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Created/Edited: Jun 23, 2008 / Dec 24, 2014

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Overview

"There are miles of high crags along the south slopes of the Nantlle valley and many more on Moelwyn Mawr... all inviting places that can be explored and re-explored by naturalists without exhausting the possibility of new discoveries, new delights."

William Condry (1918-1998)

Moelwyn Bach is best known as the little sister of its neighbouring peak, Moelwyn Mawr. Some 50 metres its junior, the mountain is rarely an objective in its own right and is most often done in conjunction, via the ridge of Craigysgafn, with the larger Moelwyn. Despite its smaller size, the mountain is a much more complex beast, being home to a variety of rock climbs and mini-scrambles. The mountain’s Southern-Western Cliffs, in fact, offer some of the Moelwynion's best mid to high grade routes, notably Man in the Moon (E5 6a), Igam-ogam (E1 5b), Maen Tŵr Og (E2 5c) and Expose (E4 6a/b). Despite boasting a high number of quality routes, climbers rarely visit the mountain, preferring instead to stop short at one of the area’s more accessible crags, such as Clogwyn y Bustach, Clogwyn yr Oen and Craig y Wrysgan. Expelling the extra effort to reach Moelwyn Bach therefore, can pay huge dividends for those looking for somewhere quiet to climb, but unwilling to compensate on quality.

Moelwyn Bach (left) and Moelwyn Mawr (right) (Photo by mills)

Rock Climbing

The climbing on Moelwyn Bach is split between its Summit Cliffs, the Summit Nose, the Southern-Western Cliffs and Craigysgafn. The South-Western Cliffs are by far the more complex of these and has the greatest number of routes.

Unless otherwise stated, routes are listed from left to right, and are graded and rated with the aid of the Climbers’ Club Guide to Meirionnydd, so for full descriptions, please refer to this source.

Please be aware that the Moelwynion are a trad climbing venue and bolting is strictly prohibited. Routes are rated using the British Adjectival Grading System. Technical grades are generally only given to climbs graded adjectivally as Hard Severe (HS) or above. A conversion table of international climbing grades by SP member Corax is available: download it here.

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.


Summit Cliffs


The crag beneath the summit on the east side of the mountain (SH 663 338) is around 45 metres high and gives a few climbs of Difficult to Very Difficult standards.

Summit Nose


The prominent nose (SH 660 440) seen from the Moelwyn Ridge is about 27 metres high an can be climbed anywhere at about Difficult standard. There is a short overhanging section, which is obviously much harder, giving a brief but strenuous problem.

Moelwyn Bach
Summit Cliffs
(Photo by Nanuls)
Llyn Stwlan
Craigysgafn
(centre left)
(Photo by Nanuls)
Moelwyn Bach
Southern-Western Cliffs
(Photo by Nanuls)


Southern-Western Cliffs


These cliffs take the form of a series of scattered outcrops on Moelwyn Bach’s southern ridge (SH 655 434). They’re home to a number of great routes on that perfect Moelwyn quartzite, furthermore, they’re south facing and catch the sun all day.

No. Name Length Pitches Adjectival
Grade
Technical
Grade
Quality Restrictions
1. Arberth 30m 2 HVS 5a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
2. They'll Never Keep Us Down 10m 1 E4 6a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
3. Moonrazor 15m 1 E2 5c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
4. Tir Na Nog 44m 2 HVS 5a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
5. Man in the Moon 25m 2 E5 6a 3 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
6. Igam-Ogam 39m 2 E1 5b, 5b 3 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
7. Non Welsh-Speaker's Conundrum 40m 1 E4 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
8. The Dogs Dinner 21m 1 HVS 5a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
9. On Easter Island 20m 1 E4 6a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
10. Maen Tŵr Og 20m 1 E2 5c 3 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
11, Yr Holltalluog 21m 1 HVS 5a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
12, Beneath the Underdog 46m 1 HVS 5a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
13. The Misfortunes of Elphin 23m 1 E2 5c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
14. Exepel of Air 15m 1 E4 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
15. Cym Haul 18m 1 VS 4c 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
16. Sundance Kid 18m 1 HVS 5a 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
17. The Slot Machine 20m 1 E4 6a NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
18. Expose 15m 1 E4 6a/6b 3 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
19. Agenda 24m 1 E1 5b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
20. On Impulse 6m 1 E5 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
21. Thor's Wall 20m 1 E5 6b 1 STAR NO RESTRICTIONS
22. Loki Crack 18m 1 HVS 5a 2 STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
23. Fifth Anniversary 18m 1 E2 5c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS
24. Penbwl Corner 37m 1 VS 4c NO STARS NO RESTRICTIONS


Craigysgafn


The diminutive crag (SH 657 443) on the ridge connecting Moelwyn Bach and Moelwyn Mawr gives a number of poor, short routes on friable rock.

Mountain Conditions

This section displays the weather forecast for Tanygrisiau, which is located to the south and is one of the nearest towns to Moelwyn Bach. Remember that Tanygrisiau sits at 200m above sea level, whereas the summit of Moelwyn Bach reaches 710m. This means that when looking at temperature the adiabatic lapse rate must be taken into account, which in Wales is a drop in temperature of between 0.5 and 1°C per 100m in altitude. Exposure and wind speed can also significantly lower temperatures.

When to Climb and Essential Gear

Moelwyn Bach can be climbed at anytime of the year, however in poor conditions the mountain may be best avoided. April to September offer the most reliable conditions and one will need all the equipment one usually carries for a day in the mountains, which in Wales means full waterproofs and sturdy boots as a minimum.

If you’re lucky enough to climb the mountain in winter conditions then an ice axe and crampons would be very useful.

