Saturday morning 7 AM. The world was silent, the nation slept soundly in their warm beds, all that is apart from a small group of climbers awaking in pools of their own cold sweat. Only they could hear the summons; White Goods, White Goods, White Goods, a droning chant with the power of reeling in otherwise perfectly normal, god fearing, law abiding individuals just like you and I.
The weather gods had dared to intervene, to give the weak an excuse to bail. An unfavourable forecast had put many off, but they had underestimated the madness of the devotees, those climbers with the bluntest picks and the shortest crampon points, climbers needing their tooling fix.
Luck favours the hopeless, fine weather, warm weather, winners! Midmorning sunlight bathed the climbing amphitheatre causing a curious effect. Shirts were jettisoned, bare skin exposed, soft and fragile skin normally protected by evocatively named shell clothing against the cold elements and the cold steel of the tools.
Not climbing myself, I intended to make myself useful by serving up tea and coffee throughout the day. It wasn’t strenuous work so I kept my shirt on and started brewing.
If you have no idea what I am blathering about I was at the annual White Goods drytooling meet. If you know what that is skip a couple of paras, if not read on. Drytooling is a niche component of the diverse activity we call climbing. Not without controversy, it involves climbing with ice axes, crampons on rock, ice is optional.
White Goods is a small limestone crag at the foot of a golf course in North Wales, not even in Snowdonia. Its humble beginnings were as a fly tipping site, that is until a small group of climbers took things into their own hands and cleaned it up.
The crag appeared to be in fine condition. Every year I have returned it seems a little cleaner, a little more hospitable. It is noteworthy perhaps that a travelling Will Gadd held a dry tooling masterclass here a couple of weeks back. All the hard work put in by the White Goods pioneers is paying dividends, it is becoming a great training facility for drytoolers, it has even sprouted a suspended railway sleeper!
Excellent crag topos were once again provided by master of proceeding Ramon, this year taking over from Dave Garry. Here is Ramon on the weekends big ticker…
“Greg (Boswell) flashed Stump Man M11 after I prepped the route and rehearsed the moves for him. He also flashed Careful Torque M11, Neomania M10+, Ready Steady Hook M10 and a whole lot of other routes, the man is a machine.”
The most tenacious performance must surely have been from Massa, once on a route he just wouldn’t give it up. As the darkness fell Dave Garry abandoned all hopes of an early exit, his demo tools still high up on the headwall in Massas unyielding grip.
Our Saturday night hospitality was unavailable. The usually friendly Griffin Inn had recently changed hands, was not open so could not provide the food, camping and roaring fire we were accustomed to. Fortunately an alternative venue was found - the Plough Inn near Llandegla.
The evening entertainment was provided by team Scotland’s Ally Swinton. A missing HDMI cable meant we all huddled around his laptop screen, which in retrospect gave the presentation a very intimate vibe.
Ally has been living the life of a climber in Chamonix for a few years, his talk took us on a journey through some of his favourite routes as well as, and perhaps more importantly the people he enjoys climbing with. We were treated to an hilarious, entertaining, anecdotal talk with inspiring pictures. Successes, failed attempts, helicopter rescues and a dramatic story of a 700 metre avalanche from the Aiguille de Bionnassay. Despite the seriousness of the incident it was difficult to keep a straight face.
There were plenty of awards handed out in the evening, best improver, gnarliest veteran and of course top dog. There was no surprise that this year it went to Greg Boswell for his enviable ability to be able to get up anything without mincing around. I wasn’t aware of quite so many grinding, spark yielding falls this year, but Dougie from Scotland took three impressive dives to earn himself the best fall of the day award.
It is easy to take all this for granted, but as with any crag that has been pulled back from natures grip or mans ruin it is thanks to the work of the volunteers and enthusiasts who have channeled weeks of their own time and hundreds of pounds of their own money into equipping and cleaning the venue.
But bolts don’t last for ever, tat needs replacing with chains and belay anchors need to be kept secure. At the end of the evening a pint glass was handed around for donations to an unofficial bolt fund, this is long overdue and it received warm reception and generous donations. It seemed apt that this event, which is free to attend, was the place to do this. Hopefully this will help ensure the security and continuing development of the venue.
Once again the event was supported by.. us, DMM and e-climb. Good to see some new faces as well as a lot of familiar faces over the weekend. From what I heard most people had some unfinished projects.. training for next years event starts now!