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When in times immemorial, the now long extinct Welsh glaciers set about the task of sculpting the landscape into the discordant collection of peaks, pinnacles and pastures we see today, it was by chance that three large boulders should be carried, from origins unknown, and lain down together on the gentle slopes of Dyffryn Mymbyr. The fortuitous timing of this transportation cannot be overstated. Too soon and the boulders would have been carried out onto the coastal plain, and following the glacier’s retreat, claimed by the subsequent inundation. Too late and the boulders would have remained high on the mountain side, possibly on steep ground, and possibly far apart, perhaps never to be properly discovered. We must therefore, be extremely grateful for the outcome of these prehistoric events, for they provide us with one of the finest and most accessible bouldering venues in all of Snowdonia.
The RAC Boulders sit on the far eastern flank of the Glyderau, overlooked by the mountains of the Moelwynion, Carneddau, and Snowdon Range. They are home to an excellent complement of low to mid grade problems, most of which are of an extremely high quality and proffer a mixture of delicate crimps and slopers, as well as brutish overhangs, cracks and arêtes. All in all they are an ideal introduction for those new to the sport of bouldering. Although somewhat eclipsed by the more famous Cromlech Boulders in Llanberis Pass, which are the average visitor's favoured destination, they are no less worthy of attention, and when the former become unbearably crowded, which they often do, the RAC Boulders offer a welcome sanctuary where solitude is the norm rather than the exception. Furthermore, their location affords a sunny aspect, a welcome alternative to the shadowy depths of The Pass, something that becomes evermore desirable the further the year progresses into winter.
The map below shows the location of the RAC boulders in relation to the surrounding area. For more details on how to reach them, see the Getting There Section.
Problems and Routes
The bouldering is split between the boulders on the left and right sides of the track, with the problems, which range from from V0- to V7 in difficulty, spread unevenly between the two groups. 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, V12’s excellent website www.northwalesbouldering.com (also Simon Panton and co), and the continually updated www.ukclimbing.com.
The groove at the right side of the clean wall.
Long holds up the right-hand wall lead to good holds at the top.
Climb the arête right of the groove.
Straight up the wall.
From a sit down start on the flat ledge left of the groove, move up the wall to gain the hanging flake.
Climb the indented left arête of the steep wall.
Move up right into the upper groove feature.
Take the steep arete on the left side past a ledge at 2/3rds height.
The green groove is perhaps a better descent than a problem.
Long reaches up a small green corner.
Problem 11a – Frontside Traverse
Follow the break left into problem 3. A V7 variant stays low beneath this break, then takes thin crimps leftwards to gain problem 6.
Problem 11b – On One
A variant of the traverse, which stays low all the way, with desperate, powerful moves on directional holds.
Problem 12 – Lefthand Gully Wall Traverse
From a sit down start at the entrance of the gully, follow the intermittent ledge system across the wall finishing up problem 7.
Problem 13 - Righthand Gully Wall Traverse
From a standing start, gain and follow the line of foot ledges to the far end.
Problem 14 – Backside Arête
Take the arete on its left side. A V0- eliminate can also be climbed on the wall to the left.
From a standing start, with your left hand on a crimp and your right on a side pull, leap up left to a jug and the top of the problem.
Problem 16a – The Pump Traverse
Follow the sloping lip rightwards, turning left and following the boulder top up right, before dropping down past a jug to a tricky final groove.
Problem 16b – Pump Traverse Variant
A variant of the traverse, which eliminates all the cracks on the first section.
Problem 16c – The Haston/McGinley Route
Another variant which stays beneath the lip. Begin with a sit down start and move powerfully until the arête is reached.
A fun and lengthy traverse around the boulder's steepest side. Start on the easier track-side slab and staying below the boulder's lip, move around the arête. Move up for the 'sloping nose before the crack left of Problem 22. Once around the arête you will be faced with the crux onto crimpy holds to gain a position on the ramp. More difficulties await on the final steep wall. A variation is to take the whole traverse low down at V6.
Problem 18 – RAC Arête Lefthand
The left side of the arête.
Problem 19 – RAC Arête Righthand
The right cracked side of the arête
The cracked, pocketed wall.
Problem 21 – The Ramp
Pull up the slopey ramp from a sit down start.
Problem 22 – Marsh Arête
From a sit down start, climb the arête with difficulty.
Straight up the wall above the pocket.
Take the crimpy wall left of the ramp.
Climb the arête and then thin crack to a difficult finish.
Move up finger flakes followed by long moves to jugs above. A direct start variation comes in at V5.
Climb up the steep flake in the arête to jugs. Do it from a sit down start to claim a V2.
Move delicately through or along a scoop,
Breeze directly up the scoop on good holds.