Getting There

Moelwyn Bach is located in the southern Moelwynion, between the valleys of Cwm Croesor in the west and the Vale of Ffestiniog in the east. The mountain can be approached from either of these valleys, both giving an interesting walk in.

Cwm Croesor may only be reached from the south. If you’re coming from the east therefore, leave the A487 in Penrhyndeudraeth (SH 611 389) and take the A4085 north in the direction of Beddgelert (SH 590 481). Just after the village of Garreg (SH 612 416), there is a right hand turn (SH 614 420), which is signposted for the village of Croesor (SH 630 447). The village is reached after around 3km. Park in the small National Park run car park in the village. There's also a great parking spot at the highest point of the Croesor to Rhyd road (SH 635 434), just outside the forested area on the Rhyd side and directly below a prominent telegraph pole.

If you’d rather start your walk from the Vale of Ffestiniog, the most convenient starting point is the small car park just above the village of Tanygrisiau. To reach it, leave the A470 at the roundabout in Blaenau Ffestiniog (SH 697 460) and take the A496 in a southerly direction over the railway line. Continue along the A496 for a kilometre or so to a small junction on the right hand side (SH 688 448). Take this junction and then turn left immediately, following the signs for the Ffestiniog Power Station; 500 metres down the road there’s a café on the left hand side; it’s a great place to start and end a day in the hills. Pass the café and follow the curving road up the hill to the car park at the top of Tanygrisiau (SH 683 453).

Moelwyn Bach
Moelwyn Bach
(Photo by Bryan Benn)
Moelwyn Bach
Moelwyn Bach
(Photo by daveyboy)
Craigysgafn Crags
Craigysgafn
(Photo by daveyboy)

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

For climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) runs a Regional Access Database, which holds mountain/crag specific information on matters of conservation and access, including issues such as nesting restrictions, nature designations and preferred parking.

Regional Access Database

If you are in any doubt about any particular access arrangement, or need to report an incident, you should contact your local BMC Access Representative or the BMC Access Officers for Wales: Elfyn Jones.

Moelwyn Mawr from Moelwyn Bach
Moelwyn Mawr
(Photo by daveyboy)
Large Caves North of Moelwyn Mawr
Old slate workings
(Photo by daveyboy)
Moelwyn Mawr Trig Point
Summit trig point
(Photo by daveyboy)

Camping and Accommodation

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:

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Gwynedd

Maps

MAP CODE Navigation Maps

OS 1:25k Explorer Series OL 17 Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa

OS 1:25k Explorer Series OL 18 Harlech, Porthmadog & Bala/Y Bala

OS 1:50k Landranger Series 115 Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa

OS 1:50k Landranger Series 124 Porthmadog & Dolgellau

Harvey Map Services 1:25k Snowdon and the Moelwynion

Harvey Map Services 1:50k Snowdonia British Mountain Map

Road Maps

OS Road Map 9 Wales/Cymru & West Midlands

Guidebooks

Snowdonia (Official National Park Guide) Snowdonia (Official National Park Guide) by Merfyn Williams with contributions from Ian Mercer and Jeremy Moore

A handy book full of useful information and interesting facts about the National Park.
The Mountains of England and Wales: Vol 1 Wales The Mountains of England and Wales: Vol 1 Wales by John and Ann Nuttall

A classic book covering the Welsh ‘Nuttalls’, which obviously include the Moelwynion.
Hillwalking in Snowdonia Hillwalking in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton

A guidebook to nearly 70 hillwalking routes throughout Snowdonia, including the Moelwynion.
Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 by Peter Hermon

The second of two guidebooks describing walking routes up every 2000-footer in Wales – covers the Moelwynion to the Tarrenydd.
Climbers Club Guide Wales: Meirionnydd Climbers Club Guide Wales: Meirionnydd by Martin Crocker, John Sumner, Terry Taylor, Elfyn Jones, with contributions from Mike Rosser, Mike Lewis and Dave Wrennall

The definitive climbing guide to the area. Contains detailed descriptions and excellent diagrams of all known rock routes in the Moelwynion. An essential purchase if you plan to do a lot of climbing in Mid Wales.
   

External Links

 
Craigysgafn
Craigysgafn (Photo by daveyboy)
 
Moelwyn Range
Moelwynion (Photo by daveyboy)
 
Moelwyn Bach from Moelwyn Mawr
Moelwyn Bach (Photo by daveyboy)

Government Bodies and Official Organisations

Snowdonia National Park Authority
Council for National Parks
Association of National Park Authorities
Conwy County Council
Gwynedd County Council
Powys County Council
Countryside Council for Wales
Forestry Commission Wales
Environment Agency
CADW
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales
Gwynedd Archaeological Trust
Snowdonia Society
The National Trust

Hiking, Climbing and Mountaineering Organisations and Companies

British Mountaineering Council
The Climbers Club
UKClimbing
Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre
Snowdonia-Active.com
Hightreck Snowdonia

Weather

Mountain Weather Wales
Weather from the Met Office
BBC Weather
Weather Channel UK

Tourist Information

Visit Wales
North Wales Tourism Partnership
Local Information from Gwynedd.com
Local Information from Snowdonia Wales Net
North Wales Index

Travel

Welsh Public Transport Information
Uk Train Timetable

Accommodation

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
North Wales Campsites

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey
Harvey Map Services
Cicerone Guidebooks
Climbers Club Guidebooks
North Wales Bouldering
Mid Wales Climbing
Cordee Travel and Adventure Sports Bookshop

Wildlife and Conservation

Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Natur Gwynedd
North Wales Wildlife Trust
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

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

BREAK

Overview

The Northern Corries of the Cairngorms are riddled with interesting features to entice the winter climber, no matter what grade they climb. By virtue of its close proximity to the Cairngorm Mountain Ski Centre and Coire Cas car park, most choose to head for Coire an t'Sneachda, which is home to innumerable high quality routes. This however, has its problems, for queues can develop on the Coire’s more popular routes, and while the British are well known for their prowess at queuing, doing so in sub-zero temperatures is rarely a pleasurable experience.

