Climbing News

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.

2014 North Wales guidebook bonanza – a flurry of exciting new climbing and scrambling titles

Photo: Si Panton

2014 is turning into an exciting year for North Wales guidebooks with several interesting titles popping up. We’ve already seen Garry Smith’s excellent new scrambling guide, North Wales Scrambles which brings a much needed swish of modernity to the world of scrambling. There is also another scrambling guide due from Tom Hutton later in the year.

The 3rd edition of Ground Up’s popular selected climbs guide, North Wales Rock, was released in July. With a tougher construction and a wealth of improvements and updates, it is sure to continue as a favourite selected guide for both regular and occasional visitors, especially given the bargain £24.95 price! (not bad for a ‘lifetime’s worth of climbing’) To read more about it check out the Ground Up website.

Looking ahead, next week will see the arrival of the much anticipated North Wales Limestone guide. To read more about this check out the dedicated website. All the profits from this project will go to the North Wales Bolt Fund.

And then there is Gogarth South, the sister guide to Gogarth North. Production work on this is in the ‘final furlong’. The test pages look stunning and the guide includes hundreds of new routes and entirely new sections of cliff, particularly in places such as The Range.

The Climbers’ Club Carneddau and Crafnant guide is also due for publication in 2014. The old Ogwen and Carneddau guide is out of print but a free download of the Carneddau section is available on the CC website.

And lastly, mention should be made of the ‘missing in action’ North Wales Bouldering guide – work on the second edition of this is about 60/70% complete and the Ground Up team will be switching their energies to finishing it as soon as the Gogarth South guide is sent to the printers. A likely publishing date is spring 2015.

The Pink Star F8c+ – big crack line project on The Diamond falls to Pete Robins

Pete fully engaged with The Pink Star F8c+ Photo: Chris Doyle

With the Diamond season starting earlier than usual Pete Robins wasted no time in catching up on the ‘one that got away’ last year – that being the striking diagonal crack line which runs parallel to, but above Jon Ratcliffe’s F8a, The Waiting Game.

Last August Pete climbed The Pink Panther F8b+ which connects the two tram lines and then spent some time trying to climb the full version of the crack which starts way over on the left. Unfortunately he ran out of time and decent conditions before he could put it all together in one push.

This year Pete has been busy working on his new house so has had less time to get route fit. That said, his recent battle and eventual success on the extended boulder problem, Ropes of Maui 8B, in the Llanberis Pass did leave him in good shape. Then, in keeping with his, ‘get fit at the crag’ approach he was soon ready to strike for the redpoint.

On Saturday the conditions were excellent and Pete managed to reach the lower-off with no drama at all, commenting that it actually felt fine in the end (as these things often do). Despite the relative ease of the final ascent Pete has still suggested a grade of F8c+ for The Pink Star.

This is obviously a route with a very strong visual line but Pete was keen to point out that this was more than matched by the quality of the climbing:

“The moves supersede the visuals! Unbelievable crux section snatching a pocket while horizontal followed by a wild roll over into a dyno.”

And as for the notorious fickle conditions, he had this to say:

“Yes seepage is a problem in late season. It didn’t really dry out in 2012 but stayed dry till October last year and it’s well dry now. Humidity is generally better in August but there’s nothing better than a gale force wind to dry it off. Think the best thing is not being too picky about conditions and just get on with it!”

Chris Doyle has written more about the background to the ascent on his excellent blog – check it out here.

Rhos Beef E4 6a – 6 pitch girdle of Llawder at Rhoscolyn

Every crag needs a girdle, but until very recently Llawder at Rhoscolyn did not have one. Twid Turner and Pete Johnson noticed this glaring omission and a few weeks ago stepped in and did the deed. The route, which they have named Rhos Beef, gave a good E4 with much entertainment along the way.

The route is six pitches long and the lads climbed it over two separate days.


A left to right traverse of Llawder. A meaty route best undertaken on a hot sunny day to achieve the ‘full roast’ flavour. Start at the top of the far seaward side of the crag at a shallow, flat alcove.

P1 5b 10m Climb down spikes until a traverse right can be made to an obvious, grassy ledge in a groove.

