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Monday, 19 December 2011

Best New Routes of the Year

It's been perhaps the most frenzied year for new route activity on the North Wales Limestone for the best part of 20 years. From show stopping high 8's to diddy 5's there's been a lot going on throughout the region. The A55 guide has almost doubled in size, Lee Proctor and friends have been busy at Pantymywn and Ruthin and the Ormes have continued to provide routes as good as any in the UK. There were 11 new grade 8's on the coast, i don't think this has ever happened before in a year! Anyway here are my top ten, argue away at will, they're not in order of quality. couldn't be ringed with that! When i told Pete Robins and Pete Harrison i was doing the list i jokingly said 9 out of the 10 routes were my routes. It is probably indicative of how vain and deluded people think i am as they actually believed me!

Megalopa,8c+, LPT, Neil Dyer
The most significant Welsh line of the year! This incredible route was a surprise to many who hadn't even spotted the potential for a direct finish to Walking Mussel up that gleaming white headwall. Pete Robins and Neil bolted it together and tried it together. Initial forays soon accelerated into full blown redpoints and a race to the top ensued that provided much excitement and entertainment for the regular LPT goers. We hadn't seen a situation like this before (had Britain on anything near this hard??!), both climbers had a long way to go. It was a case of placing your bets, popping on you 3D specs, pulling out a deck chair and watching the action. Neil was the darhorse but despite him not having done the Walking Mussel he took the early advantage being more consistent on that middle crux sequence. We thought he had it in him but did he? Pete was the current king of the crag but was not up to full speed yet and he would have to get used to breathing in Dyer's Miura dust. Dyer soon made it through the first crux on the headwall. Pete had made it to the move but was in bulk and not close. Everyone expected a quick conclusion but it wasn't to be as Dyer came up short on the next big move. Weeks passed and Robins started to gather momentum. How would Dyer cope with this new situation. He wanted it, he felt he deserved it but would he get it! The prospect of Robin's latching that first crux and then shooting to the top like a rat up a drainpipe was omnipresent. He kept it chill, he continued not to warm up and one day in mid August he stuck that twatting move. I watched with baited breath from the Over The Moon crack as he negotiated the finishing moves. Nervously but solidly he topped out and shrieked: "Is it happening" (wait for the footage to hear this delightful quip). A brilliant well deserved achievement and a fantastic route that will hopefully receive the attention it deserves. To his credit Pete kept plugging away and a few weeks later got his topout to assure his place as an LPT great and becoming the first to tick the 8c+ trilogy.

Red Meat,7b,Craig Pen Gogarth,Pete Harrison
Pete Harrison must have racked up the most ab time yet again this year. Exploring the Orme researching for the bolt fund guide helped him unearth a few plum lines. The most significant of these was Red Meat on the leaning wall opposite 'Dave Lyon' crag. This 30 metre line took much effort to bolt and clean and was pretty unique for the area. The first 2/3 or so was relatively steady with pumpy climbing but some good rests. This let to a sustained finishing crux sequence where decison making was of the essence as your forearms waned. The route became a popular tick with many intrigued parties heading down for the new Orme pump experience.

The Madness Reigns,8a,Dyserth Waterfall, Chris Doyle
Probably the best new route on a excellent new sector. Worthy of inclusion for the crux sequence along which features some pathetic grips. Good fun. The two 7c's are also excellent and the 8b will float some people's boats.
Pic: Ray Wood:

Release The Hounds,7c,Craigiau Gigfran,Gav Foster
Finally Gav got round to climbing his project (hence the name)! This curving overhanging prow above Penmaenmawr was one of the worst kept secrets in North Wales. Gav realised the time had come and put a few sessions in in order to bag it. The first half of the route is the prow feature. It is climbed with compression and heels, you really feel like you're fighting to stop yourself slipping off the frictionless rock. After the crux better holds and easier climbing are waiting and a nervy romp to the top via some excellent wall climbing. Release the Hounds became an instant classic and propelled itself to near the top of the 7c quality list. For me it was brilliant to do something unique for the area that wasn't just another overhanging piece of limestone.

The Empire State,8a,The Diamond,Tommy Chamings
Diamond season really captured the imagination this year. Pete Harrison and Neil Dyer were all over the massive walls in exploration mode. There were ropes hanging everywhere. More curious visitors landed on the beach and more quality routes went up. One of the coolest lines was Tommy's project from 2009 which followed a yellow streak of rough grease free Diamond rock. The first 2 bolts featured desperate bouldery climbing but from there the route was 8a and went right to the top of the crag. It had jugs, shakeouts and runouts and was unlike most of the 8's in the area. With this route and Pete Robin's excellent The Black Pearl just to the right it made sense to start them initially with aid starts from the jugs. Why deny ourselves 25 metres of 3 star climbing for the sake of a boulder problem! If it's good enough for Ceuse! Anyway Tommy satched it up quicktime and Dyer did the deed on the flash. Supersmashinggreat
Pic by Mark Reeves:

