Tim Emmett and Neil Gresham have just done a one-day ascent of a classic triad of Welsh ice climbs: The Devil's Appendix, Central Icefall Direct and Cascade. This is the first time all three routes have been climbed in a day. The climbs took nine and half hours from the car to the top of the final climb.
Each of these routes comes into climbing condition only rarely. Emmett first did Central Icefall Direct 15 years ago with Neil Gresham, and he believes that was the first time the climb had been done in 12 years.
"I had never heard of them all being in condition all at the same time," Emmett said. "I heard that all three were in condition the day before yesterday, so I phoned Neil in London and asked him to do it."
The pair climbed at night in order to avoid running in to other teams on the routes. They started on The Devil's Appendix, a 130-meter climb that starts with a rarely-formed pillar and moves in to a corner that fills with cauliflower-like ice features.
"You climb up this wall and you get to this roof, and Neil put in three stubby ice screws because the ice wasn't thick enough," Emmett said. "The ice sounded really hollow and like it wasn't bonded to the rock, and then he had to make a committing move into an overhang to get on to the pillar."
"At one point Neil slipped when his foot was balancing on just a centimeter of ice but he managed to catch himself with his ax."
After finishing The Devil's Appendix, Emmett and Gresham retreated to their car to refuel and listen to some music. Then they headed out for Central Icefall Direct, a steep three-pitch ice climb with a roof leading into a pillar on the third pitch.
The first pitch of Central Icefall Direct was only 5-6 inches thick and the pair had to rely on stubby ice screws for protection. The crux was then pulling over a roof onto the pillar.
"It's been very windy in Wales. Ice has been forming in these horizontal fangs. So the top pillar that we thought was attached at the top wasn't actually attached," Emmett said. "We couldn't really kick with our crampons or swing with our ice axes. We just had to make these little holes in the chandeliers coming off the roof and balance on them."
"If anyone climbs Central Icefall Direct they should know the top icicle is really fragile," Emmett warned. "I wouldn't be surprised if it falls down this week. It's barely holding on by anything. I definitely wouldn't solo it."
Emmett and Gresham finished the day with Cascade, a two-pitch climb that they dispatched in one pitch using an 80m rope and simul-climbing through sections. The ice was nearly vertical and 6-10 inches thick. At the top of the climb, the ice was more like neve and forced the pair to run it out with very little protection.
Next up, Emmett is going to spend time with his wife in Canada and go on a trip to the Cirque of the Unclimbables.