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Twll Love and Antiquarian Direct – two new E5s in Twll Mawr

Development of The Desolation of Smaug area on the North Wall of Twll Mawr in the Dinorwig slate quarries continues apace. At the start of September Calum Muskett and Mark Dicken climbed The Antiquarian E4/5 6a. Five days later Calum returned (with Jez Leong) to straighten out and improve The Antiquarian. The resulting Antiquarian Direct rates E5 6a.

It was then Mark’s turn for a rematch – on Monday he went back with Ben Ryle to try and establish a similarly direct line to the right. This line had been attempted by Joe Brown many moons ago. The old bolts left by Joe gave something to aim for but their holding power after all these years was open to question.

There were some real moments of drama on the lead (check out Mark’s blog for more on this) but in the end Mark managed to stay steady on the lead and the old bolts, plus the sketchy gear placements above, remained untested. Twll Love at E5 6a is Mark’s first onsight at the grade – not bad for a dad with young kids who has just turned 40!

Mark Dicken on P1 of Twll Love E5 6a Photo: Ben Ryle


P1 5b 35m Start as for The Antiquarian at the crack – ascend this until it runs out then follow the slabby side of the corner above until a bolt is reached. Belay here with whatever else you can find.

P2 6a 25m Continue up the corner until it is possible to gain the slopey ledge on the left. Arrange meagre gear, and force a rising traverse back right, dynamically across the corner (doubtful rock) to snatch a clean ledge on the steep side. Wriggle, throw and flop onto the ledge above. Belay of well equalized small wires.

P3 5c/6a 30mish Follow the left hand arête of the corner behind the belay easily at first with poor gear, until a committing step up to a sloping ledge (cam size 1 hidden on left). Either take a large stride left and grapple into undercuts, or pull boldly upwards to a some poor gear and then scamper leftwards to a good foothold and undercuts (wire in a corner). Undercut wildly leftwards to the penultimate bolt of The Desolation of Smaug and mantel up to the bolt belay.

Mark has also been busy with some crag caretaker activity – the Joe Brown classic, Hamadryad E3 5c has been given a much needed spring clean and is now in good condition.

Sun Sea and Smurf E2 5c – two pitch addition to Smurf Zawn, Gogarth

As the glorious September heatwave rolls on the new routes keep flowing at Gogarth. Usual suspects, Twid Turner and Dai Lampard have picked off an obvious line in Smurf Zawn. Sun, Sea and Smurf E2 5c tackles the white streak and brown wall right of the corner chimney of Green Light.

“It’s a solid, independent line. Some great rock and generally well protected.”

Said Twid after the ascent.


Abseil directly in from good spikes to a non tidal ledge above the sea just right of the Green Light chimney.

P1 5c 35m Pull off the ledge, with good gear, to climb a balancy steep slab following the white streak. Gain the first ledge and good spike. Pull through the undercut bulge to gain good jugs and a better second ledge. Good belay.

P2 5b 15m Climb slightly left and up on nice red rock to reach a thin move and a pull up steep rock to finish.

Gimble in the Wabe E7 6b – stunning new route at Rhoscolyn from Alex Mason

Alex on the fingery crux moves onto the upper slab of Gimble in The Wabe E7 6b Photo: Jemma Powell

Emboldened by his recent success on Red Wall Promontory, Alex Mason returned to the Anglesey sea cliffs to pick off another impressive new route. Gimble in the Wabe E7 6b strikes a bold line up above The Tum Tum Tree traverse on the Dreams and Screams wall in Fallen Block Zawn at Rhoscolyn.

“After doing Smear Campaign with Caff it gave me impetus to have a look at some of the unclimbed lines I’d noticed before. This one really stood out in my memory as something that surely should go. I went down on Wednesday with Tom Livingstone and cleaned off a lot of sea beards and loose holds uncovering just enough holds to get over the slab and a lot of surprising jugs through the steepness. I then had a play on a rope and found the climbing to be reasonable (until the last move) but the feet were very crumbly and unnerving. Tom then had a couple of goes at Dreams and Screams and we ran out of time and had to leave. I was in work the next couple of days gripped that Tom might go back and bag it, but thankfully he had a trip to Lundy on Friday giving me a perfect opportunity to get back to it.”

Explained Alex, before adding:

“Yesterday I headed back with Jemma Powell, Oli Grounsell, Mikey Goldthorp and his mate Chris. After a team warm-up on Electric Blue I got straight on it. It went really well, until I nearly dropped the top cam at the end of the run-out. After a few hair-raising moments I was pulling onto the top slab. Oli then made an impressive flash straight after, independently confirming the grade and quality of the route. I think the route will become quite popular as it’s relatively safe and now the rock is fairly stable it should make a great onsight/ground-up proposition with difficulties around 7b/R.”


