Author Archives: Adrian Fagg

Newsletter – February 2009

President’s Prattle

Wotcha folks. I hope that you all had a great Christmas and New Year festivities! Sadly the good lady wife and I missed out on an extremely cold, but by all accounts, fantastic trip to God’s country. It sounds like those that participated got up to all sorts of stuff including some of the really cold stuff with an IMC “cracked” team donning full winter garb and tackling Idwal stream. Rumours abound of possible slideshows using the photographic evidence gathered over the course of the weekend and maybe a trip report or two might accompany this Newsletter.

The IMC just can’t get enough of Snowdonia as within three weeks, with the IMC skidmarks of the wheel-spinning variety still on the A5 from the previous incursion across the border, we were back. Another great weekend was had by all with at least one debut being made by one of the newer members of the club. I understand that whilst the weather was not the usual glorious Welsh sunshine there was climbing done! Thanks to Martin Stevens for sourcing the Jesse James bunkhouse and getting things started on the New Year visitation and Dave Coupe for the January trip.

Hot on the heels of the Wales trip …. well not actually hot but soon afterwards was the more or less traditional Sykeside visit and the President and First Lady were actually in attendance.We snuck off to hone our navigation skills on the murky fells around Fairfield whilst the hardier members of the team took on some icy stuff on Dollywagon Pike methinks. The President was heard to comment that he thought he might have broken his wife, who is still recuperating from a nasty bought of laryngitus, and was not best pleased to be hauled on an eight hour route-march by her errant husband. I think I might have redeemed myself by encouraging the good lady wife to have a cuppa in the Patterdale Hotel whilst I went to fetch the car …. close call that one but I think I got away with it! Thanks go to Steve Culverhouse for organising this trip!

Getting back to slightly less active but nonetheless important matters it is time for a few thank yous to those that have helped on the social side of the club. A big thank you goes to Carol Harbottle for organising yet another brilliant Christmas Curry and to Martin Hore for his superb Lob of the Year oration this time presented in poetry. I would like to thank Ian Thurgood and Steve Culverhouse (and Christina Ennis) for their slideshow on the Climbing Meet in South Africa which provided an excellent evening’s entertainment, and isn’t it great to have some slideshows back. I would be interested in any more offers of slideshows ….. really interested!

Furthermore, a few of us met to discuss and set an agenda for the club’s meets for the next few months (up to September in fact). As you can see on the Meets calendar we have a veritable feast of meets on offer and all we need are organisers for many of them so please volunteer. Honestly, if you’re new to this sort of thing they aren’t very difficult to organise. It is a question of picking a location to stay and putting bums on (car) seats and if you have any concerns please feel free to contact some of the more experienced club members for advice. This way you will choose to climb at a location of your choosing and will find willing climbing partners.

We have set the Beginners Meet for the weekend of 16 and 17 May and for ours sins, Louise and I have volunteered to organise this year’s shennanigans! I know it early days yet but we would really appreciate it if the more experienced members would volunteer their services as leaders as soon as possible so we that have a good idea of how many beginners we can accomodate. Prospective beginners can let us know of their interest in attending as well!

I think that is enough from me but as a little aside a thought recently occurred to me as I was paddling my way up a hillside in the Brecon Beacons in early December. Do paths follow little streams or do little streams follow paths? I will leave that to the walkers in the club to ruminate over and get back to me!

Any way take care and and have fun on the hill!

El Presidente


We’d like to thank all those who contributed articles by the deadline, which I arbitrarily set at the end of last month. The list is entirely composed of trip reports from various parts of Wales. I know that not everyone will be excited by the prospect of trip reports, but I feel that they form the backbone of what the club is about and such as they are, the annals of the club would be rather thin without them. So, as a service to future historians researching the history of mountaineering in Suffolk in the early twenty-first century, here are preserved for as long as the Interweb shall be indexed, five historic accounts. We hope you enjoy reading them.Ed

Early Snow in Mid Wales – Steve Culverhouse – A December IMC trip finds winter conditions against all expectation

The Krugs head for Wales – Louise Krug – Aiming for Mid Wales, Louise and Pete somehow end up in South Wales

A Snowdonia New Year – Christina Ellis – Christina’s account of the IMC New Year trip

New Year in Snowdonia – Martin Stevens – Martin’s account of the IMC New Year Trip

Snowdonia in the Snow – Adrian Fagg – The IMC go to North Wales again



The most obvious difference between this and previous editions is the absence of a crossword and guess the route pictures. If these are sorely missed, we will endeavour to replace them with whatever anyone would like to contribute. If you’re desperate for a puzzle right now, here is a route description in my own words:

Climb easily up to a ledge, ascend the crack above for a few feet, then step right and foot traverse up diagonally across the main face to a horizontal break, continue traversing the break for a few more feet, then finish directly on good handholds and smearing with your feet on the short final section.

