Snowdonia has some of the
best and most varied rock climbing in the world, with a history dating back to
the late nineteenth century. The early pioneers based themselves at the
Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel at the junction of the A4086 and the A498. From here they
explored the cliffs on Snowdon and the Glyders. This hotel also provided the
training base for the successful 1953 Everest expedition, who signed their
names on the ceiling of the Everest room.
Early climbing was largely restricted to
Lliwedd and the Ogwen Valley, but as skills and equipment developed so the
steeper cliffs of the Llanberis Pass and Clogwyn Du'r Arddu were tackled.
Climbing on these cliffs reached its zenith in the decade after the second World
War, with Joe Brown and his fellow climbers from the 'Rock and Ice' club
driving exploration forward at an unprecedented rate. By 1960 the main lines on
almost every cliff had been climbed and climbers began to look elsewhere for
challenges. The relic sea cliffs at Tremadog (now a couple of miles inland from
Porthmadog) became the new stamping ground, and had the advantage that it was
often dry when it was too wet to climb in the mountains. In the 1980's local
climbers were again craving new potential, and this time found it in the
Llanberis slate quarries and on the limestone cliffs of the Orme at Llandudno -
the only local area to offer bolted sport climbing routes.
For the visitor climbing in the
lower grades the Ogwen valley provides the best base. The Idwal slabs offer the
classic eternities of Hope (v.diff), Faith (v.diff) and Charity (v. diff) while
just down the road Tryfan rises just over 3,000ft. and gives long mountain
routes on its eastern face. Starting from Heather Terrace (a walkers path
crossing the face at about half height) Grooved Arete (v. diff) and Overlapping
Rib Route (Diff.) take direct lines to the summit.
The Llanberis Pass offers a selection of
fine routes in the middle grades. Perhaps the most famous route of all is
Cenotaph Corner (E1), an immaculate corner crack on the Cromlech buttress. The
adjacent walls offer other superb routes such as Cemetery Gates (E1), Left Wall
(E2), and Right Wall (E5). On the opposite side of the valley Dinas Mot gives
more slabby climbing, Direct Route (VS) and Diagonal (HVS) being the most
climbed. The finest mountain crag of all is Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, set off the
Llanberis path up Snowdon. This 600ft. cliff has a wealth of routes from HVS
upwards. The central feature, Great Wall, is both impressive and hard (the
easiest line is E4), and has it has been the scene of several epic new routes
and failures. Johnny Dawes' route Indian Face (E9) remains one of the hardest
in the country, and has had only three ascents in fourteen years. In poor
weather the best climbing destination in the Park is Tremadog. The rock dries
quickly after rain and has plenty of quality two or three pitch routes in the
VS - E2 grades.
Climbing in the south of the
Park it is much less popular, and routes are consequently often vegetated. But
if you are looking for solitude then this is the area to go. Craig Cowach
(Cywarch) boasts good climbing on numerous buttresses, with Will-of-the-Wisp
(hard v. diff), Acheron (VS) and Strobe (E2/3) perhaps the best choices at
their grades. On Cadair Idris (the highest mountain in the south of the Park)
Pencoed Pillar (hard v. diff) and the nearby Darker Angel (E2) have great
mountain atmosphere, rising above the dark waters of Llyn Cau, while on the
north side of the mountain the classic Cyfrwy Arete by the table (v.diff)
offers climbers another mountaineering way to the top.
Further reading ...
Some of the best-selling climbing guides for the area are shown below, and are
available online from www.joebrownsnowdonia.co.uk.