Under such circumstances, it can often pay to consider alternative arrangements, and the routes in Coire an t'Sneachda’s western neighbour, Coire an Lochain, offer just that. Though the walk is further and the routes are fewer, Coire an Lochain still has a much to offer. Furthermore, it is higher than its neighbour and consequently, it comes into condition sooner and stays in condition longer, making it an ideal venue when conditions elsewhere are lean. And talking of conditions, The Vent is a route whose character is strongly dependant upon them. While the difficulty of all winter routes is very much dependant on the availability of snow and ice, rarely does this availability result in such a wide range of possible grades ,for the The Vent can be climbed at either Scottish Grade II or Grade IV.

On approaching Coire an Lochain, the route’s line is obvious. Cleaving a deep fault down the Coire’s eastern edge, it takes the form of a large, dark and inviting gully. Its difficulties are dependent on the build of snow and ice at the bottom of the gully; in lean conditions only water ice will be available low down, offering a short but sharp 1st pitch of Grade IV ice climbing, while later in the season, once the snow has had a chance to accumulate and set, the gully will give a much more amenable Grade II. Either way, it’s a pleasant if short lived route and is well worth covering the extra ground to tick – all you have to do is choose your moment according to your ability!

FA: E.M. Davidson, R.F. Stobart, Miss Macbain, J. Geddes (13th April 1935)

Getting There

Coire an Lochain
Coire an Lochain
(Photo by Nanuls)
The Vent
Starting Pitch 1
(Photo by Nanuls)
The Vent
The crux
(Photo by Nanuls)

The Vent

Conveniently, Coire an Lochain is an easy walk from the Coire Cas car park, which offers free parking and easy access to the café in the CairnGorm Mountain ski centre. Consequently, it fills up quickly and therefore you have another good reason to get an early start.

Park at the Coire Cas car park (NH 989 060) and approach as for Coire an t'Sneachda’s. The path traverses around Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais and within about 200m of the car park it splits (NH 986 056). Take the right hand path and follow it for a further 200m or so, crossing a small burn. Almost immediately after the burn you will be presented with some route choice (NH 984 051), with one path breaking off uphill (south) and the other continuing south-westwards in a more gentle fashion. Both of these paths will take you to Coire an Lochain, though the uphill path is the better option if your objective is The Vent (or indeed any of the other routes on the Coire’s Buttresses 1 and 2).

This description describes the approach of the uphill path, which you should follow for a kilometre or so. Do not follow it all the way to the Coire’s two small lochains, instead head up the broad spur which bounds their eastern edge. After around 500m this will take you up alongside the No. 1 Buttress, which overlooks the The Vent (about NH 984 026). Here you will find a broad area to don gear and rope up; this is also the route’s start (see photo ).

Route Description

Given the obvious nature of the gully, there is little chance of going off route or indeed failing to correctly identify the start of The Vent. There is no need therefore for a laborious description to guide you up it though following text will provide you with a few helpful pointers.

Pitch 1 (Grade II or IV depending on conditions): In lean conditions a short, sharp pitch opens things up, taking the climber up the steep icy back wall of the gully and over a large chokestone (crux) . Belay here.

Pitch 2 (Grade I or II depending on conditions): From here the gully opens out into a straightforward, easy angled funnel. Climb it to the top and belay in the snow above.

Descend either by walking of westwards, descending gently into Coire an Lochain or by walking east and taking the Goat Track into Coire an t'Sneachda’s. Those wishing to bag further routes in Coire an Lochain may wish to decent down The Couloir (Grade I), though great care should be taken in doing this as the run-out is very long.


Essential Gear

In good snow conditions it’s unlikely that many will see the need to climb the route as a leader and second and so while ice axes and rigid crampons are a necessity, a rope and rack will depend on the confidence of the climbers.

In lean conditions however, a small rack, which includes ice screws (short to medium length screws will be most useful) will be necessary if the crux on the first pitch is to be protected. The pitch is short and double ropes probably won’t be essential; a single rope of 50m should suffice.

It shouldn't need to be said, but don’t forget your helmet; debris has a tendency to fall into gullies.


Coire an Lochain. The Vent is the ladge recess on the left.
(Photo by Nanuls)

Maps

Open Space Web-Map builder Code
Navigation Maps

OS 1:25k Explorer Series 403 Cairn Gorm & Aviemore

OS 1:50k Landranger Series 36 Grantown & Aviemore

Harvey Map Services 1:25k Cairn Gorm Superwalker Map

Harvey Map Services/BMC 1: 40k British Mountain Map: Cairngorms & Lochnagar

Road Maps

OS Tour Map 12 Scotland

Guidebooks

Cold Climbs: Great Snow and Ice Climbs of the British Isles Cold Climbs: Great Snow and Ice Climbs of the British Isles by Ken Wilson, Dave Alcock, John Barry and Tim Pavey

The classic publication on British winter climbing. It's huge and in hardback though, so don't even think about taking to to the crag.
The Cairngorms Scottish Mountaineering Club: The Cairngorms by Andy Nisbet, Allen Fyffe, Simon Richardson, Wilson Moir and John Lyall

Another beautiful and lavish guide from the SMC, containing details of summer and winter climbing in the Cairngorms.
Scottish Winter Climbs Scottish Mountaineering Club: Scottish Winter Climbs by Andy Nisbet, Rab Anderson and Simon Richardson

A superb guide covering winter climbing throughout Scotland.
Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms by Allen Fyffe and Blair Ffyffe

A stunning little guidebook from Cicerone Press which contains all you'll need for winter climbing in the Cairngorms.