The prize of nothing at all will be awarded to the best list of actual routes that the description fits. Is it too obvious which route I’m thinking of?

Your New Editorial Team

Caroline Goldsworthy and I (Adrian Fagg) are sharing the role now.

Our thanks are due to Guy for all his work in editing and producing the newsletter for the last three years. Now there are two of us to share the work of one, we’re naturally cutting our output from both web page and document to just this web page. Do you miss the separate document? Let us know.

Caroline is a high ranking officer in the Grammar Police, and I’m the expert on web pages. The main difference between us is that whereas Caroline actually knows about grammar, I’m tentatively feeling my way through the process of using an HTML editor. In the real world, although I’m responsible for a sophisticated commercial web service, I have people to do the HTML stuff for me. I compose HTML about as well as I climb, which if you know me…

The next submission deadline will be March 31st. Please keep the trip reports coming, even if they’re no more than a few lines. Let’s have more articles on other topics as well. I know you’ve got something good to write, whether it be directly about climbing, training, equipment reviews or almost anything. Be warned, without contributions, I’ll be forced to write that article on dimensional scaling laws and their relevance to climbing that I keep thinking about. Don’t make me do it…

North Wales January 2009

Snowdonia in the Snow

The IMC go to North Wales again

Preparation for the trip had consisted of occasionally going to the gym, in the hope of getting back on an even par with Martin Steven’s uphill pace. I also spent time fitting my crampons to my shiny new B3s and packing a selection of ice axes to cover all eventualities. Precisely why I did this isn’t clear, as the snow was almost all fresh in the last two days, the previous weekend’s thaw and rain having stripped most of the older accumulations. This I knew, but despite all the evidence that this was going to be a complete washout, I stuck with my original plan of leaving Ipswich unreasonably early on the Friday morning.

Martin and I arrived in Capel Curig soon after nine O’clock and settled down to the serious business of drinking tea while waiting to rendezvous with Mervyn, having got our arrangement slightly confused on the way. So, after the usual IMC faff, we three parked at the bottom of the Watkin path in Nantgwynant and set out in the general direction of Snowdon just before lunchtime. Yr Aran was the first snowy target, which at its lowly altitude below the cloud base, gave us good views before we descended to the bwlch and started up the south ridge of Snowdon, on generally good snow, especially considering how fresh it was. At about 950m on the Bwlch Main, a bit short of the summit, once I’d breathlessly caught up to the point where Martin was waiting patiently with Mervyn, he pointed out that we were running out of time, so we retraced our steps, mountaineering decision made. Dropping below the cloud, we were treated to views of hillsides lit by the setting sun. My crampons had remained safely in the rucksack all day, as is traditional.

A short drive and were at the bunkhouse under Tryfan, to find Mick and Heather already ensconced and providing tea. Soon Eddie arrived having walked the long way via Glyder Fach. Everyone else drifted in over the course of the evening.

We planned to walk the southern circuit of the Carneddau on the Saturday, estimating that we’d need a full day and to not try to be too ambitious. An alpine start being called for, we set off at the crack of nine O’clock, with Eddie added to the party. After a few minutes walking, Mervyn and I jogged back to the hut to collect his ice axe from my car. The summit of Pen yr Ole Wen came and went and came again, as Martin and I strode off in a direction diametrically opposed to that intended, only to be called back after a couple of hundred metres. The summit of Carnedd Dafydd soon arrived, rather sooner for Martin than the rest of us. Soon, views were revealed by the retreating clouds and we realised that this was turning out to be an almost perfect winter walking day. Snow conditions were close to ideal, with some patches of wind-scoured hard snow on the slog up to Carnedd Llywelyn. These were sufficiently easy-angled and avoidable to keep the crampons in the rucksack, continuing to provide additional ballast, as does most winter equipment most of the time.

Having arrived at the summit, we realised that we were well ahead of our realistic schedule, and could easily have included Yr Ellen in the itinerary for the day. Strangely, nobody was keen to descend and then re-ascend Carnedd Llywelyn, so we carried on with the circuit, Martin and the others glissading to a greater or lesser extent down the lee side, while I trudged down after them. A short break above the infamous Craig yr Isfa and down a short scramble to Bwlch Eryl Farchog and up another pleasantly easy scramble to Pen yr Helgi Du and a long easy walk down the ridge got us eventually below the snow line.