Big, bold moves up the centre of the golden wall. Start from the hanging belay at the bottom of Dreams and Screams. Follow Magellan’s Wall, past the ledge to gain a diagonal pod. Pull up and left to gain the long break. Arrange protection, draw your vorpal sword and slay your way up the steepness above to a spike pocket. Blind, bold moves lead rightwards to an undercut flake (crucial medium cam). Pumped and concerned, make fingery crux moves onto the slab above and exit rightwards with much relief.

The Antiquarian E4/5 6a – four pitch trad route on North Wall of Twll Mawr

Mark on the first 5b pitch of The Antiquarian Photo: Calum Muskett

Yesterday Calum Muskett and Mark Dicken (co-author of the Llanberis Slate guide) completed a four pitch trad line next to the recently added multi-pitch sport route, The Desolation of Smaug on the North Wall of Twll Mawr in the Dinorwig Slate quarries.

In times past this area of rock had been subject to ground up forays by both Joe Brown and Ray Kay, yet neither had managed to find a way through the tricky and serious terrain. The Antiquarian E4/5 6a was an attempt to explore this area again, but this time to take advantage of the adjacent belays.

The intended line didn’t quite come together on the day but a decent route did emerge  as Calum explained after the ascent:

“It didn’t go quite where we were intending but is certainly quite fun and adventurous. Quite a lot of chossy slate but surprisingly well protected.”

The lads took a pragmatic approach to the nearby bolts, as Mark put it:

“This wasn’t an anti-bolt mission; we made use of them when it suited us, but were keen for a trad adventure…”

To read more about the ascent and see more photos of the first ascent check out Mark’s blog.


Bimble up the chain to rack up as for Razor’s Edge.

P1 5b 30m Climb the pillar left of the v-groove, cross the next rib on the left and quest up to the crack for some more reassuring gear. Rise until level with the TDOS belay and traverse over to it.

P2 6a 40m Clip the first bolt of TDOS then enter the groove; follow this until pushed onto the rib and then follow this until the first of Joe Brown’s bolts is spotted over by the corner on the right. Gain this and go up to the bolt at his high point (the bolt is difficult to clip as it is bunged up with old tat). Continue in the corner until a slightly unnerving slopey traverse gains the big slopey ledge, shuffle left on this to the TDOS belay.

P3 6a 50m Climb the corner system directly above the belay, to a decaying pink sling on a flake (remnant of a Ray Kay jaunt). A rising traverse left meets the junction with the Taith Mawr Traverse (cam slot) follow this back right to where Taith Mawr belays but quest directly up the corner system above the belay (plug the gear in the easy bits because its about to run out). The corner starts to shut out into the right arête; surmount the arête to join P5 of TDOS just before the crux, follow this to the belay.

P4 5b/F6b 20m Finish as for TDOS.

Smear Campaign E8 6b – Alex Mason climbs fierce new line on Red Wall Promontory at Gogarth

Yesterday Alex Mason climbed a tough new line on the Red Wall Promontory at Gogarth. Smear Campaign E8 6b breaks out right from The Featherstone to follow a hard diagonal line leading rightwards up past the overlap. A committing section on the blank wall above leads to a bulge, before the line trends off right to reach the easier but still serious upper arête of Satan’s Scream (an E8 6c climbed last year by James McHaffie).

The outcome of the day was quite a surprise, as Alex explains:

“I only really went to belay Caff [James McHaffie] but he was feeling under the weather, so I tried it on a rope while he had a nap. I came down and Caff said he had no intention of leading it that day and I could go for it if I wanted. I surprised myself by feeling up to it. Abbing in it looked nails and I didn’t think I’d even second it.”

“I put the bomber runners in the E5 and returned to the deck for a rest and a psyche up. Then I went for it, got through the first hard sequence to the first independent gear and ripped a blocky side pull off, taking a ground-swooping pendulum.”

“After that I got back on top rope to practice placing the gear from another, more strenuous position. Next go up I got quite pumped and gripped placing a small offset wire and a micro cam here. Then you burl right and place a reasonable but blind Red DMM Dragon off a powerful undercut and smears. At this point you can feel the juice draining and you just have to go for the upper wall, technical at first, then via some tenuous reaches to gain better holds and some okay gear with much relief. This is quite a long sequence of 6b/6c moves, maybe about 25 moves. After a bit of a shake there’s a few more 5c/6a moves and a final heart-in-mouth palmy press into a scoop and a decent wire.“

As for the physical difficulty and overall grade assessment, Alex offered the following thoughts:

“Overall it’s around French 7c. I think it would feel much harder to onsight given the blind, smeary nature of the climbing. For me it was comparable in difficulty to ‘The 39 Slaps’ [an old E7 6b on Esgair Maen Gwyn/Scimitar Ridge in the Llanberis Pass which has lost a few holds and pegs and is now considered to be E8 6c] but a little less secure and you have to place some unobvious gear. It’d be good for someone else to try it as I haven’t much experience with this sort of thing.”

