Shivering in C Gully – A cold climb on Y Garn
Our ascent of Yr Esgair had been a career highlight leaving me with a deep feeling of satisfaction and total contentment. So much so that I had vowed to take Sunday easy and let Desperate and Demon hit the hill while I slept the sleep of the dead…the best laid plans as they say!
A night in the Douglas Arms followed by a drunken walk up the hill to Mynydd had given me a huge appetite for slumber so I was more than a touch dismayed when at 6am I was rudely awoken by Demon, “Get up Nick, it’s time to go to the mountain”. “What mountain, where, what are you talking about”? It was no good, he wasn’t taking no for an answer, “Get out of bed you lazy bastard”.
And so, once again I found myself at Oggy Cottage in pitch blackness only this time I had a very sore head and a curmudgeonly demeanour, “Look lads, let’s just romp up a grade 1 and go home”, “Yeah, yeah” came the reply but somehow I didn’t believe him. The clag and howling wind did little for my low level of enthusiasm but nothing was going to stop him, Demon is insatiable.
It’s fair to say that the previous day had asked a lot of us both mentally and physically so the trudge up to Cwm Clyd was not without a fair measure of suffering. Imagine my wry smile when an opportunity to turn back presented itself. Demon had gone through the ice and knee deep into Llyn Clyd; I breathed a sigh of relief, surely now we could go home. “Don’t panic” he said, “I’m not too wet so let’s get on with it”. I groaned inwardly, “Get on with what”?
Any thoughts of a quick grade 1 were cast aside when we spied C Gully, the best looking line in the cwm, “Oh yes, look at that little beauty. We’re going to have it”. I groaned again and Desperate laughed at my pathetic and futile demonstrations. Resigned to my fate whatever that may be I followed them to the foot of the climb and before I could say anything more Demon was 20 feet above me and Desperate was getting stuck into some ice on the left wall of the gully.
We soloed the first pitch on good snow and I began to enjoy myself, “This is fantastic” I enthused as the pitch steepened with a couple of short ice passages. Demon was on a mission and threw down a rope to which I clumsily tied; already my hands were getting cold. The gully then took a right turn and a section of mixed lay before him. It was getting tricky and the pitch took an age to surmount before he reached the next belay, a warthog smashed into turf. By the time Desperate joined him I had spent almost an hour on a ledge I had excavated and was growing tired of the icy shower that rained down from above; I was shivering and muttering obscenities when at last my orders to climb came.
At the stance I clipped in and had no compunction in venting my spleen. “What the fuck are we doing here”? “We could be on the way down now. This is a fucking joke. We had a good day yesterday, why couldn’t we have just taken it eas….” My words trailed off and were replaced with moans that became groans before rapidly evolving into full blown screams. Excruciating hot aches had me in their grip and my hands felt as though I had dunked them into a chip pan. Ten minutes passed before the pain subsided but by then Demon had departed, no doubt glad to escape my agonised and probably irritating wailing.
Another long wait ensued before I could climb again; I was miserable, incredibly cold and tired of this inhospitable fissure but steeled myself with the knowledge that the very second we completed the climb I would be rewarded with that special feeling of victory known to all climbers after a tough battle with the elements.
Two short pitches accompanied by the intervening hiatuses followed until at last the gully relented opening out onto the upper snowfield where we were fully exposed to the brutal conditions. Though on grade 1 ground and eager to reach the summit we remained roped together and safeguarded the last climb with hastily constructed axe belays. At last we overcame the small cornice and stepped onto the ridge where we were hammered by ferocious gusts and blinding spindrift. The summit was 20 metres away but we couldn’t see it for we were enveloped in a total whiteout. I roared out my delight but the celebrations would have to wait.
With great care we located the North East Ridge and for the second day running we followed it down to Cwm Idwal where we slumped in the snow for a well earned lie down. At the start of the day I had envisioned a quick and simple snow plod which would have rounded off the weekend in a more than satisfactory fashion. The reality had been a trying four hour battle in a frigid gully and the result? Lasting gratification that can never be found in an easy day. In retrospect it had been a joy. However, I hope next weekend follows a more sedate pattern for I am sorely in need of a rest…only time will tell.