Mountains & Rocks
Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Snowdonia, Wales, Europe
52.62778°N / 4.12236°W
Trad Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
98 ft / 30 m
Created/Edited: Mar 6, 2009 / Jan 17, 2015
Object ID: 495894
Page Score: 88.19%
- 26 Votes
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| "Bendigeidfran, and the aforementioned hosting sailed towards Ireland. The sea was not deep back then and he went by wading. There used to be nothing but two rivers so called the Lli and the Archen. But after, the deep spread out, and the sea flooded the kingdoms." |
Second Branch of the Mabinogi: Branwen Daughter of Llyr
Cae Du (Black Field) is one of Meirionnydd’s many hidden treasures, unknown to most of the world, but abound with riches that would make most, boulderers at least, salivate with anticipation. A far flung outpost on the area’s western coast, its interest consists of two separate rocky entities. The first is a short section of tidal crag, which nowhere exceeds more than 15 metres in height; while the second is a small quarry located above the tidal zone, which yields a handful of tricky single pitch routes. It’s the coastal crag however, which is of greatest interest, as it is home to some of the finest low to mid grade bouldering problems anywhere in Wales.
Problem 7 of Area 1 (Photo by Nanuls)
Unlike Snowdonia’s other bouldering spots, which by and large take the form of glacially sculpted and weathered rocks and crags, situated high in the mountain passes and exposed to the worst the Welsh climate can conjure up; Cae Du’s rock is smooth, clean and sheltered, its tidal nature cleansing it of dirt and superfluous plant life on a daily basis. The influence of the sea has led to the creation of a diverse collection of high quality problems. Most take the form of large sloping holds and ledges which require the boulderer to move delicately and agilely, harnessing the friction of the rock to prevent falls; while others are a mixture of juggy arêtes and overhangs, finger width cracks and awkward off-widths. The sea’s dominance over Cae Du has created an ever changing environment, continually shifting the level of the pebble beach, which in turn continually alters the grades of many of the area’s problems.
The traditional climbing is less impressive, with only a handful of routes shared between the Quarry and the bouldering crag, the former holding the best lines. The routes on the bouldering crag are easier in nature, and are accompanied by a number of metal stakes which are often used as top-rope anchors. This combination makes the crag an ideal location for newcomers to enter the world of rock climbing, a fact not lost on the local outdoor centres who occasionally use the site.
Problem 11 of Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls)
All of this activity takes place against the magnificent background of Cardigan Bay which extends across most of Wales’ west coast. On a clear day one can see along its entire length, from Pen Llyn and Snowdonia to the north, to Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire in the south. The bay is an important ecological resource, and Cae Du forms part of the Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation, an area protected under European Law for its mixture of rare sandbanks, estuaries, coastal lagoons, shallow inlet bays and offshore reefs, and is home to species such as bottlenose dolphin, otter and grey seal.
Problem 7 of Area 3 (Photo by Nanuls)
Towards the end of the last ice age, following the retreat of the British Ice Sheet, the bay formed part of a vast grassy plane which connected Ireland to the rest of the British Isles. The first Stone Age settlers in the area would have occupied this plane, spending their winters there, and moving to the highlands in the summer. By the Mid Holocene the sea reclaimed the bay; and all that remains of this land today are a handful of fossilised tree stumps which protrude from the area’s beaches at times of low tide. Stories of a dry Cardigan Bay are prevalent in Welsh folklore, and it is said that it was once possible to walk from Wales to Ireland by wading through the rivers that flowed there. The most famous legend is that the bay was once the location of a rich and fertile land called Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Lowland Hundred) or Maes Gwyddno (Gwyddno’s Land), which was defended from the sea by Sarn Badrig, a feature which we now know to be the remains of one of three glacial moraines which extend into the bay. There are several versions of the tale, but the one that is told today is that a prince of the realm called Seithennin, got drunk during a storm and left the sluice gates to the kingdom open, allowing the sea to overflow drowning the land and its inhabitants. Apparently, on a stormy day it is still possible to hear the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod ringing beneath the waves.
All in all Cae Du has all the ingredients to be one of Britain’s most popular bouldering venues, namely a diverse range of quality problems, an impressive setting and extremely easy access. If it weren’t for the fact that it were so remote from Snowdonia’s other bouldering locations it would be crawling with eager boulders on a daily basis. As it is however, it is visited by few, and if you choose to visit the spot the only company you are likely to encounter are seagulls, crabs and maybe the occasional outdoor centre. So I urge you to come lavish attention on this neglected little spot, and remember that when you climb here, you're not climbing on a lowly seaside crag, but on the highest rocks of a now drowned kingdom.
Problems & Routes
The bouldering crag (SH 564 055) is split into four distinct areas, separated from one another by a number of rocky spurs which jut out from the main wall. The areas are arranged from north to south, with Area 1 being the furthest north, and the first area reached on the approach from the Cae Du Campsite. The problems are spread unevenly between these four areas, with problems ranging from V0- to V7 in difficulty.
In recent years boulderers in North Wales have adopted the Hueco V system for grading problems. The problems listed below have been compiled, graded and rated using a combination of different sources including Simon Panton’s superb guidebook North Wales Bouldering/Bowldro Gogledd Cymru, Terry Taylor’s excellent website www.midwalesclimbing.com and the continually updated www.ukclimbing.com. Problems are described from left to right.
A little piece of bouldering heaven; Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls
Area 1 is the first section of crag reached when approaching from the north and is marked by an obvious prominence of slabby rock. The area is an excellent introduction to the area as most of its twenty something problems fall within the V0 grade.
| Problem 1 || V0 || |
| The hanging corner feature. |
| Problem 2 || V0 || |
| The cracked wall to the right. |
| Problem 3 || V0- || |
| Step up on polished pockets. |
| Problem 4 || V0- || |
| Squirm up the groove. |
| Problem 5 || V1 || |
| Traverse across the wall (left to right) following the easiest line. |
| Problem 6 || V0 || |
| Mantel onto the ledge on the wall left of the arête. |
| Problem 7 || V0- || |
| The juggy arête is a breeze. |
| Problem 8 || V5 || |
| Traverse left across the sloping shelf (from beneath the upper arete) moving around the arete and staying low on small slopey holds to gain Problem 7. |
| Problem 9 || V2 || |
| The hanging arête. |
| Problem 10 || V1 || |
| The slanting grove just right of the arête. |
| Problem 11 || V1 || |
| The undercut arête. ||Location of problems in Area 1 |
Problems 1 to 7 of Area 1. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.
Area 2 begins at the southern side of the second slabby prominence which characterises Area 1. As with Area 1 there are around 20 problems to tax your skills, however this time the difficulty level is raised a notch with most problems ranging from V1 to V3 in difficulty. The area is also home to the Soapstone Boulder which has a number of slightly harder but very interesting problems.
Problems 4 to 8 of Area 2. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.