Caff agreed with Alex’s  assessment that the route would warrant E8 for an onsight lead:

“I think it’s E8 and probably 6b. It’s a big lead above 1 crucial cam and you can’t dick about for long on any of the hard bits . Would be awful ground up.”

There are no photos of Alex on the route as Caff compounded his already off colour day by knocking his trainer into the briny and then drenched his phone while fishing it out!


45m Brilliant powerful climbing without many footholds. Start up The Featherstone for 8m until it’s possible to break out right on side pulls to the first overlap. Arrange gear in the overlap quickly then pull over onto the blind wall above. Committing moves lead tenuously to better holds in the second overlap/bulge. Move up, and then head diagonally right, past a thread, to the arête, finishing more easily, but carefully, up this.

The route just makes it into the forthcoming Ground Up guide, Gogarth South, which is in the final stages of production.

Trio of new routes at Gogarth: an E2, an E3/4 and a five pitch E4 6a on Main Cliff

The Gogarth and Rhoscolyn sea cliffs continue to provide good quality new routes for the usual crew of activists.

Seasoned campaigners, Twid Turner and Dai Lampard, completed a surprisingly independent five pitch E4 6a (with pitches of 6a, 6a, 4c, 6a and 6a) on the right side of Main Cliff. The Bass Hunter strikes a direct line up through the big diagonal second pitch of The Rat Race, continuing up with sustained interest on either side of the upper pitches of the same route.

“It provides plenty of sport and moments of fine climbing. Well protected and on good rock quality. Now the lichen has been removed its pretty damn clean.” Said Twid after the ascent.

George Smith on the first ascent of the rather excellent Blue Buoy E3/4 5c Photo: Tony Loxton

Another pair of seasoned campaigners, George Smith and Tony Loxton, have added an excellent new route to The Range. The Blue Buoy E3/4 5c offers a good, well protected battle, through the steep rock below the recently climbed Drip Trip. The line follows the obvious overhanging flake over a ‘furious bulge’ to finish up a defined groove. It is only recommended in dry conditions and with a low tide when the route may be accessed from the slabs opposite.

Over on Llawder at Rhoscolyn Pete Johnson and Steve Long have been busy again. Their new route, Conquistadores E2 5b, strikes a direct line through El Dorado. Climb over the overlap as for El Dorado, step left and up to a short corner. Climb this (microcams useful) to reach a ramp. Follow this to a junction with El Dorado just below its hand traverse. Move up and right to a ledge and finish up the hairy crack line.

Raiders of the Dark Ark F8b+ – Chris Doyle adds desperate route to Llanddulas Cave roof

Chris turning the lip on the big roof section of Raiders of the Dark Ark F8b+ Photo: Doyle collection

Chris Doyle has had quite a week; first he climbed his ‘hardest ever’ boulder problem, the first ascent of a hard 8A+ link on Pill Box Wall, then he topped it by climbing the first ascent of Raiders of the Dark Ark F8b+ in Llanddulas Cave. This is his ‘hardest ever’ route and yet more proof of the outstanding form that Chris has hit this summer.

Raiders can be found on the shady roof section of the main cave, a place where Chris has been very active in previous years. Most notably he made the first ascents of Temple of Gloom F8b in 2010 and The Last Crusade F8a+ in 2011.

The new route follows Temple of Gloom to the third bolt then does a hard toe hook move right to a kneebar. The line then busts straight through the roof with more fancy footwork to finish on a ledge at the same height as The Last Crusade lower-off.

Despite the high level of difficulty, it has taken Chris a relatively small amount of time to complete the route. Once he had actually sussed out the tricky, technical sequence it came together quite swiftly. On his fourth proper redpoint session Chris made it to the last hard move, although he pulled his left leg hamstring on the final heel hook move.

Conscious of avoiding a more serious injury to his leg he took a break from the route for a week. Chris was obviously was climbing well and he knew he had to strike on other projects while he could. A windy couple of sessions on Pill Box Wall above the Marine Drive gave him the first ascent of a long standing project. One for the Road 8A+ is a lengthy stamina problem which rates about F8c (albeit without the need to tie in and clip bolts).