On the Carneddau

Craig Yr Isfa
On the Carneddau (click on any picture for larger image) Craig Yr Isfa

Carnedd Llywelyn from Helgi Du
Carnedd Llywelyn from Helgi Du

We had finished earlier than expected and were soon drinking tea in the bunkhouse, while the other parties were safely returning from various routes, including the Bochlwyd horseshoe bisected by ascents of Main Gully in imperfect but full-on winter conditions.

That evening, we were treated to a slideshow of the days exploits on a laptop, with at least half a dozen contributors. The IMC are a sophisticated bunch, so as well as coming equipped with the latest technology, we also partook of Port and Cheese in an effort to maintain standards.

Sunday dawned with wind and rain, but optimism prevailed and everyone set out for one last day of adventure. The Cneifion Arête was mentioned as a target of at least some of the party. Martin, Mervyn and I set off for Moel Siabod via the Daear Ddu ridge, which gave a very pleasant easy scramble at around the snowline and a short steep slog directly up to the summit. We arrived just in time for the cloud to lift and reveal more views. I have to say that although it’s not the most attractive mountain seen from a distance, I thought it a very nice walk and was glad that I’d done it for the first time. It’s not usually high on the agenda, but I later noticed that it’s equal 120th on the list of most prominent British peaks and seventh in Wales. Snow conditions were again good, with a bit more of a breeze than previously. Crampons remained unused, of course. We walked off down the usual ascent route and drove in convoy to Betws y Coed, which was astonishingly busy I thought, and where another cup of tea was had prior to driving home.

Carneddau from Moel Siabod
Carneddau from Moel Siabod

Thanks to David Coupe for a well organised trip.

Rain Doesn’t Stop Play in North Wales – Jan 2008

Trip report 12th January 2008

I was going to write to the editor demanding more trip reports in The Newsletter, but then I thought perhaps I should stop griping and write one myself.

On the Saturday two cars set out from Ipswich at four o’clock in the morning, with a total of six right-eyed and enthusiastic outdoor types on board. Shortly after nine o’clock we were in the Ogwen Cottage car park drinking tea, convincing ourselves that the weather wasn’t too bad and being faintly surprised just how many people were parked up and on the hill already. Five of us calling ourselves climbers and one of us calling himself a hill-walker; we chose a couple of grade three scrambles on The Milestone Buttress as our objective and set out accordingly. We started at the base of the right hand side of the buttress and roped up in two teams of three. Interesting and exposed moves kept us focused at half height. I failed to persuade the other team that the corner chimney of Milestone Direct was an entertaining diversion as we tackled the easy chimney to the right. Well, I still contend that it would have been entertaining to watch.

A little higher is the Milestone Continuation, which turned out to be a pleasant scramble as well, but by the time we got above the difficulties the rain had returned to encourage us to find a way down. Traversing and descending in the rain got us quickly and perplexingly back to the road with plenty of daylight remaining.
After some route finding difficulties in Bangor, and mixed navigational success to and from the supermarket, we arrived at Jesse James’ bunkhouse as the weekend’s main weather event built in intensity and then continued with horizontal rain into the next morning.

Sunday morning and the others elected to go for a low-level walk, but Andy and I were convinced that the weather would be nicer at Tremadog. As Andy drove through the rain near Beddgelert we managed to convince ourselves that it was easing. Arriving at the crag we were surprised to find Eric’s café and the car park closed. Astonishing in what must surely be peak season there! Gearing up it really did seem as though the rain had eased off and we elected to climb Hail Bebe, which had the twin virtues that it was ‘only a v.diff’ and that I could find the start. I have to say that I’ve always been a fan of Tremadog’s mudstone, but I admit that in the wet it isn’t the grippiest rock that I’ve ever climbed on. It was, for me, exciting enough! Soon, Andy was topping out in the gale force wind on pitch 6 as the rain started again in earnest. The wet and slippery descent was marginally worse than the usual summer conditions, but only just, and we were soon “gear shop traversing” in Beddgelert.

Monday dawned slightly drier and while the rest of us went for a walk near Llanberis, Martin and Andy spent the day at the local climbing wall before heading home.

For me it was great to get out for the first time in several months, and a bonus that we actually got some climbing done.

The not so Great Escape

The trip report goes something like this.

Friday. Had a great day climbing with Mervyn at Cyrn Las on Main Wall (HS).

Saturday. Got stuck on the last pitch of Great Gully (VD) and had to be rescued

Our previous decision to retreat half way had proved to be wise. The pitch that had
seemed difficult when wet before had been straightforward this time on dry rock, but
there was a lot more of the same to go.

