Well it was a loose arrangement, which I had supposed was tenuous at best and completely forgotten about already at worse, but nevertheless I had kept the weekend free – just in case. Amazingly, almost magically some might say, everything came together remarkably quickly during the previous week. Rachel had messaged me asking ‘Are we going then?’ to which my first thought was ‘How the hell do I know’ but then I checked the weather and thought ‘It’s good, how has that happened’. My next thought was ‘We’d better get our crap together then as this might never happen again in my lifetime’. So I started frantically contacting Alan who was primarily in situ back from the Pyrenees and had then been asleep for 2 days as far as I could make out. I had already made a mistake of misfiring with the weather for Dream earlier in the year and didn’t want to repeat this. So I had to wake Alan up, somehow!
So we finally managed to all meet on the Tuesday evening and make a very brief plan. As with all plans it was subject to negotiation and change, especially as we hadn’t all been present at the same time whilst making the plan. Anyway, after dog walks, traffic incidents and etc etc we ended up in the car park at Breakwater Country Park just outside Holyhead at some point on Friday afternoon. We were organised in that we had ropes and stuff and even change for the ticket machine. The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze and I was starting to think ‘This could actually happen.’
So after a brief panic, whereby I was in charge of ‘the yellow rope’ which somehow managed to get a knot in it that I had to untangle whilst dangling wildly off the abseil rope, we settled in and started enjoying the climb. The first pitch had to be led by either Rachel or myself, as Alan had already put his dibs on the last pitch. We missed out the low tide pitch (because it wasn’t low tide and climbing under sea water (or any water) always makes things a bit slippy) so it was nice and neat with a pitch each to lead. Obviously the obligatory arm wrestle was had to win the first pitch. Just kidding ladies don’t arm wrestle, just like we don’t sweat, fart or belch! It was more of a: ‘Well after you’ ‘Well I don’t mind after you’ arrangement which Rachel gave up on first.
I was feeling slightly nervous for a moment or two and then a large seal appeared and reassured me the everything was indeed fine. We watched the seal for a while waving at us and performing water backflips while Rachel finished the first pitch. For those who don’t know (and haven’t seen the videos) Dream of White Horses is pretty much one huge traverse around a huge boiling cauldron of sea off the coast of Anglesey at a place called Wen Zawn, Gogarth. If the name alone isn’t Tolkienesque enough to give you the jitters, you then have to abseil into a very small little standing area (well for 3 of us it was) and then you’re off. If you go up the wrong way you end up on an E2 called Zeus and if you fall off you end up in the sea with the seals (and possibly mermaids). As a point of interest on another sea cliff near there, there is another route called Icarus which I thought fits in rather nicely with the whole going too high (and meeting the gods) or going too low thus falling in sea concept. On another point of interest the other really good HVS to do at Wen Zawn is called Concrete Chimney. I’m not quite sure how the mythical naming went awry with that one, perhaps they asked a really boring quantity surveyor what he thought and he said the first thing that popped into his head.
The first pitch of Dream is basically quite a good rising hand transverse but the foot holds are a bit dodgy in places. However, the foot placements were nowhere near as dodgy as some of those down New Mills Torrs so it all felt relatively secure. I think it was at the end of pitch 1 that I became aware of Rachel’s pink cordelette. Although apparently it isn’t a cordelette, it’s a similar piece of equipment which has been designed specifically to annoy Alan. It is not tied in a closed loop like a cordelette but runs free at the ends. And run free it did. I think it does have a technical name but henceforth we dubbed it ‘the pink floppy thing’.
So then I was up. Not much happened really. I climbed it, belayed slightly too early to a rusty peg (with back up nuts) and brought the other two across. We had an interesting vertically aligned arrangement on this stance which resulted in some good photos of the top of my head.
Alan then got to the last pitch which was very long and looked impossible from where I was standing/semi-hanging precariously. So I was very pleased he was leading it and actually seemed to want to. The balance and precise micro-route finding looked critical. I was only belaying and yet there was some nervous tension for me when I could see that one of the ropes was looking decidedly like it might be getting jammed under a undercut flakey spike. It was too late to shout Alan as he was well past it and I couldn’t flick it from my end either. I cursed myself for not noticing it sooner. I just had to hope it would keep moving through. I tried to leave that rope relatively slack so it wasn’t forced up deeper into the groove. It worked and soon the pitch was done with some inevitable rope drag at the end but nothing insurmountable.
It was my turn next, our juxtapositions didn’t allow for an arm wrestle, so I was assertive and just said “I’ll go next”. I soon found out that being the middle person on an incredibly scary traverse using double ropes is actually much more scary and dangerous than actually leading it or being the last person. I clearly hadn’t thought this through. When you are the middle person you have unclip your rope and clip it to the other rope. Without going into the micro detail this means that then your rope stretches away from you (for what seems like miles) before it is clipped into anything else leaving a swing of perhaps 6-7m (maybe 9 or 10m with rope stretch) which (x2) is a lot of fall (15m or so). On the bright side it was completely overhanging so I would only be falling into thin air (and then dangle) and worst case scenario it would be the sea. However, obviously this ridiculous and preposterous scenario didn’t enter my head as with every climber your one thought in these situations is – I won’t fall off. At one point a large (though fortunately not crucial) hand hold detached itself and I found myself shouting ‘below’ to the seals (there were two at that stage). Fortunately the climbing was well within my limits (and the others too) and it just seemed to pan out perfectly, indeed like a dream. Or even like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he has to cross the invisible bridge.
I emerged up a little corner to a grinning Alan. I then tried really hard to get a video of Rachel doing the last pitch but the gremlins stole that somehow. She eventually emerged, cocooned in slings with several pink tails trailing, and did a little dance. Impressive given the circumstances.
We had various other adventures over the next few days involving very hurty feet, some decidedly conflicting route descriptions, all to a backdrop of purple flowering heather and very yellow gorse with flitting painted ladies, bouncing choughs and diving peregrines.