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Craig Caerfai
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Craig Caerfai

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Craig Caerfai

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Wales, Europe

Lat/Lon: 51.87014°N / 5.25269°W

Object Title: Craig Caerfai

County: Pembokeshire

Activities: Trad Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Elevation: 131 ft / 40 m

 

Page By: Nanuls

Created/Edited: Mar 23, 2010 / Apr 15, 2011

Object ID: 606994

Hits: 2814 

Page Score: 92.85%  - 40 Votes 

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Overview


Pembroke is well known to British climbers as one of the country’s premiere rock destinations, being home to an enormous quantity of excellent single and multi-pitch routes. However, most it seems are drawn to the limestone crags and buttresses of the area’s southern coastline and never get a taste of what the north has to offer. This is a shame, since the wilder coast of north Pembroke, and in particular the hard sandstone cliffs of the confusingly named Southern Bays, offer something quite special. For those who choose to explore the area, the rocks of Craig Caerfai do not disappoint. The Bays take their name from their position to the south of the city of Saint David’s (its city status is somewhat deceiving; fewer that 2,000 people call it home), which is a great place to base yourself if you’re in the area for a few days, especially if the routes on the aforementioned rock are on your hit list.

Craig Caerfai is perhaps the most accessible of the area’s crags, being only a short walk from the city centre and consequently an even shorter drive. Its setting is nothing short of spectacular; the crag sits upon a narrow promontory reaching out into St. Bride’s Bay, to its east is Caerbwdi Bay and a vista that sweeps in a broad, elegant arc all the way around to Skomer Island in the south, while immediately to its west are the inviting golden sands of Caerfai Bay, and further west again, the high sea cliffs and craggy slopes of Ramsey Island, which peer around the mainland’s terminal outcrops. The crag’s name hints at this promontory’s past use and those with a keen eye will have no problem identifying the decaying remnants of an Iron Age fort, now long abandoned.

Without a doubt, Craig Caerfai’s main attraction is its Main Slab, which offers some superb slabby routes on sound rock. Routes range from Diff to E4 in difficulty, with a great selection of lines around the HS/VS mark. The classic of the crag is undoubtedly Armorican (VS 4c), which takes a system of hand cracks up the slab’s steep right-hand wall, passing over an overlap to a final unprotected push to the top. For the high end climber, Uncertain Smile (E2 5b) and Age Concern (E3 5c) offer two long pitches of interesting moves over clean, frictiony rock, while the lower end climber will find two very amenable lines in White Corner and Scorch Groove (both Diff). Other easier routes can be found, but they aren’t quite as enjoyable or as sustained as these two.

For me, Craig Caerfai is the epitome of a holistic destination. If you visit it - go climb, go walk and go play on the beach, and therein lies the makings of a very, very good day.

Armorican
Armorican - VS 4c
(Photo by Dan Bailey)
Caerfai Bay
Caerfai Bay
(Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Caerfai
Accessing Main Slab
(Photo by Nanuls)

Rock Climbing

The climbing at Craig Caerfai can be split into a number of distinct areas, the best of which is the Main Slab, home to Amorican and Caerfai Crack. All routes are in some way affected by the tide, the degree to which is very much dependant on the time of year and weather.

Climbs are listed from left to right, and are graded and rated with the aid of the Climbers’ Club Guide to Pembroke, the Pembroke Supplement and the new Rockfax Pembroke guide, so for full descriptions, please refer to these books. In addition to these sources, Rockfax’s website has descriptions for the routes included in their book, which can be viewed on their online route Database.

Routes are graded using the British Adjectival Grading System. Technical grades are generally only given to climbs graded adjectivally as Severe (S) or above. A conversion table of international climbing grades by SP member Corax is available HERE! With the exception of Tenby South Beach Quarry, bolting is strictly prohibited anywhere in Pembrokeshire, so don’t even think about it here.

Craig Caerfai
Anchor stakes
(Photo by Nanuls)
Scorch Groove
Scorch Groove - Diff
(Photo by Nanuls)
Caerfai Bay
Caerfai Bay
(Photo by Nanuls)

Route Symbols:
NO STARS A so-so route, neither good nor bad. Not unpleasant unless otherwise stated.
1 STAR A good route which is definitely worth a climb.
2 STARS A very good route, one of the best on the crag and well worthy of attention.
3 STARS An excellent route, one of the best in the area, and probably in Britain too.
NO RESTRICTIONS No Restrictions

Used to indicate that there are currently no restrictions, either seasonal, temporary or permanent, affecting a route.
RESTRICTIONS Restrictions

Used to indicate that there are restrictions, either seasonal, temporary or permanent, affecting a route. See the Red Tape and Access Section for more details.

Left Wall


To the left of the Main Wall is a small area where some short routes have been recorded. Access the base of the crag by descending an easy line to a large wave cut platform to the left of some corners.