A left to right traverse on the lone boulder some 50 metres to the right of the main blocks. A V7 variant reaverse the lip in reverse from a sit down start at the right arête
Problems 22 to 26
The compact crag behind the boulders gives a number of short, but hard, traditional routes. The crag is divided by an area of broken rock on the left and a grassy gully on the right. The left-hand buttress is known as the Atom Art Buttress, and is home to the first three routes. This is split by an off-width dogleg crack, and capped by a large tree. A short way to the right is Central Buttress. This is by far the widest and highest of the three sections of the crag. Again there are only three main lines. Right again, a little set back, and across a wide grassy gully, lies the final small buttress, cut by a slim right-facing corner. It is home to the final two routes.
Sustained climbing on minute holds up the well-tried wall and groovelet left of the off-width crack (peg) to finish just right of the tree.
2. Atom Art
Takes the pocketed wall and crack, starting 2 metres right of a dogleg off-width (which can itself be climbed at HVS). It is reputed to be the safest of the three hard routes here.
3. Pygmy Passion
The thin crack and tiny arête just right of Atom Art are sustained, but give good protection.
The central groove finishing over the roof gives a fine pitch.
5. Stor Klumpe
The immaculate crack right of Swcad does not yield without a struggle.
6. Spanish Bomb
On the right-hand side of the buttress, this is the groove right of Stor Klumpe, with a finish up the arête.
7. Retchus (The Longer Reach)
The wall with a faint crackline left of El Groove. From the central flake, swing left and finish up the arête – dynamic and strenuous with one very hard move.
8. El Groove
The slim right-facing corner.
This section displays the weather forecast for Capel Curig, which is located just to the north, and is by far the nearest villages to the RAC Boulders. This gives a pretty good indication of what the weather will be like on the crag, as both Capel Curig and the RAC Boulders sit at around 200 metres above sea level.
The site’s altitude and aspect make it an ideal year round venue, and it is particularly attractive in winter, when other areas are cloaked in perpetual shade.
Trad routes will obviously require trad gear, in this case a small rack (the routes are only short after all) and an appropriate rope or ropes (again the routes are only short so there’s no need for anything over 50 metres in length).
Boulderers will need chalk, shoes and a towel for drying their feet (some of the surrounding ground is quite boggy.) A bouldering mat to take the sting out of those landings is also desirable, especially on the highball problems!
Conveniently, the RAC Boulders (SH 696 572) is located very close to the A4086, so you don’t have far to lug your equipment. If approaching from the east, turn off the A5 at Capel Curig (SH 720 580) and drive south along the A4086 for around 3km. Park at a large layby on the right hand side of the road. The boulders are just a few metres away on the hillside above you. If you are coming from the south, take the A498 through Beddgelert (SH 590 418) towards the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel (SH 659 557). Pass the hotel, you will now be on the A4086, and drive north for around 3km to the aforementioned layby.
Alternatively, you could take advantage of Snowdonia’s public transport system and take the bus. The Snowdon Sherpa bus service, which calls at various points throughout the area, and passes the boulders, can be caught at Llanberis, Bettws y Coed, Caernarfon, Beddgelert, Bethesda, and Porthmadog. Be sure to check timetables first though, as you don't want to end up missing the last bus and find yourself stranded on the roadside, of course in these situations, hitching is always an option.
Unlike most of Snowdonia National Park’s other significant crags and boulders, the RAC Boulders are not on Open Access Land (CRoW Act 2000), and technically the public have no legal right of access. Fortunately the landowner is willing to tolerate boulderers/climbers using the site provided that they keep a low profile, do not block the access with their cars, and do not leave any litter. It goes without saying that camping is also not permitted. It is also courteous to first ask the landowners permission before entering his land; he lives on the farm of Dyffryn Mwybyr (see map), above and to the left of the boulders.
There’s an almost unlimited supply of accommodation within the Snowdonia National Park so it would be inappropriate to list it all here. For budget accommodation it’s worth checking out some of the following sites:
There are also a number of YHA hostels in the area, the nearest of which are Idwal Cottage near Tryfan and Pen-y-Pass in the Pass of Llanberis. The Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre in Capel Curig also has a bunk house; and its own indoor climbing wall if you’re still feeingl energetic after your day in the mountains.
The valley in the centre of this photo, taken from Crib Goch, is Dyffryn Mymbyr and the location of the RAC Boulders (Photo by Nanuls)
The only dedicated bouldering guide for North Wales, covering the Llanberis Pass, Ogwen Valley, outlying areas, and coastal crags, including the RAC Boulders. An excellent publication which radiates quality.
A free PDF from the Climbers Club giving details for a number of crags omitted from the new Llanberis Guide. These will be picked up in full in the forthcoming Ogwen guide. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?