The ledge system at the top of the Main Cliff of Gogarth is 60m above the sea. Most ropes these days are 60m long. Now I’m no genius, but I had an idea…
The routes on the steep headwall section of the main cliff weave their way up, usually in two or three pitches, skirting slightly sideways to belay on good ledges along the way. A direct way up the centre of the steep wall, with continuously overhanging climbing, no rest and mega exposure, had to be possible, and it was with this in mind that I found myself at the foot of Main Cliff, tied in to Jimmy Big Guns. First up was a quick romp up Dinosaur, the classic E5, and a route I’d never done before, I was psyched!
Climbing through the crux, I eyed a flake out right that would take me straight in to the headwall, and not out left to the belay ledge. Aha! I made a mental note and we carried on up Dinosaur. And what a route it is. The guidebook description about needing micro cams is of course nonsense, and the route is well protected and has great moves in a fantastic position. I just love those Main Cliff E5’s!
Okay – so that’s the left hand entrance sorted, now lets switch sides, and move to the right: Alien!
Big Guns had followed the imposing corner of Alien (E6 6b) a few weeks previous and was psyched to get on the sharp end. Up he went, and I paid out the rope. In went a few cams, but then Big Guns started to look pumped. Although he got a little flustered, I saw a look of determination on his face and he forged upward, but alas, the arms were spent, and down he flew, taking a lob from somewhere near the crux section.
It’s a double edged sword taking over the reins when your mate has just taken a big fall. The good points being you already have some of the gear placed for you, and you’ve probably seen a few of the moves (although I never really pay attention). The bad points being that, well, you’ve just seen your mate, who is way stronger and fitter than you, take a massive lob…
I was psyched!
I grinned and set off up Alien. By some miracle I found it pretty straightforward and enjoyed the moves, looking ever leftwards for a way up the headwall to create a new link-up route. There was a way, but it seemed not quite as logical as the Dinosaur link… Okay, lets come back tomorrow, and we’ll see how it all goes…
The next evening, and conditions were not quite as good.
I was stood underneath Dinosaur, sporting the word’s biggest rack. Over to the side was Robbie Rocket Pants, fighting his way up Mammoth, another classic E5. He looked pumped, and as is his way, began to fight upwards with ever-increasing urgency. His rapid-fire commentary was raining down like machine gun bullets, and everyone knew he was going to take the mighty fall. Off he came, and down he went!
Dinosaur felt pretty easy, and I headed off up the flake on the right. Higher and higher I went, and then I was in to the E6 ‘The Big Sleep’. It was all going according to plan. All of a sudden my arms were pumped. I eyed up a big flat hold, busted some moves and grabbed it, just. Things were getting out of control.
I managed to wiggle in a Wallnut 1, and eyed up the runout to gain the good holds of Positron. There was nothing else for it, I had to go on, and I started snatching sidepulls as fast as I could.
Arms bursting, eyes on stalks, I grabbed the good hold of Positron with my right hand. YES! I’d made it, and thank God, as the little wire now looked very small and very far away. But.. NOO… I was too pumped, my fingers were opening on the flake. I was panicking. Instinctively I snatched up my left hand. I had both hands wrapped around the jug, but the smears for my feet were not taking any weight. I couldn’t hold on, and slowly my fingers started opening, one at a time, like someone peeling a banana. The 55m of pumpy climbing had fried my arms. I was off.
“NOOOOO!” I screamed. The boys at the base all had a little giggle. I arched through the air, and managed to scream another ‘NOOO” on the way down, landing virtually back at the Dinosaur belay.
About a week later I went back and led the route, but getting to the same position again, and being equally as pumped, I realised that The Big Sleep is a bit eliminate, so I bridged 1m left and got a shake-out in the second pitch of Dinosaur (E4). This was enough to replenish the reserves and carry me up the rest of the route, but it wasn’t quite the unrelenting pump-fest I was looking for.
Still, ‘Dinosnore’ is born, and there is still more to come from this amazing section of cliff.
Rock climbing – isn’t it brilliant!
Thanks to Ray Wood for filming this route, and Paul Diffley of HotAches for sending me the screen grabs.
Also big up to Big Guns (legend) and Rocket Pants (loveable fool) and Chamonix visitors Cautious Tom and American Geoff. Such fun times!
Email: Jack.geldard ( at) gmail.com