External Links

 
The Vent
Pitch 2
(Photo by Nanuls)
 
Coire an Lochain
Coire an Lochain
(Photo by Nanuls)

General

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland

Scottish Mountaineering Club

Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland

Scottish Ski Club

Cairngorms National Park Authority

Scottish Natural Heritage

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

Walk Highlands

Munro Magic

Hill Phones

Deer Stalking Scotland

British Association for Shooting and Conservation

Weather and Mountain Conditions

Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS)

East Highlands Mountain Weather Conditions

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS)

Winternet-Scotland

Tourist Information

Visit Scotland

Visit Cairngorms

Undiscovered Scotland

Travel

National Rail

ScotRail

Showbus

Citylink

Inverness Airport

Accommodation

The Mountain Bothies Association

Scottish Youth Hostel Association

Scottish Independent Hostels

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey

Harvey Map Services

Scottish Mountaineering Club

Cicerone Guidebooks

BREAK

Rock Climbing

Along with Pembroke, Gogarth and the Llŷn Peninsula, Gower is one of Wales’ most important sea cliff climbing areas. This isn’t to say that there aren’t important sea cliffs elsewhere, it’s just that they aren’t quite as expansive as the aforementioned four. Of the four, Gower is probably the least visited, perhaps lacking the reputation for ferocious and adventurous routes, which often characterise of the other three. This is perhaps an unfair critique, because as many local climbers will know, there’s no shortage of difficult routes on Gower. What Gower does have, which perhaps the others lack, is an expansive range of non-committing easier routes, which are not only easy to reach but sit among some very pleasant surroundings too.

With the exception of the Tor Gro, the Blue Pool, Burry Holm and Barland Quarry, all Gower’s climbing areas are located on its south coast, running almost continually from Rhossili in the west and Mumbles in the east. For sea cliffs, access is unusually straightforward for the most part; only a handful require an abseil to reach and the rest can either be approached straight from the beach or from higher level gassy terraces. For the most part, the climbing is a traditional affair, but there are a handful of crags, mostly quarries, where bolts have been installed and allow for new or retro bolting. In the past, there has been some controversy concerning the bolting of crags on Gower, which has in part resulted in a loss of access to certain areas. The establishment of sport crags has therefore been considerably restricted and anyone intending to do so should contact South Wales Mountaineering Club, the British Mountaineering Council, the Countryside Council for Wales and, if relevant, the National Trust before embarking on any new projects.

There is currently one climbing guide available for the area. Gower and S.E. Wales (2004) has been written and produced by members of South Wales Mountaineering Club and covers Gower and its neighbouring areas in South East Wales. The Club also maintains a Guidebook Wiki, which is designed to compliment their paper guide. Additionally there are no less than two bouldering websites covering the area, namely South Wales Bouldering Guide and Gower Bouldering; the latter obviously being a bit more specific to the area described on this page. Rockfax are currently in the process of producing a guide to South Wales’ sport crags, which includes those on Gower. A sample of what’s to come is available on their website in the form of a free Miniguide to Rams Tor. There are also rumours that the Climbers’ Club are in the early stages of producing their own up-to-date guide to climbing on Gower and in South Wales.

What follows is a whistle-stop tour around Gower’s crags, providing what I hope is a helpful overview of what the area has to offer and a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the area.


The north facing Tor Gro strikes an impressive profile above the Landimore and Llanrhidian Mashes. It would be completely non-tidal if it weren't for the fact that the access track floods on the occasional spring tide. The routes are located on a number of long slabs, which in places reach up to 45 metres. The climbing suffers from a distinct lack of lines, although Marsh Dance (HS 4b) is well worth a look. The first ascent was a solo effort by J. Aylward and was then given a grade of E1 5a thanks to an over-abundance of greenery. It has been cleaned substantially since.

North Hill Tor is home to some reasonable routes, unfortunately you're no longer aloud to climb any of them thanks to the landowner threatening violence towards those who venture onto his property. The BMC has advised no one climb there until matters are resolved.

The length of coast running from Hollow Top to Port Eynon changes considerably in character to that to its west. Here the landscape is characterised by a series of small dry valleys that are guarded on their seaward flanks by a number of short, broken crags. Most of these crags are non-tidal and where they are long enough and free enough of loose rock, yield a number of good routes. Perhaps the area’s most popular crag is Boiler Slab, so called from a ship wreck, which can be seen from the crag at low tide. Routes are generally at the easier end of the grading spectrum making it an excellent place to take beginners. Classic (VD) and Dulfer (S 4a) are particularly worthwhile.

Three Cliffs Bay forms the focal point for what is perhaps one of Wales’ most iconic and best loved landscapes. The climbing, which more often than not matches the sublimity of the landscape in which it sits, takes place on the bay’s tri-pinnacled centrepiece and provides some of Gower’s most sought-after routes. By far the best of these is to the superb Scavenger (VS 4c), which takes the slab on the right side of the crag’s distinctive sea cave. Once this is ticked off turn your hand to the crag’s other little gems including a traverse of the Three Pinnacles (M), Arch Slab (VS 4c), and the voyage of speleological lunacy that is Under Milk Wood (VS 4a). Just around the corner from Three Cliffs is the diminutive Pobbles Bay. It’s doesn’t have anything that will really excite, but isn’t a bad place to spend a few hours if other crags along this stretch of coast are busy.

