Author Archives: Jeremy Hall

Snowdonia early December

Mind and body pushed to the limits at altitude

Many thanks to Eddie for putting together this excellent meet.

The Christmas shopping streets of Ipswich, Stowmarket and Bury St. Edmonds were
left deserted; Blacks and Millets went into administration; the tea shop on the
corner of Museum Street saw no business at all, in fact global consumer
capitalism as we know it was more or less brought to its evil knees as the good
and simple folk of the Ipswich Mountaineering Club headed like a mighty legion
of post apocalyptic warriors for the hills of North Wales.

I think there was about twenty of us altogether and there wasn’t a bunk to be had
(apart from that one in the kitchen area attached to the wall by a single rusty
nail) at the Cwellyn Arms bunkhouse.

Martin, Sue, George and I went up on the Thursday night, ready for a full day on
the Friday. We did the classic N-S Tryfan scramble in cold “wintery” conditions.
That is to say there were the odd flurries of snow, but no need for axes and
crampons. Tryfan- the rock, the aspect is superb. There’s a hundred different
lines to choose, all for yourself, but always taking you higher. It’s sustained
without ever being committing. I love it. We all loved it. The four of us got
into Bwlch Tryfan about 2pm and decided not to attempt Bristly Ridge in what
little day light was left. We did slog up the scree slope to Glyder Fach, and
after a photo session on a cannon stone descended due east towards Llyn Caseg
Fraith and then due north into Cwm Tryfan and back to the car by about 4.30pm.
Having left at around 10.30am, you will note that we weren’t going at record
speed, but a very satisfying day indeed.

Saturday was the big one. An attempt on the country’s highest mountain via the
unconquered, some have said unconquerable south west ridge. Actually it’s a very
pleasant walk up the Rhyd Ddu Path straight out of the bunk house. Maddy, Al,
Adrian, Sue, Jon and I summited in time for lunch. The views at the top were
spectacular. At one point I was able to see as far Al eating a cheese sandwich
next to me. The cafe was closed and the train wasn’t running so we had to walk
down. We did so via the Ranger Path and took a detour up to Clogwyn to pay
homage to Johnny Dawes and the Indian Face. As we sat looking up at the
magnificent wall of granite, enjoying a flask of tea, Adrian suddenly dashed
towards the inscrutable blank face of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. Al and I gave
desperate chase. We knew it was madness; not in this rain, not in those boots,
not in the failing light. He was 50 yards ahead, now 100, it was impossible,
around the lake- disappearing into the mist. At last Al and I fell exhausted at
the very foot of that towering E9, but it was too late. Adrian had already
touched the slab and blown the on-sight. [None of this actually happened.
Jeremy was obviously affected by the altitude. Thankfully, his mental condition
improved marginally once we got nearer to sea level. -Ed]

Sunday was an altogether gentler affair, along the Nantle Ridge- I suspect a
little trodden outpost of Snowdonia. From Rhyd Ddu head to the top of Y Garn and
the Ridge presents an obvious line stretching south-west. The visibility on
Sunday was poor, but occasionally the skies cleared to reveal views across
Caernarfon Bay. It rained and rained and then rained. But this did not deter
Nessie or her handlers. There are a two or three gentle broad ridges running
south east off the Nantlle Ridge. We took the first of these descending off Trum
y Ddysgl, but staying west of the woods until picking up the footpath at
Bwlch-y-ddwy-elor and heading north through the woods. It looked easy enough to
get lost in there, but happily Hannah knew the way. [Eddie and I did get
lost in there the previous year. – Ed]
This was a great hill walk, but I
think if you go further along Nanttle Ridge it does get more serious.
[Actually, the party had done the scrambling section. The rest is easy walking.
Arguably one shouldn’t return to high altitude so soon. – Ed]

Jeremy’s Whimsey

Reflections on life, climbing or something…

The Cuban Connection

The next time you are in Havana ask the taxi driver to take you to Vuelta Abajo
in Pinar del Rio. For it is here in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra that you
can acquire, for no more than the price of a sweet Rum Libre, a box of the
finest Cohibas Esplendidos. Each Cohibas is seven inches of pure smoking

Pedestal Crack in Froggatt on the other hand is fourteen meters of pure climbing
pleasure. A rock over, a flag, a lay back and a mantle should just about get you
over the top. Once there lie down in the sun, unbutton your breast pocket, take
out your Esplendido from Pinar del Rio and as your perfect smoke ring disappears
into the azure sky, whisper “es bueno ser vivo en un día tal como esto.”

