As hundreds of outdoor folk flooded to Kendal for this years film festival an especially picky bunch of climbers opted for the alternative attractions of an esoteric crag in North Wales. It is unlikely that ‘White Goods’ has ever seen so many climbers in one weekend, and it is a great testament to the hard work of Dave Garry and his helpers that this years White Goods dry tooling meet attracted such a strong turn out.
We met at 10am on Saturday morning for a briefing at the Griffin pub in Ruthin. Dave had done a great job, there were a lot of faces from last year’s event but also a lot of new faces, with an especially strong turn out from Scotland and London. With more people than the previous year, and limited parking at White Goods the logistics of getting to the crag had been thought about so with a bit of car sharing the 40 odd climbers made it to the crag.
White Goods is a hole in the ground, it sits just below a golf course and has unsurprisingly attracted its fair share of fly tipping in the past, hence the name. All this has been cleaned up, but if you have seen photos of places like Kandersteg or Grenoble you might be just a little disappointed! Still, it is in the UK and it is what it is, and thanks to the hard work of people like Dave Garry, Rob Gibson and other activists there has been a lot of cleaning work, and the crag is now home to some great little climbs with a range of grades up to M10/11.
The rock is limestone, blocky, loose in places, solid in others but helmets and constant attention from falling rock, axes or partners with cramponed feet is necessary. On its left the crag is severely undercut giving some big stepped overhangs. These are reached via thin cracks or the smallest of ledges in the rock. Negotiating the overhangs calls for cunning and imagination. For the uninitiated there is a whole world of sketchy and improbable movements to learn. Axes inserted horizontally in to horizontal cracks and pulled down on like a bar, axe picks inserted in to cracks just millimetres thick and twisted as you pull down and reach up for the next hold, and perhaps the most curious and unnerving of all, placed upside down in a reversed position in a horizontal crack before transferring your whole body on to just a few millimetres of steel and crumbly rock in a figfour manoeuvre before repeating, and repeating.. to finally reach around on to the lip for a well earned breather on the headwall above.
Inevitable there were some spectacular falls over the weekend. Sparking crampons and flying axes tend to have that effect however the routes are well bolted and the biggest falls were taken while pulling out rope for the clips. Sometimes axes don't fall even if the climber does, and as the tired fallen climber hangs helplessly in the void his axe smiles down on him clinging tenaciously where it was placed. And so we found ourself in the curious situation of having the crux of Left 'over' Goods pre-equipped with no less than 3 axes.
The crag continues to give new challenges and Simon Frost introduced Ramon Marin to a new project traversing the lip of the White Goods area which after some efforts on Saturday looked like it would go at a grade harder than the crags existing hard route Stump Man. Ramon returned on Sunday to get the first ascent, Careful Torque M11.
Climbing continued in to the dusk with several climbers setting out with head torches, but for the majority thoughts were turning back to the delights of the Griffin pub.
There was time to sit around the roaring fire supping a pint and recounting the days adventures before food was served up, fish and chips for the meat heads and veggie lasagna for the veggies. The carnivores spied the lasagna eagerly, it was clear we had got the better deal. A prize draw followed with a set of Figfour training aids and other prizes from event co-sponsors DMM and e-Climb.
The after dinner talk was provided by Simon Yearsley a Scottish based climber with a passion for putting up new lines. The initial slide promised a grand tour of Welsh winter climbing, a topic suggested by Dave which seemed appropriate enough since we were in Wales, however by his own admission it was a subject he was eminently unqualified to talk about! Fortunately he does know an awful lot about Scottish winter climbing and so that is where he took us covering topics such as success, failure and the importance of keeping a sharp eye for new lines. An engaging and often funny talk filled with anecdotes, inspirational slides and with the firm message that there are still an awful lot of new routes to do outside the more frequented areas.. so go that extra mile, perhaps even leave your guidebook at home, don't worry about success or failure and just get out and climb.