I’m almost at the belay, sea glinting far below, a patch of wild flowers smiling at me from the ledge. But the holds are now loose and the sling round a rattly spike is a distant memory. “Come on, just one more move…” This is Gogarth; it goes with the territory, an ongoing flirtation with a beautiful but dangerous siren.
Back in the 90s, in the days of Kodachrome and lycra, I did some pictures for On The Edge magazine about climbing on Red Walls, one of Gogarth’s boldest trad climbing arenas. Abseiling into this battleground, you enter a mind-boggling world of exposure, crashing sea and crazy rock scenery. Capturing the experience of climbing here on film is not for the faint hearted.
When the call out for pictures for the Groundup guide books went out, the flirtation began again in the digital age. More areas were explored, a few gems were captured and skills were honed. Taking photographs of climbing on Gogarth was always going to be challenging on a practical and personal level.
Gogarth is one of the most atmospheric crags in the UK, but for many the climbing can be a real Marmite/type 2 experience. It is scary, isolating, committing and that’s just getting to the start of the routes. The same is true for the photographer’s experience.
It seems easier to take memorable experiences from Gogarth than memorable photos. Therein lies the challenge: Trying to make the digital image evoke the emotional memories of a Gogarth day.
Despite its fearsome reputation, when the sun is shining and the holds are dry, everything falls into place. The good times roll, company and craic are outstanding, and plans are already hatched for the next adventure.
Talk of a coffee table Gogarth book has started a search for new photos and once again I find myself drawn back. All the unfinished ideas and a desire to also capture the cliff when it’s misbehaving, doing its utmost to reject you. So once again I find myself hanging off a rope, feet skating around on lichen covered rock, muttering “Never again… never again.”
Llanberis North Wales based climbing and adventure photographer who started in the days of Kodachrome, Velvia and OTE, is now picking it up again after an interlude bringing up kids