Mick’s up in a hell of a mess

“Like a bull at a gate I rushed in where angels fear to tread and ended up biting
off more than I could chew,” admitted Irish climbing legend Mick ‘met’ O’Phor.

“It was like being thrown in at the deep end and it wasn’t until I was at the end
of my tether that I realised it was sink or swim,” rambled Mick.

“Give me a break Mick,” I interjected.

“Exactly what I said at the time,” continued the Legend. “The trouble was I had
run out of cams and I just had to get out of Black Hawk Hell Crack. I wouldn’t
have stood a snowball’s chance, literally.”

For once O’Phor was spot on, figuratively speaking. However it still wasn’t a
pretty sight watching three cams being lowered down nearby Traverse Right into
the grateful clutches of ignominious Mick ‘met’ O’Phor.

Adventures In The Cold

Work starts on the new IMC climbing dictionary

Jeremy Hall – March 2010

I would like to start by defining a few terms which we are all guilty sometimes of taking for granted.

ice: noun frozen water, a brittle transparent crystalline solid (Oxford English Dictionary Ninth Edition)

climbing: present participle verb to climb ascend, mount, to go up, especially using one’s hands (Oxford English Dictionary Ninth Edition)

ice climbing: Lord into thy tender care I commit myself, especially using one’s axes (English Common Prayer Book, King James 1 edition)

This definition of ice climbing only occurred to me retrospectively when I was already safely back at Wythmoor Farm tucking into a king prawn boona with friends and loved ones, (well Steve, Martin, Eddie, Phil, Maddy, Al, Annie and Tom). Nevertheless, I confess that the Good Lord had not been far from my thoughts a few hours earlier amidst a fumble of gloves, axes, loops and gear high on the frozen wastes of Blea Water Crag.

“Will this runner never go in? Please go in Mr Runner. You are very small and could easily fit neatly into this teeny- weeny crack.” Fumble, fumble. “For God’s sake get in there you horrible little………!” Far below a lonely ice screw winked, next stop oblivion.

How did I get so high so quickly? Ah, that is how it is on the beautiful frozen Blea Water waterfall this Saturday morning in late February.

Why have I gone left and not right as I should have, this Saturday morning in late February on the menacing frozen Blea Water Waterfall? Ah, that’s because you are stupid and now you have to traverse and have you ever traversed before on a grade iii/iv ice climb? Well, no actually.

Have you ever been ice climbing before? Well, er, hum, no.

Then you will need to use all your experience of leading multi-pitch rock climbing. Won’t you? Yes, well, good idea, only, this is actually my first ever lead in a multi-pitch. Of any kind.

I turned to my last remaining hope- poetry;

The grim Reaper’s icy sickle
It is upon my brow.
The nut will not go in the rock
And I do not know how.


What is that upon my brow
The Reaper’s icy sickle?
The nut will not go in the rock
And I am in a pickle

Either way it worked and before long Steve was beside me making the belay position just that little bit extra safe and Martin was once more singing to Eddie.

A 200m, five pitch ice climb on the north east face of the crag. There’s so much more to tell. Steve’s bravery. Eddie’s steadfastness, Martin’s calm re-assurance. But I had better go and do some work.

One last thought. In the BMC Summit 57 spring edition it was reported that at the recent Kendal Mountaineering Festival, Alain ‘the human spider’ Robert, the Frenchman famous for solo climbing skyscrapers was asked what was the most shocking thing he had ever seen happening inside one of the many buildings he’d climbed.

“I once saw something absolutely horrible through one of the windows,” he said. “It was a bunch of people sitting in front of their computers having a boring life.”

As I say, back to work.