Geology

The nature of Gower’s geology owes its existence to the events that produced much of South Wales’ landforms and in particular those that took place over the Carboniferous period. South Wales is dominated by a massive syncline, which preserves in its core rocks of the Upper Carboniferous; these are rich in beds of coal, and they have given the name to the period in which they were deposited. Gower sits on the southern limb of this syncline, so the rocks therefore, dip to the north. As is the case with synclines, the older rocks crop out around the edges, and thus Gower rocks are those which are emerging from beneath the Coal Measures on this southerly limb.

To complicate things, Gower sits on a series of tight folds which begins on the peninsula and continues right under the Bristol Channel, as far as Devon. The hinges of these folds lie roughly east-west, just like the hinge of the coalfield itself, and this shows that the pressure during the mountain-building phase was coming from the south. So Gower displays a transition-zone between the broad and open style of folding in the coalfield and the tight, narrow folds of the Bristol Channel.

So far, we have been concerned with the structures that have been imposed upon the originally flat-lying rock-layers. Now we come to the interpretation of the sedimentary pile itself, which means deciding what sort of sediment each rock-type one was, and deducing from this the nature of the environment in which they were deposited. Conditions of deposition change through time, and this is what produces the characteristic sequence of rock types that we see in the peninsula.

The oldest rocks on Gower, only occur in the cores of major anticlines, represent the latter part of the Devonian period (416-359 mya). At this time, Gower lay in a region of sediment-laden rivers crossing a wide plain between mountains to the north and the sea, which at that time lay over Devon. These mountains were the result of an intense period of mountain building known as the Caledonian Orogeny, which culminated in the closure of the closure of the Iapatus Ocean and the and the resultant continent-continent collision. The climate at this time was tropical, possibly monsoonal, and the choked streams carried sediment from the intense erosion taking place in the hills. Much coarse material was dropped en route, on the riverbanks and in the islands that split the streams into many minor channels. In Gower, we see pebbly rocks (conglomerates) at the top of the sequence overlying coarse sandstones.

The sea at this time began to rise relative to the land, and, as the Carboniferous Period began (359-299 mya), the wide coastal plains of the Devonian were drowned. The marine transgression in this period covered most of Wales with only the highest mountains probably remaining unsubmerged as islands. During the early part of the period warm equatorial seas occupied a broad gulf with abundant corals, crinoids (sea lily) and orthocones (squid-like creature with elongated conical shell). Marine shales (dark, fine-grained friable rocks) were laid down over the continental conglomerates and over time, the amount of detritus reaching the area from the land was drastically reduced. It was in these conditions that Gower’s limestones began to form.

The Carboniferous Limestone in Gower is about 800 metres thick, but traced northward, it can be seen to grow progressively thinner. Each individual unit becomes narrower, and there may also be some units missing. This suggests that the sea further north, being nearer to the land, was shallower and subsiding less quickly. Also, minor fluctuations of sea level could mean that in these shoreward areas, sedimentation could be interrupted more frequently, so resulting in omitted units.

There are many different units making up the Carboniferous Limestone, each with differing texture, thickness, fossil-assemblage, and so on. These differences were the result of subtle environmental changes, which we will touch on when we visit the localities. Not one of these little changes, however, was as severe as that which marked the complete end of limestone deposition in this part of the world.

The stage was now set for the deposition of the Coal Measures, which are the sediments of a widespread system of river-deltas close to sea level, upon which grew the lush forests of giant mosses, horsetails and ferns which eventually became coal. The Coal Measures therefore consist of sandstones, shales and coals arranged in repeated sequence, which tells of how forests grew, were buried by shales as the land subsided and then by sands as the rivers built out. On top of the river-sand, soil developed and eventually the forest became established all over again.

During the later part of the period a second period of major earth movement known as the Aromrican Orogeny (280 mya), also known as the Hercynian or Variscan, affected the Carboniferous and older rocks, with the main movements occurring along existing fractures. This event caused the folding of much of Gower’s Carboniferous sediments.

Save for one small patch of Triassic sediment in Port Eynon, the rocks of the succeeding periods - Permian, Triassic and Jurassic (290-142 mya) - have since been weathered, eroded and removed from Gower area and no marine influence is evident in the area, but marine fossils (including ammonites, reptiles and sea mammals) can be found elsewhere in South Wales. During the Cretaceous Period (142-65 mya) globally high sea levels caused the inundation of much of the area.

During the Tertiary Period (65-2 mya), Gower was situated at the edge of a landmass which was undergoing uplift in relation to the development of the North Atlantic Ocean. This uplift of the landmass bought about the development of the scenery which we see today. The main processes that have shaped this landscape are marine erosion, which lead to the development of the area’s spectacular coastline; weathering, and erosion by streams and rivers, which lead to the development of the area’s drainage pattern.

The Quaternary Period (2 mya to present day) saw the onset of oscillating phases of cold and warm conditions (stadial and interstadial conditions). During stadial conditions ice sheets developed over much of Britain, however relatively few were severe enough to affect Gower. That said, conditions were severe enough during the Anglian Glaciation (450,000 and 30,0000 years ago) when ice crossed Gower and reached the coast of north Devon. During the most recent glaciation, the Late Devensian (maximum extent c. 18,500 years ago) it is thought that only the northern part of the peninsula was covered by ice, though evidence for its exact rumination is scarce. Further east, a Piedmont type glacier formed in Swansea Bay, fed by ice channelled down the Tawe and its contributory valleys. During interstitial periods there is evidence of relative sea levels higher than those of today, and those with a good eye will be able to spot Ipswichian era deposits containing marine shells high up on some of the cliffs

For more information, see the Royal Geological Society’s Field Guide to Gower.

