Dry(ish) Wye

by Richard Gowland

After the dismal weather of recent weeks, the forecast of slightly better weather ensured that the Wye Valley meet would be well attended by OMCers desperate to get on the rock. Anne and I arrived first at the Beeches campsite and, after scouting around for other early arrivals, we picked the quietest looking pitch we could (it had only one family and a couple of small tents nearby).

As we finished pitching our tents the OMC horde began to arrive. James Lord suggested a visit to a nearby pub that was only a short walk away (his words), so Anne, Marco and I joined him. The Brockweir Inn was about 20-30mins downhill and the beer good enough to make the journey back easier. In our absence our neighbours had been joined by another tent and a car that was being used as a sound system. The music continued all night.

Tintern Abbey
The view of Tintern Abbey is fantastic from here!

The morning brought good weather and Jason, who'd been kept up by his kids and had driven down to escape. With the others still breakfasting, Anne, Chris, Clare and I left with Jason for the walk down to Shorn Cliff. James and Marco walked with us until we left the forestry track to find the crag; their aim for the day being a circuit of the valley ending in Tintern.

While Jason and I were reeling from the realisation that we had arrived at the crag before half ten, Chris and Clare nabbed Gargoyle (S), so I led Jason and Anne up Acoustic (VDiff). It took most of the route for me to get my head back round limestone and took me a couple of tries to figure the crux out. Fortunately the finish was easier (although the trees came in useful).

Jason took the next lead up Hydraulic Jump (VS 4c), and soon cries of "This is great!" and "You'll love this!" were drifting down from on high. James S arrived with Matt (who had attended the Beginners Meet) and newcomer Stuart. They geared up and waited for Chris to finish seconding Acoustic with Clare. Steve and Heather had apparently headed for Wyndcliffe, presumably to avoid us! Hydraulic Jump was every bit as good as Jason said.

How to deal with neighbours who play music all night!

After a brief lunch I took us up Gargoyle. Meanwhile James and co took on Acoustic and Chris and Clare tackled Hydraulic Jump. Jason led us further into the forest to take on Knight Rider (VS 4b) (although he did eye up the line of Organ Grinder (HVS 5a) – until we found out the grade!). Once again the superlatives poured down and once again they were deserved.

Once we were safely back on the level Jason got, what I can only describe as, an eager/evil look on his face and asked if I minded if he took the next lead. I acquiesced and, as we set off for War of the Worlds (VS 4c) Chris came round to take some photos and to let us know that they were heading back to the camp. Jason was much quieter on the War of the Worlds, although whether this was due to the hardness of the moves, the lack of protection or simple tiredness was uncertain, it was not because of the route which was, again, excellent.

Satisfied with our day's work we headed back to the camp to count our mozzie bites and have supper round the fire (except for Jason who had to head back home). The evening included attempts at yoga on a log and at a human bellows system, the latter being more successful than the former.

We took a much more leisurely start to the day on Sunday and Ingrid joined us fresh from a trip to Portland and Swanage. As most of us were planning on a visit to Symonds Yat, Chris (who felt he'd seen enough of the Yat recently), Clare, James Lord and Marco got the 'pull-across-with-a-cable' ferry across the Wye, and went for a walk along the river to Monmouth and back.

Of the climbers, Anne and I headed off first, although this should not be seen as a sign of keenness as I wanted to get a coffee at the café first. Whilst we were eating our cake, Richard P, Julie, Nick and Abby arrived, having travelled down for the day. Those of you who know Symonds Yat will know that it can be treacherous in wet weather, and we were nervous as to what conditions we would find. Fortunately the ground was in a relatively good state.

Picnic on the Pinnacle
Picnic on the Pinnacle

I was able to beat Richard P. to Snoozin' Suzie (V Diff), so that Anne could get her first taste of multi-pitch climbing. This remains one of my favourite climbs (and, from the looks of the statistics on UKClimbing.com's logbooks, a club favourite. Ten ascents logged in the last year from OMC members!) The weather threatened for a bit on the second pitch but cleared up nicely for a sunny belay on the last pitch.

Starving hungry we headed out to find the rest of the OMC to watch while we lunched. We came across Steve and Heather who were waiting for James S and Matt to finish with Golden Fleece (S 4a) so that they could have a go. They told us that someone was having a go at Vertigo (S) on the pinnacle. Since this was more likely to have somewhere sunny to watch nearby we wandered over. Ingrid was gearing up with Stuart ready to belay and they invited us to join them for lunch.

It did take me a minute to realise that they meant on top of the pinnacle, but I figured why not. As it happened we were too hungry to wait and ended up eating all but a token snack before the rope was thrown down for us. The top of the pinnacle is quite spacious and we were settling in for a picnic as Steve and Heather strolled by.

Ingrid called out to them and they decided to join us, Steve taking the lead with a tub of humus stuffed down his shirt, Heather seconded with a loaf of bread attached to her harness.

Novel use for a nut key
Novel use for a nut key

As it was starting to get a bit cold we decided to retreat and so missed by a matter of minutes the opportunity to get Richard P's group of four up there too. Could this be a challenge for next year's Wye valley meet, how many OMCers can picnic on top of a pinnacle? Time was now getting on, so we decided on our final routes, Richard P headed off to do the HS variant to Snoozin' Suzie, A Right Carry On. I opted for the very polished and poorly protected Red Rock (VDiff), whilst Ingrid and Stuart headed for Kebbo (S).

Back at the cars, we found Steve, Heather, James S and Matt playing hacky sack to warm down (or it could just have been for fun). We joined in and, when they arrived, so did Ingrid and Stuart. Given our general level of ability or lack of ability, we decided that having got six hits in row that we had peaked and wended our way back to Oxfordshire.