Amphitheater Buttress

Amphitheater Buttress

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 53.15439°N / 3.95626°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Very Difficult (5.2 - 5.4 YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 7
Sign the Climber's Log


"...a bulky 'gendarme' about fifteen feet high obstructed the way. However, I gripped him just below the shoulder; and finding a toe-hold some distance above his right foot I was able, thanks to his good-natured indulgence, to reach his mossy head, and get astride it. Then my companions came up one at a time, until I feared for the stability of the rocky guardian of our route."

George Dixon Abraham, quoted in Rock Climbing in North Wales (1906)

Name: Amphitheater Buttress
Grade: Very Difficult
Length: 290m
Pitches: 7
Looming over the secluded northern valley of Cwm Eigiau, Craig yr Ysfa stands in dramatic contrast to the more gentile landscape below. Located on the eastern flank of Carnedd Llewelyn it is a magnificent mountain crag, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Snowdonia’s early rock climbers, who first explored its gullies and precipices in the Easter of 1902. Classic Rock’s Great Gully (V. Diff) was the fruit of this expedition and it would not be until a year later, that Amphitheatre Buttress (V. Diff) was treated to a first ascent.

Viewed side by side, these historic routes have a Jekyll and Hyde-esque character; for while the former takes a dark, damp and dirty line up what might as well be the inside of the cliff, the latter glides up an open, airy buttress with stunning views and varied climbing. Furthermore, thanks to Craig yr Ysfa’s easterly aspect, Amphitheatre Buttress basks in the morning sun, making an otherwise unnecessary Alpine start an unusually attractive proposition. For those who know the routes, the fact that it is Great Gully and not Amphitheatre Buttress that makes it into Ken Wilson’s prestigious Classic Rock is a bizarre proclamation.

Amphitheatre Buttress’ Alpine analogy may be further prolonged, because with a length of 300m, usually done in around 10 pitches, this is a mountaineering route of adventurous proportions. The climbing is always pleasant, never desperate but is marred ever so slightly by some easy scrambling in its mid-section, which isn’t to say that the scrambling isn’t good, just that a more coherent and sustained level of difficulty would be better. The route’s tricky sections are however excellent and throw the climber over exposed walls and through prominent gendarmes. It's an altogether superb outing and should be on the wishlist of all aspiring V. Diff climbers.

First Ascent: G.D. Abraham, A.P. Abraham, D. Leighton and J.W. Puttrell (May 1905).

Pitch 1
Cwm Eigiau (Photo by Nanuls)
Pitch 1
Pitch 6 (Photo by Nanuls)

Getting There

Cwm Eigiau
Cwm Eigiau (Photo by Nanuls)
Craig yr Ysfa
Craig yr Ysfa (Photo by Nanuls)
Craig yr Ysfa (SH 693 637) is located in the north eastern side of Carnedd Llywelyn’s (SH 683 643) Penywaun Wen ridge, just to the north of Bwlch Eryl Farchog, the saddle that separates the mountain from Pen yr Helgi Du (SH 698 630).

There are two ways in which the crag can be approached, a long gradual walk or a shorter steeper walk. Your choice will probably depend on where you happen to be traveling from or staying, as the driving distance between the two starts is some 26km, over a mixture of main and minor roads.

The steep southern approach starts in the Cwm Ogwen side of the Carneddau. Parking is available at the Gwern Gof Isaf campsite (SH 685 603), which is located just off the main A5 road and therefore is easy to reach from places like Capel Curig and Bethesda. There is a small fee to pay for this privilege, which is done at the farmhouse on the site itself.

From the campsite, turn right and walk down the main road in an easterly direction. After some 300m you will come to the access track for the Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir, which joins the A5 on its northern side (SH 687 602). If you have not done so already, cross the road and take track, which rises in a more or less continual and straight line up the hillside. After about 2.5km, the track ends and a smaller path heads of north around the eastern side of the reservoir (SH 695 623). Take this path, which rises gradually at first, later steepening significantly, before joining the other paths on Bwlch Eryl Farchog (SH 694 633). It's from here that you will get your first glimpse of Craig yr Ysfa, which is just to the north. From here descend steeply down a small path into Cwm Eigiau and traverse along the base of the crag until you reach the start of the route, which can be identified by it's position just left of the huge gully known as The Amphitheater, from which the Buttress takes its name.

The more gradual and longer route begins from a small parking area at the end of a minor road in Cwm Eigiau (SH 731 633). This road is accessed via the County road of the B5106 in Tal-y-Bont. This start is the quickest choice if you are traveling to Snowdonia via the A55. It is the less strenuous option and takes you through one of the less visited parts of the National Park.

Leave the carpark and walk along the track which leads in a south-westerly direction towards Llyn Eigiau. The lake was once dammed as a reservoir, but was the of a disaster when on 2nd November 1925 the dam burst. The water flowed down to Coedty Reservoir, also causing that to burst, and millions of gallons of water flowed down into the village of Dolgarrog, causing the loss of 17 lives. The ruins of the dam and the remains of the breach can still be seen today. The path follows the edge of the dam, which once passed Hafod-y-rhiw (SH 723 646) gradually becomes smaller, and in places, boggier.

Continue along the track, crossing the Afon Eigiau (SH 718 640), until you reach the ruins associated old quarry workings on the northern flank of Pen yr Helgi Du (SH 702 636). The crags of Craig yr Ysfa now rear up in front of you and can be approached directly over open ground. As previously mentioned, the start of the route can be identified by it's position just left of a huge gully.

