Author Archive

North Wales Limestone: the definitive guide

The solid start to sales of the superb new North Wales Limestone definitive guidebook has already resulted in an increase in visitors to the area, and locals are ‘discovering’ crags that they’d forgotten existed! With over 400 full colour pages and over 1500 recorded climbs, this book is great value and a good read on those cold, wet nights (and don’t forget – there’s an App too)!

As well as the usual A55 venues, the remarkable Craig y Forwyn has seen plenty of action, and much praise for the quality of its climbing – please respect all access and environmental agreements and be aware that this is a proper ‘trad’ crag – steep, pumpy and with the odd suspect block.

As the winter storms beat across North Wales you may be surprised hear that there are still sheltered spots to be found out on some Orme crags, but remember – Dyserth’s little gem Ty Newydd is shut for the shooting season.

So, if you’ve not already got your copy please seek one out (or buy one as a Christmas present) – the book is packed full of routes for you to bag and all the info you need to do so. All the profits go to the North Wales Bolt Fund, which has supported and will go on supporting local climbing: replacing old fixed gear, training locals to check belay stations and place fixed gear safely, supplying cheap high quality kit and drills etc for new routers.

You can help this amazing effort – please buy the guide!


The Ceaseless Roar F7a+ – another new sport route at Fedw Fawr

Ian Lloyd-Jones has cleaned up another abandoned project line at the White Beach crag at Fedw Fawr on Anglesey. The Ceaseless Roar F7a+ climbs the overhanging wall to the right of Tricky Fruit Bat. Interestingly the route features none of the crystalline rock common to this wall; instead it climbs a section of more conventional limestone.

“I had top roped some of it about 7 years ago and finally got round to getting it bolted and climbed this week. It’s a good addition in my opinion with some really contrasting climbing which includes a tricky transition from ‘really steep and pumpy’ to a ‘very delicate short slab’ which proves interesting with pumped forearms! It’s definitely more sustained than SiCO4 but no move is as hard as the crux on that.”

Explained Ian, before adding:

“Fedw Fawr doesn’t get much sun this time of year but can be very pleasant when it’s sheltered from the wind. It also doesn’t suffer too much from seepage and some of the steeper routes would probably go in the rain.”


Snow above 700m in Snowdonia

Looking up towards Cloggy, Snowdon and the Llanberis Pass from Pen Llyn this morning. Snow above 700m and more forecast. Photo: Si Panton


Clogwyn Mannod – major drytooling venue unveiled in Crafnant valley quarry

Pete on his own route, The Burner M9, Clogwyn Mannod Photo: Dan Lane

Pete Harrison and Dan Lane have developed a major drytooling venue in the Crafnant valley. The Clogwyn Mannod quarry is a perfect candidate for drytooling – too friable and dirty for conventional rock climbing, but yet solid enough, especially on the lower wall to give good quality climbing when winter tools are employed.

The quarry is essentially a large rift/canyon with a small wall on one side and a much larger, leaning wall on the other. There is a bridge/arch of rock linking across the top of the lower part of the canyon, plus an access catwalk running under the roof of the arch and protected by a handrail rope. There is a further hand rope allowing access to the base of the canyon. The top of the bridge, a very pleasant, grassy mezzanine, can be easily reached via a path on the outside of the quarry.

Pete started developing the crag around two years ago and in March of 2013 he climbed the striking diagonal crack line of Hidden Dragon M7. This impressive line leads across the outer wall to reach a belay on top of the arch. The following month Pete completed The Burner, a brilliant M9 which takes on the lower half of the inner wall on the other side of the arch.

Dan Lane then got involved; in June of 2013 he picked off a first pitch to Hidden Dragon. The Dragon’s Lair M8+ climbs up from the bottom right side of the canyon with a series of good but hidden hooks. There is, of course, potential for a third pitch on the extensive wall above the arch. (Imagine that! – a three pitch M8+/M9?)

In November Dan added a useful ‘warm up’ route on the blank vertical wall below the access catwalk. Slate o’ the Art rates M5+ and unlike the other established routes (which are almost exclusively on natural placements) has fully drilled placements.

Slate o' the Art M5+ Photo: Si Panton

Pete returned in January of 2014 to climb The Iron Curtain, a very fine M8+ left of The Burner, and then in February added an even better line to the right – The Explosion of Ugg M9 features a crux sideways stein pull in a shothole and much pumpy climbing.