In celebration of Harrison’s Rocks

Jeremy discoveres the joys of Soft Southern Sandstone

Let’s face it, Harrison’s Rocks isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. All the climbs are
top roped, many of the popular routes are worn smooth and it can get very busy.

But sometimes it just isn’t possible to go climbing for the entire weekend.
Sometimes the Peaks seem just a little too far away for a day. And when all you
have is a twenty five metre rope and a harness but you’ve still got to climb
something; then Harrison’s Rocks, less than two hours from Ipswich, rise up the
list of preferred locations like a cork in a bottle of champagne.

On a sunny crisp Saturday in mid October Dan, Ala and I found ourselves in the
aforementioned predicament and set off for the Rocks. And what a great day we

I think the three of us took it in the spirit of “outdoor practise” and the very
fact that it is all top roped meant that we moved quickly from climb to climb,
therein getting lots of practise.

Harrison’s Rock is soft sandstone and many of the faces are covered in a very
fine film of sand making it feel as if you have a million tiny ball bearings
beneath every hand and foot. Consequently, holds can be difficult to maintain so
balance and precision is needed if you don’t wish to find yourself sliding
slowly but surely sideways, down and eventually off.

Traversing is particularly difficult on these soft rocks and Zig Zag (4c) as the
name suggests provided a test of sideways moving skills and balance. Ala deftly
climbed to the top but Dan and I were found wanting at the first time attempt
when we both came off in slow motion.

We started the day though on Long Layback (4c), a terrific climb recommended by
Martin and my particular favourite of the day. Funnily enough it is one long
layback and definitely a climb to enjoy as a lay back, although climbable using
other (perhaps unorthodox) techniques as Dan and Ala proved.

We moved from North to South during the day and next stop was Isolated Buttress.
Yes you have guessed it. Isolated Buttress is a buttress which is isolated. It
provides about a dozen great climbs. A considerable inconvenience however of
climbing on the Buttress is the descent off it. Getting to the top, I discovered
to my horror that the buttress it is a little more isolated than it really
should be. A very large step or small to leap is required across a ravine where
a slip would probably mean certain death. Other than that the descent is fine.
In the prosaic spirit of naming at Harrison’s, I think it should be re-named the
Inconveniently Isolated Buttress Across the Ravine of Probably Certain Death.

We did two climbs on the buttress; The Isolated Buttress Climb (4b) and the
strength sapping Birchden Corner (5b). The Corner is a bulging arête with no
resting points and is a real test of endurance, a very satisfying move left just
below the top makes the effort all worthwhile.

The final highlight of the day was Unclimbed Wall (5b), which for all we know
does remain unclimbed. A sheer smooth face with few good anythings. We all got
to the top but agreed that we all took so long and spent so much time dangling
on the rope recovering strength that it couldn’t really count.

The rocks weren’t busy, the sun was shining and other climbers were friendly. We
shared ropes and luncheon with teams from London, Lithuania and Russia. All in
all a great day out. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but as far as I am concerned a
bottle of champagne for Harrison’s please.

In search of Dragons

A new member finds hazards not usually mentioned in the guidebook

I know what you’re thinking, “What’s the use of searching for dragons? All the
dragons were slain long ago, in the olden days. You won’t find any dragons now.”

Well my friend, allow me to contradict you, for I have been in the presence of
dragons and I know them to be alive and as fearsome as ever. What is more I know
where they live; on Carreg Wastad, the eastern wall of the Llanberis Pass, in a
grey, mysterious and distant land they call Eryri Cymru. (Just off the A5.)

Three of Ipswich Mountaineering Club’s elite three man teams had been assembled.
The lead team Clare, Ala and Jeremy and support teams of Phil with Adrian and
Cathy with Eddie.

The great wall of the Carreg towered above us, its top lost in a swirling mist.
The rock was dark and wet. I stretched out my arm and with my open palm touched
it and trembled. Yes, dank and cold, but something else besides; I touched
eternity. I heard the rock on my hand moan, “I have always been here and will
always remain here. The mist, the dragons, have always been here and will always
remain here. You too have always been here, waiting. Now it is your time. Go.” I
also heard another voice that day. “Come on, don’t just stand there, flake the
rope,” it was Clare.

