A Dream of White Horses

When people ask me what my favourite sport is, I find it impossible to answer – I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. Amongst climbing, mountain biking, and fell running I love anything that involves being outside, especially if it’s in the mountains. Although I wouldn’t change this for the world, spreading your time between so many pastimes can have its disadvantages – for one, noticeable improvement in one area is slow.

Looking toward’s the Ogwan Valley

Bombarded by the picture social media paints I can find myself asking the question – am I a climber, mountain biker, fell runner, skier or none of the above? Sometimes the lack of label suits me, however, other times it can make me feel like a bit of a fraud to that sport. Can I really claim to be a mountain biker if I’m not out there cycling all the time!

Tryfan looking as spectacular as ever – shame about the multicoloured blob in the way! Photo by Neil Davies.

Mind you I’m not complaining, I have no training plan, no fixed schedule of what I do when. I simply choose whatever takes my fancy that day or, more often than not, whatever suits the weather – it’s fantastic! That in mind I want to tell you about yesterday – it was exceptional.

Amphitheatre Buttress – photo by Neil Davies.

From the offset, we knew our plans were was ambitious, so the morning began with an early start and a beautiful hike up the Ogwen Valley to Craig Yr Ysfa. Here the objective was to climb the Classic Rock route Amphitheatre Buttress – a long VDiff with the reputation for being one of the best routes of its grade in the country. True to its description, it lived up to expectations with a sustained run of interesting and very enjoyable climbing overlooking Snowdonia’s stunning landscape.

Neil on Amphitheatre Buttress.

Having made good time we topped out of Amphitheatre Buttress around 11.45am and were still on track and game for the second challenge of the day – A Dream of White Horses at Gogarth. For me this route has held a lot of significance – a little like losing a toenail in your first long distance run, it felt like a right of passage as a climber. I’d heard so much about it – all the stories were epic and having watched others climb it, I could see why.

Neil descending down to Lighthouse Arete the day before.

Stood at the top of the cliff my stomach was doing backflips. Both the sound and sight of the waves crashing on the rock below added a new dimension to the normal nerves I get before abseiling. Down on the first ledge, the knot in my stomach didn’t shrink – it was such an incredible but intimidating place.

Warming up on Britomartis the day before. Photo by Neil Davies.

Once climbing my feeling swung perfectly between slight terror and exhilaration. With the wind whirling around me and the sea now roaring at my feet, it was impossible not to feel alive. The climbing itself was fantastic – although not obvious from the belay, handholds appeared just as you needed them and footholds, although minimal at times, felt really positive.

A Dream of White Horses – photo by Neil Davies.

Having settled into the route, I was enjoying myself but still conscious of the final pitch – a traverse over a gaping cave, below which there was an expanse of sea and space. Although technically easier than the previous two pitches it was wild and airy. I’m not scared to admit, looking at it frightened me.

A Dream of White Horses – photo by Neil Davies.

Stepping away from the safety of my belay, wind and water, whipped off the rocks above, smacked me in the face. This was it, time to commit! Over the first few moves, my confidence grew, and although slightly odd looking it actually felt do-able. Then I looked down… I hadn’t meant to. The plan had been to stay focused on the moves so not to lose my head. My foot was on a hold around the size of a 50p coin, and beneath that, the cliff just fell away. But far from frightening me, it thrilled me.

A Dream of White Horses – photo by Neil Davies.

At that moment the sun came out from behind the cloud basking the cliff in a stunning light. It felt almost impossible that I was where I was. Thriving on the situation I climbed on. I felt completely calm, the most relaxed I had on the whole climb, as the holds flowed I found the route taking on a dance-like feel.

A Dream of White Horses – photo by Neil Davies.

As cliche as it sounds, I’m not sure I can quite sum up the emotions in that last pitch. But it made me realise whether I’m a climber, biker, running or none of the above, labels really don’t matter – I do this for one reason and one reason only – the pure love of it.

A Dream of White Horses – photo by Neil Davies.