High up in the rarely visited southern wing of Craig Cywarch are a series of slabby rock-faces known collectively as Tap y Gigfran. The climbs here are wilder in nature than those in the north, they are harder to access, are more vegetated, and have trickier and less distinct descents. Jack of Diamonds (HVD, 105m, 5 pitches) is one of the best and most popular routes these slabs have to offer, and although plagued by a generous covering of moss, is definitely worth an ascent by anyone visiting this part of the crag. The route exploits an initial weakness near the base of the rock-face, and after 30m or so of ascent deviates sharply first to the right and then to the left over a series of exposed slabs. The climb has bags of atmosphere; its remote location and vegetative state make you a feel like a true pioneer. Furthermore there are a large number of single pitch routes on the surrounding crags, so if you have time there are plenty of opportunities to bag some extra climbs. All in all, this route has the potential to be an integral part to a very enjoyable, productive and worthwhile outing.
FA: M.H. Jahn and R.E. Kendal (Alternate Leads), September 22nd 1956.
To reach the trailhead turn off the A470, which runs between Dolgellau (SH 729 181) in the west and Machynlleth (SH 748 008) in the south-east, at Dinas Mawddwy (SH 858 148) and take the road towards Aber-Cywarch (SH 867 157). Just after you cross the bridge at Aber-Cywarch turn left up an unclassified road signposted for Cwm Cywarch. Follow the road, which is narrow and winding, until you reach the parking area at Fawnog Fawr (SH 854 182). The approach begins here.
Leave the car-park at Fawnog Fawr via the track that heads west up the side of Y Gribyn. Follow the track past the farm at Gesail and keep following the track as it rises up the hillside. After a short while you will come to a sharp u-turn in the track, leave the track by climbing over a wire fence and cross a small marshy field which has a large boulder in it. Climb over the fence at the other side and begin to contour around the hillside under Tap Pant Cae. This will bring you to the South-Face of Tap y Gigfran. The climb is on the Eastern Face so you will need to go around the base of the crag before ascending the slope to the base of the climb. There are two options for this – the first is to ascend the heathery slope on the right hand side directly to the base of the crag. The second is an easy climb called Incapability (D) which leads up to the base of a neighbouring climb called The Gem (HS 4b), which Jack of Diamonds begins just to the right of. Incapability should pose few problems for an experienced and/or confident party and an ascent can be made without the need for placing protection.
Although the description for this route describes it in 5 pitches, it can be done in 2 or 3. Start the route in the middle of the rock face right of an obvious gully.
Pitch 1 (18m): Climb the short slab to a ledge below a steeper slab, and then climb it to a grassy ledge.
Pitch 2 (18m): Climb the undercut slab (it can be identified by a rusty old cam which is stuck in it), and follow the line of weakness diagonally up to a ledge on a steep wall. Traverse right and belay off the obvious spike.
Pitch 3 (24m): Climb diagonally left across the steep wall on good holds and over a slab to a ledge on the left wall. This is the crux of the climb.
Pitch 4 (30m): Climb easily over a broad slab to a heathery ledge.
Pitch 5 (15m): Scramble over broken rock to the top.
Descend via the small valley to the north of the climb. You’ll need to ascend a little to get around the large gully that splits the crag in two, but once your around it the route off the crag is easy.
A single 60m rope will be fine (or you may want to use a double) a moderate rack of nuts, hexes and maybe a few cams. Also be sure to carry a selection of slings and screwgates for constructing belays. The route is best done in rock shoes as boots would be way too cumbersome. Naturally you will also need all the other paraphernalia associated with climbing and hill walking in Wales: full waterproofs, fleece, hat, gloves and of course some lunch.
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