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Cae Du

Cae Du

Cae Du

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Snowdonia, Wales, Europe

Lat/Lon: 52.62778°N / 4.12236°W

Object Title: Cae Du

County: Gwynedd

Activities: Trad Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Elevation: 98 ft / 30 m


Page By: Nanuls

Created/Edited: Mar 6, 2009 / Jan 17, 2015

Object ID: 495894

Hits: 5604 

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

Cae Du
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. 

Cae Du
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. 

Cae Du
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

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 1 STAR
The hanging corner feature.
Problem 2 V0 1 STAR
The cracked wall to the right.
Problem 3 V0- 1 STAR
Step up on polished pockets.
Problem 4 V0- 1 STAR
Squirm up the groove.
Problem 5 V1 1 STAR
Traverse across the wall (left to right) following the easiest line.
Problem 6 V0 1 STAR
Mantel onto the ledge on the wall left of the arête.
Problem 7 V0- 1 STAR
The juggy arête is a breeze.
Problem 8 V5 1 STAR
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 2 STARS
The hanging arête.
Problem 10 V1 1 STAR
The slanting grove just right of the arête.
Problem 11 V1 2 STARS
The undercut arête.
Area 1

Location of problems in Area 1

Problems 1 to 7 of Area 1. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.

Problem 1 of Area 1 (Photo by Nanuls)
Problem 12 V1 1 STAR
The undercut arete just right of the descent groove.
Problem 13 V0 1 STAR
The small, juggy groove.
Problem 14 V1 2 STARS
Up through the bulge energetically to gain the juggy ledge.
Problem 15 V0 2 STARS
The slopey diagonal crack line.
Problem 16 V4 2 STARS
Traverse rightwards with hands above the lip of the bulge, moving up at the end to finish up the diagonal crack of problem 15.
Traverse near Back to Black V4 NO STARS
The back wall in the north bay from which the Back to Black traverse starts has a hard right to left traverse at V4.
Back to Black V6 NO STARS
From Problem 16 keep going all the way along the low bulge, around the arete and into Problem 19.
Problem 17 V0- 1 STAR
Up onto the shelf left of the arete.
Problem 18 V0 1 STAR
The undercut juggy bulge into the groove.
Problem 19 V0- 1 STAR
The faint groove eases almost immediately.
Problem 20 V1 1 STAR
Climb up onto the left side of the edge as it meets the arête.

Area 2

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.

Problem 1 V2 2 STARS
From a sit down start and right, swing up left and rock up onto the right side of the ledge.
Problem 2 V0 1 STAR
Press up left from the layback flake to gain the slab.
Problem 3 V3 2 STARS
A steep, pumpy traverse coming out from jugs near the back of the tight little gully.
Problem 4 V0- 1 STAR
The left side of the arete to the sloping shelf.
Problem 5 V1 1 STAR
Move awkwardly up to the sloping shelf right of the arete.
Problem 6 V2 2 STARS
Move up past diagonal breaks to gain the small 'V' groove at the top.
Problem 7 V2 1 STAR
Pull into the left side of the sloping niche.
Problem 8 V3 2 STARS
The hanging prow from a jumping start.
Problem 9 V1 2 STARS
The left edge of the slab.
Problem 10 V1 3 STARS
The central line of the slab.
Problem 11 V1 2 STARS
The small hanging groove on the right.
Problem 12 V6 2 STARS
V5/6, The hanging arete but it has a very pebble dependant grade.
Problem 13 V3 2 STARS
Layback the right edge of the bottomless grove and rock up left to the jug on the arete at the top of problem 12.
Problem 13 – Arête Finish V6 NO STARS
Finish directly up the steep arête of problem 13.
Area 2

Location of problems in Area 2

Problem 21 of Area 2 (Photo by Nanuls)

Problems 4 to 8 of Area 2. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.

Problems 9 to 16 of Area 2. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.

Problems 18 to 21 of Area 2. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.
Problem 14 V6 2 STARS
Traverse the breakline across the steep wall out left from the corner to gain problem 13 and thus the front side of the arete as per problem 12.
Problem 16 V2 NO STARS
An awkward line just left of the corner offwidth.
Problem 17 V1 3 STARS
Start at the back of the gully / offwidth; bridge and thrutch outwards and upwards.
Problem 19 V1 2 STARS
The shallow groove feature.
The Boss V4 NO STARS
V3/4. Break out left of problem 19 to gain the large pocket.
Problem 20 V0+ 1 STAR
The cracked wall above the bulge.
Problem 21 V0- 1 STAR
The groove and nose / shelf feature.
Problem 22 V1 1 STAR
The groove and nose / shelf feature.
Problem 22 Sit Down Start V2 NO STARS
Sit down start to problem 22 following the low diagonal crack onto the shelf on the left.
Problem 23 V2 1 STAR
Dyno up for the top from the obvious hold.
Low Blunt Prow (Soapstone Boulder) V4 NO STARS
From a sitting / hugging start.
Problem 24 AKA Man from Atlantis (Soapstone Boulder) V3 1 STAR
On the Soapstone Boulder, from a sit down start just left of the low prow pull up an