Gogarth Day Dream

(by John Duignan, June 2008)
A day-trip to the magical climb A Dream of White Horses, in Gogarth, Wales.

Gerry’s report on the Dream added to to our itch as we waited our trip to Gogarth; For years, Conor Murphy’s mindblowingly beautiful shot of the last pitch above the Cave had lit a fuse. Hugh Reynolds too was hooked.

Nagging doubts gnaw away at me in the final few weeks before our trip; A fall here, backing off a route there, an achey joint at night. What the hell was I abbing into? The new guide book had upgraded the climb rating … just have to wait and see …

Every second ferry passenger on the way across seemed to be lame or walking with a stick. Was this an omen? Look the other way, drink your coffee and don’t spoil the day by sharing your paranoid thoughts.

Hugh grinning like a schoolboy as we stand at the cliff edge on a warm sunny day and look down, down, down for the first time on the Wen Zawn … dazzlingly white and gold rock, waves crashing below, gulls screeching in the blue sky. The semicircle of the Zawn split by Wen Crack and that unmistakable roof over the last pitch.

Great to get going on the ab down … clear the head of doubts …

I get the first pitch … positive holds quickly lead to a bomber belay. Hugh comes up, still grinning and humming away to himself as he starts the traverse of the second pitch. The humming, like a vacuum cleaner goes quieter when the work is harder … It stops entirely for a short section and I look across to see total concentration on the final delicate steps before a hanging belay …

Arrive at the second belay. Very cramped and I move off quickly, jostled by the one other team that are climbing Wen. Banister of clean flakeline ahead but getting started is fiddly. Off balance and feel hassled until other climber moves on. Steady yourself. The line of flakes peter out in the guidebook. What about that blank section above? The climb unfolds beautifully and the few tense moments disappear. Christ, is that me humming now too? Two-man Welsh Choir.

The third pitch meanders up and then ends with a back climb down to a deep cosy pegged stance in Concrete Chimney; You could hide in here on a windy day but today swing out and enjoy the sun.

Hugh gears up for the final pitch of gold-coloured rock as I watch enviously; no bother to him at the crux as he swings around the nose … but why isn’t he moving on? Splayed across the rib, a wire is caught in a small crack on the nose. Tense handswapping as he swiftly quickdraws the stuck wire and is free again. Later we can joke about how many a man’s straying nuts have got him into trouble but now just let him enjoy the moment. The whole pitch is a wonderful dance with high and low holds alternating.

It’s time to follow across. Concentrate hard on this traverse, where a fall could leave you having to prussik up the rope. The cave peaks up from below the arch of the climb. The magic of the place and the firm rock dispel all thought of the Gogarth Grip.

Too soon it’s over and we are walking down for a well-earned pint, the sun still warm on our backs, already planning our next trip here.

See also Gerry Moss’s report