Returning to Llanddulas again, Chris knew he had a good chance on the big roof project:

“First redders I powered out on the last hard move. Then I dropped the start and the middle and on the fourth redpoint I found myself hanging off my heel rocking up to the sidepull. I got it and grabbed the big undercut and reached the jugs. As I was rocking over the finishing hold a big jug I’d been using started wobbling giving a heart in mouth moment. Luckily there was another one and I clipped the lower-off ever so slightly chuffed.”

Explained Chris, before adding:

“I’m pretty sure it’s F8b+ but you never know, it’s certainly a grade harder than Temple and didn’t take long enough to warrant F8c.”

To view film footage of the first ascent and read more of Chris’s thoughts on Raiders check out his excellent blog.

A couple of weeks back Chris also bolted up and climbed Catch the Pigeon F7b, an obvious alternative start to Zoidberg traversing into the end of Temple of Gloom. This proved to be a fun addition with a crux slap to the black boss at the end of Temple before climbing to the ledge and finishing up Zoidberg F6c.

Cam-ikaze Corner E3 6a, Surreal Mirror E1 5b/c – more new trad slate routes

The last couple of weeks have seen more interesting routes added to the slate quarries above Llanberis.

Firstly, Llion Morris and Mark Reeves scaled the Surreal Mirror E1 5b/c on the Pool level of Vivian quarry. This takes the arete right of Blades of Green Tara on the Prow. There are four bolts which were placed carefully so they can’t be clipped from Blades of Green Tara. Approach is via an abseil to a double bolt belay.

Despite the bolts the route is still trad in character, as Llion explained:

“It may be F6bish but it is not sport bolted.”

This week prolific new router, Ian Lloyd-Jones, took a break from establishing multi pitch sport lines to climb a single pitch trad route in Twll Mawr. Cam-ikaze Corner E3 6a is an offwidth corner crack guarded by a large boulder 20m or so left of the start of Supermassive Black Hole.

“It will appeal to those enjoy a good battle and the perverse pleasure of jamming, thrutching and squirming up these things, provided they take plenty of large cams. There is a bolt lower-off at the top.”

Said Ian, before adding:

“As always the grade is a bit of a guess, even more so with it being trad. To be honest it could be anywhere between VS and E4.”

Lucky Break F6c+, A Brucie Bonus F6b – two more slate routes on the Cape York Level

Cape York Level Topo by Harold Walmsley

Yesterday Harold Walmsley and Colin Struthers added two more routes to the recently developed Cape York Level at the top of Australia in the Dinorwig slate quarries.

First up is the rather excellent Lucky Break F6c+,  which weaves a line of least resistance up the slab left of Cape York Crack. Start up a smooth technical groove 2m left of Cape York Crack, gaining a thin break in the slab above and following it left to the arete. It then moves up the arete, back right above the overlap and up through the centre of the Cape York Traverse finishing directly through the bulge above to the Cape York Crack lower-off.

Topo showing both pitches of Cape York Slab F4c/5a, VS 4a/b by Harold Walmsley

Next the lads polished off A Brucie Bonus F6b – this takes the rib, overlap, mantel and slab right of High Stakes, finishing above and right of the High Stakes lower-off. At present you have to top out but Harold will be adding a lower-off soon.

“We think Lucky Break is really good (easily **) and, in itself, is a good reason to visit the level. I hope people will go and have a look.” Said Harold.

Slate quarries update – five new routes, Plastic Soldiers rebolted, rockfall on the Darwin level

Lots to report in the ever changing environment of the Dinorwig slate quarries; new routes, rebolted routes, changes in specified pitch lengths and…more rockfalls.

First up Harold Walmsley has started developing a little visited level in the upper part of Australia, up and right from Darwin. He has suggested calling this Cape York level (like the Cape York peninsula on a map of Australia). It is best accessed either via the bolted P1 of Cape York Slab or via abseil from above.

Cape York Slab VS 4a/b/F4c/5a

Two pitches, both with reasonable climbing; the first with three bolts but the second unprotected. Heavily cleaned but the odd loose hold may remain so careful climbing is needed. Start on the Darwin level about 25m right of the hydro tunnel entrance and to the left of a large corner with a vertical right wall and a vegetated slabby left wall.

P1 4a 17m Climb in the region of the left slanting ramp at the left end of the vegetated slab zig-zagging to stay on the clean rock. Enter the right facing groove above, step out on to its left rib and finish directly up to the Cape York level. This pitch has three bolts and is perhaps F4c/5a. It also has a two bolt lower-off/abseil point at its top – this is easily accessible from above and provides a way off the level back down to Darwin.

