trip finished with Peter leading “The End” (VS 5a) with some excellent technical pulls-over overlaps and decent protection. It was great to be able to experience some of the great mountaineering routes in Scotland over the week – hopefully, MKMC can revisit the Raeburn Hut again.

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August 2023 – Gower

On August Bank Holiday weekend, 15 members of MKMC journeyed down to the Gower Peninsula in South Wales for a fantastic weekend of Climbing, Walking, Surfing, Swimming and Pubbing. This is the first time that MKMC have headed to this location, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty situated just to the west of Swansea and offers stunning coastlines and fantastic sandy beaches. 

We camped at the Pilton Cross Caravan Park in an idyllic spot offering sunset views over the Bristol channel.

Neal and Alex Ward headed down early to get some Surfing in (with mixed success). 

James joined them on friday and after dodging a few showers they headed to Black Buttress, a Sport crag in the Rhossili area, the highlight of which was Monica’s Dress, an exciting line following a crackline up a groove and overhang.

Most of the rest of us arrived on Friday evening after fighting through the Bank Holiday Weekend traffic on the M4. 

Unfortunately, the tides were not especially favorable this weekend, low tide being at ~07.30 on Saturday and ~10.50 on Monday. However, not to be put off, Alistair and Kieran made a very early start and headed to the Sport Crag of Mermaid wall on Rhossili beach which is only accessible for about 2 hours either side of low tide. 

The rest of us took a more leisurely start. Nigel and Michelle went for a hike along the coastal bath from the campsite in Pilton Cross, to Port Eynon and back, taking in the flora and fauna, fantastic sea views, cliffs and beaches and were even graced with some wild ponies.

Meanwhile the remaining climbers headed to Carbon Slab, for some non-tidal sport climbing. This area is a compact slab of back rock offering climbs within the grades of 4b to 6b+. The highlight of this crag was Carbonate, a technical 6a up a soaring arete, Mary in particular was “well chuffed” to get this line. Other notable routes included Carbon Times, a delicate 6a+ up a slab with surprisingly positive hand holds, and Wait for the Fat Lady’s Thong, a varied 5+ following a groove and flake line up to an overhang with a stopper move to clip the chains. 

Neal took a mini-whipper on this and ended up inverting, fortunately he was ok other than a few bruises and managed to complete the route, but lessons were learned about the importance of making sure you don’t get your feet caught up in the rope.

We’d  spent most of the day watching rain clouds approach from the sea but somehow falling either side of us, but our luck could only hold out so long and we got caught in a deluge. This resulted in a heroic lead from Josh on a soaking wet Carbon Times in order to retrieve the quick draws.

Gower seems to be a place of many micro-climates and by the time we’d backed up and started walking back to the cars the sun had come out and things had brightened up considerably. Alex Ward, James, Naomi, Josh and myself spotted some dry rock and decided to try and squeeze a few more climbs in on Wedge Wall while the others headed to the pub.

The pub in question was the Worm’s Head Inn which turned out to serve both great beer and very tasty food. We ended up spending both Saturday & Sunday evening’s there.

On Sunday Alistair and Kieran got another early start and returned to the Tidal Crags on Rhossili beach before heading home. 

Michelle had a nice solo walk along the coastal path past the Worm’s Head (a small island that is connected to the mainland by a causeway at Low tide). 

Mary, Josh and Nick had aspirations to do some Trad, and headed to Trial Wall, however on discovering the rock was somewhat friable, made the sensible decision to stick to sport, moving onto Black Buttress after ticking most of the routes at Trial Wall.

The rest of us headed to Third Sister, another Sport climbing area, this time in a much more remote and secluded setting with multiple cliffs on different levels . We were the only people we saw for the whole day. The highlight for most people here was Gadaffi Groove, a steepish 6a line on very positive holds but with some tricky route finding. Another highlight here was the “discovery” of Bottom Third Sister, an almost secret cliff tucked well below the main climbing in a really idyllic spot above the sea. Alex Ward did a great lead here of The Haworth Lassies a very technical 6a+ up a steep slab and an overhang.

On Monday it was finally time to do some trad, and with the tides looking more favorable we headed to Tor Bay, climbing on Little Tor and Little Star Wall. These crags are in an absolutely stunning setting sprouting directly up from a golden sandy beach. The belay from the top of Little Tor has to rank in my top 5 belay spots! With time being somewhat limited and many people wanting to get off early in an attempt to beat the traffic home we weren’t able to get a huge amount done hear, but various people lead/seconded Right Edge (VD), Flake Corner (VD) and Central Flake (S) all three of these were of excellent quality. Michelle Ward joined us on the beach for a quick swim, and Michelle Neville and Alex Teixeira climbed briefly before also being drawn to the Sea  for a swim. 

With time pressing on, we set up a couple of top tops to allow us to get a bit more climbing in, in the time we had left. The first was on Left White, HVS 5a, an enjoyable slab climb with a delicate crux move from a good undercut (I regretted top-roping this as it felt quite leadable). The second top rope was on Superdirect E1 5c, a technical climb up cracks with poor feet.

Everyone involved had a fantastic weekend, and we’d all highly recommend The Gower for future MKMC trips.

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July 2023 – Capel Curig

Friday 14th to Sunday 16th July
It was a wet and windy forecast that saw 6 members head up to Dolgam Campsite near Capel Curig on a Friday.  Keith, Peter and Kathy were up there early and headed to Beacon climbing on Friday due to the rain.  They enjoyed the 20m, mostly juggy, overhanging 6’s for the afternoon along with tea and cake!

On Saturday Peter and Kathy braved the weather to walk up to Llwtmor and skirt Foel Fras on the end of the Carneddau.  Winds gusting 40mph and rain all the way down was fun but the rainbows and Blaeberries made up for it.  The rest of the group went to Beacon for climbing, tea and cake. A range of grades were climbed with all enjoying the longer routes and the large overhang plus a taxing arête route. Saturday night was pretty wild and the farmer had to get most of the group up at 2:30 a.m. to move their tents out of the rising floodwater! Neal lucked out as he only had to move his van.  Sadly this didn’t make for a good rest and most of the group left for home on Sunday morning.  Kathy and Peter had booked an AirBnB sometime before the Club trip was announced and were grateful for the solid roof!

However, Matt, Neal, James, Peter and Kathy headed to Holyhead Mountain and managed to get in 8 good routes between them ranging from Plimsole (D) to Romulus (VS 5a) in the SUN.  In the late afternoon, a few showers persuaded them to head to the RSPB cafe for (you guessed it) tea, coffee and cake before an easy drive home on the North Wales Expressway.

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