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
1. The Leper's Harpsichord 9m 1 VD NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
2. Leperton 9m 1 S NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
3. The Leper Gate 9m 1 VD NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
4. Spank the Leper 9m 1 VD NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS


Main Slab


To put it simply, Main Slab is heaven for mid-grade climbers. Armorican (VS 4c) is of course the jewel in the crown, but other routes are good value too. Check out Caerfai Crack (VS 4b) for some fun and remarkably straightforward climbing. There are a number of metal stakes in place along the top of the cliff; these can be used as anchors for both abseiling and belaying. The quickest descent is definitely by abseil, but check if anyone’s below before throwing your rope over – you don’t want to be knocking any climbers off in the process. If you lack an abseil rope, access can be gained by down-climbing White Corner (Diff), again, make sure no one’s on route before you do so, because passing people on your way down is dangerous and rude.

Main Slab – Left-hand end (Photo by Nanuls)

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
5. Mildred Mindtrap 15m 1 HS 4b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
6. White Wall 16m 1 HS 4b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
7. Nameless 18m 1 VS 4c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
8. Unknown Sentry 18m 1 HVS 4c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
9. The Byrn 20m 1 VS 4c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
10. Caerfai Crack 20m 1 VS 4b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
11. White Corner 25m 1 D 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
12. Submarine Slab 25m 1 VS 4b NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
13. Burnt Arête 25m 1 VD NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
14. Scorch Groove 25m 1 D 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
15. Orogeny 25m 1 E2 5b 2 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
16. Armorican 25m 1 VS 4c 3 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
17. Age Gap 28m 1 E2 5b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
18. Age Concern 28m 1 E3 5c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
19. Uncertain Smile 32m 1 E2 5b 2 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
20. Life's Just a Ballgame 32m 1 E4 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
21. Curse of the Cragmonster 40m 1 E4 6a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
22. Crawl of the Wild 41m 1 E1 5b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS


Main Slab – Right-hand end. The slab is steeper than it looks here (Photo by Nanuls)

A deep water solo has been recorded up the overhanging prow in the cave left of the Main Wall. Access it by swimming.

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
23. Mwnci Mor 9m 1 XS 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS

Undercut Red Wall


To the right of the Main Wall is an undercut red wall bounded on its right by a a jutting nose of rock. You'll find it at the junction between Caerfai Bay and the square-cut subsidiarity bay.

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
24. Ridgeway 30m 1 VD NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
25. Old Cross Corner 33m 1 VS 4c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
26. City Slab 37m 1 VS 4c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
28. Farmer's Groove 25m 1 S 4a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS

Craig Caerfai
Accessing Main Slab
(Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Caerfai
The end of a good day
(Photo by Nanuls)
Caerfai Bay
Caefai Bay from the east
(Photo by Nanuls)

Right of Farmer's Groove is another slab with twin corners on its right and another slab right of these.

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
29. Crunchie 27m 1 HVS 4a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS

The following routes can be found on the cliff directly opposite the Main Wall. Approach at low tide by climbing across boulders.

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
30. Coconut Crack 12m 1 S NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
31. Miss Coconut 12m 1 HVS 5a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS

Caerfai Bay with Craig Caerfai on the far right (Photo by Nanuls)

Bouldering


If you lack a rope or a partner, there can be few prettier places to boulder than Caerfai Bay, which providing the tide is low, can be accessed from the beach. When it’s not low it would do you to find somewhere else to climb as the problems will be underwater. Unfortunately, the quality of the rock isn’t always the best, varying from a firm sandstone that is more like Peak grit to something else altogether more soft and variable, probably still sandstone. Because of this care is needed, not against breaking the holds but against ruining the more delicate rock formations – this is a very special place, don’t spoil it. The most interesting rock can be found by following the cliffs rightwards from the bottom of the path to a very pretty little cave. The bouldering here is of variable quality, the better rock being rather limited; on its own, a worthy bouldering destination this does not make. However, on the overhanging back face of the obvious buttress at the bottom of the path, there is some good bouldering, including a desperate low-level traverse. Heading in the opposite direction, a lot of rock is friable, and whilst there are a few problems on good rock, including a roof, it would be sad to damage the more friable surfaces.

Caerfai Bay
Caerfai Bouldering
(Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Caerfai
Caerfai Bay
(Photo by Nanuls)
Caerfai Bay
Caerfai Bouldering
(Photo by Nanuls)

Weather Conditions and Tides

Weather Forecast


This section displays the weather forecast for Solva, which is located to the east of St. David’s Head. It isn't the closest settlement to the crag, that honour goes to the city of St. David's, unfortunately the tool for St. David's doesn't seem to work. Either way, this still gives a pretty good indication of what the weather will be like on the crag, as both Solva and Craig Caerfai sit at around sea level.



Tide Times


Tide times can have a significant impact on where and when one climbs. It is therefore extremely important to check the timetables before embarking on trip to the area. UK tides information for all standard and secondary ports is provided by the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), and displayed on the BBC's website. The link below provides a link to the nearest monitoring station to Craig Caerfai:

04 Ramsey Sound Ramsey Sound (SM 714 244)

When to Climb and Essential Gear

The most reliable conditions are in the summer, but the low altitude of the crag may make it a viable option in winter. The gear needed depends entirely on the routes you plan to do. Easier routes will only require a moderate rack, while harder routes will require a something more comprehensive; lots of small nuts will do you well for most routes. A singe 50 metre rope should serve well on most routes, however, double ropes would be a wise choice for the harder stuff. In addition to your usual gear, you might want to bring along an abseil rope as this is the best method of reaching the base of the crag.

