Monday, 27 June 2011

The Tryfan Summit Experiment

Failure is part of life's little joke but it can often be used to learn something.

I was returning yesterday from the AGM of the Army Mountaineering Association in North Wales with no thought other than to head home as soon as possible to a large birthday party being given for a friend in the village  (we had had a typical N Wales day on the Saturday climbing in total clag: wet, cold and pretty unfit too).  The weather was improving rapidly and as I drove up the Ogwen valley to the pass I could not resist stopping beneath Tryfan - known as 'the climbers' peak' in those parts.

Before I could stop myself I had boots on and a rucksac full of painting kit.  The North Ridge is a particularly good scramble on clean rock with big holds.  90 minutes later I was at the top in a howling gale.  Being a stubborn git I foolishly produced my painting gear and looked around for a decent subject.  The clag was coming over regularly and with it some big gusts.  I hunkered down but could not hold onto everything at once and by the time my water pot, palette, painting cloth and brushes had been blown away at least 3 times I was beginning to accept failure.  You can see that 'happy' is not really what I am at this stage:

I had taken acrylics - big mistake.  Unless painting surface, water pot, palette and brushes are all glued to you it is impossible to mix, load a brush, apply paint, clean the brush and repeat the process when any sort of wind is blowing.  An oil pochade box would have been ideal - no need for a convenient flat surface for materials so no restriction on where you paint; dipper fixed to palette fixed to box with paint and brushes readily to hand and the painting surface firmly slotted into place.  With oils you have no problem with darkening on drying (a major disadvantage of acrylics when you are trying to mix colours) and being sticky they are easy to apply in a gale.  Oh well, it was worth it to learn the lessons.  The little 5x7 will be a reminder of what not to do.

I went back by the South Ridge, then the Great Terrace where all the rock climbs on the East Face start.  It was so heartening to see loads of young folk on the crag and it brought back memories of our first 'epics' there.  Perhaps I could still manage to lead something simple like Grooved Arete or Nor Nor Buttress, who knows!

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