Weather Conditions

Forecast


This section displays the weather forecast for Swansea, which bounds the eastern part of Gower, and must be driven through to reach its southern coastline. Since most of Swansea and most of the places people will choose to visit on Gower are at or very close to sea level, this forecast gives a pretty good indication on what the weather is likely to be like at most of the crags. You’ll be pleased to hear that most of Gower’s crags are south facing and receive a lot of sunshine, even when other parts of Wales are not.



Web Cameras


Webcams are a great way of getting up-to-date weather information. Currently there are only a few cameras located on Gower area and even fewer that are actually reliable. The section below provides links to the best. These feeds are hosted by external sites, so obviously we can’t be held responsible if a camera happens to be malfunctioning.

Langland Bay
Llangennith
Oxwich Bay
Swansea

Tides

As has been emphasised previously, tides are a very important consideration when climbing on Gower. As most of the climbing takes place on coastal cliffs, tide times can have a significant impact on where one climbs and at what time. Throughout one lunar month there are two spring or high range tides, and two neap or low range tides. Spring tides occur during the ‘Full’ and ‘New’ moons, when the sun and moon are in line and the combined gravitational pull causes the highest tides, which then ebb to the lowest level. During the first and third quarters of the moon, when the sun’s and moon’s attractional forces are at right angles, we experience the lower neap high tides and the higher low tides. The transition from high to low tide takes approximately 6 hours, which means that there are two high tides and two low tides in every 24 hour period. The average time for the tide to turn is actually slightly longer than 6 hour, which means that on Gower each day the high and low tide times are between 30 and 80 minutes later than the previous day.

Other considerations:
  • Spring tides come in much faster than neap tides – at such times areas of flat rock and boulder beach can disappear rapidly and escape routes can be cut off.

  • The smaller fall to low neap tides may give much less access than low spring tides to certain crags.

  • The lower level of high neap tides may allow access to certain routes, which are normally cut off in high spring tides.

  • Persistent and strong onshore winds can prolong or even slightly raise high tide levels, as can a high swell from some distant ocean storm.


It is therefore obviously extremely important to check the tide timetables before embarking on trip in 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: Tide information for the Mumbles, which forms Gower’s easternmost promontory, is available through the following link:

Mumbles Mumbles (SS 634 871)

Coastguard and Sea Rescue

Should things go awry and you find yourself in need of rescue, the coastguard can be reached by phoning the standard Emergency Services number, which in the UK is: 999 or 112.

For more information on the role of the Coastguard, take a look at the link below:

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Sea rescues are often channelled by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency through the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a non-profit organisation run by volunteers. There are three lifeboat stations operating in the Gower area, each of which is located at a strategically important point along the coast. For more information on the area’s stations and on ways in which you can help the RNLI, see the links below:

Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Burry Port Station
Horton and Port Eynon Station
Mumbles Station

Red Tape and Access

“ In my opinion mountains should not belong to private individuals. Great objects belong, or should belong, to the nation.”

A. L. Bagley - Climber's Club Journal (Vol. IV No.13 September 1901)

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000


An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: a precious landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them. Each AONB has been designated for special attention by reason of their high qualities, which include their flora, fauna, historical and cultural associations as well as scenic views. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000 has added further regulation and protection, ensuring the future of AONBs as important national resources. The CRoW Act also gives the public the right to access large proportions of the land within the area regardless of ownership. Open access land is denoted on maps by a ‘yellowy tinge’ on Ordinance Survey Maps and on the ground by the following signs.

Access symbol

Used to indicate the start of access land, be this CRoW access land or access land under other agreements.
Negative access symbol

Used where the boundary between access land and land with no access rights needs clarifying, or where there are persistent problems with trespass.
Dogs on lead symbol

On all CRoW Act access land, dogs must be kept on a short fixed lead (2m or less) between 1st March and 31st July (the main bird breeding and lambing season), and at all times near livestock.


On occasion there are temporary restrictions on movement within localised areas of the park and surrounding area. These are usually associated with public safety issues, quite often involving forestry operations. Information regarding restrictions is available on the Countryside Council for Wales' (CCW) website in the form of a frequently updated Countryside Access Map.

Climbing Restrictions


Certain locations of interest to climbers are subject to access restrictions, some of which are only seasonal, or just affect specific parts of a crag. Most are concerned with nesting birds and other conservation matters.

From 1st March and 14th August, there is a bird nesting restriction on all routes between Bosco’s Den and Quartz Corner (just East of Bacon Hole), including Minchin Hole.

From 1st March and 14th August, there is a bird nesting restriction between and including routes Central Cleft and Wimp at Turba Head.

From 1st March and 14th August, there is a bird nesting restriction between and including routes 5 Minutes to Kill and Early Warning at Yellow Wall.

The restrictions are reviewed in May – watch out for signs onsite or contact the National Trust Warden on (T: 01792 390636), for up-to-date details.

There is a permanent voluntary ban on climbing at Worm’s Head.

For further detailed information see the BMC's Regional Access Database.