White Corner
White Corner
- Diff
(Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Caerfai
View towards
Ramsey Island
(Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Caerfai
This fixed gear's
seen better days
(Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Caerfai
Descending
Main Slab
(Photo by Nanuls)

Getting There

Although there are a variety of ways to get to Craig Caerfai, which is located just the south of St. David’s, most will probably be coming from the west. If so, when approaching from Carmarthen (SN 405 196) take the A40 Truck Road signposted for Saint Clears (SN 274 160). At the Saint Clears roundabout, continue along the A40 towards Haverfordwest (SM 962 158). Here you will need to leave the A40, take a short detour through the town, and take the smaller A487 which will signpost St. David’s (SM 753 253).

As you enter the city there will be a left hand turn with a signpost directing you to a car park, park and ride and visitors centre (SM 757 252). Take this turn and follow the road to its terminus, here you will find a small parking area overlooking Caerfai Bay (SM 759 243). You will be able to see Craig Caerfai from this vantage point, it’s the crag at the end of the promontory on the eastern side of the bay. From the parking area, take the coastal path eastwards and follow it around the top of Caerfai Bay and out towards the promontory. Here the path gets very close to the top of the Main Slab, which is marked by a number of metal stakes used as anchors (SM 761 240). Abseil from these stakes or down climb White Corner (Diff).

Red Tape and Access

No red tape here!

Although unlikely it's worth checking the countryside access map provided by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) regarding whether or not any restrictions on movement in the area are in place.

Countryside Access Map

The view towards Ramsey Island (Photo by Nanuls)

Camping and Accommodation

Conveniently, there are two great campsites at Caerfai Bay, either of which would make the perfect place to stay if climbing in the area:

Caerfai Organic Farm
Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park

For the wider area, there’s an almost unlimited supply of accommodation within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park so it would be inappropriate to list it all here. The city of St. David’s and its hinterland is particularly well provided for. For budget accommodation it’s worth checking out some of the following sites:

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Pembrokeshire

For everything else and more see Visit Pembrokeshire’s website.

Maps

Open Space Web-Map builder Code
Navigation Maps

OS 1:25k Explorer Series OL 35 North Pembrokeshire/Gogledd Sir Benfro

OS 1:50k Landranger Series 157 St David’s & Haverfordwest/Tyddewi a Hwlffordd

Road Maps

OS Road Map 6 Wales/Cymru & West Midlands

Guidebooks

Pembrokeshire Coast: The Official National Park Guide Pembrokeshire Coast: The Official National Park Guide by Alf Alderson, John Cleare and Ian Mercer.

A handy book full of useful information and interesting facts about the National Park.
Climbers Guides to Wales: Pembroke Climbers Club Guides to Wales: Pembroke by John Harwood, Dave Viggers et al.

An extremely comprehensive two volume guidebook to the area which describes most of the routes at Craig Caerfai.
Climbers Club Pembroke Supplement Climbers Club Pembroke Supplement by Dave Viggers

A little book containing updates to the Climbers Club Guide and costs around a fiver.
Rock Fax Guide: Pembroke Rock Fax Guide: Pembroke by Alan James and Mike Robertson

Not quite as comprehensive as the Climbers Club guides, but lavishly illustrated with tons of large photo diagrams and topos.

External Links

 
Caerfai Bay
Caerfai Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

 
Penpleidiau
Penpleidiau (Photo by Nanuls)
Government Bodies and Other Organisations

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority
Council for National Parks
Association of National Park Authorities
Pembrokeshire County Council
Carmarthenshire County Council
Ceredigion County Council
Countryside Council for Wales
Forestry Commission Wales
Environment Agency
CADW
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales
Dyfed Archaeological Trust
The National Trust
Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Outdoor Organisations and Companies

British Mountaineering Council
Pembrokeshire Climbing Club
Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group
South Wales Mountaineering Club
The Climbers Club
UKClimbing

Weather

Weather from the Met Office
BBC Weather
Weather Channel UK

Tide Tables

BBC Tide Tables
UK Hydrographic Office

Tourist Information

Visit Wales
Visit Pembrokeshire
South West Wales Tourism Partnership
Local Information from Pembrokeshire Pages
Local Information from Pembrokeshire Online

Travel Information

Welsh Public Transport Information
Uk Train Timetable

Accommodation

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Pembrokeshire
Caerfai Organic Farm
Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey
Cicerone Guidebooks
Climbers Club Guidebooks
Rockfax Guidebooks
Mid Wales Climbing
Cordee Travel and Adventure Sports Bookshop

Wildlife and Conservation

Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre
South West Wales Wildlife Trust
Sea Trust
Pembrokeshire Bird Group

Welsh Language

Welsh Language Board
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg Welsh language pressure group
Cymuned Welsh language pressure group
Yr Urdd (Welsh Youth Association)
Welsh-English / English-Welsh online translator
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Dictionary
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Lexicon

Images