Dream of White Horses, Cenotaph Corner, Hope, Flying Buttress, Great Wall, Main Wall, Christmas Curry, Positron, Comes the Dervish, Right Wall, Vector, Path to Rome, Statement of youth are all route names that will resonate with climbers, the list of classics is near endless.
I’d made plans on this particular day to climb at LPT with Dan Mcmanus. The forecast was due to be poor until 8.00am before becoming good. I’d predicted that Dan would look out of his window which overlooks the Orme towards the end of the bad weather and cancel. At 8.00am Dan messaged to cancel proving my guess correct. Whilst on a big wall trip Dan will happily live on his own dandruff and wait out bad weather sleeping in a waterfall for a week but back in blighty he might crumble at the first whiff of a cloud. After an hour or 2 of calls and counselling I picked him up and we headed down. It was as good as summer conditions get, dry with a costant breeze.
After putting the clips in his project, Youthanasia, Dan did it first attempt making it look very easy, shaking out on most moves and obviously in good shape for his trip to Ratikon. Nick Moulden did a climb on the left and it looked like it was a ‘low gravity’ day on LPT. Having strained my elbow on an undercling on Sea of Tranquility earlier in the year a high step had proved elusive. I arrived there feeling good and getting past the elusive move got very excited, taking time to set my feet in the final positions I began to get set up for the last move before everything caved in and I was spat out into my usual air haunt. I was still pretty happy though and reminded myself that once this one was completed I’d have to attach a mobile at the belay of the last one ready to message Oli Grounsel immediately upon success.
Leaving LPT I headed back for a brew, the day was cloudless and with friends in the Pass I drove round to see what was going on. The conditions were incredible, that golden light with a soft breeze.
I headed up to Dinas Mot and did Diagonal and Superdirect rapidly, feeling I was moving as well as I ever had where you hardly need to stop before going into the next move(doing Gogarth in sub 9 minutes a few days later felt similar). I think Diagonal might even have been the 1st route I did in the Pass with Wez and Adam Wilde sometime in the 90s.
On arrival at the base there was a bit of a party vibe; Gus, Duncan, Fatboy, Sophie, some Spanish climbers…..but as my eyes rose and I got a terrible surprise. Jesus.
Howard Lawledge was 8 metres up Lord of the Flies!
I yelled to his partner:
“Sophie, tell him to get down, it gets serious above”
I’d once watched Howard make a terrifying ascent of Minotaur in Huntsmans Leap involving all kinds of crazy disco legs,whole body quivers, gear dropping out, slapping. It hadn’t looked hopeful for him at all.
At least there were 2 doctors on hand this time and Gus could probably catch him from 20 metres without straining.
After shouting encouragement I went up Ivy Sepulchre and round to the top of Left Wall to get pics and become a voyeur.
The Cromlech itself can seem quite intimidating, being exposed and high in the Pass. Right Wall and Lord of the Flies are both big leads giving runout climbing where a fall in certain sections would be highly unadvisable, courtesy of Pete Livesey and Ron Fawcett. Some of the biggest falls I’ve seen have been off Right Wall.
My friend Adam Hocking had been a bit phased by it when younger but found it easy when he did it, which is no surprise as he was onsighting 8a/+ at the time. He helped talk a chap into trying it who had only led E3 previously. He put in a valiant fight. I was on True Grip opposite when he reached the good holds above the port hole. He was too pumped to hold on to them. As he parted company with the rock he let out a scream and I locked up on the holds I was on and gazed across terrified. The scream continued and he curled into the foetal position, some of his gear banged against the rock, unclipped from the rope and flew out towards the scree below. It looked like he wasn’t going to stop but thankfully he did. Lord of the Flies has also seen some big ones off the top. The footage of Big Ron on it is well worth a watch.
Back on the routes Howard was looking very solid and it looked like the gear he placed was staying in. Kate was also looking well solid. I’d climbed with Kate recently and knew she was a great climber having a deliberate style well suited for trad but she’d mentioned she hadn’t onsighted E5 and I thought Right Wall a reasonably big lead for a first.
They both arrived at the ¾ ledge at the same time. Kate moved up towards the port hole which to reach and get passed many people find the crux. Reversing down a move or 2 but not bothering to step onto the ledge for a rest she committed above once more and reached the port hole. As an observer at this point and having witnessed the consequences of people ‘letting go’ made the tension feel palpable, staying focused for a few more moves the good holds leading rightwards were reached convincingly.
It looked as if both Kate and Howard topped out at the exact same time, in sync. I went and offered some peppermint tea to go with the bilberries on top. North Wales and the Pass had given great times again. I had to shoot off to prep for work the following day but the others finished with a pint in the Vaynol before their journeys home. Reality kicked back in but the memory never fades...apart from Ry Pasquils, his is mush.