Cae Du

Page Type
Snowdonia, Wales, Europe
Trad Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
98 ft / 30 m
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Cae Du
Created On: Mar 6, 2009
Last Edited On: Jan 17, 2015


"Bendigeidfran, and the aforementioned hosting sailed towards Ireland. The sea was not deep back then and he went by wading. There used to be nothing but two rivers so called the Lli and the Archen. But after, the deep spread out, and the sea flooded the kingdoms."

Second Branch of the Mabinogi: Branwen Daughter of Llyr

Cae Du (Black Field) is one of Meirionnydd’s many hidden treasures, unknown to most of the world, but abound with riches that would make most, boulderers at least, salivate with anticipation. A far flung outpost on the area’s western coast, its interest consists of two separate rocky entities. The first is a short section of tidal crag, which nowhere exceeds more than 15 metres in height; while the second is a small quarry located above the tidal zone, which yields a handful of tricky single pitch routes. It’s the coastal crag however, which is of greatest interest, as it is home to some of the finest low to mid grade bouldering problems anywhere in Wales.

Cae DuProblem 7 of Area 1 (Photo by Nanuls)

Unlike Snowdonia’s other bouldering spots, which by and large take the form of glacially sculpted and weathered rocks and crags, situated high in the mountain passes and exposed to the worst the Welsh climate can conjure up; Cae Du’s rock is smooth, clean and sheltered, its tidal nature cleansing it of dirt and superfluous plant life on a daily basis. The influence of the sea has led to the creation of a diverse collection of high quality problems. Most take the form of large sloping holds and ledges which require the boulderer to move delicately and agilely, harnessing the friction of the rock to prevent falls; while others are a mixture of juggy arêtes and overhangs, finger width cracks and awkward off-widths. The sea’s dominance over Cae Du has created an ever changing environment, continually shifting the level of the pebble beach, which in turn continually alters the grades of many of the area’s problems.

The traditional climbing is less impressive, with only a handful of routes shared between the Quarry and the bouldering crag, the former holding the best lines. The routes on the bouldering crag are easier in nature, and are accompanied by a number of metal stakes which are often used as top-rope anchors. This combination makes the crag an ideal location for newcomers to enter the world of rock climbing, a fact not lost on the local outdoor centres who occasionally use the site.

Cae DuProblem 11 of Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls)

All of this activity takes place against the magnificent background of Cardigan Bay which extends across most of Wales’ west coast. On a clear day one can see along its entire length, from Pen Llyn and Snowdonia to the north, to Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire in the south. The bay is an important ecological resource, and Cae Du forms part of the Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation, an area protected under European Law for its mixture of rare sandbanks, estuaries, coastal lagoons, shallow inlet bays and offshore reefs, and is home to species such as bottlenose dolphin, otter and grey seal.

Cae DuProblem 7 of Area 3 (Photo by Nanuls)

Towards the end of the last ice age, following the retreat of the British Ice Sheet, the bay formed part of a vast grassy plane which connected Ireland to the rest of the British Isles. The first Stone Age settlers in the area would have occupied this plane, spending their winters there, and moving to the highlands in the summer. By the Mid Holocene the sea reclaimed the bay; and all that remains of this land today are a handful of fossilised tree stumps which protrude from the area’s beaches at times of low tide. Stories of a dry Cardigan Bay are prevalent in Welsh folklore, and it is said that it was once possible to walk from Wales to Ireland by wading through the rivers that flowed there. The most famous legend is that the bay was once the location of a rich and fertile land called Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Lowland Hundred) or Maes Gwyddno (Gwyddno’s Land), which was defended from the sea by Sarn Badrig, a feature which we now know to be the remains of one of three glacial moraines which extend into the bay. There are several versions of the tale, but the one that is told today is that a prince of the realm called Seithennin, got drunk during a storm and left the sluice gates to the kingdom open, allowing the sea to overflow drowning the land and its inhabitants. Apparently, on a stormy day it is still possible to hear the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod ringing beneath the waves.

All in all Cae Du has all the ingredients to be one of Britain’s most popular bouldering venues, namely a diverse range of quality problems, an impressive setting and extremely easy access. If it weren’t for the fact that it were so remote from Snowdonia’s other bouldering locations it would be crawling with eager boulders on a daily basis. As it is however, it is visited by few, and if you choose to visit the spot the only company you are likely to encounter are seagulls, crabs and maybe the occasional outdoor centre. So I urge you to come lavish attention on this neglected little spot, and remember that when you climb here, you're not climbing on a lowly seaside crag, but on the highest rocks of a now drowned kingdom.

Problems & Routes


The bouldering crag (SH 564 055) is split into four distinct areas, separated from one another by a number of rocky spurs which jut out from the main wall. The areas are arranged from north to south, with Area 1 being the furthest north, and the first area reached on the approach from the Cae Du Campsite. The problems are spread unevenly between these four areas, with problems ranging from V0- to V7 in difficulty.

In recent years boulderers in North Wales have adopted the Hueco V system for grading problems. The problems listed below have been compiled, graded and rated using a combination of different sources including Simon Panton’s superb guidebook North Wales Bouldering/Bowldro Gogledd Cymru, Terry Taylor’s excellent website and the continually updated Problems are described from left to right.