Maps

View this map on Multimap.com
Get directions on Multimap.com
Navigation Maps

OS 1:25k Explorer Series Sheet 164 Gower/Gŵyr

OS 1:50k Landranger Series 159 Swansea and Gower/Abertawe a Gŵyr

Road Maps

OS Road Map 6 Wales/Cymru & West Midlands

External Links

Government Bodies and Other Organisations

Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
City and County of Swansea
Countryside Council for Wales
Forestry Commission Wales
Environment Agency
CADW
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales
Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
The National Trust
Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Outdoor Clubs, Organisations and Companies

British Mountaineering Council
South Wales Mountaineering Club
The Climbers’ Club
UKClimbing
Gower Live

Weather

Weather from the Met Office
BBC Weather
Weather Channel UK

Tide Tables

BBC Tide Tables
UK Hydrographic Office

Tourist Information

Visit Wales
South West Wales Tourism Partnership
Enjoy Gower
Mumbles Tourist Information Centre

Travel Information

Welsh Public Transport Information
UK Train Timetable

Accommodation

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Glamorgan

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey
Cicerone Guidebooks
Rockfax
The Climbers’ Club
Cordee Travel and Adventure Sports Bookshop
South Wales Mountaineering Club Guidebook Wiki
South Wales Bouldering Guide
Gower Bouldering

Wildlife and Conservation

Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
South West Wales Wildlife Trust
Sea Trust

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

Interactive map

An XHTML 1.0 Strict standard template






Tor Gro and North Hill Tor

The north facing Tor Gro strikes an impressive profile above the Landimore and Llanrhidian Mashes. It would be completely non-tidal if it weren't for the fact that the access track floods on the occasional spring tide. The routes are located on a number of long slabs, which in places reach up to 45 metres.

North Hill Tor is home to some reasonable routes, unfortunately you're no longer aloud to climb any of them thanks to the landowner threatening violence towards those who venture onto his property. The BMC has advised no one climb there.

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Blue Pool and Burry Holm

TTEXT Notable crags include:

Morfa Slabs,
Penmorfa,
Trwynllwnog,
Ynysdeullyn,
Pen Castell Coch,
Craig Llong, and
Trwyn Llong.

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Rhossili

TEXT Notable crags include:

Penclegyr (east),
Ogof Dwfn,
The Black Cliff, and
Penclegyr (west).

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Fall Bay to Mewslade

TEXT Notable crags include:

Steep Zawn,
Trwyn Llwyd,
Craig Hebog,
Carn Porth Llong,
Mur Cenhinen,
Craig Coetan, and
St. David's Head.

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Thurba Head

TEXT Notable crags include:

Pencarnan Slabs,
Porth Cadno,
Llenrac Slabs,
Green Slab, and
Purple Slab.

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Rams Tor and Deborah's Area

TEXT Notable crags include:

Porth Clais,
Porth-y-Ffynnon,
St. Non's,
Craig Caerfai,
Caerbwdi Bay, and
Carreg-y-Barcud.

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Paviland and Juniper Wall

TEXT Notable crags include:

Berry Slade,
Western Walls,
Funlands,
Strata Walls,
Linney Point,
Pen-y-Holt,
Cabin Door,
Bulliber,
Mount Sion, and
Greenham Common.

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Hollow Top to Port Eynon

TEXT Notable crags include:

The Green Bridge,
The Cauldron,
Crystal Slabs,
Mewsford Point,
Crickmail Point,
The Castle,
Saddle Head,
Bosherston Head,
Huntsman's Leap,
Stennis Head,
Stennis Ford,
Trevellan, and
St. Govan's Head.

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Oxwich

Notable crags include:

Broad Haven,
Saddle Bay,
Raming Hole,
Mowing Word,
Stackpole Head, and
Barafundle Bay.

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Three Tors

Notable crags include:

Forbidden Head,
Western Crags,
Mother Carey's Kitchen, and
The South East Corner of Lydstep Head.

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Three Cliffs Bay

Three Cliffs Bay forms the focal point for what is perhaps one of Wales’ most iconic and best loved landscapes. The climbing, which more often than not matches the sublimity of the landscape in which it sites, takes place on the bay’s tri-pinnacled centrepiece and provides some of Gower’s most sought-after routes. By far the best of these is to the superb Scavenger (VS 4c), which takes the slab on the right side of the crag’s distinctive sea cave.

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Shire Comb to Watch House

TEXT Notable crags include:

Proud Giltar,
Rusty Point,
Becks Point,
Giltar Slabs, and
Giltar Point.

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Foxhole Cove

TEXT Notable crags include:

Proud Giltar,
Rusty Point,
Becks Point,
Giltar Slabs, and
Giltar Point.

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Minchen Hole to Quartz Corner

TEXT Notable crags include:

Proud Giltar,
Rusty Point,
Becks Point,
Giltar Slabs, and
Giltar Point.

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Pennard

TEXT Notable crags include:

Proud Giltar,
Rusty Point,
Becks Point,
Giltar Slabs, and
Giltar Point.

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Bantam Bay

Like the name might suggest, Bantam Bay is a small bay on the edge of Pennard. Few people bother to climb here, largely because the routes are dirty and have atrocious run outs. Nevertheless, some of the routes are quite good and might be worth a look if you've exhausted Gower's other crags.

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Pwll Du

Pwll Du offers a mixture of trad and sport routes, all of which could either be described as quite hard or rock solid (if you'll pardon the pun). Most of the climbing takes place in the quarry situated on the west side of Pwll Du Bay, while a smaller number of routes have been recorded on Pwll Du Buttress, which for some reason was formally known as Goonland Rocks, just to its right. The quarry is home to one of South Wales' best hard routes, Senser, which can either be climbed on bolts at F7c+ or on trad gear at E6 6b.

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Caswell Bay

Caswell Bay has a great beach and some great crags, making it a popular destination with both tourists and climbers. Routes are mostly on the easy side making it a great destination for beginners or simply for those looking for an easy time. The route of the crag is Nat Not (VS 4c), a fund and devious line up Caswell's Great Slab.

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Whiteshell Point

A short leaning wall situated on the east side of the headwall to the east of Caswell Bay. The routes are short, difficult and probably not worth the trip alone.

