Thursday, 2 October 2008

Route Review: Concrete Chimney (HVS 5a), Wen Zawn

By Chris Watkins

I have ventured to Gogarth three times in the last month with the intention to climb the enduring classic Dream of White Horses. On each occasion I have been defeated by either the weather or the hordes insitu on the afore mentioned classic route. So I find myself having still not set foot on my dream-route

They say every cloud has a silver lining and I have to presume that includes Welsh clouds as the result is I’ve been steadily ticking my way through the (so I’m led to believe) arguably better routes in the Wen slab area: Quartz Icicle, Wen, Britomartis and now – the thrust of my meanderings: Concrete Chimney.

Left: Pitch 2 of Concrete Chimney

Right: The awe-inspiring exposure of the Wen Zawn sea arch

First climbed, and indeed discovered by our very own Joe Brown along with Pete Crew. Concrete Chimney strikes a masterful line across Wen slab from the haven of ledges on Wen, to a fine exposed position abounding the rubble-like chimney at its left-most edge. From here a short pull up a steep wall on lovely positive quartzite holds gains jugs and the chance to glance down at your ropes arcing away towards the white horses below. A finer pitch for the grade would be hard to imagine and its topped off by a great semi-hanging belay with the cliff top tantalisingly close.

Immediately upon leaving the belay the exposure and the noise of crashing waves in the cave below make themselves felt. Steady climbing leads in a crescendo to the final barrier: a tricky niche guarding a committing swing around a roof, with the exposure snapping at you heels. Unlikely in appearance (read: its looks more like E2!) and unlikely in execution (you’ve really got to go for it!) it’s a fitting finale.

All of this raises the obvious question: how good can “Dream” really be ? (editor: seriously good!)

Gear recommendations

  • Mammut skinny slings – seat on less than adequate spikes like no other. Great on extendable quickdraws as they’re not too bulky so locate nicely on the krabs. Also amazing for threads.
  • Exped Drypac pro 25 – Just large enough to carry two half-ropes loosely stacked inside. Very useful if you’re abseiling in on a static line as it saves uncoiling your climbing ropes on a cramped belay stance and seeing them disappear into the sea! Just tie on and go. Useful afterwards for carrying water, guidebook etc…
Belay congestion - the price of a popular route

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