Great gully
Typical conditions in Great Gully
(click on image to view in Flickr)

All went well until the penultimate pitch, whereupon the rain started. My confidence
evaporated in the face of polished wet footholds and the simultaneous disappearance of
any protection. The delay caused by my insistence on needing a top rope was something
that we could ill-afford. Nevertheless, Mike did the necessary and Andy belayed me up
what persisted in feeling quite hard even without the worry of being a long way above
gear. Confidence ebbed further as Mike struggled with the crux in the depths of the
cave above. At one point he seemed ready to give up but one last heroic effort
overcame the problem. When eventually my turn came, I climbed bwith interestb up to
reach the sling at the right end of the ledge, grabbed hold of it with both hands and
took a rest. Being unable to see anything other than the sling, I pulled hard as I
shuffled my feet up the wet rock b one big effort, the weight of two rucksacks pulling
back and needing extra force b yes, I can do this, the sling digging into my handsb&

At which point, there was a bang that to me sounded like a gunshot and I flew
backwards and down. I registered that there was no connection between my hands and the
rock and waited for the gully bed to meet my backside. Instead, and to my surprise,
the rope came tight and my right knee banged into the rock just below.

As Mike said, I had let go of the sling. At least, the sling had jumped and presumably
snagged again, the shock loading of which pulled it out of my hands without any
awareness on my part. The fact that it had only slipped so far then caught meant that
logically it wouldnbt come off again unless I were to pull outwards again rather than
down. That may have been a rational conclusion, but my brain had at this point
abandoned all connection with the rational world and I now looked up at the dimly
visible sling lurking in the corner of the roof and convinced myself that it was held
there by nothing that I could trust. Probably the only time that Ibd pulled on gear in
my climbing career to date had led to the first time that Ibve felt really frightened.
I rubbed my knee and restored circulation to my hands while deciding that I couldnbt
go back up. Itbs worth noting that I could have inspected the sling by temporarily
clipping to the static hanging rope that had been left there, if I were that worried,
but that would have involved thought on my part.

My sudden discovery that I had apparently lost the ability to prusik up the rope and
that the belay and exit above were such that hoisting wasnbt possible without some
complex rope-work, was a blow, best summarised by Mikebs bOh Buggerb. I had apparently
also lost all ability to think by this stage.

Several hours later, and by which time I was shaking continuously with the cold, the
Mountain Rescue arrived, in the form of Kim, the lightest of their party on the end of
a long rope. My chattering teeth were apparently a good sign, as itbs when you stop
shivering that youbre in trouble. We spent a fair while waiting, as all radio
communication had ceased. Eventually, we were hauled up, mostly hanging in mid-air for
10 metres or so, then up the rest of the gully a few feet at a time on a nine to one

I can only praise those volunteers that give up their spare time (and often their work
time) to help others. Once theybre on the scene, they take over completely b you just
do as youbre told, and are glad to do so. They took impressively good care of me,
helping me to warm up a bit, then leading the way off the mountain in what were
atrocious conditions. I was practically blown off my feet several times, yet the wind
had relented from earlier in the evening. The rain had eased to a heavy downpour while
I was still in the gully and thankfully had reduced again to continuous rain while we
descended. Nevertheless, the whole team remained cheerful throughout, without a hint
of the grumpiness that would have been entirely excusable and that Ibd certainly have
had if Ibd been called out that night..

You can read about an earlier attempt at Great Gully, and
another account of this rescue.

I Am Not A Rock Climber

A few years ago, on holiday near some mountains, they called to me and I managed
to get in a day’s walking in the hills. Despite the fact that I hadn’t been let
loose in the hills since being a student in Wales over twenty years previously, I
had a really good day. Ten hours worth of sunburn and aching legs from ten hours of
walking after twenty years of inactivity didn’t detract from my happy mood.

So I was hooked again. Hill walking was now my thing and over the next few years
I managed to get the occasional day in the hills, mainly on holiday when I could
get away with leaving my girlfriend browsing the shops or whatever it is they

Time went by as it does, until one October weekend a year and a half ago, when I
decided to do a leisurely Welsh 3000’s over three days. This inevitably meant that
I had to do a bit of scrambling: Tryfan’s North Ridge being the first, then the
Crib Goch traverse. The latter was a somewhat slow and careful traverse on my part.
As the rest of the party disappeared into the cloud and rain, I picked my way
carefully, noticing how the little spikes on the crest of the ridge were loose, and
struggling to find the sparse and slippery footholds that were somewhere below and
mainly out of sight due to my fervently hugging the rock in front of me.