A little piece of bouldering heaven; Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls)

Area 1

Area 1 is the first section of crag reached when approaching from the north and is marked by an obvious prominence of slabby rock. The area is an excellent introduction to the area as most of its twenty something problems fall within the V0 grade.

Problem 1 V0 1 STAR
The hanging corner feature.
Problem 2 V0 1 STAR
The cracked wall to the right.
Problem 3 V0- 1 STAR
Step up on polished pockets.
Problem 4 V0- 1 STAR
Squirm up the groove.
Problem 5 V1 1 STAR
Traverse across the wall (left to right) following the easiest line.
Problem 6 V0 1 STAR
Mantel onto the ledge on the wall left of the arête.
Problem 7 V0- 1 STAR
The juggy arête is a breeze.
Problem 8 V5 1 STAR
Traverse left across the sloping shelf (from beneath the upper arete) moving around the arete and staying low on small slopey holds to gain Problem 7.
Problem 9 V2 2 STARS
The hanging arête.
Problem 10 V1 1 STAR
The slanting grove just right of the arête.
Problem 11 V1 2 STARS
The undercut arête.
Area 1

Location of problems in Area 1

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

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

Area 2

Area 2 begins at the southern side of the second slabby prominence which characterises Area 1. As with Area 1 there are around 20 problems to tax your skills, however this time the difficulty level is raised a notch with most problems ranging from V1 to V3 in difficulty. The area is also home to the Soapstone Boulder which has a number of slightly harder but very interesting problems.

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

Location of problems in Area 2

Problem 21 of Area 2 (Photo by Nanuls)

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

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

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

Area 3

Despite its size, Area 3 yields relatively few problems, a problem probably caused by the more gentle nature of most of its rock. This gentle nature does mean that there area number of short and easy rock climbing routes on this section of the crag, most of which have metal stakes in place for belaying. Despite the area’s dearth of bouldering problems, it’s home to Cae Du’s hardest, a couple of V7’s which should be enough to hold the interest of more able boulders.

Problem 1 V2 2 STARS
The blunt, cracked arete.
Problem 1 Sit Down Start V3 NO STARS
Sit down start to problem 1.
Problem 2 V1 1 STAR
Move up left from the prominent layaway hold.
Problem 3 AKA Charlotte V7 NO STARS
The slim grey pillar with an obvious pocket high up.
Problem 4 V3 2 STARS
The rounded arete starting on the right.
Problem 5 V3 3 STARS
The immaculate hanging arete.
Problem 6 V3 2 STARS
The hanging groove.
Problem 6 Sit Down Start V7 2 STARS
Sit down start to problem 6.
Problem 7 V1 2 STARS
Up the crack / groove feature in the roof.
Problem 8 V2 2 STARS
The central section of the roof can actually be taken a in a couple of places.
Problem 9 V0- 2 STARS
A bold line through the notch in the right end of the roof.
Area 3

Location of problems in Area 3

Problems 1 to 3 of Area 3. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.
Problems 4 to 9 of Area 3. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.

Area 4

The final section of rock on the bouldering crag, Area 4 is home to around 15 problems, most of which have grades which are highly dependant on the height of the pebble beach. The area derives added interest from the presence of Ogof Owain, an angular cave which is home to a number of devious problems.

Area 4

Location of problems in Area 4

Problems 8 of Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls).
Problem 1 V1 1 STAR
Follow the thin crack up past the shelf.
Problem 2 V3 2 STARS
Climb out from the back of the small cave beneath the attractive hand crack.
Problem 3 V3 2 STARS
The steep high crack.
Problem 4 V6 1 STAR
A low level traverse from right to left on the left wall of the cave.
Problem 5 V1 3 STARS
The hanging ramp line.
Problem 6 AKA Cae Du Crack V3 2 STARS
Stand on the adjacent boulder and pull up forcefully into the crack feature on the arete.
Cae Du Crack Sit Down Start V7 2 STARS
Sit down start to Cae Du crack following the steep diagonal finger crack.
Problem 7 V3 1 STAR
Start up the polished groove, but move left across the slight ramp above the steep lower wall and climb to the top.
Problem 8 V3 NO STARS
The polished groove is very pebble dependant. Can be V0 - V3.
Problem 9 V3 1 STAR
Another pebble height dependant problem into the hanging groove. Can be V0 - V3.
Problem 10 V2 1 STAR
Mantle the hanging nose.
Problem 11 V2 2 STARS
Mantel / layback up onto the sloping shelf just left of the arete.
Problem 12 V6 1 STAR
Mantel up from the big layaway hold.
Problem 13 V2 2 STARS
From a sit down start in the low niche move up left, then zig zag up to high ledges.
Problem 14 V1 NO STARS
Up past the jug to easy ground.

Problems 3 to 8 of Area 4. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.

Problem 4 of Area 4
(Photo by JoeHarris)
Problems 9 to 12 of Area 4. For a clean version of the photo click HERE.

