It’s 10pm on Thursday evening before the Gogarth meet and it’s DECISION TIME. About 40 brave souls have said they’re coming along despite the most atrocious week of weather and only the vaguest glimmer of a window over the weekend. The Met Office don’t hold out much hope, the Beeb are no more optimistic and the cows are lying down in the field next door (whatever that means). The Tesco internet shopping order is loaded onto the system and my finger hovers over the “Checkout” button – what the hell… I press the button, and in a distant warehouse 300 sausages, burgers and assorted stuff together with a veritable beer lake begin to make their way to the doorstep.
Throughout Friday the text and email is monitored as potential attendees place their late bets – happily (remarkably!) there are more opting in than bailing out.
Saturday morning and the M56 is flooded in places as we negotiate the occasional torrential shower. The traffic to Prestatyn and Rhyl is unsurprisingly thin, but that just means the dark grey horizon is getting closer at a greater rate than expected. Crossing the Britannia Bridge onto Anglesey and at least the rain stops but it’s a grey and grim prospect that looms over South Stack cafe. Inside though, spirits are high, and sure enough there is a brave gaggle of tenacious (optimistic / deluded / deranged – delete as applicable) Rucksackers awaiting our arrival. There seems to be an underlying assumption that the weather will cheer up (…”well, we haven’t not climbed for more than 10 years on this meet”) and a feeling that it would probably still be good fun even if it didn’t.
After stoking up on tea and bacon butties (remarkable how much tea you can drink when the alternative is setting out into a force 6 rain squall) it is finally time to head for the crag. Plans are moderated (but not much!) and teams set off for the Upper Tier, North Stack, Holyhead Mountain, Castle Helen and beyond. I team up with Stan and we drop down onto Yellow Wall: “Steep and severe routes, generally following weaknesses through the roofs, with lashings of exposure and intimidation. Rock is ok-sh to the left, gradually deteriorating to the right.” We head to the right, for Dogs of War E4 5c. The rain shower around mid height and the generally damp rock only add to the excitement, but we prevail.
Back to the cafe and more tea, the weather is brightening up. Stan heads for more fun on the Upper Tier and Helen and I make for the BBQ beach. We have the place to ourselves and out to sea there are blue skies and they’re heading our way. Gradually the team drifts in, lured by hunger and the promise of beer. Tales of derring do, or Tsunami waves and happy climbs emerge – it looks like everyone’s had a good day. The last stragglers arrive well after the BBQ curfew but it’s hard to begrudge them a last route in the improving evening. As the sun sets and the stars grace a clear sky there are almost 40 of us gathered around a roaring bonfire and reliving the day. The singsong breaks out towards midnight (as Eric Morecomb would have said: most of the right words and some of the right notes, not necessarily in the right order!)
Sunday morning dawns and it is cracking the flags – the contrast is remarkable. Hangovers clear in an instant and Main Cliff is teaming with Rucksackers (we’ve got the place to ourselves!) Callum and Mike steal the show with a classy ascent of Positron but numerous other great deeds are accomplished in the sizzling sun. Happy days and what looked like a washout has turned into the most successful climbing outcome for the last 3 years. I’m not sure about “the sun shining on the righteous” (though of course I can’t speak for everyone else who was there) but I think we can be sure that “Fortune favours the brave”.
A big thank you to everyone who supported the meet and came along despite the dreadful forecast – see you again next year 🙂