On the same day Dan redpointed two of his projects on the lower wall under the arch. The Cloak M6 (perhaps M6+?) leads to a belay directly under the arch, while Unveiled is the M7 extension continuing up the steep corner past the odd drilled placement.

Fast forward to this autumn and Dan’s infectious enthusiasm encouraged Pete to join him and come back for more. Last Sunday Pete succeeded on Choccy Orange, an M8+ up the wall left of The Dragon’s Lair, while Dan worked a new line further to the left.

The quarry has huge potential, with an array of mind boggling project lines already scoped out, equipped or partially equipped by Pete and Dan. Expect to see more news items and updates over the next year. For now Pete has produced a mini topo guide which can be viewed here. Dan has also produced some approach information, which can be viewed here. [NB. If parking at the end of the road it is best to park on the left as the ground down to the right can get very soft during wet periods – vehicles do get stuck here and the mobile signal is quite poor!]

Dan working one of the project lines on the lower wall Photo: Si Panton

Here’s a short interview with Pete and Dan:

You obviously like climbing at Clogwyn Mannod – what is it that has kept your interest going? The natural placements and style of climbing, the huge potential…?

Pete: I really like new routing as you might have noticed… and Mannod’s a bit of a new-routing playground, so naturally I’m keen.In some ways it’s even more satisfying to come away with a brilliant gem that has quality movement when it’s in a dank, dirty hole in the ground than when it’s on a cliff that’s blatantly very good. Diamonds from the rough! It’s all just creating pleasure from moving over rock and making good use of something.
In 2012 I got a bit bored of short roof climbs and knew that there would probably be a cliff closer to home that would make a good drytooling venue and somewhere to have fun each winter while getting fit and strong.
I really like the longer routes at Mannod and the different shapes and features. It’s an interesting place! Slabs, long enduro walls, a massive suspended archway and a couple of horizontal roofs should provide plenty of fun times. Although it’d be nice if there were a few more cracks…

Dan: Back in the ‘50s people like Joe Brown would go to the Pass or Cloggy, spot a great line and then make the first ascent of it. It’s pretty hard to find a good new route at a reasonable grade in rock climbing these days, butthat’s still on offer in the case of Mannod. I can turn up and point out at least 10 amazing lines that I’d love to make the first ascent of. The whole process of spotting the line, cleaning and bolting it, working out the moves and finally climbing it is just wonderful. Seeing it enjoyed by other people afterwards is a pretty rewarding feeling too!

Pete cleaning and equipping Hidden Dragon back in December 2012 Photo: Si Panton

What can people expect in terms of the style of climbing or looseness of the rock?

Pete: Most people will find the style on first acquaintances very different to White Goods – i.e. quite difficult to work out where the best holds are and there are hundreds of potential dead-ends or inferior sequences. All the routes, except maybe for Hidden Dragon (which follows a crack-line), are hard for the grade to onsight but okay once you’ve sussed out the moves. The style is more about endurance and body position than power. Very much like winter climbing, but much harder! Although I’m pleased there are also some powerful projects there too!

I think the placements and routes will definitely settle down with traffic. It’s a new crag and nobody has been going there except me, Dan and Tom [Livingstone]! It should become easier to see the placements as they become scratched up. The holds remind me a little of some of the mixed routes around Kanderstag – dirty rock with shale and soil on some holds – once they’ve had a lot of ascents the better placements start to stand out from the myriad of other similar options.

I’ve put a lot of effort into cleaning the loose rock on my routes but it’s very hard to get everything off (as I remember when somebody got clocked quite badly at White Goods by random rockfall). It does concern me that if lots of people suddenly start going and they don’t have a healthy awareness of how new crags and new routes behave then it could end badly – don’t stand in a fall line.

Dan: The thing I like about the place is the style of climbing. It’s not the pull and lock off/big guns style that is found at most tooling crags. This is very technical, and subtle. More about movement and finesse that strength (which is good for me, I’m only a weakling!). The real bonus, though, is the fact that it’s much better training for Scottish (or Welsh…) winter. Trying to onsight here is really tricky, lots of scratching around trying to find the good hold. It gets an awful lot easier once you know where the holds are though!

