A Dream of White Horses
This year I finally got one of my biggest ticks. In July I defeated the typical British summer weather and bagged this iconic route put up by Ed Drummond & Dave Pearce in 1968. A Dream of White Horses is situated on Wen Slab, in Wen Zawn near Gogarth North Stack. Graded HVS 5a it boasts an adventurous final pitch where a fall from the traverse can leave you hanging in space!
I had been dreaming of a Dream of White Horses since I discovered it. Tempted quite a few times but never convinced I was ready for such a route. Was my prussiking up to scratch? Did I have the head for the traverse? At the June meet, I found myself embarking on my first visit to the magnificent cliffs of Gogarth. Climbing with Marcus Harvey & Steve Senior, we spent Saturday doing Scavenger Direct, HVS 5a, and Gogarth E1 5b. That was a full-on day for me, at the limits of my climbing. On Sunday we headed over to Wen Zawn, to tackle Britomartis, HVS 4c. My arms were tired, and I when given the opportunity to get on Dream I didn't feel I had the strength to take it on. I would end the weekend on a high. From that day this route was not only my Dream but my nemesis!
One drizzly July Friday night I headed up to Glanafon, with the hope of a weather window to get the route done on Saturday morning. Upon arrival at Glanafon I was reminded of the route by the photograph on the hut wall of Dave Edmonds hanging from the Wen belay. That got me, I had to get it done. So after a few glasses of red wine and a brief nights sleep, I headed on to the main road out of Bethesda with it still raining, but a glowing glimmer of hope in the form of a sunny Anglesey in the distance. By the time I arrived at the North Stack carpark the ground was dry. It had been a dry night. The forecast predicted showers at 1300. It was now 0900, did we have time? The ticket machine was a bit of a windup. 4 hours parking or 12? It might as well say, would you like to pay for an epic? So coughing up for the full 12 hours, just in case, we headed up to the Promontory. We were the first people there, so I took a bit of time to point out the route to my climbing partner. He looked and said “It looks pretty blank”. From that we racked up, and were met by another pair who had just got there. They were doing Concrete Chimney, another route now on my wish list. “Do you mind if we use your abseil rope?” they asked, it was down to us then to commit.
Scrambling down to the abseil point, the weather was looking ok. We tied up onto the many slings and off we went. I went first, and admired the slab on the way down. All of a sudden it seemed ok. I could see holds and everything! Although gear was looking a bit sparse. Due to the tide I settled on the high tide ledges, and scraped around for a while before finding a crappy spike and a loose crack to belay from. This was it, time to release my self from the abseil rope, which always instils a sense of seriousness of the situation especially with the waves crashing around below and the traverse of pitch 4 looming above. I was there now, time to get on with it! I called my partner down.
We’d agreed I’d do the traverse pitch, so it was down to my partner to get started. “I feel slightly nervous now!” he said after he released himself from the abseil rope too. Off he went, on what seemed like good holds. Eventually he nearly disappeared from view, and was stationary for a while, whilst realising he had gone too high. He soon called me up and as he’d gone to far after swapping gear I set off on a down climb to find the start of pitch 2. More ledges, this looks fine. A delicate traverse to a rusty old peg, and then it all goes a bit blank. The giant spikes in the Wen crack lure me past the crux of the pitch, looking down at the sea as I pinched some tiny holds to get me over to the belay.
Now I was at the point in the photograph at Glanafon, I felt quite comfortable in the hanging belay as my partner followed over to me. Waiting for another party on Wen to pass our belay, I looked up at pitch 4 which was getting closer. After a bit of route finding it was time for my partner to start up pitch 3. After a balancy start he made his way up the flake to the grassy ledge. A few moves later he got in what he decided was his last piece of gear on that pitch. I could not help thinking, once I take that out I’m down-climbing quite a way with no protection. I hoped he had a good belay! It turned out the belay was bomber. In fact in the concrete chimney I was even able to rest on a ledge while we swapped gear for the final time and I contemplated the last pitch.
I set off, got a nut in and arrived at what appeared to be the crux. A kind of falling into a layback move hoping there was something for my feet, which there was. in fact after that it seemed quite easy. I took a moment to look down at some other climbers on T Rex, and beyond to see the sea below Wen Zawn. I carried on moving and taking it all in, when all of a sudden my ropes became tight. Before I knew it a runner popped out just after the crux. I had put long extenders in to try and prevent any drag, but looked back and could see the ropes were twisted in my partners belay plate. I enjoyed the view while he sorted them out and then continued the pitch until arriving at another tricky section.
Pulling round a bulge on my arms onto a slab that overlooks the bottomless chimney into the Zawn felt quite intimidating, but was soon over. Before I knew it I got to a section that looked like the exit. It also looked blank. Maybe I should carry on some more? I did, and found the real exit chimney marked by a peg. One clip in this at I had nearly done it. I grabbed a hold just above it and it snapped off in my hand! Luckily I stayed firmly on the rock and pulled up onto a rocky path. I had finally done it. I set up a belay, took off my shoes and called my partner up. Once we had done the obligatory handshake and had a bite to eat, we packed up and headed back to the car. Just then the heavens opened. It thrashed it down, but thankfully we were watching it through the windscreen of my car!