Since I have been planning to do some work/travel/climbing adventures away in Canada starting in November 2020, I have inspired myself to do some pretty epic routes in the UK before I leave. One fairly local route that has caught my eye, and had of a decent grade was A Dream of White Horses based in Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales.
This iconic 140m, 4 pitch HVS 4c, 3-star sea cliff climb is UK classic!!! After reading a little bit more into it, and gaining some knowledge from fellow climbers that have done the route themselves, I felt my current confidence and experience was enough to have a go at part leading it safely.
My first attempt took me on an extended weekend trip away to North Wales from 2nd to 5th of September. Weather was unfortunately not ideal. Rain from days before has left parts of the route wet and the strong winds made the morning chill feel a bit colder. I think if we were to attempt the climb there and then, this post would end up being a rescue mission story instead of joyful jabber about my achievement 🙂
The second attempt came immediately after. Almost a full week of rain-free sunny weather before 20th September meant that the route should be dry for that weekend. We parked at 53.317198,-4.660015 and walked about 25 minutes to the crag. Low tide at just before 7:00 am along with the sunrise left the door very much open for us to step out and conquer the Dream. The only problem now would be the possibility of other climbers having the same idea, meaning queues for the gold, and we were right! As we got to the crag around sunrise, there were already 2 single man tents up next to the path. Fortunately, we were the first getting the gear out and setting up the abseil rope. The route looked dry with no signs of rain, and the wind was very mild, so it felt like green lights for us from thereon.
Abseil was pretty straight forward. My much more experienced climbing partner Tony went first, to set up the belay at the bottom. This was his third time on the route so he knew ever pitch like the back of his hand. It was very reassuring to hear from him words of encouragement and confidence in me leading first and third pitch. I did, in the end, manage Valkyrie as a full lead, and that was a tough VS 4c climb, both mentally and physically as I left a bit tensed and intimidated in some parts.
At the bottom, we were about a few metres away from the sea. The start what I thought looked like a wet, black rock was quite grippy after all, so it didn’t take too long to complete the first 40m. One of my biggest worries before the climb was the first pitch as it is quite long and since it was me leading it, I didn’t want to get stuck leaving Tony to soak his feed in the sea with tide coming in.
After Tony joined me just before the second pitch, there were couple more climbers now abseiling down to do the climb. Instantly I felt the pressure to be a bit sharper and faster, but I know at the same time if I rush through and not place gear in as often as I feel comfortable with, I would end up being more pumped, putting myself at risk of slipping off. Always climb at a speed that is right for you, and hope it’s not too slow for everyone else lol.
The second pitch traverse accommodates many lovely moves all the way across, and it was very swiftly led by Tony. The third pitch goes up and slightly to the left, roughly 2-3m across at the top and down about 8-10m to third belay point. The movies were again delightful, with a positive ridge on to the right as the main handhold, and loads little ledges for the feet. A little bit stronger than the first pitch, probably similar to the second. As I got to the end of it, I was not sure where the belay point is so I ended up setting up a “comfortable” belay which took forever to do, due to my endless adjustment and extension of the clove hitches as I just couldn’t get it right.
Last pitch led by Tony had to be extended quite a bit as the route curves inwards. He has done a great job of it as some moves of the climb were a bit intimidating due to the slight overhang and long drop to the sea. When climbing, I had to keep going a little bit up and down looking for the comfy handholds and feet placement as the last thing you want is falling off at this stage. In case you do fall, and you can’t get back on the rock due to nature of its slope, make sure you know how to prusik up a rope to get back onto the route. You can also get couple of ascenders if you want to be fancy like the Petzl Ascension which I have seen in few ascending videos, and reviews for them also look really good. I was lucky enough to have been shown the prusik technique by one of my climbing buddies, Liz, just a few weeks prior. I think having to learn this made me feel more confident while going through the last part as I knew what to do if I come off.
At the top, I was happily greeted by Tony and another very special someone which made completing this route even better. Overwhelming happiness and sense of achievement from doing the climb and part leading it which made me feel even more confident in my self.
I just couldn’t ask for a better day to do it.
I mean, we even managed to see some seals while climbing 😀
Never saw a wild seal before so this was a very special moment indeed. We also had some sort of buzzard or bird of prey flying around at some point so just being surrounded by nature at it’s best, feels incredible.
We completed the day with a cold swim by Newborough Beach. £5 car parking fee well spent as I was willingly dragged into the sea and even managed to show off my very poor swimming abilities. After that, we had over 3 hours, a traffic-filled journey home with work waiting for me the next day. I felt like a Zombie on Monday which is normally the case when I plan climbing weekend away 🙂
I think this will be my last trip to Wales before I go to Canada, so I am missing this very special place already.
I also have to mention a fabulous vegan restaurant we popped into the day before the climb called Green Olive, which is based right by the Main Bridge in the Anglesey. They offer a wide verity of vegan meals, small snacks and drinks which is not only super fresh and healthy but taste amazing!!! I had a teriyaki fried aubergine salad which was not only amazing but very filling too. It’s worth checking them out if you are in the area. Prices are quite good too for their portion sizes.