P2 5c 15m Drop down and make a strenuous hand traverse across Helios to belay in the groove of Cocaine.

P3 5a 20m Move down and follow the horizontal crack to the arête (as for Wild Rover). Climb the ramp for a few metres then step across and down to the stance of Mask of Red Death.

P4 5b 15m Down climb Mask… until a traverse into the crack of Warpath can be made – follow this to the overhang and step right to belay in the groove of The Sun by a large spike.

P5 6a 25m drop down and traverse into the groove of Big Boys. Follow this to ledges on the right. Move up to the peg of Bigger Girls. Down climb the flake of Bigger Girls until a traverse right into the corner of Icarus can be made. (NB. The second can be protected with a back rope on good gear in the flake and a high runner in Icarus.)

P6 5b 25m Climb the Icarus corner for a few metres then traverse right on good holds, dropping slightly into the groove of Savage Sunbird. Continue rightwards passing through Cocktail Trip and Adrenaline to a loose finish.

[P1 – P4 P Johnson, M Turner AL 17.07.14, P5 – P6 M Turner, P Johnson AL 21.07.14]

Gardening Club E5 6a – exquisite dolerite slab line on Dinas Mot

Dave Evans has climbed an intense new line on the Plexus area of Dinas Mot in the Llanberis Pass. Gardening Club E5 6a tackles the difficult slab left of the offwidth crack at the top of Gardd.

“It’s a sort of grit-like eliminate but on that amazing rock is well worth recording I think. To be honest I haven’t really got a clue what to grade it, and think that E5 6a might be a bit conservative, but it’s only 12 metres of climbing and there are some hard E5 slabs on grit. Trouble is, I basically did a quick headpoint and can’t imagine onsighting it, especially with the weird gear.”

Explained Dave after the ascent.

The main protection point on the upper slab is a narrow slot – this would have taken a hammered, sawn off blade peg but Dave decided this would only lead to a rotten, defunct placement in a few years. As a more sustainable alternative he carefully placed two Rurps and a size two Pecker on abseil, then removed the hardware after the ascent.


Belay in the diagonal crack 1/2 way up Victor Mature. Climb left to the bottom of the offwidth crack on Gardd. Place a Camalot 4.5 in the bottom of this (it would obviously be possible to place a 6 much higher up off line, reducing the seriousness somewhat), and follow a rising leftward trending line of edges and smears to a bizarre thin slot (2 Rurps and a Pecker 2 placed on abseil – now removed). Move up and slightly right to an obvious good hold and mantel onto this (crux) to gain easier angled terrain and a move round a rib on the right to the in situ belay.

Back in 2009 Andy Scott climbed the thin slab between Gardd and Hornets Attack Victor Mature to give White Lies, a tough E5 6b. Dave had also noticed the line but was beaten to the first ascent by Andy; his consolation prize was a quick second ascent, so climbing Gardening Club, albeit five years later, brings developments to a nice conclusion.

Diamond open for business – nesting restriction lifted early

Left hand side of The Diamond where several classic grade 7 and 8 sport routes can be found. Photo: Si Panton

Pete Harrison, co-author of the new North Wales Limestone guide (which is due out in August), reports that the Diamond on Little Orme is now open for business:

‘The Diamond, on the Little Orme, is usually bird restricted between March 1st – August 15th for a colony of Kittiwakes that nest on the RH side of the cliff. In 2013, following site meetings between local climbers, the BMC and Natural Resource Wales’ bird expert, an agreement was reached that each July somebody responsible from ‘the climbers’ could check the cliff to see if the Kittiwakes had fledged and left – the climbing restriction could be lifted as soon as the birds had left.”

“Elfyn Jones (BMC Wales Access and conservation officer) checked about three weeks ago but there were still birds on the nest then. Elfyn was then away on holiday until the 5th of August, so I went in last Saturday to check and all the Kittiwakes have now left and there are no birds remaining, except for the usual full-time resident cormorants on the slope high above the cliff.”

NB. Sections of the rope hand rail had become worn out during the winter storms – these have now been replaced with new rope.

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