Wen Zawn, Gogarth

Anna had looked pretty comfortable on the VSs that we had climbed on the Upper Cliff yesterday. That was of course with the exception of The Rift for which it was impossible to be comfortable. It was time to head to Wen Zen and ‘see what happens’. Anna was still clocking mileage at VS and was yet to lead HVS but there were some ‘straight-up’ routes that would be safe for the second. Maybe the option for THAT route if things were going well.

Ab'ing into Wen Zawn
The seas were looking high and a little wild so we abseiled only as far as the ledge rather than to sea level. I watched the belayer of another team get lashed by a wave at the base of the cliff, which reassured me that we had made the right decision. It was a beautiful day and the rock was bone dry. Wen seemed the obvious route to start with as it went ‘straight-up’ for the large part and was supposed to be low in the grade for HVS. Anna led the pitch above the ledge, which felt sustained 4c but with plenty of gear and nothing particularly strenuous. The top pitch had a delicate 5a move toward the in order to gain the ledge that traversed left to exit the route but overall the climb felt more like VS 5a.

First pitch of Wen
Top of the second pitch
I had watched some climbers lead the final pitch of A Dream of White Horses from the upper belay of Wen and had noted how they had managed to lace it with gear. We both appeared to be climbing well and were enjoying the quartzite rock in particular so there were no major concerns on my mind other than protecting the final pitch adequately. But then it was only 4c so I was pretty confident that we would manage the route without drama. I popped the question to Anna and she obliged. A Dream of White Horse was ON!

We again started from the ledge. Anna climbed to the belay from where the rising left traverse began. The short second pitch felt thin with little protection. Maybe the most serious pitch of the route? Anna then led the third pitch with some good cam placements to protect. She looked in the zone but comfortable.

The second pitch
Third pitch of A Dream of White Horses
Time for the final pitch. The first few moves stepping down from the belay in the chimney needed some care but a couple of good gear placements soon settled the nerves. That was until a few metres further when a deep crunch/crack sound emanated from a undercut juggy flake that I was using to forcefully lay-backed off at the time. I quickly released the flake in horror. The flake formed the bottom edge of a large 40cm square block attached to a shallow roof, which I was positioned under. The block was lined with small natural crack lines on its remaining three sides. I gently checked it for obvious movement with great caution given that (a) gravity was definitely on it's side and (b) I was stood beneath it. The block would obviously be big enough to cause serious injury or cut a rope. I concluded that it was best treated with caution. No more aggressive undercut lay-back moves to bypass it, and definitely no gear in perimeter cracks.

The pitch was slightly concave and interspersed with prominent sections of rock that meant it was vital for a lot of gear to be extended in order to keep the ropes running freely. There was plenty of opportunity to lace the route as I had hoped with the main limiting factor being the number of slings that I was carrying (around six total). The climbing felt steadier the further I progressed with plenty of time to compose myself between moves. Anna made fine work of the climb on second. She looked in the zone all the way and to see her beaming smile at the top of the route was one of the highlights of the day. Not a bad venue to get your first HVS leads done.

Near the start of the final pitch of A Dream of White Horses


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