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Rams Tor

Despite having a good compliment of high quality routes, Rams Tor has never been a popular destination with climbers. This is largely because despite their quality, the trad routes were poorly protected and the sport routes were sparsely protected by dubious rusty old bolts. In fact, it is probable that most of the routes here were never repeated. That is until 2008, when a major effort was made to replace all the old bolts with stainless glue-in anchors. Bolts were also added to the previously traditionally unprotected routes, effectively retro-bolting the entire crag. Rockfax has a free miniguide available on their wbsite.

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Mumbles

Mumbles or The Mumbles, or even Y Mwmbwls if you speak Welsh, is perhaps better known as a destination for getting drunk than for climbing (the pub crawl known as the Mumbles Mile is a popular endeavour among those with no respect for their liver). Nevertheless, the crag around the lighthouse does offer a handful of good routes, despite its highly tidal nature. Magra Thea (E6 6b) is the cream of the crop.

The cliff behind the Conservative Club was once home to a number of good routes, but alas no more, these days it is covered by netting and has become part of a residential development. Just another reason to dislike the Tories.

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Barland Quarry

Barland Quarry is one of Gower's best sport venues. At first glance the quarry appears to be horrible, scrappy, broken and loose, however on closer inspection one will find a superb, 60 metre high slab that is home to some great little routes. Routes range from F4+ to F7b+, the best of which is Geef Onze Fietsen Terug! (F6c+), which is Dutch for Give Us Our Bicycles Back, apparantly.

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Landfall


Lundy Harbour; my first contact with Lundy Island.
Photo: Dan Harris
On the 24th of December 1869, after spending a night of merriment in the Marisco Tavern, Lundy Island’s finest, or more accurately, only, hostelry, Samuel Jarman, unwittingly ruined his family’s Christmas, by losing his way home and walking straight over one of the islands many cliffs. The effects of this error were to be terminal. In spite of his somewhat inglorious end, his family saw fit to commemorate his death, and so, his nephew Captain John Lang of Appledore, installed a large, black headstone under the island’s Old Lighthouse in his memory. The memorial however, perhaps says more about the Captain than anything else, and anyone who was later to view it, might get the impression that Jarman was merely a bit player in this whole affair, for it is Lang’s name that is carved boldly in capitalised gothic text on the top of the tablet, not his.

These people, for better or for worse, are my ancestors, and it is with a mixture of unease and comfort that I still see the vices of drunkenness, clumsiness, self-promotion and arrogance prevailing, to a greater or lesser degree, in the current generations of my family; the sentiments of Larkin’s This be the Verse are played out through the centuries.

It’s with this knowledge that I made landfall, disembarking from the MS Oldenburg to be greeted with a scene that was more akin to some Ionian island, than some windswept rock in the middle of the Bristol Channel. It had been a remarkably smooth crossing, with gannets and porpoises making sporadic appearances along the way. This was my first visit to Lundy and it is with a touch of irony, that my first stop should be the infamous Marisco Tavern. We were to spend a lot of time here over the coming three days.

My companions on this trip were my usual climbing partners, Tom and Steph. We had been talking of taking a trip to Lundy for over a year now, but the catalyst finally came this August, when Tom, who is a writer and photographer by profession, was offered a deal on crossing fees and accommodation in return for an article on the climbing there (it is to appear in Trek and Mountain sometime next year). To climb on Lundy, is something that I’ve wanted to do since my introduction to the sport; to me, its remoteness and isolation are inherently appealing. Yet, despite its inaccessibility, it has always had the ability to remind me of its existence, appearing occasionally and unexpectedly as a misty apparition on the far horizon, seen from my usual stomping grounds of Pembroke and Gower.

The Old Light.
Photo: Dan Harris
It was unfortunate therefore, that my enthusiasm, and that of my companions, was to be tempered by the glacial pace at which our luggage, which contained all out ropes and protection, was delivered to our campsite. A lesson learnt for next time is that our gear will board the boat as hand luggage. It was evident that owing to tides and limited daylight, that the day’s climbing would be limited to one or two routes at most. And so off we set to explore the west coast and the Flying Buttress.

The Flying Buttress, is by any standard, an impressive piece of lithological architecture. A giant leaning tower of orange and pink granite, it appears to have fallen into the mainland forming a large angular arch through which the sea lazily rolls, throwing up froth and foam where it strikes the rock. Sitting above it are the remains of an old gun placement, which still retains a couple of ancient rusting cannons and an assortment of decaying buildings. The placement makes an ideal position to take stock, gear up and prepare for the coming frivolity. We had decided to leave the delights of the buttress itself for another day and instead concerned ourselves with the steep landward cliffs known as Main Wall. What followed was the usual difficulty of identifying routes and features on an unfamiliar sea cliff, which because of their very nature, cannot be viewed at a useful angle. Eventually we settled upon a Severe grade route called Alouette, an easy introduction I felt, to what the island had to offer. And so up a steep corner I set, accompanied by an edge of anxiety, haunted perhaps, by some repressed ancestral nightmare. What I found was a surprisingly challenging climb; the subtle differences in the rock’s grain and form made placing protection difficult and unnerving and by the time I’d finished the route a feeling of slight uneasiness had found me. Fortunately, time intervened and this was to be the only climb of the day.

The Devil’s Slide

panorama



Snowdonia TEST

“I must not pass over in silence the mountains called by the Welsh Eryri, but by the British Snowdon, or the mountains of Snow, which... seem to rear their lofty summits even to the clouds”

Geraldus Cambrensis - Itinerarium Cambriae (1191)

Images

The Vent