Route Description

The route starts at the base of a broad rib just left of the huge gully known as The Amphitheater. The pitches described are somewhat arbitrary as it is most likely that you will choose your own belays. Most will do it in ten or eleven. I have therefore opted not to show them on the topo below.

Amphitheater Buttress
Amphitheater Buttress (Very Difficult)

Pitch 1
Pitch 1 (Photo by Nanuls)
Pitch 6
A photo of the FA from way back in 1905; Pitch 6 (Photo by Abraham Bros.)

Pitch 130m
The route begins with easy climbing over pleasant pocketed slabs, culminating in a good stance.

Pitch 240m
Further pleasant slabs offer further easy climbing and scrambling to a groove, which must be ascended and proves to be the first obstacle of the route.

Pitch 355m
A long pitch of easy scrambling that is best tackled by moving together. Less confident parties would be best to do it in two pitches. The pitch ends beneath a steep wall.

Pitch 420m
The polished corner on the right is the crux of the route, mostly due to its polished nature. Climb it to a large detached block and then on, over rounded holds to finish.

Pitch 560m
Another long section of scrambling where you will encounter vegetation and paths. It can be done by moving together or in two pitches if nervous.

Pitch 630m
Climb the crest of the ridge to a gap, followed by the route's two oft photographed gendarmes and then a narrow and slightly loose ridge.

Pitch 755m
To the right is a fine ridge, climb it to the top. Probably best done in two pitches.


The descent is initially the same regardless of the approach you took, as you will walk off down the Penywaun-wen ridge to Bwlch Eryl Farchog. If you approached from the south you may now return along the same path as you walked in on, while if you came from the north, you will now need to descend steeply down the northern side of the saddle into Cwm Eigiau and back towards the old quarry buildings that you passed on the way up.

Pitch 1
Pitch 6 (Photo by Nanuls)
Pitch 1
Pitch 7 (Photo by Nanuls)

Essential Gear

The route is ten pitches long and takes a variety of gear from small to large wires, hexes and a variety of cams. Double ropes would prove useful in avoiding rope drag although a single rope would probably do. If climbing with a single rope just be sure you're packing a few extra slings as you will need to extend your runners

Cwm Eigiau and the Llyn Eigiau Dam (Photo by Nanuls)


Open Space Web-Map builder Code
Navigation Maps

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

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

Harvey Map Services 1:25k: Snowdonia North: Snowdon, Glyders, Carnedds

Harvey Map Services/BMC 1: 40k British Mountain Map: Snowdonia North

Road Maps

OS Travel Map 10 Wales/Cymru & West Midlands


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.

Scrambles and Easy Climbs in Snowdonia Scrambles and Easy Climbs in Snowdonia by John Sparks, Tom Hutton and Jerry Rawson

An excellent book describing many of Snowdonia's classic routes - the perfect bridge between scrambling and rock climbing.

Climbers’ Guides to Wales: Ogwen and Carneddau Climbers' Club Guides to Wales: Ogwen and Carneddau by Iwan Arfon Jones

With Ogwen the subject of its own book in 2010 this guide is now out of print. However, the Carneddau section is available as a free download from the Climbers' Club website.

Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland Cicerone Guide: Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland by Dan Bailey

A new and very pretty guide to some of the UK's finest ridge routes, including this one which is the subject of its cover photo.

Ground Up Guide: North Wales Rock Ground Up Guide: North Wales Rock by Simon Panton

A superb, lavishly presented general guidebook to the best North Wales has to offer. Read, gawp and drool!

Rockfax Guide: North Wales Climbs Rockfax Guide: North Wales Climbs by Mark Reeves, Jack Geldard and Mark Glaister

A superb, stylishly presented, if a littly bulky selected guide to North Wales' best rock climbs.

Rock Climbing in Snowdonia Rock Climbing in Snowdonia by Paul Williams

A slightly dated, but nevertheless still relevant guide to climbing in North Wales. Not quite as good as the previous book though.

Rockfax Guide: North Wales Classics Rockfax Guide: North Wales Classics by Jack Geldard

A short and succinct selected guide to the best Snowdonia has to offer. Small and light, it'll fit in your shirt pocket!

External Links

Craig yr Ysfa
Craig yr Ysfa from Pen yr Helgi Du (Photo by Big Benn)
Carneddau (Photo by Big Benn)
Ffynnon Llugwy Resevoir
Ffynnon Llugwy Resevoir (Photo by munroitis)
Carnedd Llywelyn
View north from Carnedd Llywelyn (Photo by tphubbard)
Carneddau (Photo by tphuubard)
Government Bodies and Official Organisations

Snowdonia National Park Authority

Council for National Parks

Association of National Park Authorities

Natural Resources Wales


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


Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre

Hightreck Snowdonia


Mountain Weather Wales

Weather from the Met Office

BBC Weather

Tourist Information

Visit Wales

North Wales Tourism Partnership

Local Information from

Local Information from Snowdonia Wales Net

North Wales Index


Welsh Public Transport Information

UK Train Timetable


Youth Hostel Association in Wales

Pete's Eats

Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey

Harvey Map Services

Cicerone Guidebooks

Climbers’ Club Guidebooks


North Wales Bouldering

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



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