And so with vorpal swords, nuts, cams, two 50m half ropes and a winkle picker we
set forth in search of dragons.

Clare was magnificence itself, making light where there was darkness in the
opening chimney. A right to left traverse followed, and the first pitch was

“Ah, ha. I was right, there are no dragons,” I hear you cry.

But hold my friend, for there are some things I did not tell you. You cannot just
go in search of dragons, for dragons won’t simply let themselves be found. The
dragon will choose the day and it will choose the ground on which to reveal

On this day, Sunday 5th July, the ground was a small narrow ledge on Carreg
Wastad. As we clung to the rock, huddled together there was a terrifying roar
and out of the mist emerged the beast; the mighty rib itself, hanging in the air
as if suspended by the very squall above.

Drawing breath to match fire with fire, Clare once more led on. Ala too set about
the dragon. Momentarily silhouetted , she then was over and ascending, leaving
me alone with the ancient reptile.

As behind a cloud the sun still shines, so too are brave men to faint hearts.

“Dragon, rib? Rib, dragon? You are but one! ” I cried.

So to the echo of my battle cry I went forth upon the rib of Crackstone Rib on
Carreg Wastad in the land of Eryri Cymru.

Jeremy’s First Taste Of Climbing At The Beginner’s Weekend

In the Beginning

Jeremy’s first taste of climbing at the beginners’ weekend

Jeremy Hall – August 2009

Across a frightful chasm I saw that there protruded from the rain-polished slab
of rock, one very small rust red nodule.

I prepared myself to undertake what I knew would be an irrecoverable shift in my
balance left to right to the very extent of my stride and I marked again the
nodule. Had it shrunk? For now it was really no more than a blemish.

A breath, a glance, and then, without being aware that I had moved at all I was
across. The way to the top was unlocked. Breathless but triumphant I re-joined
my leader, Martin S, at the summit.

So it was, at Baslow Edge on the beginners weekend in May, one of the first moves
I ever made, on what was my first ever day climbing rocks. And in the company of
Martin, much more was to come. Corner Route, Curbar Cracks, Cracked Wall,
Mauvais Pas, Shandy, Rum and Pep; through showers and sunshine and my failing
strength, Martin’s re-joiner ever “let’s keep chipping away”, we climbed and
climbed and climbed them all. And just when I thought I could climb no more, a
great hail storm broke above us. Surely now, the rocks would be drenched and we
could retreat with honour intact. But no, as my indomitable companion observed,
the hail was only bouncing off the rocks, and soon we climbed anew.

Actually I didn’t quite make it up Cracked Wall (HS 4a) despite there apparently
being loads of really large hand holds and great foot holds. I think it’s fair
to say that a difference of opinion over the abundance, size and usefulness of
holds began to emerge. Co-incidentally I found myself on the same side of this
particular debate when the topic was re-visited a few weeks later several
hundred feet above Llanberis pass.

Having survived and even prospered under Martin’s excellent instruction on day
one, so it was we went to Birchen Edge on the Sunday. Sail Chimney and Trafalgar
Wall, a solo on the Gang Plank and on Handy Crack a lead and fall. My first ever
placement saved me, but a lob was recorded. In my defence it should be said that
the rock was very slippery, rendering any attempt at this difficult graded climb
almost impossible – wouldn’t you say Martin?

As the rain became heavier we joined Andy, Caroline and others in offering words
of encouragement to Tom, a fellow beginner, whom was in a tricky situation half
way up a chimney unable to advance or retreat. Eventually after a brilliantly
executed abseil from Tom, gear retrieval from Andy and belay from Emma it was
off to the pub.

Al, Maddy and I headed back to Ipswich exchanging tales of daring do. The next
day I reflected that mountaineering in general and rock climbing in particular
is a terrifying pastime. By Tuesday I had convinced myself that I would never do
something as ridiculous ever again, and by Wednesday I had signed up for the
beginners’ multi-pitch.