Quick drying blocks in the mountains are a precious commodity; even better when they are situated 50m from the road. The Drws y Coed Pop Block satisfies both of these criteria; furthermore it features half a dozen absorbing problems, four of which are grade 7.
The front face leans over like a hardcore cellar board and it climbs like one too. The steepness creates an optical illusion of smallness; the main problems are certainly much more involved than is first apparent. The rock is very compact and quartzy and, true to its quarried origins, many of the holds are shallow two finger boreholes.
Danny Cattell spotted the boulder in September of 2012 and climbed four lines, including a 6B+ sds on the left and Harry Popper 6C, a good sds line up the left arête of the steep face.
Danny then turned his attention to the centre of the steep face where he climbed It’s All Pop 7B/+, an excellent sds starting left hand on the undercut, right hand in a shot hole. A second shot hole taken with the right hand allows access to poor slopers just below the lip and a hard boost again for the top.
The next target for Danny was the line just to the left. Pulling on with a head high left hand shot hole and an obvious crimp on the right he made a wild, tendon-threatening throw to the lip.
“It’s a well cool, Sharma style dyno from the two finger shot hole, then a massive swing, whole body horizontal, matching jobby!”
Said Danny, before adding:
“Unfortunately I popped something in my arm so couldn't climb it properly from the sitter.”
Danny originally gave Pop Will Eat Itself a 7B+ grade, but frankly it looks a lot harder than that; even the suggested 7C grade in the topo could be underselling it.
Shortly after Si Panton paid a visit, adding the Harry Popper Extension 7A. This good addition starts sitting just left of the centre of the face, matched on a large layaway feature. A swerve left to shot holes leads (with just enough ground clearance above a thin pad) into the original problem.
At this point there was some confusion over the line of It’s All Pop – Si thought this was the obvious line on the right side of the steep face. He briefly tried both this and the central line then subsequently directed Jon Ratcliffe towards the central line, telling him it was a project, ripe for picking. In the spring of 2013 Jon paid a visit but was knocked back on the central line. His consolation prize was an ascent of the obvious right hand sds line which he thought superb and worth 7B+.
Fast forward to this afternoon and Chris Doyle came for a look, with Si arriving to snap some pics. Chris did all the moves on the right hand line and came very close to linking it. His main focus though was on the central line which at this point was still believed to be a project. Soon enough he had sussed a sequence out and after a change of shoes, to stop his left foot popping on the crux move, he managed to climb it in one push.
Feeling pretty happy with himself, Chris then called Danny on the way home, only to realise on closer interrogation that Danny had already climbed the central line, and that he had not touched the right hand line at all. A quick call to Jon confirmed that he had the first ascent rights on the right hand line.
Jon was understandably pleased to here the news:
“I thought it was a brilliant problem, really intense and with some great moves. I had to do a really hard move to a poor hold then boost again for the lip. It felt like good 7B+ to me. Let’s call it Pop Art.”
To reach the Pop Block follow the Nantlle road over from Rhyd Ddu and down beneath Craig y Bera to a point where the valley flattens out a bit. (OS grid ref 538 533). There is a layby on the left just before the entrance to the Tal y Mignedd campsite. You should be able to see the block 50m from the road. There is a gate by the campsite entrance which leads into the field.
To see a full size version of the topo go to the
Topos and stuff section.
And finally, check out this short film shot on Chris's camera:
A final twist in the Pop Block story - Old school Bangor legend Paul Houghoughi got in touch last night to explain that he climbed It's All Pop back in March 2002. The field was full of cows at the time so the landing was really muddy - Paul named the line Splat but has said he is happy for Danny's name to stand.
And in a further twist it has emerged that David Mason climbed the first three lines on the left, including Harry Popper extension in June 2010. David also climbed a couple of other good problems nearby: Twiglet 6B!, is the distinctly highball line left of the big crack on the attractive slab a bit further up and left beyond the fence. And lastly: a thin 6A+ crack line on a barrel shaped rock up and right of the Llech Drws y Coed routes crag.