The Brute,8b,The Diamond,Neil Dyer
The Diamond super route of the year and right near the top of the best of it's grade in the country. For me it isn't the amazing line, movement and rock that make this route so special-it's the style. Bouldery routes are too short, stamina routes are too long. Power endurance is the most interesting style for me and this route epitomises the best of it even though it is a lot of moves for PE. From leaving the amazing juggy flake at the 2nd bolt it's a weaving, sustained, hold onto your hats sprint to the top with barely a chance to catch breath. In 32 moves you only really stop once and it's not a good rest as the right hand is on a sloper. You cling to the barrelled steepness trying to execute each move as well as possible to preserve strength. Speed is important but not to the detriment of precision. Basically it just flows like perfection and the difficulties are largely dispersed on amazing holds. The climbing let's up a bit towards the chain but you need to keep crimping when the crimp is fading. A 20 year old project; props to Steve Mayers for his early efforts and to Neil for making it a reality. Jordan and Caff nipped in for repeats and seemed to agree with the hard 8b tag. Mega

The Last Crusade,8a+,Llanddulas Cave,Chris Doyle
Last year when i was redpointing on what would become Temple of Gloom i spent a lot of time staring at this line trying to imagine what you would pull on and how it climbed. Unlike Temple it had never been inspected before. Early this year i pestered Tony to lug his ladder up there and we got the thing bolted. Sessions of hanging on the bolts trying to figure out shapes, positions and moves followed. On both those roof routes i have been amazed how steady the sections have become after a bit of time playing around. I soon had the sections wired enough to try some redpoints although it was a bit of a memory test on the complex sea of slopey sidepulls at the end. Just as i was about to seal the deal i tore my oblique warming up on it resulting in a month out and severe pain when sneezing. I was soon back in the groove and pulled out a memorable ascent with a near skipping bolts deck out scene. If you like PE and you like roof climbing get on it!

Alberta Rose, 7c,Detritus Wall,Pete Harrison
Pete's little community project for the year was installing a handline across the top of Detritus Wall on the Little Orme to allow safe access to classic but neglected routes like Ocean of Emotion. These routes were glorified in the guidebooks but the carrot was still a little untempting. Pete's handline was a brilliant piece of craftsmanship and he regarded it as his biggest achievement in the area. As word started to get out he knew he had to strike quick on what Dave Lyon had tipped him off as being 'the line of the Orme'. He started working out the line to the left of Ocean on top rope and soon had it bolted and prepped for a redpoint. With the seasons fitness slightly on the wane all was not a formality but he topped out quicktime much to his delight. His belayer Calum Muskett got the 2nd ascent confirming the grade and quality. The route is equal in quality to its neighbour Ocean. When i checked the place out to get some footage i thought it was reminiscent of Ceuse's famous sector Demi Lune with Orange rock and amazing wall climbing. Unfortunately the season ran out before the masses could descend but it should be high on everyones list having some of th e best routes of their grade in the UK.

Stff Upper Lip Extension,8b,Pigeons Cave,Pete Robins
Pete brought George Smith's original vision of this line to its inevitable concluson by giving it the top out and a proper finish. The original route is amazing but the but the finish was somewhat abitary and unsatisfactory. Above an awkward clip off a man made slot was a superb boulder problem on amazing pinches and edges. This gave access to the top of the crag and was the full line. Pete found himself in a bit of a race for the FA with Lancashireman Jordan Buys. Pete got there but Jordan was hot on his heels for the 2nd ascent. SUPE is certainly one of the best 8b's in the area. I would rank it in the top 3 with The Brute and Melanchollie. The jury's still out on whether the original is 7c+ or 8a (its 7c+).

Dumpster Divers,8a+,The Diamond,Neil Dyer
Another old project that many a beast must have gazed at in the Rockfax. It wasn't going to hold out this year with man on a mission Neil Dyer on the warpath. Worthy of inclusion for the crux alone which is a massive dyno. This section of wall is not quite as awe inspiring as the meat to the right but it is still pretty damn impressive and like all the Diamond routes the climbing is sustained and amazing. Pete got the 2nd ascent shortly afterwards. Roll on next year!

For those who have noticed that this list is a bit elitist well it is but there were some excellent 6's put up also. Check out Chilly T 6c (Ty Newydd, Tony Shelmerdine), Vegas Nights 6c+ (The Tower,Dulas, Chris Doyle) and The Hunt 6c/+ (Craigiau Gigfran, Jon Ratcliffe)


Dave Redpath said...

It really has been a vintage year, must have seen the finest crop of routes since the late 80's!

Mick Ryan said...

Great round up Chris. Looking forward to sampling some of your and others efforts this coming year.

All the hard work is very much appreciated.

Loved this quote, 'These routes were glorified in the guidebooks ' when working on the guide with Steve Mayers back in the day.... that was the intention for the Ocean of Emotion Wall. Glad it has seen more attention.

Right time to get fitter so I can stand a chance of getting up something.

All the best,

Mick Ryan

Doylo said...

Cheers! Well its a good job Detritus wall was bigged up as it got Pete Harrison to wizz along there and sort the place out, mega! So much to do! c