Time again passed by, during which the ordeal of my traverse of Crib Goch had
expanded into an epic tale of one man’s struggle to overcome all adversities and
difficulties to eventually triumph… The next summer, I went back to do a
scrambling weekend, led by the same guide as before (let’s call him Ian, as that’s
his name). First I went back over the Crib Goch traverse on my own. I’d like to say
that what had looked difficult before now looked easy, but I can’t, as it was both
raining hard and blowing the best part of a gale. I did the whole of the ridge
without seeing another soul and spent most of the time wishing that I were
somewhere else. Anyway, we then went on to do three days of scrambling in mostly
nice weather and I have to say that it was fun. I was now hooked on scrambling. At
one point, we returned over Crib Goch, having done the Clogwyn Y Person Arete and I
couldn’t help noticing how enormous the ledges and steps were or how little the
sense of exposure really was. Oh well, another epic tale diminished!

Over the next while, I did more scrambling, got a bit better, got to lead a
grade three scramble under supervision this last April and generally got to know my
way around the rocks and ropes. Having said which, I haven’t found it that easy to
make rope work second nature or to think of putting protection in at the right time
and think of all those things that have to be right or you die. I am, I think,
getting better.

At any time so far, when asked or for that matter not when asked, I always made
a point of saying that I’m not at all interested in rock climbing, it’s just not my
thing. In any case, I always knew that in truth I wouldn’t be any good at it.

So that brings us to the month of June. A friend, called for reason’s that will
remain unexplained ‘Boz’ and who had been dabbling in rock-climbing, arranged with
the aforementioned Ian to meet us at Ogwen at 9.00 one morning, which we did. Ian
brought a spare pair of rather old rock boots, which were only one size too large
for me but I was grateful nevertheless.

So we set off up the path, hoping to do one of the classic easy routes on
Tryfan’s east face. As luck and the fact that it was a Wednesday morning would have
it, Grooved Arete was left carelessly unattended, so we stopped at the base of it.

As I tried to work out which way up my harness went and for once got it right
first time, I looked up at the start of the route. Now, I reckon that for most of
you climbers, the start of Grooved Arete is about as intimidating as a fluffy
kitten. To me however, it looked hard, like a scramble that had all the footholds
removed and had been tilted up by some unexpected movement of the mountain.

Ian attached himself to two ropes, with us tied to the other ends and set off up
the first crack. I realised from his effortless progress that it was all an
illusion; it was all really easy. Once he’d belayed and we’d exchanged the usual
shouts of ‘That’s Me!’ and so on, as us experienced climbers do, Boz set off. After
a minute or two of grunting and struggling from Boz, I realised that it wasn’t
going to be all that easy after all.

In fact, the only real difficulty that I experienced on that first pitch was
getting my left foot jammed in that first crack about six feet from the start. Our
shouted climbing exchanges now included ‘Hang on’ and ‘I may be some time’. Apart
from that, things went well, with me pulling back to get as much weight as possible
onto my feet, probably giving me about three times the grip that I really needed.
Anyway, ‘exhilarating’ is the word that’s needed here.

At this point, Ian very kindly offered me the lead on the second pitch, a chance
at which I grabbed with enthusiasm: “Err, I suppose so, err, all right then.” With
Ian watching over me like a man on an abseil rope, I set off up the second

Anyone familiar with Grooved Arete will know that the second pitch is the
easiest on the whole route, as I later realised. It’s also one that Ian could
abseil directly down alongside; he obviously didn’t intend to let one of his
charges climb into trouble. The only real difficulty was that Ian insisted on me
putting in just about all the protection that he’d loaded me up with at the start,
at intervals of about six inches (or so it seemed, standing on tip toes wanting to
make one last desperate effort to reach the belay point). In reality, like all the
pitches, the right word was ‘exhilarating’. I managed to set up a belay and bring
Boz up on two ropes without apparently making any mistakes, not that I can remember
much of it.

After that, Ian led us up the remaining six pitches. I recall that somewhere in
the middle where there’s a short scramble between pitches we stopped for a bite to
eat. I said that what I really dreaded was open exposed slabs, which seemed to
cause some amusement on the part of Ian.

A little later, as my head appeared above the edge of what looked suspiciously
like an open exposed slab, Ian told me that this was called the Knight’s Slab, the
route having been likened to that of a knight’s movement across a chessboard. ‘Oh
really!’ I said, stepping up onto it. In fact this turned out to be quite easy but
it certainly looked good. I think the hardest bit was actually a bit below there,
although for me, when we got near the end of the last pitch, I managed to make
strenuous work of what was probably quite easy, so I was blowing hard when I
finally got to the end.

So, I’ll have to revise my position on this topic. I now don’t want to be a rock
climber who does anything much harder than that. Perhaps a bit harder, I’ll