Rock Climbing

Although bouldering is Cae Du's main attraction, there are a number of trad routes on the west-facing quarry walls located some 100 metres south of the campsite above the railway line (SH 567 506). The routes are described from right to left. At the right-hand end of the the open quarry is a large slab of mainly easy angled rock. As a side note there are also some short easy routes on the bouldering crags below, and are popular with outdoor centres. Many are marked with iron stakes for anchoring top ropes.

Out of My Mine 24m E1 5a NO STARS
Start at the side on the easy angled slab next to a huge flake. Follow an obvious leftwards rising ramp for 5 metres, then up to the right to gain a good ledge. Tread carefully as there is not protection and continue direct to an overlap 8 metres higher. Place protection and pull up right through this to a a short slab above. Belay on an old concrete fencepost.
Mine Over Matter 37m HVS 4c 1 STAR
This rising leftwards diagonal from its lowest point to the top left makes full use of the quarry's available rock. Start 5 metres left of Out of My Mine, at the toe of the slab. Climb up and left to a short flake. Continue rising leftwards to the overlap below the short gully above the centre of the slab. Continue up and left to finish up the obvious groove on top of the slab. Again, belay on the old concrete fencepost.
Seashell Babylon 24m HVS 4c NO STARS
From directly below the finishing groove of Mine Over Matter, climb the unprotected slab until the bottom of the groove and the first wire are reached. At no point is the climbing hard.

Weather Conditions & Tide Tables

This section displays the weather forecast for Tywyn, which is located just to the south of Cae Du. This gives a pretty good indication of what the weather will be like on the crag, as both Tywyn and Cae Du sit at around sea level. As most of the routes are tidal in nature, it's important to check the tide tables before embarking on your visit to the crag. Short range predictions for Wales' ports are available on the BBC's website, Barmouth and Aberdyfi being the nearest. Longer range predictions are available on the UK Hydrographic Office's website.

This weather forecast is generated by the Met Office Weather Widget

When To Climb & Essential Gear

Cae Du BoulderingDo not do this!
Cae Du...lest you incur the wrath of these (Both photos by Nanuls)

A good general rule of thumb for climbing in Snowdonia is when it's dry climb high, when it's not... well don't. As you can't get much closer to sea level than Cae Du, the crag makes an ideal wet weather venue. Of course it's pretty attractive place to climb when the weather's nice too. Just be sure you check the tide tables before setting out, lest you end up doing most of your bouldering underwater. You may want to avoid visiting the crag towards the end of spring/beginning of summer, as this is when seagulls nest on the cliffs and are generally at their most aggressive; there's nothing quite like an angry gull to put you off your moves.

Although not essential, a bouldering mat is recommended to soften those landings, and of course, you'll also need a chalk bag and a pair of rock shoes.

If attempting the trad routes on the quarry, a full rack with maybe some extra small nuts or wires is needed.

Getting There

Cae Du is easy to reach by car. I'm not going to list every road route here so consult Google Map or an equivalent. Basically, you need to get onto the A493 coastal road. Depending on where you're coming from, you can get on the road at Dolgellau (SH 714 182 ), the Minffordd Hotel (SH 732 114), or Machynlleth (SH 744 019). Take the road to just outside Rhoselfain (SH 577 057) and turn off where the road bends sharply revealing the entrance to the Cae Du farm and campsite (SH 569 060). Drive carefully through the farm yard and park just in front of the railway bridge at the bottom of the track. There is a fee of £1 for parking, or you can camp for around £6 per person (2008). The bouldering crag is around 300m to the south and can be accessed by walking along the beach.

Red Tape

No red tape of access issues here!

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.

Area 4 and Cardigan Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

Camping and Accommodation

Since you have to park the car there to access the crag anyway, the obvious choice is clearly the Cae Du Campsite which offers camping at a great location for a reasonable price.

Rather than list everything else, the list below should provide you with a rough guide to what's available in the area:

Places to stay around Barmouth

Places to stay around Tywyn

Places to stay around Aberdyfi


Open Space Web-Map builder Code
Navigation Maps

Ordnance Survey 1:25k Explorer Series OL 23 Cadair Idris & Bala Lake/Llyn Tegid

Ordnance Survey 1:50k Landranger Series 124 Porthmadog & Dolgellau

Harvey Map Services 1:25k Snowdonia Cadiar Idris

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

Road Maps

Ordnance Surbey Tour Series North and Mid Wales


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.
North Wales Bouldering/Bowldro Gogledd Cymru North Wales Bouldering/Bowldro Gogledd Cymru by Simon Panton

The only dedicated bouldering guide for North Wales, covering the Llanberis Pass, Ogwen Valley, outlying areas and coastal crags, including Cae Du. An excellent publication that radiates quality.
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 descriptions of the few routes on Cae Du Quarry. An essential purchase if you plan to do a lot of climbing in Mid Wales.
Just chillin' (Photo by Nanuls

External Links

Cae DuOgof Owain in Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls)
Cae DuBeware of the tide! (Photo by Nanuls)
Cae DuEasy slab climbing in Area 3 (Photo by Nanuls)
Cae DuLooking south from Area 4 (Photo by Nanuls)

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