P2 4a/b 20m About 25m left of the top of P1 and above some blocks lies a slab that is very mossy on its right and clean on its left. Start at the left edge of the slab base where it is clean. Pad left up a ramp, move left (good position above the undercut base of the slab) and then up to a ledge. Follow a shallow groove from the right side of the ledge to the top. Descend easily left along the level and back down to the Darwin level. [H Walmsley 17.06.14, solo onsight, later cleaned on abseil and P1 bolted]

Cape York Crack F6a+ *

Starts from the Cape York level – best access is by P1 of Cape York Slab. The fault line (bolts) up the overlapping slabs about 20m left of P2 of Cape York Slab starting a couple of metres right of the left end of the Cape York level. Not sustained but a couple of interesting balancey and delicate moves. Six bolts and two ring lower-off below the top. [H. Walmsley 13.07.14, roped solo lead using a soloist]

Cape York Traverse F6a+ * 30m

Traverses left and then up after crux of Cape York Crack. Eight bolts (including four on CYC) to a two bolt belay on upper level (lowering off not practical due to undercut traversing nature). [H Walmsley 13.07.14, roped solo lead using a soloist]

High Stakes F6b+ * 20m

This links three right-leaning, right-facing flake grooves just right of Cape York Crack. Start near the rib to the right of the lowest, which forms a hand crack. Gain the crack and climb it to a sharp hand rail. Follow this left to the foot of the next groove and rock up. Climb the next groove with difficulty to a mantel out left. Step back right and gain the upper groove awkwardly. Finish up its left rib. Five bolts to a lower-off. [H Walmsley, C Struthers 05.08.14, roped solo lead using a soloist]

“Both Cape York Traverse and High Stakes have very good moves but use a couple of large hanging flake features that some/many may regard as suspect. Star ratings depend on your view of their stability: 1 star if confident in them down to ‘bag of…’ if not. The same goes for Cape York Crack: the big questionable flakes on the Traverse are on the part in common with Cape York Crack, they look pretty sound from this side but less so from the other side (High Stakes).” Explained Harold.

Harold also climbed a new line on the Ayers and Graces level:

Kata Tjuta Rib F6a+ * 28m

The stepped, low-relief rib that starts from a ledge system about 8m up the back wall of the bay between Ayers and Graces and Ayer Head. Interest is well maintained from the start of the rib onward. Start about 4m right of Ayer Head. Climb the lower wall (bolt) to the ledge system, move right to the rib and follow it past a couple of awkward steps. Continue up the system of grooves above to a final rock over right to the lower-off. Some blocky flake handholds and side pulls assist the final rockover. They appear well-wedged but treat them carefully. [H Walmsley 24.07.14, roped solo lead using a soloist]

More good news up in Australia: Ian Lloyd Jones reprts that he has sorted out the damaged bolts on the popular F6a, Plastic Soldiers:

“I’ve finally found time to sort the bolts on Plastic Soldier and have resined in 5 x 16mm Bolts so the route is now safe to climb again, I think the overlap is definitely better and more than certainly safer than before.”

At the top of Australia on the Darwin level Harold Walmsley reports that most of Jon Ratcliffe’s route, Don’t Look Back in Bangor (E3 5b) has fallen down.

“The ledge with the rock on it, as mentioned in the description, is still there as is the corner leading up to it but the hand jam crack above has all gone.”

“Some confusion arises because the line on the diagram (p85 of Llanberis Slate guide) and the text in the guide are not consistent. The text says to move left after reaching the ledge whereas the line in the diagram moves right. The groove reached by moving left (clearly visible in the guide photo) is no longer there: there is just a blank wall and a jumble of fresh blocks on the ground. The groove reached by moving right is still intact and looks the same as in the guide photo. However it has no crack in the  back. I presume therefore that the line was shown incorrectly on the photo whilst the text was correct. The route went up the left hand groove, which did have a hand crack, but this has now collapsed.”

There has also been a rockfall on the two levels above Darwin but this does not affect any routes.

(NB. Trainspotters may note that there is a developing trend of Jon’s routes or boulder problems biting the dust. His recent masterpiece, Point Break at Porth Nefoedd also fell down shortly after Jon had climbed it.)

And lastly, over in Twll Mawr the multi pitch sport route, The Desolation of Smaug, has proved to be a hit with both visitors and locals, who have enjoyed the opportunity to follow a fully bolted line through such wild territory. There is a minor safety issue though which is worth highlighting – the original pitch length that was given for the second pitch is incorrect; it is 35m and not 30m as originally stated. Consequently an abseil retreat with just a single 60m rope is not to be recommended.

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