Gupta Comp Winner

There I was again, mindlessly filling in my details to yet another UKC competition. Do people even win these things? Of course they do, Jake has won two of them already! Lucky so and so… Fast forward to the start of May. Another perfect weather day in the depths of lockdown and still, at this point, climbing is off the cards. An email falls into my inbox “You’ve won a UKC competition!”. I let out an embarrassing squeal of excitement and quickly open it up. £500 worth of Montane gear and two-day trip to North Wales with famous mountaineer Jon Gupta! It can’t be true. I waste no time in responding to all involved, thanking profusely and planning the trip. The end of July is tentatively pencilled into the calendar. Hopefully COVID will have settled down a tiny bit by then…

It’s a boy! emerging from the stoney embrace of Idwal Squeeze

I meet up with Jon at The Heights in Llanberis and we plan the coming days. Where to go and what to cover is completely up to me. Guidebook in hand, it seems almost impossible to choose an area, let alone a crag or route. Suddenly, aware that we will be joined tomorrow by local rope-gun Angus Kille, the choice becomes clear, Clogwyn Du’r Arddu (Cloggy). Out of raw excitement, sleep does not come easily that night, but I’m up and ready to meet the team for 9am. We use a bit of local parking beta which shaves off some time from the approach. It’s hard not to feel a tad smug driving up a steep section of hill sitting in a van with two famous climbers. The jealousy in some of the Snowdon summit walkers’ eyes was palpable. We make good time on the sunny approach and begin scoping out routes.

Guidebooks, rockfax app, and countless years of combined knowledge and still we’re fumbling around looking for the climbs…

We’d talked of Llithrig (E1 5c), but instead opt for The Troach (E2 5b) and we each take a pitch. I was interested in learning some rope management tips and tricks, but still we ended up in mini tangle (I’m sure I passed Angus the rope over the right part of the belay…). The Cloggy mud is gunk on a whole new level and somehow it had already managed to blanket everything – cams, rope, clothes. We chatted about anchor rating methods, the mental side of climbing and life as a guide, amongst other things. Jon had a phone call from someone who was waiting outside his house ready to buy his old surfboard. Unfortunately for him, we were two pitches, a long walk and a drive away from his front door. Disaster averted, though, when we discovered he lives in the town over from me in Devon so I could bring the board back when I left in a couple of days.

After a quick bite to eat we decided to tackle Silhouette (E2 5c). I wrestled my way up the bog that was pitch one, again getting way more intimate with the Cloggy clag as I had ever planned to be, and belayed Jon and Angus up. Angus danced his way up the crux pitch as I watched on in awe. A wide-eyed glance over to Indian Face (E9 6c) quickly explains why he’s making this look like a path. What a privilege to be climbing at a crag steeped in so much climbing history with one of the handful of people to have climbed arguably its most famous route. Jon and I second the pitch, amazed once again by the quality of the line.

Angus on pitch 2 of Silhouette

We head back down and start to pack up, the North Wales heat wave has lasted all of six hours and the rain is rolling in. A quick stop on the way out for a team picture perfectly captures the end of one of my best ever days out climbing. Time for a swim in Llyn Padarn.

Team photo in front of Cloggy, the morning’s sun now long gone (Credit: Jon Gupta)

Awaking to the sound of heavy rain, I know our big mountain linkup idea is probably down the pan. Jon arrives and suggests we head to “Costa del Tremadog”, if anywhere will be dry, it’s there, he assures me. On previous trips to North Wales in the rain, I’ve instead opted for Snakes and Ladders in the slate quarries or a big meal at Pete’s eats and perusing shiny gear in V12. I was pleasantly surprised to find a dry road we pulled into a layby below the crag. Jon suggested Striptease (VS 5a) is a good place to start as it remains dry even in light rain. I nip up on lead and have to do my own mini striptease at the first roof to take off my jumper. Should have known it was going to be a struggle after reading “J. Brown” as the first ascensionist…

Nearing the top of Striptease (credit: Jon Gupta)

From here we abseil back down and practice passing a knot to keep things interesting. I like to think I have a decent working knowledge of self-rescue techniques, but as Jon shrewdly commented: “It’s your mates that you want to be on the self-rescue courses!”. Then we nipped across onto the first belay of One Step in the Clouds (VS 4c) and what a cracking piece of climbing that second pitch is! Jon topped us out of pitch 3 and we descended for lunch. We’d planned on heading up Christmas Curry (HS 4b) but with rain in the mountains, the crag was quickly turning into Butlins so instead, I decided to jump on another, harder mega-classic, The Plum (E1 5b). An amazing line that literally has it all, burly moves, techy cracks, wide cracks, precarious aretes, all with sinker gear! It was not a fast lead by any stretch of the imagination, but it was onsight. I was glad Jon was being paid to belay me as I think otherwise he’d have taken off and headed to the café…

There was just enough time for us to squeeze in another climb. We headed to the next sector over and blasted up Poor Man’s Peuterey (S 4a) which we climbed in two pitches. Jon linked 1,2 and 3 and I joined 4 and 5 up the slab and chimney. All was going well until we abseiled off and the ropes got snagged… Happens even to the best and most experienced of us it seems. Another party came to our aid and before long we were back in Llanberis at the end of the trip. Jon and I said our goodbyes, I packed up his surfboard and went to the llyn to reflect on an incredible couple of days. I definitely feel I have spent a significant portion of my luck quota on winning this prize, but I’m glad I did! Big thanks to Jon Gupta, Angus Kille, Montane and UKC for putting together such a mega prize and making it a trip to remember!

Comments are closed here.