I’d looked at the space between the top pitch of the Skull and the Grooves for many years. A sizeable wall waiting to be climbed, Dai Lampard had looked at the upper wall and done a brilliant E6 called Wrath of Kahn climbing a groove on the left side of the wall and gaining the Skulls groove half way up (calve pumping).
A dry spell in March and myself, Olly Cain and Emma Twyford head up for an attempt. We climb an awful first pitch up steep grass and loose rocks (it looked ok from beneath) leading to the base of the Prune (a Joe Brown E2-best treated as E3+).
An unclimbed slim groove going out of the Prune at half height was the aim here and after lots of prevaricating and a slip off the boulder problem at the end of the pitch we arrived beneath the potential top pitch.
The top pitch looked ok from beneath with a seam/crack heading up the wall to a horizontal break, the roofs above looked hard. Setting off up it revealed the gear was poor and the climbing too hard. We went up the grooves and an abseil confirmed my suspicions of the top pitch. It was tricky. Keen to do it asap I grabbed Callum and headed up there just as the wind changed to a North Westerly. Poor Callum was left at ’base camp’ listening to me swearing with numb fingers swinging around on the top pitch. We headed down miffed.
The end of May was the next dry spell and after a great little break to pembroke with Dave Heslden I called Mark Reeves who was psyched to try the new route. Mark led the 1st pitch of the Grooves as a better means of accessing the Prune. The new slim groove pitch me, Olly and Emma had done in March felt harder than 1st time but with knowledge of the gear and the moves and with tired calves we managed to access the top pitch cleanly. I placed the key gear that protects the crux techy wall and spent 10 mins on the ledge beneath psyching up.
After the crux there are still 2 6bish moves which the gear may not protect and I felt quite tired but opportunities for a dry north facing crag this year were limited. The sequence I’d played with on the grigri works (just) and the shakeout and good cams gained.
From here an amazing sequence on quartz underclings leads rightwards and where your feet runout 3 good holds appear above the lip leading to 2 big moves up an arete on the top of Cyrn Las (or Diffwys Ddu).We named it the Tower of Midnight after much discussion with Reeves and the top pitch offers one of the best in the Pass. See left for Marks photo of the top pitch. I don’t know how he got this as I was sure both hands were on the tail rope...