It’s true that there is still some friable rock, but that’s always going to be the case with a newly developed venue. It’ll certainly clear up pretty quickly once the place gets more traffic. And as to whether some of the placements leave you wondering? Well, yes, they probably do…but it’s not like you never wonder about placements in winter…

I guess the main point to make is that places like White Goods have generally fairly obvious moves, which rely a lot on strength, whereas Mannod is much more about technicalities, and hence replicates winter climbing much better, and makes better training for winter, without a doubt.

Pete leaning out from the top of the arch to equip Hidden Dragon Photo: Si Panton

Equipping and cleaning drytooling routes looks like hard work – were you glad when Dan arrived on the scene and starting putting up new routes too?

Pete: Yeah they generally require a lot of hard cleaning work because of the sorts of places in which you end up climbing.  Luckily the graft, dirt, time and expense is just part of a whole process that I enjoy of creating something. It’s great that Dan’s psyched and he’s good at encouraging me when I’m tired of the place, hopefully it works the other way too. It was Dan who got me to go there again this autumn when I was feeling a bit doubtful about my enthusiasm levels. Now I’m well psyched again. Thanks Dan! (and he takes great photos…)

To see more of Dan’s excellent photography check out his website: www.danlanephotography.com.


Cwm Idwal and Clogwyn Du temperature gauges ready to go live 14th December

Clogwyn Du in full winter condition. Photo: Si Panton

December dawns and (thus far) there’s no snow on the hills of Snowdonia – nonetheless, we live in hope of a season to match the wonderfully alpine-esque one of 2012-13 (remember, that one started slowly, but soon picked up pace).

If the white stuff does arrive then winter climbers now have a very useful tool to help plan days out. The new temperature gauge scheme set up in Cwm Idwal by Natural Resources Wales last winter now has an additional sensor placed up in Cwm Cneifion at 850m altitude in the ground between Clogwyn Du and Seniors’ Ridge.

The full system is due to go live on 14th December and you can view the temperature data page here: www.thebmc.co.uk/idwal

The remote temperature sensing station generates live data and records not only the air temperature but also the temperature of the turf at 5cm and the ground at 15 and 30 cm.

This information is then sent by radio signal to an internet feed at Ogwen Cottage and then to the BMC website. The intention is that climbers will be able to use this information to gauge if conditions are really suitable for winter climbing, so avoiding the situation where people may make the long drive or effort to get to Snowdonia and possibly then be tempted to attempt routes which are not in condition and thus potentially causing damage to the vegetation.

More guidance on winter climbing best practice and the potential impact on rare plants can be found in the North Wales White guide – you can download a free copy of it here: www.thebmc.co.uk/north-wales-white-guide.

For up to date information on routes in Cwm Idwal and on Clogwyn Du check out the North Wales Winter Climbing guide.


SiCO4 F7a+/7b – new sport pitch at Fedw Fawr on Anglesey

Ian on the crux section of SiCO4 F7a+/7b Photo: Lloyd-Jones collection

Ian Lloyd-Jones has cleaned up an old project line on the White Beach crag at Fedw Fawr (the coastal limestone crag close to the eastern tip of Anglesey). SiCO4 F7a+/7b starts to the left of Hip to be Square with a steep bouldery start; the route then follows the border between the crystalline section and fused section of limestone, often taking a very different style of holds on either side of the line. Ian equipped it with six shiny new resin bolts. At the top use the same lower-off as Hip to be Square.

“There is an entertaining, crimpy and technical crux passing the 4th bolt – this provides the main challenge as it’s very hit or miss. The crux move is really cool with a very low crimp for your right and a poor low quartz undercut. From these you’ve got to go a long way, with accuracy, to slap for a small sloper.”

Explained Ian, before adding:

“I found it a bit pumpier than my usual slabby contributions!”

For more information on this great little crag check out pages 78 – 80 in the new North Wales Limestone guide.


Tradivarius E4 6a – new micro crag in Tremadog woods

George shaking out the flash pump on Tradivarius E4 6a Photo: Tony Loxton

On Sunday George Smith and Martin Crook climbed a feisty little route on a previously undocumented crag in Coed Nursery, the woodland south east of Tremadog village.

