Twyford picks-off Strawberries

03 October, 2014
A happy Emma Twyford at the top of Vector Buttress. © Ray Wood
Emma Twyford has continued her run of good form with an ascent of Strawberries (E7 6b) at Tremadog's Craig Bwlch y Moch. Set in a brilliantly exposed position, high up on the Vector Buttress, this is a British trad route, that without fear of exaggeration warrants the description of iconic.

Few climbers sidle leftwards towards the initial crack without feeling the weight of the route's history dragging at their heels. Since Ron Fawcett's first ascent in 1980 it has earned a particularly notorious reputation as a difficult route to flash. The first British onsight was only made this summer by Steve McClure. And although Emma headpointed the route, it's the first time Strawberries has been climbed by a woman unless another female has made an 'under the radar' ascent.

Emma said: "I was way more nervous trying Strawberries than Bucket Dynasty which I consider my first E7 flash a couple of months ago. Perhaps that's because Strawberries has so much history about it and a lot of very good climbers have fallen off trying it. I felt calmer on Bucket Dynasty even though it isn't as well protected. Strawberries was harder for me than Hells Wall (E6 6c) which I got second go."

Completing Strawberries didn't come easily for Emma and in the end it took five sessions, starting with a bitterly cold day at the end of June last year in the company of Dave Pickford. While Dave enjoyed success Emma was left with unfinished business. Finding another climber who was interested in trying the route with her, Emma returned five months later with Dave Evans. On this occasion Emma came very close to adding Strawberries to her climbing c.v. but fell on the redpoint crux getting a pocket with her right hand near the top.

The first attempt at Strawberries in June 2013. © Ray Wood
A week later Emma and Dave Evans were back at the top of Vector Buttress but Emma's idea of putting a pocket handwarmer in her chalk bag to combat the December chill back-fired. Her hands got too hot and sweaty and she failed to get as far as she had previously. The months passed and two weeks ago Emma and Dave returned for what effectively became a refamiliarisation visit; Emma not doing herself any favours with having been on The Brute (8b) at The Diamond the day before.

This time round Emma made no mistakes in ticking off the second of her two main goals for this year - Unjustified (8b+/8c) being the other. Describing how it went, Emma said: "I didn't feel like I climbed it smoothly. Changing my sequence just beforehand only added to my nerves. I pretty much placed all the kit that go although the top runner, an Offset 7 was in-situ as it became jammed after Dave fell on it. We'd have wrecked it getting it out (and subsequently did) without having another with us as a replacement. I'd placed it previously so didn't feel too bad about it."

She added: "The hardest move on the route for me, both psychologically and physically, comes at the start just above the small gear. You're really spanned out making what is a burly shouldery move to get into the crack. Because you're pulling hard without having really got going on the route it feels tough. Overall Strawberries felt around 7c."

Emma Twyford StrawberriesEmma Twyford close but not close enough to climbing Strawberries (E7) on her second session in early December 2013. © Ray Wood