Monday, 4 April 2011

Rainy Day Rock Climbing Options in North Wales

Its grim here in Snowdonia today - gale force wind and rain... lets face it North Wales has a bit of a reputation for bad weather, and that reputation is not unfounded. However armed with a little bit of local knowledge and a dash of optimism it is often still possible to get out rock climbing when it looks like the day is a write off.
First off if you've come up to Snowdonia for a weekend or holiday its worth bringing climbing gear/hiking kit/biking gear/canoeing gear so you start off with a few options in the bag.
However if you are really keen to climb some rock the following ideas may help you out:

Find the Rain Shadow: North Wales is well known for its rain but there is often somewhere to climb dry rock - especially if you are prepared to drive a wee way. The mountains are always the wettest places so if the forecast is bad forget heading into the hills. The options are Tremadog, Anglesey, Llandudno and the Llyn Penisula.

Tremadog - This is the classic option for most people as there is a wide range of grades, great rock and a cafe at the base of the crag. It is home to famous routes such as Christmas Curry (S), One Step in the Clouds (VS) and Vector (E2). A lot of the routes dry pretty quickly although in summer the bottom pitches can hold dampness for awhile due to the surrounding jungle. There are actually a few routes that stay dry(ish) in the rain - Striptease and the first 2 pitches of Vector, Cream and Void.
Southwesterly frontal systems sometimes pass over the top of the crag before unleashing their rain on the mountains but probably best on a NW wind. Keep the faith on the drive down the Aber Glaslyn and don't give up until you round the 'magic corner'!
Check out this webcam in Porthmadog for current weather.

Climbing the Mich Finish to Christmas Curry

Anglesey - For most people this will mean Gogarth and Holyhead Mountain but also includes some sport climbing around Benllech. I often look out of my window across to Anglesey and see blue sky whilst there is cloud above Llanberis. If you get there and it still looks a bit dodgy you have the option of cragging on Holyhead Mountain rather than committing to a big sea cliff route. I also think Holyhead Mountain is an underrated crag and had lots of good routes across the grades.
Avoid Gogarth and Holyhead Mountain however if there is a strong westerly wind blowing at low levels - there is little shelter. Wen Zawn - home to A Dream of White Horses - is baltic when its windy!!. Its a great option in early spring as it tends to be a lot warmer than the mountains (provided that you are not in the wind). I have even climbed tops off in February on Castell Helen. Its especially good when there is a cold easterly wind blowing. One more tip - never rush in the morning to climb on Gogarth. Most of the crags face west and can be greasy before the sun comes on to them so have a lie in and a coffee at V12 before heading out!!
Check out the webcam at rhosneigr for latest conditions (though it is sometimes hard to tell).

Jen climbing Resolution Direct on Gogarth Main Cliff

Llandudno - Or more specifically the Ormes and crags around the A55. There will be a new guide for the Ormes coming out in the summer and the crags around Colwyn bay can be found in the A55 sport climbs guide book.
This is the most reliable area for good weather. Yesterday I drove out of Deiniolen in the rain - it was even raining in Llandudno but the the Great Orme was dry, bone dry. Pen Trwyn is the best spot to head for as it is very sheltered from strong westerly winds and gets a good dose of sun until 2pm. The problem here is that there is not much to go at below E1 or 6a and to get the best out of the sport climbing you need to climb 7a.
If you are after lower grade climbing then head to Castle Inn quarry and Penmaen head in Colwyn Bay.
Check out the webcam of the Great Orme before you go to check the weather.

Jim cranking out Mean Mother on Lower Pen Trwyn

The Llyn Penisula - The big finger that sticks out into the Irish sea often has weather that feels more like Devon than North Wales. There is excellent bouldering down at Porth Ysgo - perfect on a crisp winters day - and a fine selection of mega adventurous sea cliffs. An area for well seasoned and experienced climbers. It also has some great beaches!

Jen scuttling along the travers of Fascinating Witches at Craig Dorys

Rain Proof Rock!!
There are a few areas/routes where you can climb in the rain:

Tremadog: As mentioned above it is possible to climb the first couple of pitches on vector buttress provided its not too wild. This will involve abseiling off before the top. Striptease can all be climbed in the rain as it stays reasonable dry (it does seep though and is not very quick drying)
Carreg Hylldrem: There is good area here for bouldering, including a couple of micro routes that stay dry. The classic Hylldrem traverse (HVS) stays dry in the rain due to the massive over hangs above. The last pitch does get wet but it is possible to miss this out and abseil off.
Parisella's Cave: If your feeling strong and fancy some bouldering head to the Great Orme and Parisella's Cave which stays very dry. It does seep a bit after a few days of heavy rain.

If all the above fails then head to the Beacon Climbing Centre, drive to the limestone crags near Llangollen or put on your wet weather gear, big boots and climb the uber classic Lockwoods Chimney on (in) Clogwyn y Bustach. Check out an older Blog post for mosre information on this route.

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