Tradivarius  E4 6a is located 200m or so into the wood on the prominent buttress overhanging the path; enter the woods on the footpath that comes in from the south side and follow the right hand branch round to the right. (OS grid ref 566 398)

The route tackles the steep scoop and overhanging flake crack just to the left of the overhanging prow.

“It’s a great little climb; quite ferocious, technical and a little loose.” Said George after the ascent.

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the bolts to the left of George in the action shot – these are of unknown provenance. There are four bolts left of Tradivarius that lead up to an incomplete lower-off.  There are also bolts in the slab right of the prow.

Obviously the placing of bolts on a non-quarried crag in a strongly traditional area is controversial and likely to attract criticism. Nonetheless, for context, it should be noted that the bolted slab (Planet Gest) at the right side of the nearby Moel y Gest quarry is not composed of quarried rock.


Tale in the Sting F8a+ – Robins adds super classic stamina monster to the Diamond

The climber on the right of the topo is Tim Badcock firing up the excellent Diamond Geezer F7b Photo: Si Panton

Just as the 2014 Diamond season comes to an end Pete Robins has added a super classic stamina monster to the right side of the cliff. Tale in the Sting F8a+ is an arm pumping 20m extension to (surprise, surprise) The Sting, Steve Mayers’ superb F7c.

After the ascent Pete spoke with great enthusiasm of his new creation:

“The Sting is a 18m F7c that is very cool in its own right. But it finishes in the middle of the huge unclimbed wall. So I stuck an extra six bolts and belay in the upper 20m, which turned out to be incredible – lovely pinches and big classic moves. After the Sting you can get a little energy back but not loads, then there’s a crux sequence leading to an unrelenting section on glorious pinches. Above that there’s another 10m or so which is a bit easier but fluffable if tired or on-sighting. Three stars for sure; it’s going to be really popular next season I think. Perhaps the best F8a+ around.“

Nonetheless, as Pete points out, there is a caveat:

“The snag – as always – is the fickle conditions. The Sting in particular has very porous limestone and is rarely mint. But the upper wall is almost perma-dry. I never got the start dry so just climbed it in undesirable conditions which made it harder. But you should have to try harder for a first ascent, right? The black rock on the upper wall is a kind of crusty coating, almost like a smoked flowstone. Some bits flake off but it seems to be bonded on hard, and it helps the rock stay dry.”

For more details of this section of the Diamond see page 426 in the recently published North Wales Limestone guide.


Happy Slappy F6c – another quality Penmaenbach addition

Ian Lloyd-Jones has added another new route at Penmaenbach Quarry. Happy Slappy F6c tackles the attractive headwall above and left of the recently equipped Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy. As Ian explains, it is a very worthwhile addition:

“What looked like a diagonal jamming crack on the upper headwall had caught my eye when I first started developing the level; upon closer inspection I found the crack to be more of a diagonal overlap with the shadow it was casting making it look like a wide crack. The final headwall is pretty cool, really well positioned and with some great moves slapping up the left arête to an awkward finish. I’ve given it F6c but it could well be as easy as F6b+ or as hard as F7a.”

Description:

P1 F2 28m As for Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy (if it’s too easy try it with no hands which is still pretty easy!)

P2 F6c 14m From the belay / lower-off make an airy traverse out leftwards to gain the flakes; from the flakes head directly up to the really cool and gently overhanging headwall which is split by a distinctive diagonal crack. Tackle the headwall by slapping up the left arête to an awkward sloping finish. Bolt belay, either abseil off or make an easy scramble up to the level above taking care of the loose blocks.


The 3 10 to Yma E4 6a – intriguing new slate route next to Chitra

Lou seconding The 3 10 to Yma E4 6a (and throwing a pose mid crux...) Photo: Tim Neill

Tim Neill and Lou Wilkinson have climbed an intriguing new line just left of the F7c/+ sport test piece, Chitra in the Rainbow Walls Lower area of the Dinorwig Slate quarries.

The 3 10 to Yma E4 6a starts at the foot of Chitra…bounce off the rail tracks onto the juggy rib on your left and gain the arete which leads to a chunky auburn thread. Step right and stretch for the dogleg crack which leads (awkwardly) up rightwards to the convenient Chitra lower-off.

For more details of this area see pages 214/5 in the Llanberis Slate guide.


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